8 Feet of kindness; Rigardus Rijnhout (1922-1959)

 

8 Feet of kindness; Rigardus Rijnhout (1922-1959)

 

The only giant to ever come from the Netherlands was from Rotterdam. Born in 1922, even as a young boy he was much taller than his friends. His name: Rigardus Rijnhout , or in short ‘Rijn’. Rijn grew to be 2 metres and 37 centimetres and needed size 62 for his shoes.  A  striking figure  to walk the streets in  Rotterdam, he was an easy target for the bullies in his hometown. But Rijn kept his composure and remained a kind giant at all times.


A symbol for tolerance


Rijn did not have an easy life as his extraordinary size made him a city attraction. Companies hired Rijn as a moving billboard or as a model in commercials. He often travelled the city on his custom designed bike.  And one day, while riding his bike, Rijn fell and the injuries from that incident made him end up in a wheelchair. As the incident also ended his career as a walking billboard and model, Rijn started selling pictures of himself from his wheelchair. But his health deteriorated, he fell ill and was submitted to the Academic hospital in Leiden, where he died in 1959 at the early age of 36.

When I looked into the history of this remarkable Rotterdam giant I felt compassion but it also left me with some nagging questions: How had this kind and gentle big man experienced his life? Had he known happy moments, had he ever known love and how did he spend the last years of his life when, his body broken, he lived with his parents?


 

Object of ridicule and scorn


 

Posthumously, Rijn’s importance was recognised and he was presented the honour he deserved. And you will now find a bronze statue of Rijn in the park at the West Kruiskade, close to where his parents lived in the Gouvernestraat. Perhaps more important, Rijn is also regarded as a Rotterdam symbol for tolerance and for growth.

Throughout his life, Rijn  remained an amiable man, and that is how the people of Rotterdam remember him to this day: A Gentle Giant. Rigardus Rijnhout (1922-1959)

 

8 Feet of kindness; Rigardus Rijnhout (1922-1959)

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