In the Second World War, Johannes (Hans) Das played a key role for the Dutch Underground in Nazi-occupied Holland by helping set up secret radio communications between freedom fighters in the area around Delft.
He was 14 years old.
Widely recognized as a child prodigy in the field of radio and electronics, Das found himself in demand by the Dutch government in postwar Holland. Quickly promoted from private to sergeant during his compulsory military service, Das became a military instructor, teaching electronics for radio and teletype.
The Allies had abandoned warehouses full of radio equipment in Holland at war’s end. For Das, it was like letting a child loose in a candy store.
Using surplus parts, the ambitious young inventor built the first television in the country to receive test signals from the BBC.
Immigrating to Canada in 1952, he arrived in Sarnia just as the first TVs were coming onto the market, and McKay Hardware on Lakeshore Road hired him.
Already an expert in the field, he repaired the early TV sets, eventually becoming a contract representative for Philips, the Dutch multinational electronics company.
Hans and his wife, Janke, bought a small home on Blackwell Road and raised a son, John, and a daughter, Teresa. He established a business – Hans Das Electronics - and began applying his inquisitive mind to problems and solutions throughout Sarnia and the Chemical Valley.
Das’ fame grew as contract work flooded into the little shop – work from Motorola, DECCA, Marconi and XEROX. He handled radio telephone communications for companies throughout the county. Great Lakes freighters and ocean-going “salties” hired him to repair and install RADAR on their vessels.
The little shop on Blackwell Road began to expand, as Hans Das Electronics’ stores of parts and equipment grew. Entire rooms began to fill with his myriad inventions. Professional engineers came calling, seeking answers to special problems.
During the 1960s, Philips sent him some of Canada’s first colour TVs to test, because he had the equipment in the days when Detroit, but not yet Toronto, begun broadcasting in colour.
He built ambulance sirens and communications for the Ontario Ministry of Health, systems to control water-pumping stations for the PUC, and industrial electronic solutions in multiple fields.
Hans Das became the person to see whenever equipment with an electronic component needed repair. Where others would throw up their hands in despair, Das could find a solution.
Hans Das died in January at age 90, his brilliant, inventive, searching mind finally stilled.
For many residents who relied upon his expertise, it was an irreparable loss.