The Salvation Army’s ‘Major’ Bosshardt, who devoted her life to helping the homeless, prostitutes and addicts in Amsterdam’s red light district, died at home on Monday at the age of 94.
Bosshardt served in the Salvation Army for more than 70 years. She was one of the country’s most loved characters.
Tributes to Major Bosshardt came from all quarters. Prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende told the NRC that Bosshardt was ‘a shining example for everyone’ and Amsterdam mayor Job Cohen described her as ‘a real Amsterdammer: courageous, resolute and compassionate’.
Even queen Beatrix let it be known that she was ‘affected’ by the death. Bosshardt won worldwide fame in 1965 when a photographer caught her guiding Beatrix (who was still a princess at the time) on a tour of the red light district. The princess had donned sunglasses and a wig as a disguise.
Metje Blaak, spokeswoman for the prostitutes’ association Rodedraad told the NRC that Bosshardt was not afraid of making contact with prostitutes and listening to them: ‘It wouldn’t be so easy to find someone like her nowadays’.
Bosshardt was not afraid of death. ‘I believe that you leave your body here like an old coat and your spirit soars to eternity,’ she once said.
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