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34: Funeral in Palma 1956 and at Heemstede 1959

Rain, so seldom seen in the Balearic island of Majorca, lashed the mourners as they stumbled through mud and unexpected puddles to the little chapel of the Cementerio Municipal, on the outskirts of Palma.

This was northern, relentless, cruel rain. Cutting through summer clothes and thin shoes. It was rain whipped to a fury by the wild wind from the sea, stripping the last leaves from the spindly cemetery trees and hissing an eerie descant to the deeper mutter of the thunder that rumbled, every now and again, out of the mist-hidden hills.

All the village folk who had bumped their way in "Empressa Clar", the local bus, the sixty sad kilometres from Cala d'Or, felt that it was fitting that the heavens themselves should weep and tremble on such an occasion. This was the kind of weather they had been having, more or less, ever since the news leaked out, a few weeks back, that Don Ivan was ill.

The peasant farmers, the fishermen, the maid, the postman and the local butcher were not the only mourners in the little chapel. Huge, purring limousines off-loaded an international contingent from hotels and villas and the foreign consulates of Palma, as well as from the colony at Cala d'Or itself.

Interest revived as Ivan's wife, Niki, with her slim figure in deep black, was escorted to the place of honour.

The worlds' greatest airlines were represented. But because of the short notice there had been, not all top men, the presidents and directors, could be there. Many colleagues did not even know he was dead.

The absence of outward pomp and pageantry disturbed the villagers from Cala d'Or. Everyone knew that Don Ivan's villa was crammed with souvenirs and trophies of the sensational flights, the medals and decorations laid out on the long bookcase in the study upstairs.

Furtive glances round the congregation reassured the villagers. The well-bred faces, the obvious love and affection displayed by the foreigners - that was right, because Don Ivan had been el gran caballero del air.

A sigh of relief fluttered round the little chapel as the service ended. Niki was escorted out and was followed by the Spanish contingent from Palma.

At last the coffin was pushed and prodded into the appointed cavern. The mourners, reverently, placed their flowers at the base of the wall and slowly walked away.

Three years later, On November 20, 1959, Ivan Vasilyevich Smirnov was re-buried in Dutch soil. Six of his oldest friends and colleagues carried the coffin, a sheaf of victor's palms on the lid, to the quiet little cemetery at Heemstede. There the great flier now lies at rest, in the grave of his first wife, Margot.


Some years ago the gravestone at Heemstede Cemetery was restored by KLM.
CLICK TO ZOOM  (Gezagvoerder = Captain).

When the new stone was laid down, the grave of 'Mor' and Margot Linnet was 'cancelled'. Generally there is no information kept about cancelled graves.


At 'Aviodrome' in the Netherlands the great aviator Iwan W. Smirnoff is remembered with dignity. As an example, the picture below of a DC3 carrying his name, shows how the Dutch commemorate his efforts during the early days of aviation.

Finn Helmuth Pedersen

DC3 at 'Aviodrome' - the National Aviation Theme Park in Holland.

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