BOYDEN—Retirement just means finding other ways to keep busy for Arthur Van Bruggen.
The founder of Van Bruggen & Vande Vegte, a Boyden-based certified public accounting and financial adviser firm, celebrated his retirement with friends and family Wednesday at the Demco Community Center in the same community where he launched his business.
According to Van Bruggen, he became Sioux County’s first practicing certified public accountant when he opened his firm in 1977.
The 70-year-old wrapped up his accounting career on April 15, perhaps the most appropriate date on the calendar for someone in his field.
Van Bruggen has been enjoying the extra time at home with his wife, Nancy, and son Aaron, but he is not one to stay put for long.
During the summer he will be active with his other business, Van B’s Trees. He started the tree-planting business in 2004.
“At the home we used to live in, in Boyden, there was a lot available that I started planting trees on. I had over 400 trees,” Van Bruggen said. “My wife said, ‘You’re going to have to start selling these trees.’ So I’ve been doing that and it’s kind of gotten bigger and bigger.”
He grew up on a farm between Sheldon and Boyden, and attended Sheldon Christian School and Western Christian High School in Hull. In 1966, he was part of the first graduating class at Northwest Iowa Vocational School — later renamed Northwest Iowa Community College — in Sheldon. He was celebrated as NCC’s Alumnus of the Year in 2016.
At 18 years old, Van Bruggen had an encounter that sparked his interest in becoming an accountant.
“What kind of influenced me, it’s something really strange. I purchased a car from a friend of mine and we went to this attorney to draw up papers,” he said. “There was a gentleman in town — his name was Freeman Merrill — he was an attorney. I was just impressed with having an office and doing that. I always liked math. That’s what kind of got me started.”
Van Bruggen moved to Grand Rapids, MI, and lived there until he was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1968. He was deployed in the Vietnam War in 1969. He served in a field artillery unit until his deployment ended in July of 1970.
“While I was in Vietnam, Bob Hope was there. He was really big on being supportive of the military troops,” Van Bruggen said. “They had a promotion on people going back to college so I filled out a little card and said, ‘Yeah I’d be interested in going back to college,’ but I wanted to go back to college in Michigan.”
After returning from deployment, Van Bruggen earned his bachelor’s degree in industrial management with a focus on accounting from Lawrence Technological University in the Detroit suburb of Southfield, MI. Then he decided to move back to Iowa to raise a family.
Boyden presented a good opportunity to start a business since Van Bruggen already had connections in the community. He took over some accounts passed on from other agents in the area and ended up being busier than he would have expected in his first year.
“I was able to grow the business by at least 15 percent every year,” Van Bruggen said. “It was myself and Myron Bechler.”
Gary Vande Vegte joined the firm in 1994 and eventually became a partner.
The company has more than 40 employees.
“What I found in my clients was that the most generous people were the happiest people,” Van Bruggen said. “The people that were my clients, a lot of them became my friends.”
The new retiree plans to volunteer on mission trips regularly. He will be on mission to China in October. It will be his sixth mission trip to China. He has been to Haiti seven times.
“I always thought that when I slowed down in my work I would start doing mission work” he said. “I’ve found out it’s just rewarding. It’s a blessing for me.”