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Belgium influence felt in Q-C

In March, Dolores Bultinck of Moline will celebrate the silver jubilee of her appointment as honorary consul of Belgium in Moline.

Dispatch/Argus file photo

Dolores Bultinck, above, honorary consul of Belgium in Moline, represents the European nation's interests in Western Illinois, where many Flemish immigrants settled in the 1800s. The consulate in Moline's Olde Towne helps preserve the heritage of those early Quad-Cities' settlers.

Ms. Bultinck, a retired Black Hawk College professor, was appointed by royal decree by the late King Baudouin to represent Belgium in Western Illinois -- the first woman in the United States to be appointed honorary consul.

``She is an elegant and charming lady with a keen sense of humor and a permanent twinkle in her eyes,'' present consul general Robert VandDeMeulebroucke of Chicago said. ``She can provide any information you need about Belgium -- and in Flemish, if necessary.''

As honorary consul, Ms. Bultinck issues passports and other official documents, attends official and social functions and provides assistance in genealogy, translation and education.

She has arranged student-exchange programs and promotes Belgian tourism, Belgian-made products and Belgian cooking and rolle bolle, a Flemish sport introduced 75 years ago, which still flourishes in Moline and surrounding communities.

Ms. Bultinck, whose father, Maurice, immigrated to the United States from Belgium in 1911, owns and operates ``The Flemish Lion,'' in the heart of Moline's Olde Towne, near The Center for Belgian Culture at 712 18th Ave.

For her outstanding service to the community and her father's country, she was knighted to the Belgian Order of Leopold and The Order of the Crown, and presented with two medals.

Ms. Bultinck founded Flemish Festival Days in Olde Towne, set up exchange programs with the Belgian American Friendship Association in Liege, Belgium, and arranges tours to Belgium. She also works with Belgian lacemakers and is a lacemaker and collector of the prized lace.

Ms. Bultinck, who has a doctorate from the University of Iowa, taught in area high schools before joining the Black Hawk College staff. She now is retired.

As Belgians immigrated to the Quad-City area from the mid-1800s to the early 1900s, they formed social organizations, such as the Friends Circle, the Belgian-American Brotherhood and the East End Club.

In 1941, the Flemish-American Club was formed in Kewanee, because that area, including Annawan, Atkinson, and Sheffield, had a large Flemish population. The Flemish-in-the World convention was held in Kewanee in 1941.

Belgians published The Gazette Van Moline, a Flemish language weekly, from 1907 until World War II.

Today, Flemish is spoken in the Northern provinces of Belgium, while French is spoken in the southern or Walloon provinces.

-- By Dorothy Buresh (January 26, 1998)

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