The American Adventure

Willem, Anna and Emiel, the children of Willem and Klaassien were all three born in Groningen, at the Damsterdiep
Willem jr., Born 6/1/1884
Anna, born 6/27/1885
Emilius Wilhelmus (Emiel), born October 30, 1886

Just like the father, the three children of Willem and Klaassien had artistic talent.

Wilhelm (Willem), b. Groningen, 6/1/1884, † 1942, America.

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Already in December 1902 his name appears in the announcements of the concerts that his father gave in the Groningen Harmony, in which Willem jr. Performed piano pieces and played the cello.

After high school Willem attended the Conservatory in Amsterdam, where he was taught by Isaac Mossel

Fragment of a postcard, sent by Willem to his family in 1900 .

Isaäc Mossel (1870-1923) was a Dutch cellist. He was the older brother of violinist Max Mossel and the father of clarinetist and band leader Hans Mossel. As a 16-year-old Mossel played as a soloist with the Berliner Philharmoniker and later became a solo cellist with the Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam.

In Het Vaderland of 4/22/1904 it is reported: We are pleased to hear that Mr. W. Dehé, the son of Mr. Dehé, who is a violinist in the Groningen Harmony Orchestra, was appointed violin cellist in the Quartet of the Princess Certwertinska in Kiev after an examination, which is a very attractive job for a young musician.

In all likelihood it was a Polish monarch from the genus Swiatopelk Czetwertynsk. The Oakland Tribune of June 20, 1926 concerns a “private string quartett” of a Russian princess Czetwertinska in Kiev.

The appointment to this orchestra was partly due to a recommendation from Isaac Mossel.

He indeed left for Russia, postcards from the period July 1904- August 1905 that he sent home from Krakow and Kiev, among others, have been preserved. But the 1905 revolution forced him to leave Russia.

The young Groningen violin cellist Willem Dehé jr. goes to Russia in July, where he stays for a year, after which he makes an art tour through America. Mr. Dehé was appointed solo violin cellist and quartet player in the private chapel of the Polish monarch Swiatopoli Szetwertynski in 1904. When the revolution forced him to leave Russia, he took lessons from Professor Klengel. Het Vaderland, 4/23/1906

Prof. Klengel was the German cellist and composer Julius Klengel, who lived and worked in Leipzig. The newspaper report above heralds a new departure for Russia and plans to move to America. The latter remained a plan for the time being. In 1906 he made music with various companies in the Netherlands. He was appointed as the first cellist in Zwickau

He received appointments in Poland (Zwickau) and Berlin in the years 1908-1910, played in Groningen in October 1910. After that Willem probably left Groningen again for Groningen, telling maps of trips and performances, from November 1910. In January 1913 he writes: “finally found a room in the center of the city of Moscow”. In November 1914 from Petrograd: “What a terrible war, Happy Holl. can still keep out. “

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The orchestra with which Willem played in Russia (1910-1917)
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In Russia he fell in love with Maria Lukina (“Musya”), probably born April 14, 1897. He married her on September 10, 1917, in Yalta in Crimea. They went to live in Moscow, where their daughter, Moesja, born on April 23, 1918.
Shortly after, they had to flee from the revolution. They managed to come to the Netherlands. There they found shelter with his parents in Groningen, but Willem did not stay in the Netherlands for long.

Our compatriot, Mr W. Dehé, who had a clean position as a solo cellist in Moscow, had to give up his job because of the difficult circumstances there and resettled in our country. This month he performed as a soloist in a concert in Groningen and was very successful.
The conductor of the Groningen orchestra, Mr. Kor Kuiler, had made the orchestra available to him completely disinterestedly. 
AH, 19/6/1920

He toured Europe with several orchestras and companies for a number of years, until he got a contract with an American orchestra, with which he left Antwerp for America in October 1920. In that month he sent another card from Antwerp to Groningen. Part of the text is especially intended for Musya and is written in the Russian language. Willem enjoys the journey with the orchestra and the beautiful weather. He will soon leave for America by boat; he inquires about life in Holland. What about the passport? I want to hear from you. ” He asks her to write “Poste restante New York” and explains how it works. “I kiss you 1000 times. I love you. Your Wim. ”
He arrived in New York on November 6, 1920.

Musya and Moesja had to stay behind in Groningen, also because the papers were not in order and the official mills were slowly turning. It turned out that the marriage between Musya and Willem concluded in Russia could not be recognized in the Netherlands, mainly because there was a lack of clarity about the personal data and the birth certificate of Moesja. As a result, it was initially not possible to obtain a US visa. Several people were brought in to help settle this issue. Father Willem traveled several times to The Hague and eventually, with the help of one Viëtor, succeeded in June 1921 to get the marriage recognized and to arrange the visas. Father to Willem: “As you clarify to me that according to the Ned Wap you. married in Moscow is not possible. When he told you that there, he made you believe. Much effort is now being put in to get things right. Tricky, especially since the signing of the wedding form is illegible on your card. Maurits Levie will take care of the written part for you and Mr. Viëtor will return to the Ministry of Justice in about 14 days. “

We learn a lot about the life of Willem and his wife Musya thanks to the surviving letters and postcards that were sent to the States, especially from Groningen. Naturally, these letters also provide insight into the lives of the senders: Willem, Klaassien and their daughter Anna. We also see the little Moesja growing up on the Damsterdiep and the Westersingel.
Especially in the early years, Musya did not have an easy time in Holland. As a Russian refugee she had to “survive” in Groningen, in the house on the Westersingel, unable to speak the language, separated from her husband, with a newly born child. We don’t know much about the first few years, but it must have been lonely years. She must have gradually found her niche. In November 1920 Anna wrote to her brother, after a long time after another letter had arrived from him: “She could not read immediately. At first I told you about it in Dutch, and after that she was so full of emotion that she could force herself to read quietly. In the evening, when I said her good night (she is now sleeping in the room near me) we talked together about all the letters from her mother, sister and husband and then she said so blissfully: ‘Yes Anneke, one big happiness everything ! ‘.

… She no longer feels lonely here, but as a daughter and sister. She is cheerful and tidy and develops a talent for sewing. (…) ”.

Such messages were of course also given to reassure Wim in distant America. “So you see you don’t have to worry that she wouldn’t be able to find it with us. We see the time when she leaves with sorrow. ”

Her husband regularly sent her money, sometimes at the request of the family. “Tell Wim, if you send Moesja money again, write that it is meant for her as St. Nic. gift or Christmas gift. She will like that. She loves presents so much. There were plenty of financial concerns in Groningen. “Dad just writes that we have been saved fl. 70 by the landlord, now fl. 550. Anyway, that will end up, fortunately we can stay.” (April 1921) Father also regularly complains about the duration of time, especially when the shopping spree of the two women is added …

Despite this, a maid was always present in the house in Groningen. Anna: “I hope the new girl who comes on May 20 is not that bad. Otherwise Lina has gotten better, but still remains a German “trien”.

In preparation for the trip to America, Anna taught Musya English. March 1921: “She had three lessons from me and I think she will have it soon. I would like to help her with it every night, but she would rather not. She doesn’t mind with all that sewing and speaking Dutch and that effort to understand everything. She says, when I am there, I will do my best, now I have to learn as much as possible at the Industrial School, I cannot learn that in America, English I can. ”

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The Industrial School for girls at Kruitlaan, c. 1917.
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The Industrial School in Groningen was a private initiative. The school had its own building (1904). The training was primarily founded there to teach the girls how to sew. Many of them subsequently found work in the Groningen ready-to-wear industry.

“The first few days after your departure, Moesja didn’t feel very pleasant, which was of course retroactive to the environment. But that only lasted a few days and at the moment the ratio of both sides is as it should be. The Industrial School has a good influence on Moesja in every respect. She loves it and would not like to miss a morning and she will gain a lot of useful knowledge. She has already made a beautiful cloak at school. ”


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Family in Russia- Left: Palina, sister of Musya, next to Olga Lukina, the mother of Musya. The three small children are brothers of Musya; in the middle Sergei.

A source of concern for Musya was the situation in Russia, in the Crimea, where her mother, sister and brother-in-law were having a difficult time. November 1920: “Waited anxiously for a message [from Russia]. The last letter caused quite some emotion, with Anna, dad, mom and Moesja. They talked together about all letters from her mother, sister and husband. Oh, as long as everything in Crimea is not so miserable and her family remains healthy as well. When she got the first letter from Russia, I hardly dared give it to her ”.

Sometimes letters came from distant Russia, but the messages were never very cheerful. In March 1922, Musya now lived in the USA, terrible news came. Anna writes: “My poor dear sister, what a great suffering has happened to you… We always had such a silent hope that it was not so bad in Yalta. There is a lot going on for Russia right now in Europe (…) Poor sister of yours, she hasn’t had the best part of life.

“What exactly happened in Russia is not clear, but it must have been very bad:” (…) but I cannot understand why people sent you the pictures of that horrible trauma. Why and who did that? How fortunate that you have escaped that terrible fate. “

The letter refers to the content of the actions for Russia. Nansen, the Arctic Traveler, gave lectures in various places in the country to inform people about the situation on the ground. Fundraisers were also held. “We have several lists, and if we knew the correct address for Moesja’s family, we would no doubt try to send a package.” It seems that Moesja’s mother survived the horrors there and that Moesja’s sister’s husband was killed.

Olga Loekina

During my search through the passenger lists and registers of Ellis Island I discovered that Moesja’s mother, Olga Loukina (also Loukena), traveled to America after the horrors in Crimea in 1928.
She traveled with the SS France from Le Havre. The passenger list shows that there were many more Russians on board. She was a widow and lived with the family (in 1930). The specified age was probably a mistake: 68.
She born in 186o, see the Immigrant Identification Card

Later documents show that she was subsequently registered as a guest guest (“Lodger”). In 1935 and 1940: 1139 Divisadero Street in San Francisco. A small Russian colony lived in the guest house:

Olga Loukina passed away Jan. 23, 1952. 

Little Moesja 

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Little Moesja was a source of joy for everyone. In every letter Willem is extensively informed about her progress and straats. “The little one is excellent and often talks about Dad. On the mantelpiece is your portrait and if she is a bit naughty, Daddy looks at it and doesn’t like you and then it’s all right again. This week Mom turned on the clock and then quickly went to get a stove to stand on it to hold Mom so she wouldn’t fall. Isn’t it a dot? It is quite a thing for you to miss her and her wife, but you are so freer in your movements. ”
“And then that child of yours. Never attended such a sensible and sweet thing. You would love to watch her gradually see the good and the ugly and learn to bend her head. If she hits someone now, she knows it is naughty, then at first she will not confess, she is grumbling and letting herself down, and then she finally comes to you sweet and sweet and says: “Don’t do it anymore. Give kiss to Moesja. ” You don’t hear her cry a lot anymore, she is always sweet on the street and walks along beautifully. ”

You will hardly recognize your daughter, she has become a big sturdy sister, with a difficult will in between, which one would spoil if they did not hurt themselves. We have all kept the imagination of you with her. Papa Willem often comes to our tongue and in the evening she has your portrait by your bed. ”

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Anna: “Kleine Moes is a dot, although she sometimes puts us in doubt by all her questions. An example: you sit or rather lie on the chaise longue for a moment, according to her the kepé. Then it starts: Anneke on the deck? Anneke a headache? Oh, Anneke cold? Anneke blanket, yes, a doll – no, maybe a cup of tea, Moesja will just pour, good enough, it is not hot, Anneke, no, Anneke pooing, well Moesja with Anneke sapen, just give me a kiss – everything without waiting for one answer and as long as you lie there. Also not a minute of silence, but running and trotting, back and forth. And then that sweet face, you can hardly get angry. “

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Anna: “The little one is getting more insane by the day. She loves the funfair and enjoys turning the carousel. Even in her anger (but that’s only very rare) she is stealing. In the morning when I taught, she can come out, she knows that so well and then we walk an hour and a half. She then has so much to say. We then go to see the boats and trains and suitcases and then it is always full of enthusiasm, that is Dad’s boat. ”
“I would like to stand in a corner of Groet to see how your daughter (= little Moesja) is going on there with your cousin Emiel (= my father). She baptized one of her dolls Emiel and this young gentleman took them on a journey. She is a wonderful child, she is very busy, but it is certain that we will miss her. ”

The preparation and the trip
On July 2, 1921, Father informed Willem that the money for the trip had been received and that Viëtor had reported by telegram that all papers were in order. Moesja has to pay NLG 737.50 for the hut. This also includes the journey of little Moesja. The old Russian trunk has been refurbished, in Amsterdam Father has also managed to get a nice copy on the head.
On Tuesday, July 16, both Moesja must report to the office of the Holland America Line for medical research. When the investigation is finished, they will stay in Rotterdam with Father, Mother and Anna until the day of the trip. “This morning in court I got the copy of your daughter’s birth in Moscow, so you now have all the documents you need.”

The surviving passenger list shows that the two Moesja’s traveled to the US on the ss Rotterdam on August 26, 1921, as Maria Dehé and her three-year-old daughter.

In America they would be taken care of by one Jan. He writes Willem from Mont Clair: “I will do what I can to get your wife to Frisco as soon as possible. He complains about the busyness he has to deal with: his wife (Alba) who is about to give birth, a recently bought car, a business partner who goes to his farm quietly in all hectic times. A letter from him dated September 1, 1921: “Dear Willem! Today you have both Moesjas with you again, and I have no doubt that that is for good! ”

In America it used to take some getting used to. Little Moesja slept in the kitchen, Moesjas Sr. had to make it without a maid. Advantage: then you have the realm alone. Moesja described San Francisco as “a true paradise”. A revelation was also the many electrical appliances and tools, which were already much more common there than in Holland. In Holland they wondered how little Moesja had experienced the long train journey from New York to San Francisco. “Didn’t she look very strange to the Negroes?”

The house in Groet
Around 1920 Anna bought the house on the Achterweg. It was not a transaction without financial worries. “I am now preparing a bill for the purchase of the house. (November 1920?). I hope I can get a fair mortgage. This year, be careful that it becomes my property as soon as possible. I think it is such a wonderful feeling that Pa and Ma now get a cheap home and that Pa does not have to lug all his life. I now bless that I am unmarried and can earn a lot myself. Still useful for something. ”

“The 28th of December (1920?) I have to go to a notary. Fl. 2000 or fl. 2500 I get as a mortgage from the pension fund of the Harmonie (an idea of Pa) and we hope to get the others together ”. There was also talk that Willem would participate financially in the entire project: “Tell Wim, if you feel it because you write this way, we invest the money in the house, I will have the purchase deed changed and have the notary put on my and your name? Then for later you have something for you and your wife and it is yours too; then your hard-earned money is not gone. I will love it and administer it well. ”

The plan is that Anna will follow her brother and his wife to America. After his retirement, the house in Groet will give Father and Mother Dehé the opportunity to leave the distant Groningen behind. Father: “I believe it will be best when the time for me to stop dividing is that we quietly go to Greeting and try to get there in a quiet way. There I can get involved in all kinds of activities in the field of agriculture and poultry farming. It doesn’t bother me to go to such a big city (meant: San Francisco). Of course, on the other hand, we will only see each other once more, but that’s just the way it is in life. ”

The bond between Anna in Groningen and her brother Wim in distant America was warm and close. The tone is occasionally more critical of the other brother – Emiel. There is a lot of appreciation for the work he does in Groet to redecorate the house and garden (in exchange for free living in the house), but occasionally there are also some squeaky noises. In any case, things went less well between Moesja and Maria, Emiel’s wife.

December 1920 (?): “Emiel suddenly came over with little Emiel for a few days. Moesja was always out with “her brother” and is very happy with the gift she received from him. Besides, we are all spoiled by him. His arrival concerned the house, the changes of the garden and the house, painting it and making some things. He looks after things so well that I (like a real owner feeling like something like a lockwife) let him do it.

(Undated) “At the end of the school party, Emiel rode on the white horse through the village, a very large crowd behind him and celebrated like a king. He now has a card club with Raedecker and Wenckebach. Little Klaasje is doing much better. She now weighs 12 pounds and is a sweet, spirited, friendly thing. Mom is now there, so we will hear a lot of news tomorrow. ”

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In July 1921 mother writes that it is all nicely in Groet. “It seems to me that Emiel is now starting to realize that much is needed and that there is work to be done. At the moment he works at Raedecker and has made a stone for the facade of the new house of Redeker. He now gets fl. 25 a week. I spoke to Raedecker and thanked him for taking such good care of Emiel. “No,” he says, “I love working with him.” I loved hearing that. F

Father Willem, October 1921: “We have heard nothing from Emiel in recent months. When they are not shy about anything in Greeting there, they are silent there like the grave. A habit that I will now also apply. ” Mother: “It is a pity that Emiel always writes so little, he certainly thinks, it is always misery here (in Greeting), what should I write, but everything interests us anyway, and you continue to live together. Just write him, Wim. He’s not very lucky either, and I don’t think he can go any further. Is a shame, there is something in it.

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Emiel (sr) en Maria/Miep

November 1921: “From Miep we finally got another letter, where she asked us fl. 35 (also on credit, those poor). They seem to have bothered very much with the little thing (= Klaasje), went everywhere with it, which cost a lot of money, but now things are going a bit better and they hope to be able to keep the baby. For that fl. 35 they could buy a 2 person bed for the boys and some furniture for the house in Groet, “which made our property look nicer inside. We have now given it as a gift, because paying them is nothing. These days we can expect Emiel here with paintings, woodcuts and figurines. We are also curious whether there will also be buyers. ”

Anna, November 1921: “Emiel is now regularly working in the studio he made with Raedecker. The latter has run out of money and work has to be done again. I think it is irresponsible towards your wife and children to spend fl. 80,000 there, even if you give it to others. Imagine he gets sick and they have no income. His wife never learned to work, so she can’t earn anything. “

 Willem’s career

The first years were mainly about building contacts and gaining name recognition. He was occasionally asked by orchestras and ensembles, but also organized concerts himself to establish his name. “The profit is not large or nil, but it does generate advertising.” He also gave lessons. When Moesja joined her husband, she sometimes went to the concert performances, if she could get a nanny for the little one.


In September 1922 Willem Dehé is mentioned as a musician in the Berkeley String Quartet. In 1923 he already played with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. The newspaper calls him “one of the finest artists on this instrument that the coast has welcomed in a long time.”
On June 25, 1926, he was named in the Oakland Tribune as a “cellist in the San Francisco Symphony”. Willem had obtained his American citizenship; he was accompanied by Antonio de Grassi (“local violinist”) and A.W. Widenham, “manager of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra”. The newspaper printed a photo of this special event on June 28.Willem hung out with renowned musicians.

Another renowned ensemble of which he was a part was the San Francisco String Quartet, conducted by Robin Lampson.


San Francisco String Quartet in 1937 (“Four Gentleman of the Symphony”) : Naoum Blinder, Eugene Hayes, Willem Dehé (tweede van links), Nathan Firestone.

In “My First 79 Years”, the famous violinist Isaac Stern describes the influence of Naoum Binder on his development. Naoum Blinder, like Willem Dehé, had fled from Russia with his wife and daughter. First to Japan (on a tour), from there to New York. There he taught at the Institute of Musical Art. In the early thirties he went to San Francisco, where he had become the concertmaster of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra in 1931.
 The conductor of that orchestra was (in 1932 or 1933) Pierre Monteux. Stern: “one of the truly great conductors of our time, was the first great conductor whom I met and with whom I played.” Willem also knew Monteux well. When he was in Holland for a concert, he often visited the Achterweg, where Emiel sr. Lived.
 Stern about Blinder: “He was my first true teacher; my only real teacher, as a matter of fact. I studied with him for five years, until I was seventeen, and haven’t studied violin with anyone else since. ” Willem Dehé also played with Blinder and must have known Stern well. Stern:
“Blinder organized a string quartet, first with Willem Dehe as cellist and later with his own brother, Boris, who had become the first cellist of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. I would listen to them play. Through him I got to know all the first-chair players of the symphony. At thirteen, I began to play chamber music once or twice every week with the best musicians in the city, who adopted me as their mascot. I played with Herman Reinberg, cello; Willem Dehe, cello; Al White, viola; Mafalda Guarnaldi, violin; Lev Schorr, pianist; and Frank Hauser, a pupil of Blinder’s who in time replaced him as the concertmaster.”


The news of his death reached the family in the Netherlands more than three years later, due to the war!
In a letter from Emiel Sr. to son Emiel (“Broertje”) het writes that the family had received a letter from Anna stating that Willem had died 3½ years ago. She wrote: “He died of a heart attaque while getting dressed for the concert. He went upstairs to get dressed at 7.30am and asked Aunt Moesja to be ready by 8am to bring him by car. When he was not there at 8.10 and she did not receive an answer to her calls, she went upstairs and saw him terribly stuffy. The great heart vein broken – nothing more could be done, he died at 6 o’clock in the morning-
It’s a sad thing, he was young and I didn’t expect anything like that – but when he was a boy, he studied a lot to get there – or maybe that was too much? How I would like to have heard him again. How strange life is.

Willem Dehe,

Willem Dehé was born in Groningen in the north of the Netherlands June 1, 1884.  After training at the Amsterdam Conservatory, Willem Dehé went to Russia, it seems to the present day Ukraine, as a musician.  According to one account, Dehé joined a string quartet for a wealthy Kiev nobleman.  In the Ukraine, Willem Dehé married Maria Loekina Moescha.  With the advent of the Russian Revolution, Willem Dehé and his wife left Russia, going back to the Netherlands.  Willem Dehé remained only briefly in Groningen, and then to the US in 1920.  His wife and child stayed behind, not having proper papers.  Willem Dehé made his way to San Francisco by summer 1922, when he formed the Berkeley String Quartet (Antonio de Grassi first, Robert Rourke second, Pietro Brascia viola and Willem Dehé cello) on the University of California – Berkeley campus 150, and continuing into 1923.  By April, 1923, Willem Dehé is listed by the Oakland Tribune as being a member of the cello section of the San Francisco Symphony 150.  Willem Dehé was appointed Principal cello of the San Francisco Symphony in the 1930-1931 season.  He continued in the first cello chair until the performances of the San Francisco Symphony were suspended in the 1934-1935 season. Willem DeheWhen Pierre Monteux reconstituted the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra in 1935, he named Willem van den Berg as Principal cello, with Willem Dehé in the fourth chair of the cello section.  The next season, 1936-1937, Van den Berg continued as Principal cello, but Willem Dehé was advanced to the second chair; what we would call today Assistant Principal cello.  This continued 1936-1939, with Boris Blinder succeeding Van den Berg as Principal in 1938-1939.  During this time, 1936-1940, Willem Dehé was also active in the San Francisco String Quartet: Naoum Blinder first, Eugene Heyes second, Nathan Firestone viola (Ferenc Molnar in later years), and Willem Dehé cello 155.  However, in the late 1930s and culminating in the 1939-1940 season, Pierre Monteux was said to be unhappy with his cello section. 


For the 1939-1940 season, three cellists were listed as “solo”: Boris Blinder, Willem Dehé and Herman Reinberg, with Dehé listed first.  The other cellists rotated seating in alphabetical order during that season.  In 1940-1941, Willem Van den Berg was back as Principal cello, with Willem Dehé as Assistant Principal cello, followed by Herman Reinberg and Boris Blinder in the third and fourth cello chairs.  It seems that Monteux continued to search for his preferred ensemble, since in 1941-1942, Boris Blinder was back in the Principal cello chair, Dehé continuing as Assistant Principal cello, and Herman Reinberg in the third cello chair.  Willem van den Berg had departed to join the music faculty at nearby Mills College, where Darius Milhaud also taught.  A new hire, Rudolph Kirs was in the fourth cello chair.  However, this did not last long, since during this 1941-1942 season Willem Dehé died suddenly on February 8, 1942 in San Francisco, age only 57.  He had suffered an aortic aneurysm, in which the wall of the aorta weakens and can rupture causing rapid death.  He was mourned by his colleagues, some of whom believed Dehé was reaching his highest level as a musician.