In Memoriam: Andre Verbesselt

On Friday 24 May we will all pay our last respects to our good friend and great fancier Andre Verbesselt. The funeral is to take place in the Sint Martinus church in Ramsdonk.

André Verbesselt and Marcel Aelbrecht were close friends

The news of the passing of André Verbesselt was not a complete surprise but it came as a shock nonetheless. Especially because we got to know him better over the years and because we saw how the disease affected his life. It was a fight he could not win and he was well aware of that but he preferred not to talk about it too much.

We got to know André somewhere in 2008, when he had his first great international successes in the One Loft Races. This was obviously not a one trick pony: in the following years André Verbesselt continued to win great prizes in the One Loft Races and many pigeon magazines reported about his achievements. That is when he gained a reputation as a successful pigeon fancier with an excellent pigeon breed. André Verbesselt proved to be a highly proficient fancier. Meanwhile Marcel Aelbrecht from the neighbouring town Lebbeke had made it to the national top in the long distance with his small team of outstanding pigeons. Andre Verbesselt purchased several top class pigeons from him long before Marcel turned into the internationally respected fancier who became famous in 2003 as the winner of a first National Ace Pigeon Long Distance KBDB and as the winner of several other national titles. André purchased descendants of Superkweker 970/96 (Sire Patron), a son of the top pair Marseille x Fijn Blauw from the now legendary BAK 17. In fact descendants of nearly all of Aelbrecht’s best pigeons were moved to the lofts of Verbesselt. They laid the basis for his successful team that excelled in the One Loft Races. Miss Joice played a leading role in this loft as the driving force between the Aelbrecht bloodline! The loft of André Verbesselt was often considered the most important collection of Marcel Aelbrecht pigeons, besides Marcel’s own collection of course. And there is more. André and Marcel were very close friends and that was the most important of all to André.

The pigeons of André Verbesselt gained international recognition thanks to their achievements in the One Loft Races and thanks to the rising popularity of the Aelbrecht pigeons, which started with the national titles of Marcel Aelbrecht himself. His investment in Marcel Aelbrecht pigeons transformed his loft into a top class collection. Several breeding pigeons had been stolen from Marcel Aelbrecht’s loft and soon afterwards Marcel decided to sell his entire racing team. As a result an increasing number of fanciers turned to the loft of André Verbesselt, which is now considered the purest collection of Aelbrecht birds. This was not his intention; it was rather a confluence of events.

André Verbesselt was a modest man and he kept calm, despite the growing interest for his pigeons. On one of his visits to PIPA he took us aside and he told us that he was considering getting rid of his entire pigeon collection.  Maybe he already knew about his disease but he had decided to keep it to himself. He had contracted pneumonia shortly before his visit to PIPA. He had to be hospitalized in august 2011 and it appeared he had a serious illness: he was diagnosed with lung cancer. The news came as a blow and there was nothing he could do about it. We were startled. André told us he had only two years to live. We simply couldn’t believe it. This could not be true. His disease forced him to get rid of his life’s work, his wonderful and unique collection of Aelbrecht pigeons. I remember that we were in the loft of André to make an inventory of all the pigeons in his loft and to make a few movies about his total auction, together with Marcel Aelbrecht. His good friend Marcel was in tears, he just could not believe what had happened. The total sale was an unexpected and a great success. “What is it worth”, said André. “This is not a cure for my disease.” He was grateful to PIPA and he was proud of the overwhelming success of his total auction, so he invited the entire PIPA crew for a dinner. This perfectly illustrates his personality: he was always kind, grateful and modest. He was a simple man with a heart of gold!

Every time we paid him a visit after the auction we noticed that he started to struggle. Our last visit was at the end of March, when André joined us to celebrate. We had a nice time together but André had to go home after the main course. He was tired, at his wits’ end. He said goodbye and he wished us good luck with our pigeons. “This could be the last time we see each other”. We did not know what to think but his face said it all. We said goodbye with a lump in our throat. We saw him leave the parking lot and that was it. It was the final goodbye, as if he wanted to bid his friends in pigeon racing farewell. He wanted to say goodbye to us, knowing that it would be the last time. It illustrates his strong character and joy of living. He was only 61 years old. He was full of energy and he had so many plans. It is difficult to accept.

André, we would like to thank you for everything! We will cherish the wonderful moments we had with him. André will be remembered as a kind, an honest and a modest man with his heart in the right place. He was a warm person. We’ll miss you my friend!
We would like to express our deepest sympathy to the family and all who knew André at this difficult time.