Gijsbert Haan was born in 1801 in Hilversum, Noord-Holland, Nederland. He was a carpet weaver and manufacturer, and lived on a farm at the corner of the Groest and the Herenstraat. As a part of Afscheiding (the Secession of 1834 from the Dutch Reformed Church), Gijsbert faced religious persecution and financial hardship. In 1847, he immigrated with his family to America, where he founded the Christian Reformed Church in North America.
Gertrud Wilhelmina Frieda Behmenburg, better known as Wilhelmina Cooper, was born on 1 May 1939 in Culemborg, Gelderland, Nederland. She was the daughter of a German butcher, “Willy” Wilhelm Robert Karl Behmenburg and Klasina van der Straten, a cigar-maker’s daughter from Culemborg, Gelderland. The Behmenburgs immigrated to America in 1954, where Wilhelmina worked as a model, eventually founding her own agency, Wilhelmina Models.