DEMOTTE, Ind. (AP) — An Indiana University doctoral student’s boyfriend who died with her on the downed plane in Ukraine had spent six months in northwestern Indiana as a high school exchange student.
Jenny Jonkman said Laurens Van Der Graaff came from the Netherlands in 2003 and lived with her family in the Jasper County town of DeMotte during their senior year at Kankakee Valley High School.
Jonkman said Van Der Graaff had been dating Karlijn Keijzer for several years and typically visited her in Bloomington each spring and fall. They were heading on vacation when the Malaysia Airlines plane was shot down Thursday during its flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.
Jonkman said her family kept in touch with Van Der Graaff and she often traveled to spend time with the couple during his visits to Bloomington, where Keijzer was working on a doctorate in chemistry.
“They were the sweetest people you would ever meet in the world,” Jonkman told The Times of Munster.
Van Der Graaff quickly became popular after he arrived at the high school in the largely rural area about 30 miles south of Gary, she said. He was picked prom king and made the varsity basketball team before breaking his foot.
“He loved basketball,” she said. “When he found out he was coming to Indiana, he was so excited because of ‘Hoosiers.’”
In high school, Van Der Graaff would come up with ridiculous things and tell people that’s what Dutch people do, she said. At first, people wouldn’t believe him. But he’d persist.
“He was just the funniest, happiest person ever,” Jonkman said. “I am going to miss him so much.”