Matthew J. “Theo” van Zwieten

Matthew (Theo) J. van Zwieten, DVM, PhD, DACVP of Furlong, died December 1, 2019. He was 74 and lived a full life with a deep love for his wife and family, with a great admiration for his friends, in the pursuit of science and knowledge and with a connoisseur’s taste for a wee dram of single malt Scotch whiskey, the peatier the better.  

Born in Zeist, The Netherlands, Theo was the son of the late Roelof and Anna Maria (Kempenaar) van Zwieten.  In 1950, the van Zwietens emigrated to Australia and after five years on the island state of Tasmania, moved to Rosemead, California. One day after his arrival in the United States, Theo met his future wife, Eneke, at her tenth birthday party

After graduating from Rosemead High School in 1963, Theo attended the University of California, Berkeley then transferred to UC Davis where he graduated from the School of Veterinary Medicine in 1969. While in vet school, he signed on to the U.S. Army’s early commissioning program and after graduation was assigned to USAMRIID, Fort Detrick in Frederick, Maryland for active duty. After his discharge, veterinary pathology became his chosen career. He trained at the Angell Memorial Animal Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts. He worked at the New England Regional Primate Center and the Animal Research Center, Harvard Medical School after becoming a board-certified Veterinary Pathologist in 1974.  During these years, Theo and Eneke married and began a family: Michael and Krista and their families were the lights of Theo’s life.

In 1976, Theo took his family to The Netherlands where he worked at the Institute for Experimental Gerontology in Rijswijk and was involved in research dealing with age-related diseases.  He received his Ph.D. from the University at Utrecht in 1984. The family returned to the United States the following year and Theo joined the research and development team at Merck Research Laboratories (MRL) in West Point, Pennsylvania. In the 1990s, he began to oversee Merck’s research labs in Japan. He retired in 2002, which brought time for visits to kids and grandkids in Florida and Colorado and travel to faraway places with Eneke.  

Theo enjoyed the simple things in life: reading the paper, wood-working, gardening, crossword puzzles, his earth-tone wardrobe, walking to the Furlong post office, kayaking, red wine, his uncomplicated flip phone and the land line attached to the wall with a long cord that he told his grandchildren was always there, ready to use and never lost.  When his grandchildren visited, he faithfully measured their heights on the laundry room door jamb to see how much they had grown.  On his morning jaunts to the post office, he formed a close friendship with his neighbors, gathering with them for a beer and a bump or hitting the bike trails in Bucks County.

Theo is survived by his wife, Adriana Eneke (Dekker) van Zwieten; his son and daughter-in-law, Michael and Kathryn (Rogers) van Zwieten of Tallahassee, FL; his daughter, Krista van Zwieten-Culp of Centennial, CO; his grandchildren, who call him Opa, Sasha (Ryan Reuter), Schuyler, Matteo, Summerlin, Mason and Morrissey van Zwieten, Adriana, Cassandra and Korinne Culp; his great-granddaughter Alexxandria Reuter.  He is also survived by his sister and brother-in-law, Trix (van Zwieten) and Max Miller of Colorado Springs, CO; his brother- and sister-in-law Adrian and Pamela (Des Laurier) Dekker of Canton, GA; nieces, nephews, cousins and extended family spread across the U.S., the Netherlands, and Australia.  Theo was preceded in death by his sister and brother-in-law, Christine (van Zwieten) and Jacobus Hendriks of Ulverstone, Australia and his sister and brother-in-law, Marrie (Dekker) and Neal de Graaf of Corona, CA.

A memorial service is planned in the coming months. Interment will be private.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to a favorite charity in Theo’s name.