Onno van Veen

Onno van Veen illustration by Ken Edwards.

Date of Birth: May 19, 1932
Place of Birth: Holland
Date of Death: July 12, 1986
Place of Death: Denver, Colorado
Burial Site: Ashes scattered at family monument in Holland

Onno van Veen’s amazing life was the personification of ironic contradictions. Born a Jew, converted to Christianity; raised in Europe, became a patriotic American citizen; escaped the Nazis to become a successful businessman; and wasn’t really a taxidermist, yet had an enormous influence on the taxidermy industry.

Onno van Veen was born in Holland and grew up under Nazi oppression in Europe. The horrors of war hit close to home throughout his childhood. His mother, sister, and brother were put to death at Auschwitz. Onno and his father narrowly escaped capture. At age 16 in 1948, Onno’s father put him on a steamship bound for America and a better life.

In America, Onno found a place of freedom which he never took for granted in his later years. His proudest moment was in March 4, 1954, when he became a naturalized American citizen by choice. His business and marketing acumen brought him success and he eventually became the general manager of Jonas Brothers in Denver when they made the big push into becoming a taxidermy supply company.

One of Onno van Veen’s creative magazine advertisements for Jonas Bros. from 1983.

Onno was instrumental in the creation of the National Taxidermists Association and served as an original board member and its second president after he defeated founder Charley Haynes’ in the first presidential election by members. He wrote and signed the original articles of incorporation for the NTA. In the second year of the NTA, there was no money to operate the organization, but Onno made sure that the postage, printing and incidentals were fully funded by a cash loan from Jonas Bros.

Onno van Veen was in charge of running the very first NTA convention with a taxidermy competition in Denver, Colorado July 26 through 29, 1978. By all accounts, it was a very successful convention and it set the tone for NTA shows for decades to come. The NTA actually cleared $6000 from Denver convention, and the Board was very grateful to Onno van Veen, as they had expected to only break even. Although the expenses for the Denver convention were much higher than anything the NTA had experienced before, with Onno’s leadership, business savvy and marketing skills, the NTA was well on its way to bigger and better things.

Onno van Veen held the patent for adjustable jaw sets.

Onno van Veen was briefly listed as the publisher of Breakthrough Magazine for issue 3 and 4 before health problems forced him to forgo this duty. He continued to manage Jonas Bros. and to write a popular column for Breakthrough called “Onno-Log” which continued through Issue 9.

This was the final “Onno-Log” column that Onno van Veen wrote for Breakthrough.

After recovering from an initial heart attack, Onno’s health eventually deteriorated and he died on July 12, 1986. His ashes were scattered around a monument in Holland that had been previously erected by Onno’s father in memory of Onno’s mother, brother and sister who were put to death at Auschwitz by the Nazis.

Onno van Veen’s many contributions to the taxidermy field helped propel the community of taxidermists into a thriving, modern industry. Recognizing the significance of his influence, Onno became one of the few living taxidermists to be inducted into the Taxidermy Hall of Fame in the twentieth century.