Elena Sollewijn Gelpke, DTM was born and bred in the Netherlands, she worked for the US Air Force in Spain before immigrating to the USA. Sharing an apartment in Manhattan, she quickly settled in as a New Yorker. She worked as an executive secretary in Wall Street at first. Subsequently she joined the United Nations and worked in some of the world’s most dangerous places.

Thirty years later she returned to Europe and settled in Brussels to write her first book “Bullets in the Bedroom.” This book was based on her personal experiences and has been published by a U.K. publisher. She has actively promoted her book for two years, went on an extended lecture tour on “self-publishing and Bullets” in the Benelux countries. She was also interviewed for Radio Expats in Luxembourg.Her book was sold out.

Her hobbies included an addiction to computer/emailing, writing, playing duplicate bridge, gymnastics & swimming and of course Toastmasters.

After she moved to Brussels, Elena joined the Brussels TM Club in 1999 and Capitol in 2000. Thereafter she was founding member of the CLADDAGH club and founding President of the Berlaymont TM Club.

She become a Distinguished Toastmaster on 17/09/07.

She adored Table topics and never missed an opportunity to mention a flirt or a handsome man in those two minutes. She loved competing and placed first in many table topics, speech contests, as well as  evaluation contests at club, area, division and district level. This is a summary of her palmares:
– in 1999 she placed second in the Area Humorous Speech and International speech contest;
– in 2000 she placed second in the Area Speech contest;
– in 2001 she placed FIRST in the Area Table Topics contest, followed by third place at the European District Conference (3 out of eleven contestants);
– in 2002 she placed third in the Area Humorous Speech contest;
– in 2005 she gained FIRST place at the Area Speech Contest – and second place at the Division Speech Contest
– in 2008 she got FIRST place at the  Humorous Speech Contest at club, area and division level, and was a contestant in the European District Conference in Bamberg.
– she also competed in French: in 2000 and 2001 she placed twice first in the French Table Topics Contest at the European District conference –  also in 2000 and 2002 she won FIRST place in the French Humorous speech at the European District conference.

Awards:
– in 2002 she was awarded the “Toastmaster of the Area” award, the first ever issued in the area.
– in 2008 she was awarded with the plaque ‘President of the Year – Berlaymont Club.

As speaking in public was her hobby she attended during the last few years as a guest member many club meetings outside Belgium, including three London Speakers Clubs, i.e the Croydon, Sutton and Wimbledon branch. She travelled to Rome and Milan to support the Italian clubs attending their National conferences even before they became part of the District. She has been attending regularly two Toastmasters Clubs in New York and in December 2004 the Roosevelt Island club presented her with the “best speaker” award.

She also took a number of officers’ roles both at Club and District level:
– Past Sgt at Arms, VP Public Relations) of the Brussels TM Club
– Past VP Public relations Capitol Club
– Past Area Governor
– Past Division Governor
– Past President and Founder President of the Berlaymont Toastmasters
– Honorary Member & Immediate Past President of Claddagh Tostmasters

She had to take dialysis but that did not prevent to travel to other countries and enjoy life – she simply organised herself in order to be able to be there. Not for a minute did she let her health condition run her life. She lived her life to the fullest, and set a marvellous example of courage, passion, determination and joy.

She left the this world of Toastmasters on Easter Sunday April 16,2017.

(based on info by Denis J Buckley and some of her Toastmaster friends, please contact prm@district59.org if you would like to add more testimonials)