Born in Nijmegen Holland in 1933, Marijke Hoenselaars was the second of six children. She grew up during World War II and her earliest memories include her parents opening their home to nine families who had lost their homes to bombing. Always a hard worker and a wonderful student, Marijke was chosen to go to America to study nursing in New York City, where she met her future husband Walter Byck.
The couple moved to Santa Rosa in 1965 and purchased the Paradise Ranch in 1978. Their five children were raised mostly on the 155-acre property. Taking advantage of the beautiful site in the hills on the edge of Santa Rose, Marijke, Walter, and their family opened Paradise Ridge Winery in 1994. Marijke was a natural leader and for 12 years she was CEO of the winery. Tragically Marijke was killed in a car accident in January of 2006. Her legacy is marked by her tireless efforts, frequently performed anonymously, on behalf of the less fortunate in Sonoma County. From delivering food packages and holiday gifts for children of low-income families to serving as a Board Member, benefactor, and leader with numerous local non-profit groups, her helping hand, and personal involvement were the hallmark of her style. Marijke’s compassion led to her participation in the Sonoma Task Force for the Homeless, the National Women’s History Project, Catholic Charities, The Children’s Village of Sonoma County, UNICEF, as well as many others. She also cared deeply about global peace issues, and her activism reflected these broader concerns as well. Her service to the less fortunate went beyond compassion. Whenever she went out to dinner, she boxed what she had left and did not go home till she found a hungry recipient. The spirit of Paradise Ridge Winery’s founder and leader continues to inspire us every day.