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Peter Johannes van Hattum

Thu, 09/29/2022 - 09:44

May 22, 1932 - Sept. 20, 2022

A musician, singer, actor, and interior designer, Peter Johannes van Hattum of East Hampton “was a true Renaissance man,” according to his sister-in-law, Fran Keesee, and friend Peter Falk. Mr. van Hattum died on Sept. 20 at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset. He was 90 and had been ill on and off for the past year.

The third of four children of Petreous Johannes van Hattum and the former Mies Liesker, Mr. van Hattum was born in Utrecht in the Netherlands on May 22, 1932. He was an eager student, wrote Mr. Falk and Ms. Keesee, and he soaked up his classical education, graduating fluent in several languages and with a great appreciation for music.

As a teenager, he found a second family in the parents of his lifelong friend, the well-known Dutch actress and singer Christel Adelaar. With them he felt “accepted for who he was and wanted to be, but also learned more about the art of music and theater,” Ms. Keesee and Mr. Falk said. “From that day and age he wanted one thing: to be on the stage. And he did just that, first as a musician and singer in the smaller circuit, and later in the theaters in Amsterdam, where his star was rising quickly in the art scene and beyond.”

In the 1950s, Mr. van Hattum joined the ABC-Cabaret with the Dutch comedian Wim Kan. In 1958 he traveled the United States with that company to perform mainly for Dutch audiences. He decided to stay in the U.S. and try his hand at the theater scene here, eventually winning the part of Rolf in the first national tour of “The Sound of Music,” starring Florence Henderson. He traveled the country with the production until he got a call while performing in Chicago asking him to join the Broadway cast in New York. “And there he was on Broadway, singing ‘Sixteen Going on Seventeen’ when he was 30 years old,” Mr. Falk and Ms. Keesee wrote.

He later toured with “Cabaret,” with Joel Grey in the starring role.

On Sept. 7, 1962, he met his life partner, who would eventually become his husband. He was in “The Sound of Music” at the time and was on his way to Mary Martin’s party at the Waldorf-Astoria after the show when he stopped into a bar to meet a friend. The friend introduced him to Harold Simmons, who was 22 and had just arrived in the city to attend Parsons School of Design and didn’t know anybody there. They were together for 52 years until Mr. Simmons’s death in 2014, and were married on Sept. 7, 2011.

The couple first came to East Hampton in 1974 and lived for 20 years in the Settlers Landing area before moving into a house of their own design in the Grace Estate.

When Mr. van Hattum grew weary of traveling, he segued from theater to interior design and became quite successful. In 1987, Mr. Simmons joined him, and together they formed the decorating firm Van Hattum and Simmons, Inc. Over the 25 years they were in business together their projects included embassies in Argentina and Venezuela as well as residences in New York, London, and Washington, D.C., and country estates on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Their work was featured in numerous showhouses in New York and Southampton. They closed the business in 2013.

Outside of work, the couple were active in the East Hampton Historical Society, for which they hosted a cocktail benefit in 2009.

Mr. van Hattum also encouraged the growth of young musical talent by hosting afternoon concerts at his house as a showcase. His taste in music ranged from Bach and Elgar to Ella Fitzgerald and Chet Baker. “He never failed to give a quick lesson in music with a ‘la ti ti da ti dum’ and the graceful movement of his right hand with his eyes gently closed,” Mr. Falk and Ms. Keesee wrote.

He had an excellent memory and was a colorful raconteur, they said, who “could keep you enthralled with his remembrances of his youth during the German occupation in World War II or laughing at his jokes from other past experiences. He was gregarious, talented, sentimental, and generous.” He loved a good party and was a wiz at the New York Times crossword puzzle. 

In addition to Mr. Falk, who lives in East Hampton, and Ms. Keesee of North Carolina, he is survived by a sister, Mieke van Schaik of the Netherlands, and by seven nieces and nephews. His two brothers died before him.

A funeral will be held on Monday at noon at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in East Hampton, with the Very Rev. Denis Brunelle officiating.

Donations have been suggested to the East Hampton Historical Society, 101 Main Street, East Hampton 11937, online at, the East Hampton Village Ambulance Association at 1 Cedar Street, or Pianofest at or P.O. Box 639, Hudson, Ohio 44236.


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