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MARILYN HAGERTY: Sons of Norway welcome new president as organization marks Founders Day

The Sons of Norway in Grand Forks have a daughter for their new president. Margy Gabrielsen said it has happened a couple times before. There have been other women presidents. And she seems ready and able to take the reins of the lodge that is su...

The Sons of Norway in Grand Forks have a daughter for their new president.

Margy Gabrielsen said it has happened a couple times before. There have been other women presidents. And she seems ready and able to take the reins of the lodge that is surviving with good health in times when many organizations are shriveling.

At a recent board of directors meeting, membership secretary Sue Bjornstad reported the local Gyda Varden Lodge has 347 members.

On Wednesday, Sons of Norway everywhere will mark their Founders Day. All members are encouraged to wear their pins. The local lodge newspaper edited by Cindy Dahl presents the story of the beginnings. It was in 1895 when 18 Norwegian immigrants came together. They formed the mutual assistance organization.

To most people around Grand Forks, the Sons of Norway are simply the people who emerge from time to time with lutefisk and lefse. They seem in their glory as they celebrate May 17 each year as Syttende Mai.

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They also are on a mission to preserve Scandinavian traditions and teach the next generation. There are rosemalers and woodcarvers meetings on the second and fourth Saturdays.

The lodge here is located, since 1984, in the building at 1401 Ninth Ave. N., that formerly had been a Seventh Day Adventists church.

It is here the members gather and invite the community to special events. The home of the Sons of Norway in Grand Forks has a beautiful Norwegian rosemaling 18-inch border surrounding the lodge room. The kitchen is the place where dedicated members turn out stacks of lefse and at least some lutefisk. The coffee is always perking as they share stories of their Norwegian ancestry and welcome others to join in.

Like many others in the lodge, President Margy Gabrielsen is 100 percent Norwegian. So is her husband, Tom Gabrielsen, former basketball coach and counselor at Red River High. Margy is a graduate of Concordia College and spent 45 years teaching school. Lately they have kept busy following four grandchildren active in sports.

They joined the Gyda Varden Lodge in 1984. And Margy Gabrielsen succeeds G. Paul Larson as president.

Sons of Norway with its beginnings in Minneapolis long ago became a worldwide lodge. Along with being a fraternal organization, it is a $353 million life insurance company servings its members.

It has grown to 66,000 members in more than 400 local lodges.

Gyda Varden Lodge of Sons of Norway was formed here in the early 1950s. It was a joining of the women’s Gyda Lodge and the men’s Varden Lodge.

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Marge Gabrielsen looks on the lodge as part of the community. They take part in the Potato Bowl Parade with a replica of a Viking ship. That came from the Petersburg, N.D., Lodge when is disbanded.

They invite the community to join them as they celebrate Norwegian freedom on May 17. Their lunch is lavish with riskrem, rommegrot, sot suppe, krum kake and a lot of coffee.

There is a Bygda Book collection of Norwegian lore in the UND Chester Fritz Library that is available to the community.

Along with security against financial crises, Sons of Norway provides a way to preserve the literature, art and music of their homeland.

“The founders of the Sons of Norway were Americans,” said C. Sverre Norborg in his history of the organization. “They had crossed the wide Atlantic in search of greater opportunities for themselves and their families.

“From the day they passed through the immigration gates at Ellis Island, they knew their lives and fortunes were linked forever with this vast and free land.’’

He writes that the strong thread running through much of Sons of Norway story is a love for the land of their birth and a fierce loyalty to their new land.

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