A mighty Roar

Highlights from an interesting life recounted at a Conway Sons of Norway meeting

Photo: Solveig Lee
Roar Irgens.

Solveig Lee
Mount Vernon, Wash.

Sons of Norway Abel Lodge in Conway, Wash., was honored to present Roar Irgens as speaker for the April meeting.

Academic, musical, and one with great interest in the world around him; such words hardly describe Roar Irgens! Irgens grew up in Trondheim, Norway, where he studied piano at an early age and also sang in the Nidaros Cathedral Boys’ Choir. By the time he was to leave for America, he had studied two years of English, three years of French, and five years of German. He took the Stavangerfjord and sailed to America as a student.

The year was 1950 when Irgens left his native land. After reaching American shores, he continued on to Winnetka north of Chicago where he stayed with his mother’s sister. He then attended Northwestern University, majoring in music, and started working part-time at a dry-cleaning outfit. For Christmas of 1951 he returned to Norway. There, he immediately learned that he was to be drafted into the Norwegian military service but was allowed to return to America to serve in the U.S. Army.

Irgens returned to America and entered into military service at Fort Leonard Wood, Miss., in March 1952. After military demolition training at Camp Carson, Colo., he sailed with the 982nd Engineering Construction Battalion through the Panama Canal, across the Atlantic, and landed in France where he served for 15 months.

After Irgens’s military experience, he used the G.I. bill to continue his education. At first, he studied engineering. When he realized that he did not care for this field, he turned to mathematics and worked one year as a mathematician at Boeing. While staying in Ballard, Seattle, he attended Phinney Ridge Lutheran Church, which had a group called the College and Career Club. It was on their trip to Orcas Island that he met Barbara, the woman who was to become his wife. The following year he and Barbara returned to the University of Illinois where he obtained his Ph.D. in microbiology.

With his degree, he worked for one year in Glenwood for the Minnesota State University in Springfield. At retirement, he moved from Missouri to Washington. Among his many interesting experiences was work in Antarctica. Also of interest is the fact that there is a microbe named after him.
Irgens’s interests are many. He and his wife danced for many years with the Scandinavian Folk Dancers in Skagit Valley, Wash. He joined several local choirs and for many years worked in the Native Plant Garden in Mount Vernon. He also privately taught Norwegian classes, both in Conway and in the Mount Vernon area.

This article originally appeared in the April 7, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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