An annual time for remembrance

Victoria Hofmo
Brooklyn, N.Y.

On Sunday, May 3, the Zone One chapter of the Sons of Norway hosted their 65th-annual Memorial Service. The stunning St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Islip, N.Y., which was constructed in the elegant Norwegian stave style by imported Norwegian carpenters, is the perfect place for it. (This church was built through the generosity of a Vanderbilt who had a great fondness for this type of architecture—as was reported in “Farmers and Framers: How a stave church took Long Island,” in the October 17, 2014, issue of NAW).

The ceremony began with the tolling of a bell. This was followed by a welcome from Karen Olsen-Helmold, Chairperson of Zone One. Three national anthems were sung: “O Canada,” “Ja Vi Elsker,” and the “Star Spangled Banner;” this is a Sons of Norway tradition.

It was wonderful to see Richard E. Simpson, the Reverend of St. Mark’s Church, participating in the service: reading from the scripture and bestowing the benediction. The gorgeous voice of soloist Thomas L. Killourhy filled the church with the following songs: “Den Store Hvitt Flokk,” “The Lord’s Prayer,” and “How Great Thou Art.” He was accompanied by pianist Jean Goloski.

One of the most moving moments was when the names of all lodge members lost over the last year were read, each followed by the toll of the church bell. “We remember members who have entered Lodge Eternal from all nine Zone One Lodges: Peconic, Loyal, Henrik Ibsen, Norden, Norge, Garborg, Brooklyn, Færder, and Lillehammer,” explained Karen Olsen-Helmold.

The speaker was Arlene Bakke Rutuelo, owner of Bay Ridge Deli. She began by reading from Ecclesiastics, the beloved “A time for everything” passage, and tied it to the closing of her family’s business this past January and how it is like a loss for the community and her family. The deli became a place of gathering and fellowship. Food serves as a connector to holidays and touchstone moments in our lives and thus our memories. She ended on a high note, though, saying that the Norwegians are not going away, that their contributions are still alive. A quote from Abraham Lincoln concluded her remarks: “In the end, it is not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.”

Refreshments were served after the ceremony, hosted by Norden Lodge; it was a time for gathering and catching up. All in all this is a very touching tradition that connects current and past members through solidarity and remembrance.

This article originally appeared in the May 15, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.