Einar Tapio, 1938–2021

In loving memory

Einar Tapio

Photo courtesy of Mark Tapio
Einar Tapio frequently shared his musical gifts with family, friends, and wider community.

Einar Tapio passed away on July 2, 2021, after a brief battle with cancer. The Norwegian-American communities in Seattle and the Bay Area will remember him as an accordionist, bandleader, dancer, and raconteur. The Tapio family will remember him as a husband, father, uncle, and brother.

Einar was born on March 5, 1938, in Polmak, in Norway’s Finnmark region, 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle. He came from a family of ethnically Finnish Norwegians (Kven), with some Sámi blood as well. He had childhood memories of the German occupation during World War II and had many adventures as a young man growing up along the salmon-rich Tana River.

After graduating from the University of Trondheim with a degree in engineering, Einar immigrated to Seattle in 1965. The next few years were itinerant ones, with Einar marrying his first wife and moving to Florida, Massachusetts (where his son Markus was born), and Norway, before settling in the San Jose, Calif., area in 1973. The marriage was not to last, but swinging single Einar soon became a fixture on the local Norwegian-American scene, getting involved with the Sons of Norway, the Norse Federation, and other groups.

In 1981, Einar met Elinor, the love of his life, at a folk dance event. They married the following year and moved to Seattle in 1986. Einar, a self-taught accordionist who had mastered the instrument as a child, was active in the local Scandinavian folk music community and even led the celebrated Skandia Kapell dance band for a time.

After six years back in the Bay Area, Einar and Elinor returned to Washington in 1998 and spent the last two decades in Skagit County. Einar often played accordion at Seattle’s Nordic Heritage Museum and at festivals in Leavenworth, Wash., and Kimberley, B.C., where he picked up several trophies. Even with just weeks left to live, Einar mustered the strength to play one final time in Leavenworth last June.

Einar was an extremely intelligent and entertaining man, who spoke four languages, loved camping, cooking, and cats, and always had some household project to keep him busy. On his 83rd birthday last March, he felt healthy and ready for many more years of active life. The entire Tapio family, in both the United States and Norway, grieves his untimely passing. Einar is survived by his wife, Elinor; his son, Markus; his brothers, Odd-Erik and Nils; his sister, Else; and countless cousins, nieces, and nephews. They will all miss him dearly.

There will be a Zoom memorial for Einar on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021, at 12 p.m. PST. The first hour will be in English and the second hour in Norwegian. If you knew Einar and would like to attend, please email mark@cassavafilms.com for the Zoom link.

This article originally appeared in the Sept. 3, 2021, issue of The Norwegian American.

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The Norwegian American

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