Rebirth of a Sons of Norway lodge

Brooklyn Lodge was ailing, until a surge in new members brought in a new age

Photo: Christine B. Rasmussen Young Norwegian-Americans celebrate Syttende Mai in New York.

Photo: Christine B. Rasmussen
Young Norwegian-Americans celebrate Syttende Mai in New York.

Victoria Hofmo
Brooklyn, N.Y.

Although it recently turned 90, Sons of Norway’s Brooklyn Lodge is not slowing down. In fact, it is going through a rebirth. This was evidenced at their board installation on Sunday, October 19th. Inducted was an all-new, all-female board, comprising recent members who were able and more than that willing to step up.

The new officers are: Corinne Hall, President; Solveig Simonsen Mcloughlin, Vice President; Julie Bergland Feiss, Secretary; and Kimberly Breiland, Treasurer & Social Director. The ceremony was informal, as is the Lodge. However, some installation traditions were retained.

Kris Rasmussen, of Loyal Lodge and the immediate past Counselor from the Third District, officiated. He was delighted to see this turnaround, and shared: “This is Brooklyn Lodge’s first installation in 12 years. We thought the lodge was a lost club. I am happy to see this resurgence and young people stepping up.”

The official SON regalia of pins and medallions for each office was used, as it has been for decades. And of course, many delegates from other SON lodges came to support this happy event, including members from Faeder, Garborg, Huntington, Nansen, and Norden.

The dynamic quartet is off to an amazing start and has a wonderful cadre of stalwart outgoing board members who offer a lot of wisdom and sweat equity. They are not going anywhere. The new President, Corinne Hall, is a talented visual and graphic artist, as well as a musician. I asked her a few questions about her involvement in Brooklyn Lodge, its challenges and her vision for the future.

Victoria Hofmo: Corinne, what inspired you to get involved with Brooklyn Lodge?

Corinne Hall: It was a major concern that Brooklyn would not last much longer if they didn’t bring in new, younger membership—and so Dave Thorsen of Fredheim Lodge helped them do just that, approaching potential members in 2012 and 2013. He asked me to attend a meeting, and so I made the first after-summer meeting in 2012—I had a really nice time and decided to immediately join our Lodge.

My grandmother lived with us for most of my life, and had a huge impact on me. She passed away several years ago—and when I came to the meeting I was reminded of so many beautiful things that I was fortunate to grow up with—and missed dearly.

I’ve also watched my mother—former Secretary Ester Hall—put in endless hours of service for many years to keep the Lodge running. The same effort and love had been put in by all of our previous board members—President Sigrun Larsen, Vice President Arnold Bergman, and Social Director Alice Svege.

After attending a few meetings, our own and other local lodges—Færder Lodge of Brooklyn, Fredheim Lodge of Staten Island, and group events such as Festalaven (run by Victoria Hofmo every year at the Danish Athletic Club), I started feeling like a part of something in a way that my generation typically doesn’t come across these days—but would greatly enjoy.

VH: What challenges does SON face?

CH: There are many challenges that the organization faces, both as a whole and within its individual lodges. I have focused my attention on recruitment as I think this is the most fundamental issue at hand.

There is a challenge in building a bridge between two different eras—when recently asked how many of our members use email, only six raised their hands. By contrast most new members will likely be well entrenched in the digital age. So use of physical mail and actual phone calls is one hundred percent necessary, as is the use of our Facebook page and upcoming website.

Also, many individuals in my age group interested in SON are second-generation—and our understanding and knowledge of Norwegian Culture varies. However, most current members have a great deal more knowledge of the language, culture, cultural skills, and traditions—and so this is another bridge that must be built in order to preserve that which was such an integral part of this organization.

Everyone loves a good barbeque, but if there isn’t enough to represent the heritage aspect then it will be lost with time, and quickly.

VH: Can you speak about Brooklyn Lodge’s rebirth?

CH: Several new, younger members have joined in the past year and taken on what work and responsibilities we can in order to keep the Lodge going—but we also have resources that will enable us to reach out to potential members in our community.

VH: What is your vision for the lodge?

CH: Our meetings are held at Sporting Club Gjøa—and anyone familiar with the space knows that it lends itself quite well to visions of youth activities, family functions. We hope to increase our membership to those with children and build up a Junior Lodge, and if possible, one day re-introduce cultural activities and classes.

I for one would love to be taught even just a small percentage of all of the amazing, beautiful things that I grew up watching my grandmother make. I miss the smells of her baking around Christmas time—precious, small details in life that were returned to me when I attended my first meeting. I think all of our members are in agreement that Brooklyn is a better place if those moments and memories continue to be made here.

This article originally appeared in the Nov. 7, 2014, 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.