Scandinavian museum honored

Victoria Hofmo
Brooklyn, N.Y.

On Thursday, February 12, the Scandinavian East Coast Museum celebrated a double header. First, they received a substantial gift of $10,000 from local donor and long-term museum member,Walter Johnson. Second, Vice-President Arnie Bergman announced that SECM had won The Home Reporter’s Best of the Boro’s Museums Award. The joyful announcements were made before their member meeting, which was held at Vesuvio’s Restaurant in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.

Paul Knudsen, Bethlehem Lutheran Church Pastor and estate executor, divulged the news of Johnson’s endowment. He had grown very close to Johnson over the years and even walked John’s beloved dog Gidget when her owner was hospitalized.

Walter Johnson was raised in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. His parents were Norwegian. His main source of employment was in the grocery business, even working at the iconic Bohack. He was a meal-on-wheels driver and deliverer for Southwest Brooklyn Senior Services, basically a jack-of-all-trades. He was known for his unending love for his wife, Mildred, and daughter, Susan, both of whom he outlived. Although Johnson never held a prestigious high-paying position, he was a hard worker, and was therefore able to accumulate substantial funds.

Johnson was also a generous man who donated almost one million dollars upon his death to a variety of charities, including the Norwegian Christian Home, Bethlehem Lutheran Church, and Lutheran Elementary School, which used the funds to create an art room named after Johnson’s beloved daughter, Susan Johnson, an alumna. According to Knudsen, “he gave the funds away to about 15 charities. The main focus had to do with children with special need and animals.” When Knudsen was asked about Walter’s magnanimity he said, “We were very very touched that he gave so much to Bethlehem and Lutheran Elementary School.”

The Best of the Boro contest ran as a popular vote. People recommended favorites in a variety of categories. In the museums category, six others were nominated: the Coney Island Museum, Jewish Children’s Museum, Morbid Anatomy Museum, New York Transit Museum, the City Reliquary, and the Toy Museum of New York. SECM learned they had been nominated on Dec. 18. They then had to ask people to vote, not once, not twice, but for more than two weeks.

SECM President Victoria Hofmo would like to thank all NAW readers who voted for the museum. “We are delighted to have been nominated, so to have won is exhilarating.”

SECM V.P. Arnie Bergman was asked how he felt on this Red Letter Day. “It is a recognition that is well deserved for what we do in the community: the events we hold, and the education that we give mostly to children about Scandinavian heritage and culture. That is important.”

This article originally appeared in the Feb. 27, 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.