Sons of Norway Wergeland 2-21 Lodge, Bellingham, celebrates 90 years

Photo: Solveig Lee
Joanne Donnellan plays her Hardanger fiddle for a rapt audience of Wergeland members at the lodge’s 90th anniversary party.

Solveig Lee
Mount Vernon, Wash.

The 90th Anniversary of Sons of Norway Wergeland Lodge of Bellingham, Wash., was celebrated with lunch at Windows on the Bay, the old Bellingham Yacht Club on the edge of Bellingham Bay on April 29, 2017. The day was exactly 90 years since 24 Norwegians, many of them immigrants from Norway, met in the south hall of Bellingham’s Leopold Hotel to organize a Sons of Norway lodge. They chose the name in honor of Henrik Wergeland, writer and poet in Norway.

A musical group, Takk for Dansen, led by Pam Borso, provided background music while members and guests mingled at the celebration. President Elaine Grasdock welcomed all and then read a letter from Mark Agerter, District International Director.

As an opening, accomplished musician Joanne Donnellan spoke about her Hardanger fiddle, then took all in attendance back to Norway as she played.

Vaughan Hagen, past president, read the history of the lodge. Jon Roney, cultural and social director, gave selected readings. Maureen Pecaric (20 years) and Lloyd and Elaine Grasdock (25 years) received pins for their years of membership.

Much talent and leadership has existed in the lodge membership. At first, they met at the Leopold Hotel, and later they moved to the Knights of Columbus hall. They had an orchestra—accordion, clarinet, two violins, and a piano player—called the Wergelanders. When they had a party, anniversary, dance, or something else that was special, the lodge had its own music.

In 1947, the lodge bought a lot on Forest Street so that they could have their own hall. Member Arthur Myrseth became the contractor. The lodge was fortunate: the city needed fill dirt, so they dug the basement. Concrete was poured. With members volunteering, the basement was roofed over. In 1948, the lodge’s new quarters—a basement—came to be. This was their situation for 20 years. Then in 1969, they decided to finish the hall. This time, Emil Olsen was the contractor. With the help of Myrseth and other members, concrete blocks were laid, roof beams were lifted into place, and 25 members nailed the roof down in one day. The hall was complete. When finished, Norway Hall had a kitchen, a small stage, and a large eating area downstairs. Upstairs was a wonderful stage for a good-sized auditorium. The lodge was sold in 2014, and the group now meets at St. John’s Lutheran Church.

Through the years, Wergeland Lodge members have made lots of lefse, held pancake breakfasts and lutefisk dinners, participated in the Border Festival in Blaine and earlier at White Rock, B.C., ridden on a Viking ship in Bellingham’s Ski to Sea parades, and attended the Steakfry at Trollhaugen.

Lodge presidents past and present in attendance were Elaine Grasdock, Vaughn Hagen, Vesta Blum, and Winfred Wilson. Solveig Olsen Apt, daughter of past president Emil Olsen, was also present.

This article originally appeared in the June 16, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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