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Wolford natives attend celebration in Oslo

By Staff | Jul 18, 2014

(Left to right) Kyle Handegard, Mitzi Hager and Caryn Skjerven, all formerly of Wolford, pose in front of the Wolford store in Oslo, Norway.

OSLO, Norway – Former Wolford ladies, Caryn (Hartvickson) Skjerven, Kyle (Hartvickson) Handegard, Mitzi (Ostenson) Hager and Elaine Nelson, traveled with the Skjerven Family Norway Tour – set up by Brekke Travel of Grand Forks – to take part in a very special centennial celebration.

One hundred years ago on July 4, 1914, the people of North Dakota gave a bust of Abraham Lincoln to the people of Norway as a gift in celebration of the 100-year anniversary of the Norwegian Constitution. This beautiful bust of Abraham Lincoln was created by North Dakota sculptor Paul Fjelde.

Part of the then-North Dakota Gov. L.B. Hanna’s delegation were Haakon and Elisa Skjerven, who had immigrated from Norway and homesteaded in Walsh County in 1881. With them was their 13-year-old son William Skjerven. William Skjerven Sr., later owned and operated Skjerven’s Garage in Park River. He and his wife, Gunna Skjerven, were prominent citizens of Park River, North Dakota.

At the statue’s dedication parade and its placement in Frogner Park, Oslo, Norway, 100 years ago, young William Skjerven was picked to carry the American flag at the head of the parade. (At one time there was a picture of Grandpa carrying the flag in this parade but it was damaged and lost when his basement flooded.)

To celebrate this special event, with help of Brekke Tours, 32 family members and friends of William Skjerven traveled to Norway to be a part of this special event. The Skjerven family members and friends all carried small American flags to this centennial celebration in honor of what their grandfather (and for some their great-grandfather or great-great-grandfather) did 100 years ago. They also had a special T-shirt made up for the event and were joined by Skjervens from Canada, whose great-grandparents were also Haakon and Elisa Skjerven.

William Skjerven — grandfather, great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather of the Skjervens, is the young lad in this picture taken at the monument’s dedication on July 4, 1914.

At this year’s centennial ceremony a wonderful band played the national anthems and patriotic music. The Norwegian Honor Guard was very impressive as were the speakers. David W. Skjerven, grandson of William Skjerven and husband of Caryn (Hartvickson) Skjerven, gave one of the speeches and also read a letter from current North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple. Other speakers were Truls Wickholm, a member of the Norwegian Parliament, who also laid a beautiful wreath at the monument, and Julie Furuta-Toy, who is Charge d’affaires for the United States Embassy. Celebration at the Abe Lincoln statue in Frogner Park, Oslo, Norway, is an annual event held on a Sunday close to the 4th of July. The significance of this is that it was the only gathering – as a silent protest – that was allowed by the Nazis during their occupation of Norway during World War II.

Along with this celebration was the annual Oslo’s Frogner Park American Independence Day festivities with music, dancing, games and typical American 4th of July food like grilled hamburgers and potato salad. One of the many booths that was set up at this 4th of July celebration in Oslo was the Republican Party booth. They were very impressed to have Wolford’s own Kyle Handegard, who is the Secretary of the North Dakota Republican Party, stop by and spend some time with them. Elaine Nelson, formerly of Rugby and Knox, is the international director of Sons of Norway District Four and visited with Oslo Sons of Norway Lodge members.

The Skjerven Family Norway Tour also had them tour the Skjerven farm near Oslo, where Haakon and his brother Herman immigrated from in 1881. Since their mother was Margrete (Meberg) Skjerven and several of those on the trip were Mebergs, they also toured the Meberg farm, which is in the beautiful area of Lista. Several members of the tour, which included Caryn and Kyle Hartvickson, also stopped in Iceland to tour there for three days since one of the grandmothers of the Skjerven family immigrated from Iceland in the late 1800s. The tour was 10-days long with the group getting to see and enjoy many areas of beautiful Norway including Eidsvoll where the Norwegian Constitution was created and signed 200 years ago.

Members of this special tour were David and Caryn Skjerven of Crystal Lake, IL, Grandson of William Skjerven and their daughters Karmen and her husband Justin Serbinski of Chicago, IL and their children Hannah, Claire and Conrad who are Great Great Grandchildren of William Skjerven; and daughter Carrie Padget and her husband Brad Padget and their children Elise and Andrew also Great Great Grandchild of William Skjerven. Dawne (Skjerven) Renner of Mandan, ND a Granddaughter of William Skjerven; Teresa Chase of Bismarck, ND, also a Granddaughter and her daughter Taryn, a Great Granddaughter; Ann (Skjerven) Noble of Dallas, a Granddaughter and her husband Dan and their children Riley and Jennie who are Great Grandchildren of William Skjerven; Wendy (Skjerven) Gegelman of Minneapolis, a Granddaughter and her children Willa, Sage and Carly who too are Great Granddaughters. Laura (Meberg) Langemo of Fargo, ND; Robert Onstad and his wife Jodie (Lawspike) of Colorado who were all born and raised in Park River, ND. Chris McGugian from Michigan and her sister Patty from Indiana who are Granddaughters of William Skjerven. Kyle Handegard, Caryn Skjerven’s sister, from West Fargo, ND; Mitzi Hager, Elaine Nelson and Judy Edwards family friends all from Fargo, ND. The tour was 10 days long with the group getting to see and enjoy many areas of beautiful Norway.

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