Wednesday, May 4, 2016


Visitors yesterday (May 2) posed with us before touring the Island.
(from left):  Dick Purinton, Magnus Arthursson, Sigridur A. Jonasdottir, Mary Jo,
Evy (Purinton) Beneda, and Lynn (Sorensen) Rasmussen. 

Washington Island, Wisconsin -

Feeling like a teenager sneaking in late at night, hoping his absence wasn't discovered by his parents, I resume this blog today.

It has been a bit of an absence - since late January.   I regret this might have caused consternation and even concern for my well-being, or that of my family.   The short answer is that during our vacation away from the Island in Feb/March, I enjoyed doing other things, and that feeling has lasted until now!

I've been busy on other projects, and other activities, too.

One suggestion, for anyone who might enjoy what I tend to most often communicate through this blog, is to subscribe to the Island Observer newspaper.   Since Janet Berggren's retirement as Archivist at the close of 2015, I've taken over writing and editing the Archives page, and I will continue to do so, at least for the near future.  With this new responsibility, though, the frequency of the Archives page changes to one such page per month, rather than in each issue.

The photo at the head of this blog is of two Icelandic guests, along with their host, Lynn Rasmussen, who helped to arrange their Island visit Monday, May 2.   The photo was taken by Sue Kissinger from Stevens Point University, who guides groups to Iceland each year.  Sue became good friends with (husband and wife) Magnus Arthursson and Sigridur Jonasdottir during those trips, and she has now reciprocated during their visit here.  Moreover, Magnus (or "Maggi," as he prefers to be called) drives motor coach for Gray Line Tours in Iceland, which is how they became acquainted in the first place.

Monday's visit was arranged by Lynn Rasmussen, a friend of Sue's, and who also is from Stevens Point.  Lynn remembered Washington Island as a young girl, although she grew up in Sturgeon Bay.  She is the youngest daughter of the late Elmer and Dorothy Sorensen, whose names readers may recognize. She is related to several well-known Island families, Hagens and Sorensens.

We had a most pleasant visit of several hours over late morning coffee.  Encouraged by Lynn to invite others, Mary Jo extended an invitation to several representatives of Icelandic heritage here, to join in an exchange of information.  Comparing notes on their family backgrounds and personal interest in Iceland relations were Steve Reiss, Lee Engstrom, Shirley Ellefson, Sherry Young, Jeanie Young, Jeannie Hutchins, and Evy Beneda.

One specific interest of Sigridur's, and a primary reason for their visit to Washington Island, was to find out more about her great uncle, Halldor Einarsson, an Icelandic immigrant to Chicago from the early 1900s who was an expert wood carver.  It was Einarsson who C. H. Thordarson commissioned to carve his office furniture with Norse mythology features for his Thordarson Electric Manufacturing facility in Chicago.  Photos of Thordarson dating to a 1925 magazine about him show him sitting behind his custom made, specially carved oak desk, so we know the furniture was in place at that time.

Those furniture pieces were later moved from his Chicago office to Rock Island, in 1941, along with his large book collection and their cases. Nearly all of the original set of carved furniture pieces are now on display in the Rock Island boathouse during the state park's months of operation, late May to mid-October.  

Chair carving detail, Rock Island

Sigridur was pleased to find that there are books and other written materials still available here describing Einarsson and his carvings.

Jeannie Hutchins, a Jacobsen Museum docent in summer, invited Sigridur's group to a special viewing of the carved whale's tooth.  (The museum's official season doesn't begin until Memorial Day weekend.)  Einarsson carved this as a gift to the people of Washington Island in 1970, commemorating the100th anniversary of Icelandic immigration here.
Detail from one of Thordarson's 'vest pocket' notebooks.
This shows a stone-and-turf chapel.  Drawn by "Dory,"
(by Halldor Einarsson), and dated Dec. 1937.  Was this
an idea for a future Thordarson structure on Rock Island?  

Carved sperm whale's tooth by Einarsson, displayed at the
Jacobsen Museum.  This side of the tooth shows the
likeness of early Icelandic immigrant to Washington Island,
Gudmunder Gudmundsson. 

Sigridur was most excited to see the carved whale's tooth and took lots of photos, according to Jeannie.

The hope of Siggi and Maggi is to return in several years' time, during the summer when the Rock Island boathouse and other Einarsson carvings would be accessible to them.

 -  Dick Purinton

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