Blog by Rhonda Erlandson.

Hello friends and lovers of Swedish culture and heritage! I’m honored to write the first blog post for SRIO’s new website. I’ve been a SRIO board member for 10 years while SRIO itself has been going strong for 22 years with a small group of individuals who enjoy researching and sharing their findings on the Swedish immigrant experience. I have always felt blessed to be the daughter of a Swedish immigrant and to grow up with a wonderful mix of Swedish and American traditions. My dad arrived in Oregon in 1948 and the rest, as they say, is history which I’ll share with you in another post. Today, I want to focus on our new website and welcome you to its beauty and its treasure trove of information for anyone interested in Swedish heritage and particularly for those whose Swedish ancestors settled in Oregon.

SRIO has been online for many years thanks to our steadfast webmaster, Herje Wikegård. For some time now, Herje has encouraged the board to update the organization’s website to a 21st century platform that can interact with our readers and share information in a variety of ways. Many priorities were on the board’s plate: there were books to write, exhibits to present, family trees to build, and festivals in which to host informational tables. For all the sorrow the Covid-19 pandemic brought, it did provide time for many of us to pause and take stock. For SRIO, the time had come to focus on a newly designed website. And that brings me to the title of this post: Tacksamhet, which is Swedish for gratitude.

Jag är tacksam! I’m very grateful for my fellow board members and their dedication to gathering and publishing the history of Swedes in Oregon. During these pandemic years, a few of us have moved away from Portland and yet, thanks to online technology, we have remained a cohesive group focused on the task that feeds our souls. I want to recognize and give a huge shout-out to my fellow SRIO board members Ross Fogelquist, David Anderson, Diane Glase, Ann Baudin Stuller, Eric Lindquist, Herje Wikegård, and Mike Timshel. None of this work would be possible without the unflagging dedication of these individuals.

SRIO’s journey to a new website began with a donation of $500 designated for that purpose from our friend and supporter, Christine Nyberg Tunstall. Christine is the granddaughter of Swedish immigrant John Nyberg who is featured in SRIO’s latest book, Swedes in Oregon. Born in 1867, Nyberg emigrated from Vibyggerå, Västernorrland, Sweden in 1892 and settled along the banks of the Tualatin River in Oregon. A successful farmer and active member of his community, his family’s name is memorialized in the Portland metro area by Nyberg Road and Nyberg Woods Shopping Center. Christine’s generous donation was the springboard SRIO needed in seeking additional funding for the website project, and we are grateful to her for getting us off to a great start.

With Christine’s seed money in hand, I took on the task of writing a grant proposal to the Barbro Osher Pro Suecia Foundation. Founded by Osher in 1996, Pro Suecia supports Swedish-related cultural and educational projects in North America and Sweden. Among the Foundation’s grantees are several American universities, including the University of California at Berkeley, Gustavus Adolphus University, and the University of Texas at Austin, whose programs advance an understanding of Swedish culture and tradition in both Sweden and America. What is especially wonderful about Pro Suecia is it supports small organizations like SRIO as ardently as it does larger institutions. Twice in the past several years, Pro Suecia has sponsored the work of Swedish Roots in Oregon and for that vital support, including the completion of our website project, SRIO is deeply grateful.

Barbro Osher is a tremendous champion of preserving the Swedish American heritage. In addition to her work with Pro Suecia, she serves as Honorary Consul General of Sweden in San Francisco. A native of Stockholm and a graduate of Stockholm University with a degree in languages and political science, Osher pursued a career in publishing and advertising in Sweden before moving to the United States in the early 1980s. These days, in addition to serving on the boards of the University of California (Berkeley) Foundation and the American-Scandinavian Foundation, she also chairs her husband’s Bernard Osher Foundation and is the founder of the Swedish Women’s Educational Association (SWEA) chapter in San Francisco. SWEA is found throughout the United States, including an active chapter in Portland. In an interview with Peter Berlin of the Swedish Press, Osher spoke of her passion for preserving her Swedishness. “That is something I have been doing persistently and professionally since I first arrived in this country. I missed my life in Sweden: my daughter, my family, my friends, my colleagues, my job, and nature. My language! I still do! I would say that we all feel a deep connection with our Swedish past also in the Swedish-American community.” The board of Swedish Roots in Oregon heartily agrees with Osher’s sentiment, and we are deeply grateful for her continued support of the work we do to further an understanding of our Swedish ancestors’ experience as they left their homeland in search of a new life in America.

Finally, much gratitude goes to Stefan Rosqvist who guided SRIO in its quest for a redesigned website. A professional web designer, Stefan is also the son of Swedish immigrants and has long been a friend of Portland’s Swedish American community. As well as his wealth of technical expertise, Stefan brought a lifetime of cultural understanding to SRIO’s project. He “gets us” and he made a complicated process enjoyable and much easier for SRIO’s website task force to understand. We are so pleased and proud of the work Stefan did for us.

To wrap up SRIO’s inaugural blog post, I want to say that I am also grateful for all of you who visit our site and support the work we do to preserve our Swedish heritage in Oregon. All of us on SRIO’s board hope you enjoy delving into the resources we have gathered for your research, and we invite you to get in touch with any questions or other feedback regarding Swedish Roots in Oregon. And now, please explore, discover, and enjoy our new site!

Barbro Osher
Barbro Osher

Barbro Osher, courtesy Pro Suecia Foundation

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