Ray Larsen: Fauske Ambassador
Ray Larsen posing with his plaque.
(Photos courtesy of Albe Larsen)
By Albe Larsen
And well may you say “Huh!” but read on. Becoming Fauske Ambassador is a milestone in an adventure that began last February when Ray Larsen (TD) discovered Canadian naturalization papers showing his father had been born in Sulitjelma, Norway.
All Larsen had known previously was that his dad had come from Norway north of the Arctic Circle and had emigrated to Canada in 1922. A Web search found Sulitjelma references on the website of Dag Ove Johansen, a teacher and writer/researcher studying the Sami (Laplanders) people. Larsen learned that Sulitjelma is part of the Fauske Commune or, to us, county. Exchanges of information led to an article on the Larsen family in the Saltenpost, the regional paper that contained a photo of some 40-plus people, all thought to be Larsen-related, who emigrated from Norway to Canada in April 1922. The article immediately elicited a phone call to Larsen from a second cousin in Oslo who just happened to be scanning regional papers on the Web the day the story was published in mid-March. Then other contacts started to dribble in to Johansen.
Meanwhile, on the California coast a trip to northern Norway was being planned for June 13-21, squeezed between a conference and a seminar. It was later discovered that June 18 was the date set for both a Larsen family reunion in Fauske (arranged by Johansen and publicized in Saltenpost) and the 100th anniversary of Fauske’s founding.
Touring the Homeland
Moments after arriving at the Fauske Hotel, Johansen himself appeared bringing with him the mayor, and Espen Melvik. Melvik, Larsen learned, was the grandson of the man who had bought his grandfather’s property, a portion of which remains in the Melvik family today. Melvik offered to take Larsen, wife, granddaughter and Johansen to see the property, accessible only by boat. He also brought along a poem written by Larsen’s namesake uncle Sverre at age 13 and published in the Saltenpost in 1923. The poem talked of the land and the difficulty of
leaving a place one loved. It had been cut out and saved by Melvik’s father who, at age 8, was touched by it and had kept it all these years. Larsen now owns a framed copy.
Other discoveries were many. The property was an entire fjord, including all the lands on both sides—an incredibly beautiful, still sparsely settled summer paradise also containing three lakes and two rivers. However, what the winters are like one can only guess.
And Then—the Ambassadorship
On June 18, about 25 relatives—many who did not know each other and some coming as far as 200 km—gathered at a Fauske historic house to meet Larsen, sort out relationships and greet each other. After an introduction by Johansen and some remarks by Larsen, the deputy mayor was introduced. She presented Larsen with a plaque, a shirt and a number of local genealogical record books, and named him Fauske’s ambassador representing those many Norwegians who had left the area to settle in North America.
Finding grandmother Edvarda Aasback Larsen’s family farm on the last morning and visiting Johansen at his wife Ann’s cabin in Horndal (Ann is also a relative).Catching pollack in the Saltenstraum, which is an incredible maelstrom where the waters swirl wildly, and having Ann cook them for dinner. Visiting Sulitjelma and the neighboring town of Jacobsbakken with a cousin and being shown where Johan Antonius’s Sulitjelma bakery had been. Being welcomed with warm generosity by all. Larsen commented, “Stepping onto Faerǿy felt like coming home.”