Death is part and parcel of life. While our time in Norway has been pretty joyful so far, news from across the sea brought an element of sadness. Jewel Berge, of Strum, Wisconsin passed away – 96 years! Below is a memory I shared with the funeral home’s website. You should read to learn about Jewel.
“I am so sorry to hear of Jewel’s passing, although we only met a few times he made an important impact on my life. Jewel was a friend and business partner of my grandfather Maurice Hanson. Through stories I learned how much Jewel’s companionship and technical skills helped my Grandfather lead a prosperous life.
As one of the original “Liars” from the Drummond liar, Jewel occupied a special place in the lore of my upbringing. The stories, and tall tales from the Northwoods about bucks, bears, and buddies fueled my hope that one day I too would get to tote a rifle in the company of men under all those tall pines. And thanks to my dad I did.
In the fall of 1989 I got my chance. Dad and I joined LaVerne and Joe Gullicksrud, and Jewel and another. Jewel served whole wheat toast with homemade jam and shoulder bacon for breakfast on my first cold and dark Saturday morning. I was a fussy eater and my eyes widened at the prospect of having to eat it. But, wanting to be accepted by the group, and catching Jewel’s knowing smile of assurance, I ate my share; and then a second helping. I have counted that experience in particular as important in my maturing into an adult, thanks in large part to Jewel.
I remember seeing the photo from a news clipping of Jewel skiing downtown Strum during a particularly heavy storm. Who knew skiing could be so macho? The melody of his sing-song voice during a post-church breakfast at the Skyline clubhouse rings in my ears – he had on a dark suit with a lapel pin featuring a Norwegian and American flag.
Jewel was the kind of man who left an impression. He certainly left a positive one on me. Given his Norse heritage, maybe the most apt metaphor was that he was like a glacier: He came from the North and relished the cold. He changed all those around him, albeit so slowly maybe they didn’t notice. And like so many glaciers, Jewel is gone. Yet, the impressions, the carvings, the deposits in the hearts and minds of so many remain and will remain.
I have the privilege of living in Norway this year as a Fulbright Scholar. It has given me a lot to think about: my ancestors, the land they left, the traditions they carried… I included a couple of photos I just took, for Jewel and his family from the land that set his family on the path to the American dream. One is a photo high above Oslo, near the Holmenkollen, looking southwest over the fjord. The other is a pennant flying on Bygdøg as seen from the Oslo harbor.
Med vennilig hilsen,
John L. Hanson”