WILLISTON, N.D. - Coordinator and Associate Professor of Massage Therapy, Wendy McGinley, and Associate Professor of History, Richard Stenberg were honored January 24 when both were named to lead Williston's historic Sons of Norway Chapter as President (Stenberg) and Vice-President (McGinley).
Sons of Norway is a fraternal life insurance company devoted to supporting its members through every stage of life while providing opportunities for vibrant social experiences around Norwegian culture. Created by eighteen Norwegian immigrants in Minneapolis, MN on January 16, 1895, it has grown to have eight districts and is the largest Norwegian organization outside Norway.
"The purpose of the founders was to protect members from financial hardship during times of sickness or death in the family while away from family in Norway," McGinley explained. "The mission has expanded now to include preservation of Norwegian heritage and culture in our society in a social way. I grew up in the lodge here in Williston, I am proud to be part of this family tradition, it is a great way to meet people."
Williston's Sons of Norway has Norwegian language classes taught by Kirby Lund, another WSC faculty member, and his grandfather Chet Lund, every Monday night at 7 p.m. In addition, each Monday at 7 p.m., the lodge holds Norwegian dance lessons. Throughout the year, classes in traditional Norwegian baking, sewing, and genealogy are hosted at the Sons of Norway Hall located on 4th Avenue.
Established in Williston in 1908, the Bjarne Lodge 4-86 is part of District IV, which has over 55 lodges and a total of over 7,000 members. It is the only international district with active lodges in Alberta, Montana, North Dakota, and Saskatchewan.
"Everyone has a history. 15 million people in the United States can trace their lineage back to Norway, and Norway only has a population of about 4 million," stated Stenberg. "When people cut ties and lose sight of where they have come from, it is tragic. It is through organizations like this that I think some folks can reconnect."
Wendy McGinley's father, Marty Haug, has served as president twice already, so McGinley has a special attachment to the organization. Haug was so successful in his first term in 1991-1992, that the local Williston lodge was chosen as District IV, Lodge of the Year and he named President of the Year.
"If younger generations do not step up and take these responsibilities, what is going to happen to the lodge? The membership tends to be older, and we want to incorporate ways to increase our membership to more generations," McGinley said. "Because Richard [Stenberg] is such a historian, I think we are going to go back to reviewing some of the history of the lodge and bring in new perspectives."
Syttende Mai (May 17) is the largest of festivity that the Sons of Norway participates in each year. On this Norwegian Constitution Day, The American State Bank will open its doors to the Sons of Norway to provide entertainment and goodies for the public to enjoy.
"Everyone's heritage makes them who they are today, learning this and embracing it allows us to feel at home," Stenberg stated.
Williston's Sons of Norway next meeting is Sunday, February 28 at 2 p.m. at the Sons of Norway Hall located, 720 4th Avenue and is always accepting new applications for membership.
If interested in signing up to become a member or joining one of their cultural classes, contact Wendy McGinley at 701.774.4293.