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HILDA SOPHIE KRINGSTAD: June 16, 1914 - July 6, 2007

Budstikken, December 2007

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Hilda Sophie Kringstad, a member of the Valdres Samband for nearly 75 years, serving on the board of directors for over 45 of those years, died July 6, 2007 in Robbinsdale, Minnesota.  Hilda served as the Valdres Samband President from 1980 through 1983.  She was 93 years, 20 days old (young) when she died.

By Orlyn Kringstad, November 7, 2007, Valdres, Norway

I was asked to write a memorial for my mother, Hilda Kringstad, for inclusion in the December issue of Budstikken shortly before leaving for Norway.  Nothing would please her more than knowing that her memorial was being written in Norway shortly after I had spent an inspiring weekend in her beloved Valdres.

Hilda's parents both immigrated to America in 1905, her mother Martha, from Haltdalen in Southern Trondelag and her father, Ole, from Bagn in Valdres.  Valdres played the dominant role in mother's early years and the Valdres Samband became her focal point as has been the rule for the entire extended Karlsgodt clan.

Ole Karlsgodt, my mother's father, served as director for many years including through the difficult 1950s when so many bygdelags struggled and either ceased to exist or merged with others.  My mother assumed her first position on the Valdres Samband Board in 1959, taking over the position as director from her father when he could no longer serve.  In addition to my mother serving as director and president, her brother Herman Karlsgodt served as a director; her cousin Eindride (Andy) Karlsgodt served as director and president and her son (my brother) David Kringstad served in several positions including director and president. The Samband thrived in both growth and in culture during my mother's most active years as director and president.  Just prior to her term as president in 1976 the Samband celebrated a Stevne in Fagernes, Norway.  In addition to her role in organizing as a director she and my father performed with the Norrøna  Leikarring.  I had been living in Norway for several years and by that time observed their visit from a Norwegian point of view, with awe and wonder at the close ties between Norwegian-Americans and their counterparts in Norway.  It was also perhaps my first real awareness and appreciation for my parents' involvement with preserving the traditions of Norway.

Hilda Kringstad not only preserved the traditions of her parents' native land, she actually lived them, enriching both her life and the lives of her family and friends.  She joined Valdres Samband at the age of eighteen and was already an accomplished folk dancer, impressing young and old by dancing the Valdres Springar with her very proud father.  Folk dancing became a passion for her and gave her a large group of lifelong friends in the Norønna Leikarring, including a special dance partner who eventually became her husband and my father, Ole Kringstad.  Dancing herself was not enough however.  Hilda needed to share with others and together with Ole became dance instructors and group leaders for both the Norønna Leikarring and the Nidaros Lodge folkdancers of Sons of Norway.  When her grandchildren were old enough to learn and carry on the Norwegian folk dancing tradition, she and Ole began the youth folk dancing group, "Nidaros Junior Dancers."  The junior dancers grew to be as many as 25 children, ages 5 to 18, and performed so well that they were able to "go on tour" to Norway in 1984, with Hilda as leader and director.

My parents' love of dancing was passed on to their offspring.  Unfortunately their dancing skill was passed on only to one of us.  Attendees of Valdres Samband stevner will remember my brother and sister-in-law, Dave and Kari Kringstad, dancing the Springar, Pols and other traditional dances with a skill passed along in the Karlsgodt family for generations.  I will admit to both pride and just a little "misunnelighet"  watching Dave and my mother dancing together so beautifully and wondering why I was born with more than one left foot.  Dave also followed in my mother's footsteps by first joining the Valdres Samband Board, taking responsibility as Budstikken editor, and finally taking on the roll as Samband President.   My mother was so proud, especially with the active role that Dave and Kari took in the administration of the Samband, but I also felt her pride on the occasions when I was asked to speak on the evening Stevne programs and again just a few years ago when I served as master of ceremonies for the Saturday evening program.

If dancing was Hilda Kringstad's passion, then Norwegian food and serving it properly, "fed" her passion.  Her mother taught her traditional Norwegian pastries and other delicacies, and a year-long stay in Norway in 1946 and 1947 perfected her skills.  She became known as the "Kransekake Queen" for the always perfect kransekakes that she made for many special occasions.  A highlight in her kransekake making experiences came in 1999 when she madea  kransekake for Crown Prince Haakon Magnus during his visit to Minneapolis.  In 1994 we celebrated my 50th birthday at Norsk Høstfest.  My mother brought a kransekake from Minneapolis to serve at the party.  Famed Norwegian WWII hero Gunnar Sønsteby attended and was so impressed with her masterpiece (the best he had ever tasted!) that he assigned himself as the official kransekake server and announced to each person as they took a piece that it was baked by Hilda Kringstad.  This is another tradition that she passed on in the family.  Her grandson Tom Kringstad and daughter-in-law Kari are kransekake experts.  Both of them baked kransekakes for the reception after her funeral.  I believe that there were a total of four cakes to serve the crowded reception.

Lefse, rømmegrøt, flatbrød and of course lutefisk were also her specialties.  My motehr often made her own "rømme" so that she could serve true rømmegrøt  (sour cream porridge),. American rømmegrøt is most often made with "sweet cream" and in Norway would be considered fløtegrøt. Many years of experience as a Robbinsdale area school head cook taught her the skill of preparing foods in larger quantities which made her a fixture in the many area lutefisk, salmon and lapskaus dinners.  One year we calculated that she cooked (together with her kitchen help) over 3,000 pounds of lutefisk for Sons of Norway, the Men's Glee Club and her beloved Mindekirken.

On Wednesday evening I had dinner with an old friend at one of my favorite restaurants ( a pub called 'Lorry's' in Oslo).  My meal choice from the menu was Lutefisk! Prepared Norwegian style, served with bacon sauce (some would say bacon grease and bacon bits), stewed peas, "grov" mustard and cooked (peel yourself) potatoes with lefse and goat cheese as an accompaniment, it is very different from the all white platters that are usually served in America.  Some years ago I was served Lutefisk in this way at the home of some friends.  I was interviewed the following day by an Aftenposten reporter about a project on which I was working and when asked what my favorite experience was during my stay, I said "the lutefisk that I was served last night at the Hagen home.  It was the best I ever tasted!"  I forgot how many friends my mother has in Oslo.  The article was sent to her by at least five people.  That mistake cost me a "disapproving look" and a dinner of her choice when I returned to Minneapolis - all in good humor, of course, along with my promise that the Aquavit and beer consumption had been moderate! 

Last Friday, hours after arriving in Norway, I left Oslo for Fagernes with friends (hers and mine) Lars Løberg and Elisabeth Bring.  The mission for the weekend was to eat as much Rakefisk (rahk-eh-fisk) as possible in the Rakefisk capital of the world during the annual Festival celebrating a tradition which dates back to the Middle Ages.  Although Hilda would not have approved of what her forefathers did to perfectly good Trout (essentially making it rotten) to make it the local Valdres delicacy that it has become, she would definitely have approved of preserving the tradition (if not the fish) in such a way.  She enthusiastically approved of  Lutefisk, but Rakefisk, to her, may have gone too far -- in her words "too much of a good thing."

I have been in Norway for less than a week and countless people in Valdres, Lillehammer, Ringsaker and Oslo, wherever I have visited, have expressed their condolences and reminisced about my mother.  It is remarkable how many lives she touched and the impact that she made on them both in America and in Norway.  When my mother passed away her sister Pat (Aunty Pat) said "I have lost my anchor, I will really miss her."  Her brother Herman (Uncle Herman) who we always ask to sing on special occasions, just couldn't bring himself to sing for her funeral, something we all understood also.  She so cherished the visits from them and especially the time that they spent together on her 93rd birthday just three weeks before she died.

Inger-Britt Habberstad is my cousin - well actually 4th or 5th cousin 0 but we've never bothered to figure it out.  Inger-Britt grew up in Veikebukt, Norway, where my father was born and raised.  My mother and Inger-Britt bonded in a very special way over thirty years ago and in many ways my mother was like a special mother to her.  Inger-Britt couldn't be with us for my mother's funeral and grieved for her alone in Norway and was very troubled by her passing.  Last night we were together and paged through an album of pictures from my mother's last birthday, her last days and finally her funeral.  Afterwards we attended a concert at Vardaasen Church near Asker.  My good friend Eyvind Skeie - pastor, poet, hymn writer and musician - was performing songs from his new hymn book, "316 Salmer". The last several hymns that he played were written for times of grieving and during the last there was an opportunity to go to the altar and light a candle in memory of someone that you had lost.  We went up together and each lit a candle for my mother.  It was a special moment for both of us but for Inger-Britt it was both closure and release for her and her tears were for joy - of the memories and love that she had shared with my mother.  Eyvind understood what had happened and spoke with her after the concert about her experience - a moving moment for all of us.

I have lost count of how many trips my parents made back to Norway, sharing time between Valdres and Romsdal (however, unequally distributed in favor of Romsdal according to Hilda!). When my father passed away in 1996 my mother continued to travel to Norway, the last trip was just four years ago when she traveled with Marit and me.  I believe that one of her favorite visits to Norway was her 80th birthday gift from my sister Kathryn.  Their visit began in Northern Norway with a voyage on the "Hurtigrute" (coastal steamer or mail ship) from Kirkenes to Molde and then traveled by car through Romsdal and down through Valdres, ending in Oslo.  The last part of the trip was made just by Kathryn and my mother, giving them a chance to renew their special bond.  My mother was so appreciative and happy for that special time with her daughter.

The Valdres Samband Stevnes were always special to my mother and she participated every year.  For most of those years she wore her Romsdal bunad, a very special one given to her by the great folk artist Molly Furunes.  But her wish was always for a Valdres bunad and she finally achieved her goal seven years ago.  She bought the material and jewelry in Valdres in 1999 and when she heard that former prime minister, Kjell Magne Bondevik, was going to visit Minneapolis for Syttende Mai activities the following year and that he and his wife would be staying at our home, she decided that she would have to have it ready for that occasion.  She completed all of the embroidery just weeks before May 17, 2000 and wore it proudly that year and each year since.

Along with the Valdres Samband, Norwegian folk dancing, NOrwegian food and culture in general, the Norwegian Lutheran Memorial Church, Mindekirken, became especially important to her in her later years.  She was the "flower lady" for many years, arranging for the altar bouquets for Sunday mornings and she wrote the "thank you for visiting" notes to guests that signed the guest book.  Hilda was a fixture at the dinners, Rømmegrøt luncheons and Treasure Chest sales.  This year Mari, and Kari and friends arranged for the "Hilda Kringstad Memorial Lefse Table" at the Rømmegrøt Luncheon in memory of her dedicated participation for so many years.

Our mother, Hilda Kringstad, was an amazing person.  She lived an active and full life right up to just a few weeks before her death.  She renewed her driver's license in March so that it would not expire on her birthday in June.  When she learned in May that she had cancer she knew that her time was short.  Still she lived her last months and weeks with a beautiful dignity and strength that was an inspiration to all of us in the family.  She prepared us for the time in the near future when she would no longer be with us.  I am assuming that each of her offspring received certain instructions and final words to live by (I know that I did, but I am not sharing and neither are they).

I can only speak for myself, but I cherish the good memories, the stories, the wonderful life that she shared with me and my family.  A final memory that I will always carry with me happened after her death but showed the love that she had for her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren and of that which they had for her.  Her casket was open for the visitation the night before her funeral.  As we were leaving to go to a family dinner after the visitation we were gathered at the front door of the funeral chapel.  Two of the youngest of her great-grandchildren, Mali and Toni (both five years old) suddenly said "Wait, we forgot to say goodbye to Grandma Hilda!" They ran back into the viewing room up to my mother, with the other great-grandchildren following, and in unison said "Good bye Grandma Hilda, we love you!"  She left all of us a great legacy!


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