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The Sundquist Family Reunion

Arlene Sundquist “Sunnie” Empie

After emigrating from Ostrobothnia in the early 1890s, Ida Maria Andersdotter Lillbroända Wikström from Kronoby and Johan Leonard Danielsson Sundqvist from Soklot met in Minnesota and were married in the mining town of Telluride, Colorado in 1895. They returned to Finland for a visit in 1902, and while John was satisfied to remain in their homeland, the strong-willed Ida Maria was adamant: “No, to America we go.”

One hundred years after Ida Maria and John looked back at their homeland for the last time, third-generation Arlene Sundquist Empie and five of her grandchildren made a pilgrimage to the birthplaces of their ancestors. At a Sundqvist family picnic at Pörkenäs in summer 2002, they met many descendants of Johan Sundqvist’s brother Henrik and Sofia Sundqvist. Henrik came to America several times in the early 1900s, worked in logging, and was welcomed at the Sundquist family farmhouse in Cedardale near Mt. Vernon, Washington. Sofia, however, refused to accompany him to America. Henrik finally settled in Finland and purchased Gertruds-Olin farm, the place where he and John were born. </p>

During the summer of 2003, four generations of descendants of Ida Maria and John Sundquist gathered to welcome cousin Inger Sandvik Nyman from Jakobstad. Inger’s mother, Astrid Sundquist Sandvik, who also lives in Jakobstad, is a daughter of Sofia and Henrik Sundqvist. We carefully examined the photos Inger brought from Finland, and poured over old family albums, letters, and memorabilia. We perused our family’s history from faded old portraits of ancestors to current digital camera images. Grandchildren Kristen Burrows and Jessica Jarvis shared their 2002 Finland travel journals, and Lilly Burrows presented her personal yearlong school project about Finland.

Alice Sundquist Osgood, 93- year-old matriarch of the Sundquist family, laughed heartily as four generations shared stories about life on the Sundquist farm. Other nonagenarians include 91-year-old Esther Sundquist Schnebele and cousin Teckla Sunnell Nelson.

Keeping it in the family, fourthgeneration Lisa Schnebele Meucci and Dan Meucci are the proud owners of Leona Sundquist’s home overlooking Bellingham Bay, the setting for a story that Ida Maria’s eldest daughter related about her mother’s emigration. Then 90 years old, Leona leaned forward and looked intently at my husband and me sitting across from her at the kitchen table. “There is something you should know,” she began, as she related a story about her mother’s dramatic plan to leave Finland.

Food is a major expression of cultural tradition carried on by descendants of immigrants. Every ethnic group has food traditions that carry psychological and sensory meaning. One of our ongoing traditions, cardamom kaffebröd, accompanied afternoon coffee at the reunion. And, there are other food traditions that Leona Sundquist wrote about when the young John Sundquist family visited Finland in 1902:

After several months with grandmother in Soklot, Nykarleby, we went to Kronoby to the house at Lillbroända. Then, the family boarded the train to begin the first leg of their return journey to America. The train made a stop at the railway depot near Nykarleby, and to our great surprise, there on the platform stood Johan’s mother, Greta Jakobsdotter Gertruds-Olin, with a huge, bulging basket filled with food for the journey: limpa, kaffebröd, smör, ost, korv, syltad sill, lingon, och så vidare.” So it is no surprise that all of these Finnish-Swedish delicacies appeared on the table at the Sundquist family reunion.

Renowned accordionist Sylvia Storaasli Jorgensen played a minuet, waltzes, and polkas composed by Flatnabba Kajsa in the 1800s. Jan-Anders Barkar sent the music from Fäboda, Finland, after Arlene saw information that Sven-Erik Wiik posted on the Finlander website. A music historian, Barkar is researching the music of Flatnabba Kajsa, whose work is characteristic of late 19th century music from the Pörkenäs area. It appears that Flatnabba Kajsa may be our relative. We all sang the familiar song that was part of the printed invitation:"

“Ju mer vi är tillsammans,
tillsammans, tillsammans,
ju mer vi är tillsammans,
ju gladare vi blir.”

Third and fourth generations had trouble translating, but we all understood the meaning in Swedish and in English – the more we are together, the happier we will be. We will come together next year. This first reunion was just a practice, as Syrene Forsman led us in a “Hoorah! Hoorah!” that resounded throughout the neighborhood.

As the sun set on a beautiful day at Tower Farm in Sammamish, Washington, Sylvia played the plaintive strains of “Hälsa dem där hemma,” as we sang and then toasted— “To all our relations.” !

The author, Arlene Sundquist “Sunnie” Empie published “Minding a Sacred Place” in 2001.
Now,”The Legacy of Ida Lillbroända: Finland Swede Emigrant to America 1893,”
is to be published in 2004. See: http://www.boulderhousepublishers.com

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