Nordic descendants discover new home in Coupeville

A group with a heritage stretching from Sweden to Iceland finally found a place to build new traditions and celebrate old ones in Coupeville.

A group with a heritage stretching from Sweden to Iceland finally found a place to build new traditions and celebrate old ones in Coupeville.

After years of holding gatherings at the Coupeville Recreation Hall, the Whidbey Island Nordic Lodge is building a lodge on Jacobs Road south of Coupeville.

“Uffda!” said Pete Berg about finding out they would get their own building. Berg is the president of the Nordic Lodge, which was established in May 2001.

Funding for the new lodge was gifted by Fritz Cornell, a senior Nordic Lodge member who was born in Norway and died in 2008.

“He really enjoyed getting together with all these Scandihoovians … coffee and cookies, or if you’re really serious, lutefisk and lefsa,” Berg said.

Ground was broken for the new lodge in September but Richard Johnson, president of the Nordic Lodge Building Association, and Maurice Aasland, vice president of the Nordic Lodge Building Association, have been working at the site for about a year to put the water system in and clear the forested area.

Having their own lodge means the group has control over when and where members meet, Johnson said.

“It’s one of those things that you can’t wait to see what it will do to membership,” Berg said.

The group hopes to establish programs to get children involved in their heritage, Johnson said. They named language classes and Scandinavian dancing as possible programs.

“Maybe even a lutefisk dinner,” Johnson added. The group hosts Nordic baking classes but with the sizable kitchen in their new lodge, much more will become possible.

Surrounded by tall evergreens, the location of the 40 by 80-foot lodge seems like a snapshot straight out of Norway or Sweden. It will feature a large assembly hall and a kitchen big enough to handle any amount of lefsa or Swedish pancakes the group could want.

“I designed the building, then the women tore it all apart and made me do it again,” Johnson laughed.

The goal is to have the shell of the lodge completed by winter, then the group will work on the inside and beautify the surrounding land, tasks they are more than happy to have the community volunteer to help finish. Flowers, bulbs and trees will need to be planted, as well as planters that will border the walkway, Aasland said.

Cornell gave Johnson some birch trees years ago, which Johnson planted in his yard. Recently, Johnson said he planted some cuttings from the trees and will give them a permanent home at the lodge.

Birch trees are important to Scandinavians, Johnson said, and Berg added that they are Scandinavians’ “best-used tree.” Plates, furniture, art — Scandinavians made it all from birch trees, Berg said.

The Whidbey Island Nordic Lodge, which is sponsored by the Sons of Norway, celebrates the heritage and traditions of the five Nordic countries: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. They meet the morning of the third Saturday of each month. The lodge has 67 members, plus a number of children dubbed “Little Vikings.”

“Central Whidbey Island was settled by Norwegians originally,” Johnson said. “Scandinavians had a lot of influence on Whidbey.”

Anybody interested in expanding their knowledge of their Nordic heritage is welcome to join the Nordic Lodge.

“The more the merrier. We’re always looking for more people to help us grow,” Berg said.

They have plenty of knowledge to share.

“My wife speaks Norwegian fluently and cooks fluently,” Johnson laughed.

“And we all eat fluently!” Berg added.