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News Eagle - Hawley, PA
  • Ellingsen reunion an international affair

  •  HAWLEY- It was a reunion of a lifetime, the joining together of a family from across the continental United States and spanning the Atlantic to the northern part of Norway.  June Ellingsen Strait, a resident of Sport Hill, Hawley, PA and age 94, beamed with joy as around 115 of her family, many distant cousins she had never met, came together in her hometown this past weekend.
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  •   HAWLEY- It was a reunion of a lifetime, the joining together of a family from across the continental United States and spanning the Atlantic to the northern part of Norway.  June Ellingsen Strait, a resident of Sport Hill, Hawley, PA and age 94, beamed with joy as around 115 of her family, many distant cousins she had never met, came together in her hometown this past weekend.
       It would be especially meaningful to visit what is easily the most easily recognized symbol of Hawley, the bandstand in Bingham Park, which has deep connections with her family.
       She had said she prayed for God to give her the chance to be here for this long-awaited gathering, and that they would be blessed with good weather.
    Under sunny, beautiful conditions, June and her family members held a picnic Saturday August 9th in front of the bandstand.
       Built in 1932, June and her family takes special pride in that it was her father, Christoffer Gerhard Elingsen, designed the entire park including the bandstand and other structures in the park. The park land had been donated to the Borough of Hawley three years earlier.
    Ellingsen, a civil engineer, drew the blueprints for the beloved bandstand, also called the gazebo. The structures were constructed under the Works Progress Administration (WPA), the federal back-to-work program of the Great Depression created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. June still has the blueprints for much of the park.
       There were 24 people at the reunion from Norway. This all came about starting two years ago, when June’s daughter Mary Ellingsen travelled to Norway to do family history research. She looked up their distant cousins, none of whom even knew any of their American counterparts.
        Everyone at the 2014 reunion had in common their ancestor Christoffer G. Ellingsen, grandfather of June’s father who had immigrated to America. The elder Mr. Ellingsen operated a large steamboat line in Norway, a company he founded in 1875. One of his Norwegian descendants, Liv Tjo/nso/ (the Norwegian alphabet has the slash through the middle of what resembles the English letter “o”), brought pictures and information about the elder Christoffer Ellingsen.
      Diana Billard of Hawley, who is a niece to June Strait, said that family members also came from 12 states, as far as California, Minnesota, Florida and Maine. June’s parents were Christoffer (Christopher) and Alvida Ellingsen, both immigrants from Norway. Mr. Ellingsen immigrated in the early 1900’s and Alvida came a few years later. They met in this country, and lived at first in New York City. They settled near Hawley in 1919 where they operated a chicken farm. They had six children, Finn, who died as a young child; Gunhilda (Cari), Alfhild, Ruth, June and Ralph. The youngest, Ralph, was killed in action in the Korean War.
    Page 2 of 2 -   Reunion dinners were held at the Hawley United Methodist Church Great Hall beginning Thursday with a welcome dinner. On Friday night they had a special Norwegian dinner. Several of the Norwegian cousins were dressed in traditional clothing of their homeland. Sigrid Pehrson sang a Norweigan folk song for the occasion. The reunion concluded on Sunday, August 10.
      Diana's daughter Laura, with her rock band, Screamin' Rebel Angel, was unable to attend as planned, but instead her Laura's recorded music played at the picnic.
       There were other activities planned or suggested, such as a walk on the trail at Lake Wallenpaupack and a visit to the original property where the Ellingsens settled near Hawley.
      The family came dressed at the picnic in special reunion t-shirts with a combined U.S. and Norwegian flag printed on them, displaying their bonds of friendship extending across the sea.

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