When World War II broke out, the people of Kjøllefjord had to run for their lives. Lise went back home to her parents’ home, and the following spring, to her sister’s home in Trondheim, where she was offered a very good teaching job. While there, she received a telegram from the director of schools in Finnmark, asking her to return to Kjøllefjord. Recalling what little she had to work with there, she asked: Do you have a schoolhouse? No. Do you have desks for the children to sit on? No. Do you have books? No. What do you have? Children.Something inexplicable led her to say yes, quit her job in Trondheim, and head north. She said, “I was the happiest person in the world, just like everybody else who was coming back because the Germans were gone, the country was ours and we were able to build it up again.”
Once there, they were able to arrange for a log cabin, which had served as a hospital during the war, to use as their schoolhouse. The mayor of the village asked Lise what she needed – she asked for carpenters, and was given them. She worked alongside them, finishing the rooms and commencing her classes. She taught from 8:30 a.m. until 8 p.m. She was able to get three students from Oslo to come and help with the teaching duties. They made do with whatever supplies they could find, until one day a mysterious box, sent from Canada, arrived at the school, filled with paper and pencils. More boxes followed – with books! They never did find out who sent those badly needed supplies, but they were grateful beyond words.
Her life was diverted from the children of Kjøllefjord in 1952, when she received a letter from my widowed grandfather, who was a lifelong friend, asking her to come to the United States. She did, and the rest is history. But I’m certain that leaving Kjøllefjord, where she had invested so much of herself, was probably one of the hardest things she had ever done. She left behind her permanent gift to that village – an educational system to be proud of.
Lise, on a visit back to her old school in Kjøllefjord, in the 1980s. Notice her picture on the wall, at left, a copy of which is below.