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Staffan Lindgren

Staffan Lindgren was born in Norrköping, Sweden, on July 18, 1950. At age 11 he moved with his parents to Piteå in Norrbotten, where he grew up, and he considers himself a “norrlänning”. He was interested in animals from an early age, particularly insects and spiders, encouraged (or at least not discouraged) by his parents. His father, in spite of having only a 6th grade education, possessed an endless curiosity about a broad range of topics, and the family encyclopedia was heavily used as were books and other sources of knowledge. Staffan’s father was a bit of an Anglophile, who had taught himself English by reading English books and listening to BBC radio for pronunciation.

In 1968, Staffan had the opportunity to spend a year living with a family in Michigan, USA, and this experience shaped his view of the world a lot. The US was the midst of the Vietnam war and the information available was highly biased compared to reporting in Sweden. Nevertheless, it was his experiences in the US High School system that gave Staffan the confidence to seek a university education in Canada, which eventually led to him immigrating to Canada.

In 1977, after having completed a Bachelor’s degree in biology at Uppsala University and briefly pursuing a PhD in physiology at Umeå University, In 1977, Staffan was accepted as a student in a relatively new degree program called Master of Pest Management at Simon Fraser University. To fund this he received a fellowship from The Sweden-America Foundation. By the end of 1979 he had completed the MPM degree requirements and was offered a funded PhD candidate position by Dr. John H. Borden, SFU. After some deliberation he accepted the position, and the rest is history, as they say. The research involved mass trapping of so-called ambrosia beetles (aka pinhole borers) using newly developed pheromones. Traps at that time consisted of mesh covered with sticky material. Staffan invented a “multiple funnel” trap that did not require sticky stuff, and he completed his graduate research by spring 1982. This trap was commercialized as “The Lindgren Trap” by a small spin-off company which patented the trap and used it along with the pheromones as the basis for selling an ambrosia beetle management program. In 1984, Staffan was offered an Industrial Postdoctoral Fellowship to join Phero Tech, Inc as their Research Director. This allowed Staffan to apply for landed immigrant status. In 1987, he became a Canadian citizen. By then he had met his future wife, who he married in 1985, and they moved to Prince George with their two sons. One of them still lives in Prince George, while the other lives in Redmond, Washington.

Staffan worked at Phero Tech for 10 years, when in 1994 he was offered a position as Associate Professor at the newly established University of Northern British Columbia in Prince George, BC. He was promoted to full professor in 2003, and he retired at the end of 2015. During the more than 21 years at UNBC, Staffan taught Entomology, Forest Health, Invertebrate Zoology, and several other undergraduate and graduate courses. He also ran a successful research program focusing on insects, supervising 13 MSc and one PhD student.

Staffan made many trips to Sweden while his parents and brothers were still alive. In 1993 he and his family spent 6 months in Uppsala, where Staffan was visiting scientist at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. His last visit was in 2016. He still maintains connections with his many cousins, two sister-in-laws, niece and nephews and close friends.

Staffan and his wife Laurie moved to Nanaimo at the end of 2015. Staffan still maintains connections with academia, but is mainly active in citizen science projects, and the local naturalist club, which hehelped establish in 2017. Pre-Covid, he also volunteered in the entomology section of the Royal BC Museum. He enjoys bird watching, kayaking, photography and flyfishing in his spare time.

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Ruth and Vincent Wahlgren

Ruth (born 1926) grew up in Österslöv, Skåne. Her father was employed by the owners of Karsholms Castle as the fisheries manager for Oppmannasjön and her mother was a former teacher. Ruth made lifelong friends at teacher’s college in Lund and kept contact with them her entire life. Her most adventuresome post was to Pajala. This is how she met Vincent. Ruth wrote, “Having done his military service, Vincent got a job in the northern part of Sweden. I had my workplace 100 kilometers above the Arctic Circle and was on my way to start work. We happened to be on the same train and as fate wanted it, we were seated at the same table having our lunch (at least I thought it was fate but sometime later I found out that Vincent had given the Porter 5 Swedish Kronor as a tip for seating us like that).”

Vincent was born in Shanghai, China in 1925. His father was Swedish and was employed by the Chinese Maritime Customs Service. Vincent’s mother was from Latvia. In 1933, Vincent’s father retired after 30 years’ service with the Customs Service. The family settled in Göteborg. As a child in China, Vincent attended Hankow Private School, so he became fluent in English—an advantage for moving to Canada.

“Why not go to Canada and try our luck!” was how Ruth recalled the sentiment shared with her husband Vincent when they were both 31 years old, living in Perstorp, and restless despite good jobs. Ruth was an elementary school teacher. Vincent was Assistant Export Manager and Export Traveller (for decorative laminated plastics products; Perstorps Plattan) at Skånska Ättikfabriken AB. Ruth and Vincent with their sons Roland (4-1/2) and Richard (8 months old) emigrated from Sweden to Canada in July 1957.

The Wahlgren family foursome sailed from Copenhagen to Halifax aboard the MS Stockholm. From Halifax they rode the Canadian National train to Vancouver. Vincent found work as a sales representative for Dominion Sound specializing in acoustic surfaces products for offices and institutions. He visited architects to convince them to specify the products in their projects. The family rented a suite in a house in Kitsilano and happily settled down. Besides raising her sons, Ruth attended evening classes to learn English and Canadian culture. In 1960, the family moved to North Vancouver.

That year, Ruth and Vincent founded Modern Materials Ltd in North Vancouver as an International Paints dealer but by 1963 transformed into a wholesaler to the cabinet and millwork trades. Perstorp brand decorative laminate was among the products offered. Shipping logistics caused Modern Materials to switch to distributing an American laminate by the late 1960s. Vincent attended meetings of the Scandinavian Business Club. Once, Prince Bertil was a guest—he shook hands with Vincent who joked later this was a privilege so great he might never wash his hand again. Modern Materials thrived by introducing new products to industries in Western Canada until the 1990s when transportation and communication advances doomed many independent businesses. When Ruth and Vincent retired, Richard and Roland managed the firm. Modern Materials ceased business in 1998.

Ruth became active with the Swedish Cultural Society. Ruth’s Valborgsmässoafton speech about misunderstanding, in her college days, an invitation from her farmer sister to help round up heifers (jokingly called Fröknarna Horn by her sister) as an invitation to a dance hosted by young women of the nobility at Häckeberga Castle was remembered fondly by some SCF members. Vincent died in 2000 (aged 74) after five years struggle with blood cancer. Ruth enjoyed her friendships in Vancouver’s Swedish Community for many more years until she succumbed to Alzheimer’s Disease in 2017 at the age of 91.

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Ernst Larsson - Fisherman

Ernst Harald Larsson was born in Flädie, located between Malmö and Lund, on October 15,1881. His parents bought a house and a general store in Lunnarp, and that is where he grew up and went to school. Lunnarp is a village just north of Ystad on the south coast of Sweden. Ernst was strongheaded and artistic. He ran away to sea and took hire on sailing ships as a teenager. The ships were trading ships that went across the North Sea to England. In early 1900's he met a girl in Hull, Florence Hawkins and married her in 1904.

Ernst's parents were not exactly thrilled to hear about his marriage. They had hoped that he would come back to Sweden and settle down and take over their flourishing business in Lunnarp. He did bring his bride to Sweden for a while and did his military service in the Swedish navy. Florence didn't like Sweden, she didn't speak the language and didn't like living with her in-laws.They went back to England where she had a baby every year. Stanley born in 1905,Ernst in 1906, Lilian in 1907, George in 1908 and Ronald in 1909!

Ernst worked for a while in factories in Middlesbrough and hated it.They went back to Sweden in 1910 and there it was decided that they would emigrate to Canada. Ernst's parents would pay for their passage. Ernst went first to get established. He travelled to Liverpool and went to Canada by ship from there. He went to a place called Heather Downs,near Edmonton, where he was given land to clear by the government.

Florence in the meantime had five children under five and it was decided that she could leave the three older children with the grandparents in Lunnarp and take the two younger ones with her.The older children were to travel later with a relative once the family was settled in their new life Canada. It later turned out that this plan never happened and the children never saw their parents again. The relative married and the first world war came and put a stop to travel, so they staid in Sweden.

Ernst cleared his land in Alberta and got title to it after the prescribed time, but he was not a farmer and took his family to Victoria during the first world war and joined the Canadian Navy. After the war they went back to Edmonton and sold their land and went back to the coast. Ernst had heard about Lund, B.C. So he bought a boat and took his family up to Lund in order to become a fisherman. They lived in a float house to start with, but eventually Ernst bought some land in Okeover arm and built a house and a boat shed and started his new life as a fisherman. Florence had five more children in Canada.

The property in Okeover Arm is now called Larson's Landing. It is situated across the water from the government dock in Okeover Arm across from the Laughing Oyster Restaurant.It was only accessible by boat and the children had to row across to go to school in Lund. The result was that the schooling was patchy as they were dependant on the weather conditions especially in winter. Ernst was a successful fisherman and fished on the coast for many years. He would take his boys as crew and go up to Rivers inlet and fish during the the summers Florence tended their orchard and grew all their vegetables. She also grew melons that were sold to the hotels in Powell River. She got sacks of flour and sugar and some tea and coffee in the fall and that was the extent of her grocery shopping. The rest they got through their garden and fishing and hunting. She made her own bread and preserved all the berries and fruit and vegetables.

The 4 boys started hunting at an early age and they all started as whistle boys in logging camps at 12 years old. Ernst and Florence never went back to their home countries but they always wrote letters to their Swedish children.

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Edwin A. Alm

Edwin Albert Alm was born in Bjärme, Jämtland February 9, 1888. His father was a professional soldier, and the family was quite poor. Edwin learned to work hard early in his life. He did well at school and after confirmation, his father and the minister of the local church decided that Edwin should study to become a minister. He was sent to lessons in Latin with the minister, but there was no money for university. Edwin went to work on local farms instead.

In 1907 Edwin decided to emigrate to America. He didn't speak any English and had no money. Edwin tried to borrow money from an uncle, but the uncle thought he should stay in Sweden. Eventually a stranger, back in Sweden from America on a visit, lent him 500 kronor. When Edwin went to buy his ticket, they asked where he was going he said: “As far as the money will take me”. This turned out to be Seattle, Washington.

The journey started in Östersund by train to Gothenburg, it took 36 hours. Then by ship to England. From Liverpool he went by ship to New York where he went through immigration at Ellis Island. In New York he boarded a train to Seattle. The train journey was eight days in a dirty, smelly train full of immigrants from central and southern Europe. No sleeping accommodation!

Finally in Seattle Edwin staid in a rooming house, together with some young Swedes he met on the train, for 25 cents a day. After three days they were desperate to find some work. A Swede came to the rooming house and gave them work on a farm, no wages but free room and board. So, Edwin started his new life in the US pulling turnips. After a few days they heard that work could be had building a logging railroad 20 miles a way. So off they went! Edwin eventually progressed into other construction work, learning on the jobs. He did bridgebuilding, carpentry, cement work. All this in the Spokane area of Washington and in Montana. As he learnt better English, he became a foreman and later took on contracts on his own.

In 1912 Edwin came to Saskatchewan and started his own contracting firm, working mostly for the CPR. In 1921 Edwin went to Vancouver and started out with a carpet cleaning company. He became quite successful and sold the company after some time to start his own real estate company. He had an office on Granville Street and later built his own office building on the corner of Burrard and Broadway. He owned and operated a hotel, three dance halls, a farm near Chilliwack and was in a mining syndicate.

Edwin and his wife Anne took many trips back to Sweden and Edwin became a philanthropist and a self-proclaimed ambassador for Canada in Sweden. Making generous donations to among other things a large collection of Canadian books for the Jämtland Länsbibliotek (provincial library of Jämtland). This became the authority on Canadian literature in Sweden. He also set up some scholarships and arranged for a totem pole to be sent to Östersund from Vancouver. Edwin also made a donation to some of the Swedish organisations and to the building of the Augustana Lutheran Church in Vancouver.

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Sigge Björklund

Sigge (Alf Sigvald) Björklund was born in Lappfjärd, Finland on February 15, 1926. He immigrated to Vancouver in 1956. Upon arriving in Vancouver he lived with his sister Linnea and worked as an electrician. Being an avid cross country skier from Finland, he loved the mountains of the west coast but couldn't find any suitable cross country skis to buy here. Sigge sprang in to action and started to import skis and sold them out of his garage. This venture eventually became “ Sigge's Sports Villa”, a retail store specializing in cross country ski equipment and clothing.

Sigge also frequented some of the Swedish societies and there met Elene Eastman whom he married in 1960. Elene came from a Swedish immigrant family and spoke fluent Swedish. She was also an accomplished pianist. Sigge took Elene on a 10month honeymoon, travelling throughout Europe in a red sports car! In 1962 Sigge was instrumental in forming “The Vancouver Skiers Cross-Country and Touring Club”. From an initial 30 members, membership increased to 500 in 1972. Determined to to showcase all the wonders of cross country skiing Sigge was involved in forming the Canadian Association of Nordic Ski Instructors (CANSI) in 1976 and the Nordic Ski club in 1980. Sigge was very generous with both his time and support for sponsoring young skiers.

Many Vancouverites will remember Sigge from the many bus trips he organized with the Vancouver Ski club, to Manning Park,Mt Seymour, Hollyburn (Cypress), Whistler and later to the interior of BC. Sigge was always on the bus to Manning Park and brought out the wine and cheese on the return journey back to Vancouver!

Starting in 1972 the Vancouver Skiers Club hosted 25 races a season at Mt Seymour, including 5 Olympic trial races. The Cariboo marathon started in 1976. To provide support for the racing community the Nordic ski club was started in 1980. Sigge Björklund was the life and soul of all this activity and seemed to love every minute of it. His son Anders took over the store after Sigge, but after 47 years in business “Sigge's Sports Villa” closed in 2018.

Sigge died in November 2018 and his beloved Elene in December 2018.

Sigge was a very enthusiastic man and loved his skiing. He continued to ski well in to his old age. He will be remembered as the father of Cross-Country skiing in BC.

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