Supporting Vesterheim’s Mission into the Future

Noreg Lodge 3-466, located in New Jersey, is one of many lodges on the East Coast that is part of Sons of Norway District 3. Noreg Lodge was founded on November 23, 1956, with 140 enthusiastic members. They eventually purchased 7.5 acres of prime land in Marlboro, New Jersey, which they named Solbakken, or Sunny Hill, and would later become the home of their lodge building.  

In 1988-89, a group of their members whose trades included builders, masons, electricians, dock builders, roofers, and more, built a 2,700 sq. ft. lodge building – a true labor of love. The hall was used for many activities sponsored by Noreg Lodge for members and non-members alike. Activities included monthly meetings and socials, cultural dinners, genealogy seminars, and educational classes such as rosemaling, Norwegian language, folk dancing, hardangersøm, and wood carving. Classes were taught by Noreg members who proudly shared their Norwegian heritage and culture with others. 

Noreg Lodge has had a long-standing relationship with Vesterheim, and their members have shared many special connections with Vesterheim over the years. Their current lodge president and longtime member of Vesterheim, Barbara Bensen, expressed, “A lot of amazing people have passed through our doors; the treasure chest of talent cannot be overlooked!” 

One notable member was Helen Sjursen (1922-2007), a member of the bronze-medal-winning 1948 United States women’s gymnastics team, who taught rosemaling and wrote a book called Instructions & Tips for Rosemaling. During her time serving as president of Noreg Lodge, Helen was instrumental in encouraging their members to join Vesterheim and subscribe to Vesterheim’s Rosemaling Letter. 

Another past member of Noreg Lodge who made significant contributions to Vesterheim was Karlton “Jerry” Rosholt (1923-2008), the journalist and author who graduated from Luther College and served with the 95th Infantry Division during WWII. His career as a broadcast journalist eventually led to the position of producer and head editor on NBC Nightly News. He returned to Iowa after the passing of his wife, Carolyn, to pursue his life-long hobby of genealogy. In 1996, Jerry was asked by Vesterheim Curator Darrell Henning to compile a database of the more than 6,500 Norwegian immigrants who fought in the U.S. Civil War. In 2003, Vesterheim opened the exhibit, Norwegians in the Civil War, which explored some of the personal experiences of Norwegian soldiers who involved themselves in this critical point of American history. The exhibition and the accompanying book by Jerry, Ole Goes to War, presented the stories and faces of many Civil War soldiers from Norway. Available at, the Civil War Database is an invaluable tool for genealogists, historians, or anyone curious to learn more about Norwegian immigrants in the Civil War. 

In September 2006, Jerry was awarded the St. Olav medal by King Harald V of Norway in recognition of his service to Norway, particularly his volunteer Civil War research at Vesterheim. After Jerry’s passing, the Noreg Lodge donated a piece of woven work by Åsa Frøysadal, wife of the late Norwegian rosemaler Ragnvald Frøysadal, to Vesterheim’s artifact collection in memory of Jerry. 

Current Noreg Lodge member Carl Johnson has also made a significant impact on Norwegian-American arts and culture. Carl, a retired engineer, is a master woodcarver and Vesterheim Gold Medalist since 2005. Also a talented musician, Carl wrote the score and words to Hills of Norway, a tribute to the home of his ancestors. 

The goal of Noreg Lodge is to continue to promote Norwegian heritage and culture, and they value Vesterheim’s ongoing work to keep Norwegian-American culture and stories alive. When their lodge made the decision recently to sell their building at Solbakken, they chose to support Vesterheim with a generous gift to the Vesterheim Annual Fund. Their gift will help support a variety of projects at Vesterheim, including this issue of Vesterheim magazine, Folk Art School programming, and the 2023 GivingTuesday Matching Gift Challenge. 

When asked what motivated the Noreg Lodge to support the Vesterheim Annual Fund with such a generous gift, their president, Barbara Bensen, first pointed out our shared missions. A member of Vesterheim since 1992, Barbara said, “I always felt that the Sons of Norway mission is essentially to support Norwegian culture. Vesterheim has collections from people who came from Norway to this country. What better place to give than Vesterheim, where they represent everything we do? Vesterheim does it all.” 

Noreg Lodge remains vibrant to this day. They continue to have regular meetings and socials, and they offer cultural classes in hardangersøm, knitting, and carving. In May, members and guests enjoyed a historical presentation Operation Gunnerside, one of the greatest sabotage raids of World War II, aimed at the Vemork power station in Telemark, Norway. This past August, they held a rosemaling class taught by Vesterheim ribbon winner and Folk Art School Instructor Lise Lorentzen. Barbara shared, “We will continue doing all we can to bring people together. Noreg Lodge’s hope for the future is that more people will continue to be introduced to the Norwegian-American story and experience the joy of exchanging cultural traditions.” 

Vesterheim wishes to thank the Noreg Lodge for their generous support and for believing in Vesterheim’s mission. It has been our honor to experience the friendship of so many of Noreg Lodge’s members over the years, and we look forward to a bright future.  

Ole Goes to War written by Noreg Lodge member Jerry Rosholt.
Carved figure Theft of ‘The Scream,’ by Noreg Lodge member Carl Johnson. With this carving he won a red ribbon in the National Norwegian-American Folk Art Exhibition in 2005 and earned his Vesterheim Gold Medal. Photo courtesy of the artist.
Wall hanging by Åsa Frøysadal, wife of the late Norwegian rosemaler Ragnvald Frøysadal. The piece is dobbelt krokbragd or double-point boundweave. Vesterheim 2022.052.001—Gift of Noreg Lodge 3-466 in memory of Karlton (Jerry) Rosholt, Noreg Lodge President 1992-1993.