Last Sunday The Danish Home held their 110th annual Danish Summer Festival and Fundraiser, and it was yet another fun-filled day on the grounds in Norwood Park! Hundreds of people attended to hear the Bjornson Male Chorus sing, eat Smørrebrød (Danish open faced sandwiches), and test their luck at the raffles and special drawings. There were also loads of goods and Scandinavian Souvenirs to buy at the Bakery Booth and the Danish Treasure Chest. At the ‘Children’s Corner’ kids had a blast playing games and interacting with the animals at the petting zoo. It was a wonderful day!
Also during last Sunday’s celebration, special recognition was given to beloved Danish Home friends and long-time supporters, Poul (March 26, 1922 – February 17, 2010) and Elie (October 20, 1919 – August 2, 2011) Steffensen. The new Rose Garden, which bears their name, is sure to provide residents and visitors with peace and tranquility for years to come.
Poul and Elie have one amazing story! They met on the dance floor aboard the Oslofjord sailing from New York to Copenhagen in 1951 and married in Copenhagen’s City Hall on July 18, 1951. Soon after they moved to Brooklyn, NY, had a son, moved again to Chicago (where Elie had originally immigrated to in 1929 from Denmark) and had a second son. Throughout it all their home country was never far from their hearts, and they continued to support many Scandinavian organizations and host many Danish visitors throughout the years.
While Elie was a secretary of the Danish American Athletic Club, Poul was President from 1960-65 and taught Danish language classes there for 17 years. He also served as President and a member of the Board of Directors of the Danish Home, while Elie was known for making her smørrebrød at the annual Summerfest. Poul was also a representative for Dansk Samvirke, a non-profit association founded in 1919 that offers advice, networking, and Danish language instruction to Danes all over the world. In 1972 Poul was presented with the great honor of Ridder af Dannebrogorden (knighthood in the Order of the Dannebrog) by Queen Margrethe II.
In 1978 they moved to Omaha, Nebraska where again they continued to be rooted in preserving Scandinavian culture. They both were heavily supportive of the Danish Immigrant Museum in Elk Horn, IA where Poul was on the Building Committee and served on its Board of Directors from 1986 to 1992. Elie both demonstrated and taught Danish knipling (bobbin lace making) and was a founding member of the Lace Guild in Omaha, NE in 1992. She was honored at the 2005 Omaha State Fair with an award in her name, where it was declared:
“This year Living Lace of Omaha has dedicated an award in Elie’s honor for the Nebraska State Fair. It is called ‘The Elie Steffensen Award for Best Use of Lace.’ This award will continue to be given as long as the Nebraska State Fair exists. It is just a small way to say thank you for sharing this wonderful cultural and historical art.”
In 2007 Poul and Elie moved to Houston, Texas where they became members of the Danish Club there as well, continuing to preserve their Danish-American culture and heritage well into their eighties. Both have had a profound impact on The Danish Home of Chicago and Danish culture in America. I know that friends of The Danish Home are delighted to have a garden on the grounds named after The Steffensens – a dedicated, talented, caring couple whose memory lives on in each rose that blooms there.
We had such a wonderful day with our friends and neighbors, and meeting so many new people that came by to celebrate with us during the annual Summer Festival. It is an event that so many look forward to. We all reveled in the beautiful weather of another magnificent festival!
Visit The Danish Home’s Facebook page to view some of the pictures from last Sunday!
Did you attend the festival? Post your pictures and comments below or on their Facebook page. We’d love to hear from you!