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  • Kristin Udjus Teitelbaum

Member Profile: Rolf Pedersen

Third person out in the series of Member Profiles, is long-time CNS’er Rolf Pedersen; an always friendly and pleasant man to encounter and chat with at any CNS lunch or meeting. So it was with eager anticipation I set out for Blackburn Hamlet, where we met in a park over a Tim Horton’s coffee and doughnut. The brisk northerly breeze on this chilly day in May kept our teeth clattering, but the interesting story of Rolf’s life and background kept me on that park bench for nearly two hours.

Rolf was born in Canada, but is genetically 100% Norwegian, in that both his parents were born and raised in Norway. His place of birth was Prince Rupert B.C., born during the Second World War, and this is where he spent his childhood years and most of his teens. His home town had a significant population of Norwegians, drawn to this faraway coast by the lure of the rich salmon fishery in the area, and likely also the natural beauty of the place, with many similarities to the land they left behind. Rolf’s father emigrated from Harstad in Northern Norway and chose Prince Rupert because his sister and brother had come there before him. After a few years of establishing himself there, he returned to Norway and married his fiancée in Dyröy Kommune near Harstad. Their arrival in Prince Rupert was duly noted in the local paper. Rolf still is in possession of his father’s scrap books, containing the newspaper clipping!

Rolf grew up immersed in the expat Norwegian culture, raised speaking Norwegian at home and during family socializing, but spoke English at school and with his buddies. He remembers once being puzzled by the fact that some friends seemed not to understand what his mother had said to him in Norwegian; this episode prompting his realization that not everybody spoke the two languages. (This early bilingualism must have set Rolf up for a talent for languages, he also speaks fluent Spanish and some Arabic.) The Lutheran church in town was a social hub for the Norwegian population, who also liked to gather at several clubs or societies, such as Nordlandslaget’s local branch Nordkap and Sons of Norway.

Rolf’s father worked in the fisheries all his life, first in coves along the coast, receiving the daily catch from the boats that came in, and later getting his own boat for salmon trolling. Rolf spent summers with his father, amongst fellow fishermen of whom most were Norwegians, learning the trade from a young age.

Rolf’s father’s troller

By the time he went off to University, attending UBC where he did a B.Sc. degree in geology and geophysics, he had established himself with his own boat, a troller, and spent the summers salmon fishing. He made good money at this, enough to put himself through University. Having completed his degree, he was faced with choosing between returning making a good living on his fishing troller, a life he knew and enjoyed, or looking for work in his field of studies. When he was offered a job in Calgary, doing seismic studies for an oil company, he decided to give it a try, and has had a successful career in geophysical exploration, diverting to a focus on minerals ever since. This has allowed him to travel extensively throughout the world, including a 3-year stay in Sydney, Australia, and 6 years in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. He has been involved professionally in 17 countries total, seen parts of Africa, and Central and South America, and has also been able to visit Norway and other Scandinavian countries as part of his work.

Rolf married his wife Yolanda in the early seventies, and his years of long-term foreign postings came during the time when they established a family. His daughter was born in Sydney and both his children did much of their schooling in Saudi Arabia, at the international school there. But his home base since 1966 has always been Ottawa, and he continues to live with his wife Yolanda in the long-time family home in Blackburn Hamlet.

He is still involved in professional work, but on a smaller scale now.

Genealogy is a hobby he has taken up in the more recent past, and together with a cousin he has traced the family back to the time of the Reformation, establishing a genetic link with a bishop in historically important Nidaros (now Trondheim): Erik Andersen Bredal, born in 1607. Through him they have gone back another 4 generations of clergy dating back to 1509. In his more immediate family, he discovered the interesting fact that his maternal great grandfather, Isak Nils Isaksen, worked as a pilot in arctic waters, as an “ice pilot”, and was once shipwrecked off Novaya Zemlya!

Rolf also enjoys his tasks around the house and garden, connections with his church and the ties with his family past through the Canadian Nordic Society.

He has kept in touch with Norway through relatives, but visits to his parent’s native land are infrequent, and his birthplace Prince Rupert he has not seen for many years. Keeping that in mind, and also the fact that he has lived his whole adult life in an English speaking environment with few opportunities to use his Norwegian, it amazes me to hear him speak so fluently in an easily recognizable Northern Norwegian dialect, only occasionally searching for words. “What is bred in the bone- - -!” I take my hat off to you, Rolf Pedersen!

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