Married to an Icelander — Icelander by Marriage

Updated: Apr 27

This post marks a milestone: Blog Post #100 and it is time to honor a non-Icelander!

School was just getting out for the summer. It was just one week after my 17th birthday and the end of our Junior year. Our young minds and bodies wanted to be outside and enjoy the warm spring weather after having a long and bitterly cold North Dakota winter.

I had just finished working the day shift as a Nurse’s Aide at the hospital and had walked a few blocks to the home of my grandparents where I was staying for the summer. They lived in a little house along one of the main roads in Cavalier and we were outside on the sidewalk. Actually, I was showing my two younger cousins how to do minor “experiments” on some earth worms that had crawled onto the sidewalk during a recent sprinkle of rain.

A big red truck zoomed by with two guys in the cab. The passenger yelled out the window, “Hey … How are you?”

I had recently met this passenger and his name was Rodney. Little did I know that the guy driving the truck, (who I had never met before) was going to be my future husband. They circled around the block, pulled up to the curb, and began talking to me. They were going to the Icelandic State Park with a group of other friends and wondered if I wanted to go along. They listed off others who were planning to meet at the park. It sounded like a fun group and I wanted to go.

I replied, “I need to go ask my grandma.” So, I went into the house and asked her if it was okay.

She asked, “What are their names?”

I told her the name of the passenger, but admitted that I did not know the driver of the truck.

She said, “Well, go and ask who it is. Then come back and tell me.”

I went out to the truck and said to the driver, “Grandma wants to know your name.”

He said his name. I looked at him and said, “Jeff …. What?”

He said his surname again and again and again. But each time, I looked at him and just could not understand his last name of Furstenau.

You see, I grew up in an Icelandic community. Most people had names that ended in “son” like Olafson, Sigurdson, Jonasson, Halldorson, Sigfusson, Einarson, and Johnson. There were a few different names such as Byron, Laxdal, and Hillman but we knew them to be Icelandic names, too. We had a few Norwegians, Irish, and Scottish surnames in our school but in my neighborhood, almost everyone had a “son” name.

Finally, I could pronounce his last name. I went inside the house and told Grandma, “His name is Jeff Furstenau.”

She gave me a big smile and said, “Oh, they go to our church. He is such a nice boy. Just don’t stay out too late. You have to work early in the morning.”

So, off to Icelandic State Park we went. As “the girl,” of course I had to sit in the middle. After arriving at the lake, some of the guys (as well as our friend and passenger in the truck) swam out to touch the ice in the middle of the lake. Jeff and I did not go but we had a great night. There we were — two gangly farm kids with so much in common – work ethic, plans for the future, ideas on family, religion, and politics. We got along great.

Over the next years, he graduated from UND as a Civil Engineer and I graduated as a Registered Nurse from St. Luke’s School of Nursing. We were married 3.5 years after first meeting on a clear, sunny, and super cold day (-18°F or -27.8°C) in the Vikur Church in Mountain.