Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Nora Landaas

Nora Landaas, ca 1913

The photograph of Nora Landaas shown above was taken, I think, about the time she got married in 1913.  She was born in Bergen, Norway on 10 December 1884 the 7th child of Peder Johan Mikkelsen Landaas and Karen Olsdatter Kalvetræ.  There was a baby girl born about one year earlier named Elenora who died at birth for whom Nora was named.  It was a common practice to name the next child of the same sex after the one who had died earlier.  There is a picture of all five surviving sisters arranged by height and it shows Nora as the tallest of the girls.  That could not have been much more than about 5’3” though since Petra, the tiniest sister, was only 4’11” and all of the girls are close to the same height.  When I look at pictures of her, Nora always looks a little wistful or sad but also quite pretty. 

Nora Landaas and John Johansen, 20 December 1913

In each family there is usually one child who assumes the role of caregiver to a widowed aging parent.  Nora fit that role in the Landaas family.  The matriarch, Karen Landaas, was the driving force in the family from day one until she passed away.  Karen and her younger children, Klara, Nora, Sigrid, and Trygve all traveled together from Norway to America in 1902 arriving at Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, going across country from there by train to Seattle where her husband, Peder, and their other children, Maggie, Petra, Harald, and Cornelius were living.  Adolph was at that time in Alaska.  


Nora standing, Sigrid sitting, ca 1901

Sigrid and Nora were the two youngest sisters.  The photo of the two of them together shown above was taken shortly before they left Norway for America.

Nora married at age 29, an old maid according to those times, and did not have any children.  Nora’s husband was another Norwegian immigrant; Johan or John Johansen often called Johnny.  Johnny was a sailor and away at sea for much of the time during the years they were married so Nora eventually ended up living with her mother and caring for her.  My mother said that at one point during the Depression years in the 1930s John wanted to move away for employment as a carpenter but Karen would not let Nora leave so they stayed in Seattle and John continued to go to sea.  Mostly he appears to have been a crew member on the USS Tatoosh a ship that made regular trips up the coast of Washington, British Columbia, and into Alaska.* 

USS Tatoosh (YAG-1) at Kodiak, Alaska, on 17 February 1943
[Photo source:  http://www.shipscribe.com/usnaux/YAG/YAG01.html ]

The Tatoosh was the largest of a fleet of six ships, a wooden hulled steam cargo and passenger ship that carried supplies for the fish canneries in southern Alaska and canned salmon on the return trip south.  In addition to the passengers it could carry up to 84,000 cases of canned salmon.  During World War II the US Navy acquired the Tatoosh.  The ship was built in 1917/1918 and by 1944 the hull was so infested with dry rot and wormholes that it was no longer considered seaworthy and was decommissioned, probably scuttled at Adak, Alaska in 1945. 

Nora’s life could not have been easy.  She had suffered an illness of some sort as a young woman.  One oral report said that it was meningitis but that has not been confirmed.  She was slightly paralyzed on one side of her body following the illness, her shoulder higher on that side and her speech somewhat slurred and difficult to understand.  She endured her husband’s long absences and cared for her mother as well as sometimes her brother, Adolph, and occasionally borders who lived in Karen’s home.  I think Nora was the main cook and housekeeper during the years that she lived with her mother. 

Nora is listed on the 1940 US Federal Census living at her mother’s address, married, but John is not there so he must have been away at the time the census was taken.  No record of John’s death has been found yet but Nora died 18 January 1959 in Everett, Snohomish, Washington.  It is most likely she was a widow by then as no mention was made of her husband. 



* There were two John Johansens born in Norway of the same age living in Seattle during these years and both were sailors so it is hard to say for sure which man was the one who was on the Tatoosh and married to Nora.

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