One Petersburg resident and longtime member of the Sons of Norway is gearing up to take on a new leadership role within the organization, a position that puts her on the district’s executive board. Abbey Collins reports.

Sally Dwyer has been a member of the Sons of Norway for 38 years, since 1978. But her memories go back even further than that.

“As a child growing up in Petersburg one of my first memories is winning a chocolate cake at the Sons of Norway Christmas bizarre when I was five,” she says. “That was a really big deal. I don’t ever remember eating the cake but I remember winning it.”

Since then, Dwyer has held a variety of roles at the Petersburg lodge. She currently serves as the grants administrator.

“I do the newsletter. I’m a ten year past president. And I serve as cultural director with three others, we kind of team share it because we have different strengths and we try to bring the strengths to the forefront as needed,” she says.

The Sons of Norway is a fraternal organization with three main functions: providing insurance for members, keeping heritage alive, and maintaining an education and scholarship fund.

“We call it the three legged stool,” says Dwyer. “If one doesn’t work, the other two fall over.”

Petersburg is part of the organization’s second district. That’s Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, and Alaska. Dwyer says she’s been on the board for twelve years and earlier this month she was appointed to a new role as the district’s counselor.

“I was at the end of my position as cultural director for the district. You can run for two terms and I’d satisfied those,” says Dwyer. “Previous in the 80s I’d also been cultural director and I’d been a zone director for Alaska also. And so when I was looking around and thought what would be interesting, Counselor came up. Well I was running against two other very strong women in the district. But for some reason, people voted for me and I hope I can do an excellent job because that’s what it needs.”

Dwyer says this is a position that also worked out for her logistically.

“I’ve kind of been moving through the chairs. I have to be kind of selective on what I can do because of my distance geographically to the rest of the area and I felt like as counselor that would not only be something I could do by email or by telephone rather than having to be face to face with people,” she says.

This new appointment puts her on the district’s five-member executive board.

“With the President, Vice President, Treasurer and Secretary. And so then you’re into making more decisions for the whole group,” says Dwyer.

According to Dwyer, she’s assuming three main duties.

“One of them is to put on the memorial service at the convention and to guide and counsel officers throughout the whole district if they have questions or if there’s a problem, says Dwyer. “Or they just need some information. And then the third part of the job is keeping the bylaws and the policies and procedures up to date and technologically current.”

One thing Dwyer says she’s looking forward to in her new role is working on some of the rules for putting on a convention. She says this is going to be her baby.

“There’s a section in the bylaws called section K. And it’s all about putting on a convention. And right now it tears you in about four different directions. And I’m hoping with the president and a couple past convention chair people that we will iron it out and say this is what the district does, this is what the convention committee does, this is what’s expected of the delegates. Because right now it’s just kind of a little bit of a muddle,” she says.

It was at the district convention earlier this month in Coeur d’Alene Idaho that Dwyer was elected to her new role.

Ahead of the meeting, Dwyer got something called the pillowcase caper going as a way to thank kids that go to the Sons of Norway camps.

“We have three language and heritage camps in our district for children from nine to twelve and thirteen to fifteen. And I just feel like we lodges, especially in Alaska where we’re not really physically close to them and can interact like to lodges do down below, there always going to various functions at the different places and they all know each other really well. So I kind of figured out that maybe we should thank the kids that are going to the camps because they’re our future,” Dwyer says.

The goal of the program, says Dwyer, was to give each kid that goes to one of the camps a pillow case.

“And the caveat to the lodges was that you needed to put a little thank you card to the kid who’s taking the time to learn about the Norwegian heritage and culture,” says Dwyer.

She says the lodges in the district exceeded expectations.

“Our little lodge made 34 and somebody else made 10 and one lodge made four and it kind of went on. I decided that we would present them at the convention on the last morning, that we’d actually have the lodges come up with their stuff. Well to the great surprise of a lot of people in that room there were 240 pillow cases made our first time out, says Dwyer.

Dwyer says with 90 kids attending camp, that’s two and a half years’ worth of pillowcases.

She’s just getting started in her new district position and will have a two year term to get her work as counselor done.