Just fifty years ago Sunday Waldemar Ager, editor of the Reform, local Norwegian weekly, first saw the light of day in the land of the midnight sun—Norway.
Last Sunday, fifty years after that interesting event, there gathered about the festive board at Norden hall some two hundred men and women, not only from Eau Claire, but from many out of town points, both in Wisconsin and Minnesota, to do honor to Eau Claire's gifted citizen on his arrival at the half century milestone of his life's journey.
Among those present were some of the best known Norwegian-Americans of the northwest.
It was one of the most notable gatherings in Eau Claire's history.
Of course it was a surprise. Sunday afternoon, as Mr. Ager and his wife were preparing to start out to spend the afternoon as invited guests of a friend, they were literally kidnapped, along with their family of nine children, and taken to Norden hall where they found a house full of people to welcome them. At one end of the hall was a table, attractively decorated, with eleven places. Here the Ager family was placed, and the program was at once gotten under way with John Gaustad as chairman, assisted by P. J. Smith, secretary of the committee in charge of the local end of the entertainment.
At this time it is best to state that the occasion was a double or treble surprise. It seems that there were two committees, a Wisconsin committee, header by Mesers. Gaustad and Smith, which had been working on arrangements, and also a Minnesota committee, which had been working along similar lines. It was not until just recently that either of the two committees learned of the existence of the other. Of course, with the same object in view—to do honor to the birthday anniversary of Mr. Ager—the two committees had no trouble in coordinating their efforts, and the result was the Sunday affair.
The Minnesota crowd has the first [unknown word], for the proceedings had hardly got started when A. M. Sundheim, manager of the Augsburg Publishing House, a big Minneapolis concern, briefly addressed the assemblage paying eloquent tribute to the guest of honor, first as a man, as author, writer and newspaperman, and after enumerating his salient qualities along these lines he handed over to Mr. Ager a purse filled with money. Another purse from the Wisconsin crowd was also forthcoming, and in all the gifts from Badger and Gopher friends totaled close to $1,000.
Scores of Telegrams.
More than a score of telegrams of congratulations from as many points in various sections of the United States, including New York City and other Atlantic coast points, as well as the Pacific coast and intermediate points, were read by Mr. Smith. Some were from individuals; others from organizations and societies. A box containing over 250 letters of congratulations was also handed the guest of honor.
Many Laudatory Talks.
Other addresses were delivered by Adelsten Berge of Wahburn, Wis.; the Rev. P. R. Syrdal, of the United Norwegian Lutheran church; John Ovren, foreman of the mechanical department of the Reform, who, in behalf of the employees of the publishing company, paid his respects to the editor, also reading a poem dedicated to the latter; John Ofstie of Seattle, Wash.; District Attorney J. C. Gilbertson of Eau Claire; Prof. J. J. Skordalsvold of Minneapolis; Henry P. Peterson of Superior; Prof. Bothne of the University of Minnesota; P. J. Smith of Eau Claire; F. L. Tronsdal of Eau Claire and Andrew Sather of Rice Lake.
The speaking program was interspersed by songs by Norden choir, and Henry P. Peterson of Superior showed big versatility by singing a number of serious and comic songs, all of which made a big hit with the assemblage.
All the speeches were laudatory of Mr. Ager's great and unselfish work. It was the habit, nowadays, said District Attorney Gilbertson in his brief talk, to measure this world's success by dollars and cents. This formula, he held, could not be used in measuring Mr. Ager's success, but his achievement, he pointed out, lay in the unmeasured extent of his service to mankind, his unselfish and arduous labors-ill-paid, in behalf of his fellow men, to whose service he had consecrated his whole life.
The speaker said that he had always considered Mr. Ager the leading citizen of Eau Claire.
Prof. J. J. Skordalsvold in his address, said that there was something strange about Eau Claire in that it seemed to attract so many great Norwegians. He called attention to the fact that this city had harbored such great Norsemen as Marcus Thrane, whose name was a household word in Norway, Ole Bull, the great Norwegian violinist, the late Bishop Hoyme, the late Ole Brer Olson and others. What other city has a record like that, he asked. And, he continued, this city now boasts another great man, Waldemar Ager. And he was pleased to see that the gathering had not waited till Mr. Ager was dead, as is usually the custom, to pay him honor, but had done him honor while he was alive.
All the speakers paid tribute to the honor guest's ability as an author, the sincerity of his purpose, his untiring zeal and energy in his advocacy, both by speech and pen, of that which he thought was right and best and his campaign against that which he considered an evil. He was an uplifter in every sense of the word, but one of broad gauged mind, and not fixed on a narrow, self centered track. It was pointed out that those who respected him the most were those who did not agree with him on all questions, for the way he played the game showed that he was sincere, and he played it square and without any rancour or bitterness.
Mr. Ager Replies.
Mr. Ager, always a fluent and ready speaker, was so deeply touched by the proceedings, that it was difficult for him to express himself as he really wanted to, he said, in acknowledging the honor bestowed upon him. He denied the good things that had been said about him. He had, he thought, done the best he could, but what he had done did not merit the honor and attention accorded him by those present as well as by those who had assisted in the arrangements but who were not present.
It was certainly an occasion the memory of which would remain with him to the end of his life, and he knew that his wife and the other members of his family would also recall it as one of the happiest events in their lives.
Out of Town Guests.
Among the out-of-town Guests were A. Berge, Washburn, Wis.; J. Nordenfos, Rice Lake, Wis.; Andrew S. Sather, Rice Lake; K. A. S. Swenson, Colfax; Thos. Walby, Hudson; Henry P. Peterson, Superior; John Norstog, Watford, N. D.; Prof. J. J. Skordalsvold, Minneapolis; Prof. Gisle Bothne, University of Minnesota; A. M. Sundbeir, Minneapolis; P. H. Haugen, Minneapolis; P. O. Stromme, Madison; Otto Austin, Chetek; John E. Ofstie, Everett, Wash.; Mr. Finstad, Rice Lake; Mrs. O. Opsahl, Barron; Ole Olson, Chippewa Falls.
The Eau Claire committee consisted of J. Gaustad, P. J. Smith, John Ovren, Geo. J. Losby, Adelsten Berge, Mrs. K. A. Jacobson.