Weather Forecast


Tallakson family visits historic roots in Willmar, Minn.

Bill, left, and Sunny Frantzich, center, are shown the Willmar area land that once belonged to their family as part of their tour Friday of the former Tallakson homestead. (Tribune photo by Kayla Prasek)

WILLMAR -- In 1844, Salve Tallakson and two of his children moved from Grimstad, Norway, to the United States, eventually ending up in Willmar. On Friday, Tallakson's descendants, along with descendants from his second wife, Bertha Kiland's, family, visited Willmar to learn about their American roots.

Every five years, the Tallakson, Heimdal and Kiland families gather in Minnesota to share family history, meet each other and visit the places their families lived and worked. The group's Friday visit to Willmar included visiting the Tallakson family homestead on U.S. Highway 12 East,, the wagon that brought the Tallaksons from Wisconsin to Minnesota,Vinje Lutheran Church, which the family attended, and Vinje and Cloverleaf Memorial Park cemeteries, where family members are buried.

"My uncle Norman (Tallakson) grew up here and had a weekend gathering every year," Sunny Frantzich, of Wayzata, said. "We (Sunny and her husband, Bill Frantzich) started planning these reunions in 1973. We've kept planning them because everyone from near and far is still interested in getting together and talking history and getting to know each other."

The Frantzichs plan a reunion every five years, with the last Minnesota reunion being held in 2008. About 70 people attended this year's reunion.

Norwegian roots

Six family members who still live in Norway made the journey to Minnesota again this year.

"This is my second Minnesota reunion," Janine Hartvigsen, of Grimstad, Norway, said. "It's nice seeing everyone. I love this country and seeing all our relatives."

Nere Kiland, of Grimstad, Norway, helped head up the group of Norwegians who came to Minnesota this week. Kiland also helped plan a Tallakson, Heimdal and Kiland family reunion in Norway in 2009.

"This is my sixth Minnesota reunion," Kiland said. "I have a great interest for our family, and I love to see all these old friends. Some of us still live in Norway, but we love America."

The group of Norwegians flew from Norway to Washington, D.C., and then drove to Minneapolis, stopping to sightsee along the way.

"People in this country are so friendly," Aase Hartvigsen, of Grimstad, Norway, said. "We love (this) country."

Military roots

Taylor Kiland, of Alexandria, Va., was attending her first Minnesota reunion, after attending the Norway reunion in 2009. Kiland's military background and family history have dual influence over her career as a military author.

"My grandfather, Ingolf Kiland, graduated from the Naval Academy in 1917 and served in World War I, World War II and the Korean War," Kiland said. "My father, Ingolf Kiland II, graduated from the Naval Academy in 1959, and I also served in the Navy, and now I write books about it."

Kiland said she is inspired by the Kiland families and sees the reunions as a good way to stay in contact with her distant relatives.

"This country is such a melting pot, so it's nice to understand where you come from and meet distant relatives and our relatives that still live in Norway," Kiland said. "It's so important to know about your history and your roots."

Family tradition

Bruce Tallakson and Sue Anne Donohoe grew up up hearing stories from their father's trips from California to Minnesota for the family gatherings and have continued the family tradition for the last 35 years.

"I'm proud of my heritage," Tallakson said.

Before marrying Tallakson, his wife, Nancy, said she had only heard wonderful stories about the reunions.

"When we got married, the first thing I said to him was, 'Does this mean I get to go to the reunion now?' Nancy Tallakson said. "I love meeting all the relatives and telling stories."

While Donohoe's husband, Kevin, said he most enjoyed looking at all the family pictures and learning their history, Sue Anne Donohoe said it was the overall atmosphere of the reunion that meant the most to her.

"I like knowing that I'm part of something so big," she said.