It has been challenging to continue the work of the American Scandinavian Society without Harriet Nilsen. She was active to the last minute, running a Program Committee meeting the evening before she died in her sleep – March 10th, 2010. Her passing was so unexpected it left us grief-stricken, stunned and unable to organize events until the Cultural Grants Reception in June.
Born in Stockholm, she came to New York and was active in the American Scandinavian Foundation’s NY Chapters since the late 60’s – becoming Chair of its Social Committee. There she met her husband, Lars Nilsen (of Norwegian descent), and they had a daughter, Ingrid. Working for SAS and later freelancing as a New York City Guide, Harriet also managed to play a significant role in the American Scandinavian Society and became one of its most reliable pillars. She was a member of the Board for almost 30 years, chaired the Christmas Ball and the Program Committee twice, and took on any task that needed to be done – for one, coordinating the Lucia Procession at the Scandinavian Christmas Ball for 25 years – every year.
Harriet Nilsen was organized, efficient and thoughtful – arranging lunches to celebrate birthdays of committee members, bringing gifts and flowers. She insisted volunteer work should be fun, whether creating invitations or stuffing envelops, planning events or preparing receptions. She loved her native Scandinavia, the US and New York and above all she felt that timely, interesting programs were the heart of the Society’s purpose. The idea of featuring our award-winning musicians, extraordinary Scandinavian talent, at a winter performance, was hers. The Harriet Nilsen Winter Concert Fund has been set up to continue this effort.
~ Vibeke Steineger
Video through the courtesy of Helen Tschudi and Marianne Jacobsen