86 years tending a stranger’s grave

13.01.2022 - 12:51
Mynd: Þórgunnur Oddsdóttir / RÚV
One family in Akureyri has been working together since 1935 to look after the grave Trygve Evangar, a Norwegian man, despite the fact that they have little to no connection to him. It all started because a young woman had a vivid dream.

"Mum dreamt of this man. He came to her in a dream and told her that he was unhappy that his gravestone was on the wrong grave,” says Ásta Eggertsdóttir. 

Her mother contacted the cemetery, confirmed the mistake, and had it rectified. She was a young woman at the time and had recently lost her six-week-old daughter to cot death. The baby had been buried alongside her grandmother—just a few metres from the Norwegian man. 

"Mum believed a lot in dreams and took note of them. And this was clearly one that worked, because he never made himself know again after that,” Ásta says. Her mother looked after Trygve’s grave with the same dedication as those of her own relatives, and Ásta took over when her health began to fade. “He always gets Christmas decorations and he always gets summer flowers. He is one of us. That’s just the way it is,” Ásta explains. 

Who was Trygve? 

His headstone says only: Trygve Evanger, Eggesbønes Norge, and his birth and death dates. Trygve was 26 when he died in Iceland and Ásta and family knew nothing more about him before this autumn, when Ásta’s Norwegian son-in-law started investigating. This led to an article in Morgunblaðið and a lot of people made contact with the family. Now, 86 years after his death, they know who he was. 

Trygve was the son of Gustav and Kristine Evanger, from the village of Eggesbønes in Møre og Romsdal, Norway. He grew up comfortably, with three siblings. His father was a progressive fisheries and businessman, and Trygve and his brother Olav came to Iceland to take part in search of herring early in the 20th century. 

The brothers opened a herring processing plant in Siglugfjörður which was destroyed in the avalanche of 1919. They then opened plants in Eyjafjörður and Raufárhöfn. The family suffered in the Great Depression and the Raufárhöfn plant went bankrupt. Trygve’s parents moved away from Iceland in 1932, at which time he had probably already contracted the tuberculosis that would take him to an early grave in November 1935. 

Ásta says it has been invaluable to finally find out about her mysterious adopted family member. “But it’s a little sad to know that nobody has asked after him or searched him out all these years.” 

His grave will continue to be carefully cared for: “He is one of us. And now we know when his birthday was, who knows, maybe we’ll add that date and go up there with candles.” 

Trygve Evanger
 Mynd: Þórgunnur Oddsdóttir - RÚV
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Alexander Elliott
Fréttastofa RÚV