Their View: Barbara Lunde built relationships, connected Rockford to Sweden

By On November 06, 2018

Their View: Barbara Lunde built relationships, connected Rockford to Sweden


Nov 6, 2018 at 2:04 PM Nov 6, 2018 at 2:04 PM

With the passing of Barbara (Benson) Lunde on Oct. 26, Rockford lost an integral Rockford “ambassador.”

Barbara was immensely proud of her Swedish heritage and showed it in many ways and through many people in the community. Barbara always went above and beyond to make sure any guest or visitor in Rockford saw the best the city had to offer and Barbara always showcased us in the most positive way.

No one who meet Barbara ever forgot her. As a testament to Barbara’s genuine love for Sweden, she relished the opportunity to expand the relationship between Rockford and communities in Sweden. Barbara and John Nelson, who passed away in 2016, were instrumental in forming the international Sister City relationship between Rockford and Borgholm, Sweden, in 2002. Barbara took pride in showing off the countless Swedish-influenced aspects of Rockford.

I, Linnea Bengtsson, first met Barbara in 2008, as a trainee from Rockford´s Industrial Partnership city, Lidköping, Sweden. Barbara welcomed me with open arms. She introduced me to the SwedishAmerican Health System Foundation in 2008. She had a vision to connect Swedish construction students to help with the Foundation's neighborhood housing revitalization project. On Feb. 24, 2009, John Mecklenburg, former vice president of SwedishAmerican (Medical) Foundation, wrote the following letter to the educational director in Lidköping:

“The SwedishAmerican Foundation is extremely excited about the upcoming exchange program with the students from your school. The genesis of the project was formed in the minds of Mrs. Barbara Lunde, representative from Swedish Historical Society and Linnea Bengtsson, an economic development intern from Lidköping, Sweden. Barbara (who is familiar w ith the Foundation´s neighborhood housing revitalization project) and Linnea began ”brainstorming” about the possibility of students from De la Gardie school working with Rockford East High School students building homes.

Today, this relationship has resulted in the opportunity for more than 100 construction and nursing students and faculty from Lidköping to come to Rockford. None of this would have been possible without Barbara´s vision and enthusiasm. To further illustrate Barbara's deep connections to Sweden, Barbara and her husband Richard were invited to a reception with the Swedish King and Queen celebrating the Crown Princess' birthday in Borgholm.

While in Sweden, I, Linnea, got the opportunity to host Barbara and Richard at my home in Sweden. Barbara always enjoyed her coffee times, called ”fika” in Sweden. We had a very memorable fika with my late 90-year-old grandmother.

Barbara worked closely with the Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau (RACVB) for many years. Anytime there was a Swedish group visiting, Barbara would gladly lead the effort in arranging and hosting the tour. Barbara always opened her home up for these visitors, prepared homemade dinners, engaged in meaningful conversation that always made guests at ease and gave them lots of hugs. Most recently, Barbara accepted an invitation to judge this year's Business in Blooming contest hosted by the RACVB where she spent the day judging downtown business’ beautification efforts. Barbara’s passion for Rockford and eye for beautiful things has made a lasting impact of so many of us.

As a result of Barbara’s relationship building between the two countries, there are innumerable people grieving in the US and in Sweden. Word of her passing was met with sadness as well as gratitude for how greatly she impacted their lives.

From 17-year-old construction students to mayors, teachers, nurse students, my family (cousins, uncles, au nts, close friends), Barbara will never be forgotten. The Swedish Historical Society intends to carry on the work of Barbara's relationship-building between Rockford and Sweden.

As for those of us involved with enhancing the connection between Rockford and Sweden, it is our honor to carry on the legacy of Barbara Lunde.

Linnea Bengtsson, international business developer Lidköping & Skaraborg and co-president, Swedish Historical Society; and Lindsay Arellano, vice president of sales and services, Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Source: Google News Sweden | Netizen 24 Sweden

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