Weather Forecast


A simple goal for a humble man

Osborne Groethe has collected hundreds of different Norwegian pictures and memorabilia over the years, many of which are pictured in his book. (Photo by Caroline Roers)1 / 2
Saga of an Immigrant can be found exclusively at the Scandinavian Gift Shop in Alexandria.2 / 2

Between 1825 and 1925, a surge of more than 800,000 Norwegians immigrated to North America.

One of these hopeful immigrants was Sven Groethe.

For 18 years, Sven had lived with his family on a large Norwegian farm on the banks of a beautiful lake. But when a depression hit Norway, Sven's father reluctantly told him that he couldn't keep him on the farm.

So at the age of 20, with 50 kroner in his pocket and a trunk full of clothing and food, Sven made his way to America on the RMS Oceanic.

"My dad was such a dedicated guy; he saw leaving as an adventure and it really was to him," said Osborne "Ozzie" Groethe, nine-year resident of Alexandria and son of Sven Groethe.

Though Ozzie had heard about his father's life many times while growing up, he realized that his son and daughter and their children were too young to appreciate the stories and heritage Sven was always reminding them of.

To keep the legacy and stories alive after Sven passed away, Ozzie recently published a book that encapsulated his father's life called Saga of an Immigrant.

Though he is incredibly pleased with the outcome of the book, it was never Ozzie's lifelong dream to become an author.

After graduating from high school in Kindred, North Dakota, Ozzie went into the service and then was an implement dealer for three years. He then studied aviation engineering in California and worked at an aviation factory there before moving back to the Midwest.

He was first exposed to writing when he wrote an article about aviation and submitted it to the Horizon Magazine.

"And they accepted it! That was my first published article and it got me thinking that maybe I can write after all," he said joyfully, pride ringing in his voice.

After this article, Ozzie had five others published in smaller magazines.

"I guess it was because I was the only one who had gotten anything published that everyone funneled their ideas and information to me and told me that I should start writing a book about the family," he speculated.

Another large part of it was the number of stories Ozzie had collected over the years about his father, an accomplishment that resulted in him becoming known as the "historian in the family."

He accumulated these stories not only from his father, but also during the 13 trips he took to Norway.

During his first visit to Norway in 1963, his dad had given him a list of relatives to visit - 33 families total.

"It was actually difficult to do. And every one of them wanted to feed you," Ozzie said.

The first stop on the trip was the Groethe farm where Sven had grown up.

When they got to the farm, a shirtless man was standing outside with a scythe cutting the grass.

After walking up to him, Ozzie introduced himself in Norwegian as Sven's son.

"And I tell you his mouth just dropped. I was the first relative who had ever come back since 1902. He was just flabbergasted; he couldn't believe it right away," Ozzie said with a humorous smile.

This was the same reaction Ozzie received from most of Sven's family members during that visit. Everyone was shocked that they were meeting one of Sven's children, but they were also all too willing to share stories with Ozzie about Sven growing up.

Ozzie and his wife, Johanne, saw the butter churner Sven had made when he was only 16, heard about how Sven used to hunt wild game with his dad and how he had been the family blacksmith on the farm, making horseshoes and tools.

As Ozzie heard these anecdotes from relatives, he wrote them down and eventually compiled a hefty number of stories.

But even with all of these materials in tow, he simply never got around to writing the book.

It wasn't until his brother said, "Ozzie, you are getting old, you've got to write our book," that he sat down last September and began putting the pieces together of the stories he had collected over the years.

"The first part of the book is information on my dad, the genealogical stuff. But the second half was really fun for me because I was able to recall the stories that my father and mother had told me and also things that I had remembered from my past," Ozzie said.

One of the most entertaining memories he recalled was when Sven had his children, including his one daughter, box one another.

"My sister, Dorothy, would sit there until she finally convinced my father she should be able to box. Oh, she was a tiger. And my dad loved it, until my mother walked in. Now, usually, she was such a quiet woman and never got angry. But boy did she get upset that day," Ozzie said.

While these stories came easy to him, he ran into a problem when he actually started putting the book together: Microsoft Word.

"When you make a book today you have to put it on a computer. Well, I am only partially proficient on computers. So I had to learn a little bit about Word," he said, wincing at the memory.

The text was easy enough for Ozzie, but adding the pictures was a foreign language to him.

"That is where it showed that I was an amateur. I would get them on and I thought they were in the right place, but then the text would move around!" he said, frustration still ringing in his voice. "I think after a month I said, I'm never going to finish this book without help!"

Thankfully, Ozzie found a woman in Fergus Falls who specialized in helping people get a draft from the manuscript to publishing form.

In no time, she had Ozzie's manuscript edited and ready for publishing. She was also able to print the book for him short run at a publishing plant.

"Without her I could not have done this myself and made it print ready," he said.

At his first printing, he only printed 100 books because he had 75 relatives and thought if he was lucky each of the relatives would buy one.

"It was really never my intention to sell thousands of books," he said.

Unbeknown to him, those relatives had told other people and the first 100 books were sold more quickly than he could have imagined.

"So I went into a second printing thinking we could sell more, and we did!" Ozzie said, delighted.

As for what the future holds, Ozzy said he doesn't know. But for now he is content with what he has done and so thankful to everyone who has helped him over the years and enjoys reading about his father.

"I had one goal for the book, to show the family who Sven was. And I think I accomplished it," Ozzie said proudly.