Nils Olaves Fredriksen Klevjer 1890-1943

On the last Veterans Day I posted the story of my Dad, a veteran of  WWII. A cousin in Norway read it and responded by passing  to me the story of another family member who served the United States with honor. An unusual story of a Norwegian American cousin who served in WWI. A cousin to be proud of.
Nils Olaves Fredriksen Klevjer

In the Gjerpen, Telemark official parish register it is recorded that Nils was born 6 Nov and baptised 14 Dec 1890 in Gjerpen, Telemark, Norway. When he was two years old his family moved to Klevjer in Vestfold county and it was that name his family later adopted as their surname. Nils worked briefly as a sailor until his emigration to the United States.

Nils left Kristiania (Oslo) Norway August 27, 1910 on the ship "Tasso" bound for England. Nils had $25 and a third class (steerage) ticket on the S.S. Saxonia which left Liverpool, England August 31, 1910 and arrived in Boston, Massachusetts September 7th, 1910. His contacts in the US were his aunt and uncle, Henry and Karen Larson of Boston, Massachusetts.

In Boston he learned to drive and worked as a chauffeur. Not as easy a job as you would imagine.
In 1910 in even the larger cities such as Boston, streets were generally mud, crowded with bicycles, horses and people, chaotic, disgusting and filthy with animal manure. Even though the average vehicle traversed at what we would see at a relatively low rate of speed there were many casualties, particularly of children since the playground had not yet been invented. Children played in the streets. No one knew how to deal with the rapidly growing number of automobiles. Traffic laws were non existent. In fact the first stop sign didn't come until 1915 in Detroit, Michigan.

Nils must have loved the US and intended to make it his home because barely a year after his arrival  he filed his declaration of intention to become a US citizen in April of 1911. He took the oath of citizenship November 2, 1915.

Nils demonstrated his love of and loyalty to his new home by being one of the first to enlist as the United States entered World War I. The Army put his skills as a chauffeur to use. Nils drove an army supply truck delivering ammunition to the front lines.

 When the war in Europe ended he was barely home from France when a letter arrived from his mother who had remained in Norway.  In his 1919 application for a passport Nils stated his intent  was to be gone from the U.S. no longer than one year. He stated his intention was "to visit his mother". A translated copy of that touching letter from his mother was found attached to his passport application.

Porsgrund Sept 1, 1919

Dear Nils,

Your very welcome letter received and I am so glad that you are back in America. I am also very glad that you came back without having been injured in the war.  When you are discharged from the Army you have got to come home as soon as you can because I need you here now. You know since your father died in September that I have not been so strong as before. So if you can't come home for good come home on a visit. But first of all I should like to see you stop at home with me, but we can talk about that when you come home. Come now my good boy and I hope to hear from you before your time comes to sail. 
                                                                                 your loving mother

Nils never returned to the United States.

 1930 Gudrun Berit Elsa & Nils Klevjer
Perhaps he was compelled to stay out of love, loyalty or obligation to his mother. Perhaps he intended to return some day but life, as it often does, intervened. He met Gudrun Marie Olsen . They married November 20, 1921. He then had a young family to provide for and the 'Great Depression' came, followed by World War II. April 1940 Norway was occupied by Nazi Germany. Nils worked as a taxi driver, and later with customs. At work, on 18th May 1943 he was killed in an accident at the railways while working with redirection of some goods meant for the German forces in Norway.

His nephew Jørn Erik Øvald tells the story...

"Living a dramatic life, he also died in a dramatic way. And so was the funeral:
Being occupied by the Germans, all priests in Norway were Nazis. The family did not want this vicar to lead the funeral, and they made an agreement with an officer in the Salvation Army to do the job. The Nazi priest denied this, and he even refused to let them have this private ceremony. My father, Olav, and my uncle, Emil, then took action. During the night before the funeral they broke into the chapel and removed the coffin with the body of Nils. (Being a shop-keeper my uncle had a van)
On the following day, just before the ceremony should take place, the Nazi vicar arrived, and insisted that he perform the  ceremony. It was heavy arguing, until Gudrun asked the participants to 'calm down and behave dignified'. They then went outside and waited for the transport. Almost no-one took part inside. " 

husband of my cousin twice removed
Nils Olaves Fredriksen Klevjer
b. 6 Nov 1890 Gjerpen, Telemark, Norway
d. 18 May 1943 Skien, Telemark, Norway

***click on photos or documents to enlarge for easier reading***

post script - During the hugh migrations of the late 1800's and early 1900's it is estimated that overall perhaps 1 in 3 American immigrants returned to their homeland. It is estimated that 10 to 11% of Scandinavian immigrants ultimately returned to their homeland. Some maybe never intended to stay permanently but were looking to earn money to return home and live a better more prosperous life. Others, perhaps, found that the "American Dream", was for them anyway, just a dream.