Summary of the 2016 Reunion

When Zamzam survivors and their descendants gathered in Akron, Pennsylvania in 2010, it was presumed to be their last reunion. They had had six previous reunions since 1991 and surely this seventh would be their last. But as the 75th anniversary of the sinking of the Zamzam neared, many longed for one more celebratory gathering. So it was that a jubilee reunion was planned for the weekend of April 15-17, 2016, coinciding precisely with the 75th anniversary date. Lindsborg, Kansas was chosen as the reunion site. This unique town, widely known as “Little Sweden, USA” because of its rich Swedish heritage, was home to the Zamzam Danielson family before and after the Zamzam incident and its residents have maintained a keen interested in the story over the years.

All reunion activities were held in the Fellowship Hall of Messiah Lutheran Church. Attendees stayed in local hotels and were on their own for breakfasts. All other meals were either catered or eaten together in a local restaurant. Lois (Danielson) Carlson, coordinator of the reunion, had enlisted a cadre of friends to help with snacks, decorations and kitchen detail as well as projection, sound and recording.

Twelve Zamzam survivors attended the 2016 Kansas reunion. They were as follows:

  1. Alice Schellenberg from Pennsylvania, age 27 on the Zamzam
  2. Marie Norberg Bergstrom from Minnesota, age 12 on the Zamzam.
  3. Laurence Danielson, Colorado, who turned 11 on the way back to the United States.
  4. Vic Johnson, Iowa, age 10 on the Zamzam.
  5. Eleanor (Danielson) Anderson, Kansas, who turned 9 on the prison ship.
  6. Evelyn (Danielson) Ternstrom, California, age 7.
  7. Peter Levitt, Canada, age 6.
  8. Luella (Danielson) Holwerda, Arkansas, age 4.
  9. Wilfred Danielson, Virginia, age 3.
10. Lois (Danielson) Carlson, Kansas, 19 months.
11. Gordon Smith, Texas, 16 months.
12. Janet Russell, California, 4 months - attending a Zamzam reunion for the first time.

Survivors


The 12 survivors attending this reunion are

Vic Johnson, Evelyn (Danielson) Ternstrom, Eleanor (Danielson) Anderson, Alice (Landis) Schellenberg, Marie (Norberg) Bergstrom, Peter Levitt.

(back row): Laurence Danielson, Janet Russell, Luella (Danielson) Holwerda, Lois (Danielson) Carlson, Gordon Smith, Wilfred Danielson.

Photo by Jim Turner, Photo Products, Pittsburgh, KS
Spouses present included Ray Ternstrom, who has attended all 8 Zamzam reunions together with Evelyn; Lois Johnson, Vic’s wife; Jim Holwerda, Luella’s husband; Sheena Levitt, Peter’s wife; Dave Carlson, Lois’ husband, and; Annette Smith, Gordon’s wife. Laurence Danielson’s wife Jean is in poor health and could not make the trip. Wilfred Danielson’s wife Marilyn was not present but has attended previous reunions. Marie Bergstrom and Eleanor Anderson are now widowed, but their late husbands attended previous reunions.

There were 44 family members who attended the reunion. Lois Scheirer of Durham, North Carolina, is the daughter of Alice Schellenberg and made it possible for the 102 year-old survivor to attend. Geoffrey Newman, whose father Leslie Newman was a young chiropractor on the Zamzam, traveled from South Africa, joining up in New York with his Australian nephew Glenn Levine, grandson of Leslie Newman. Elisabeth Curtis, whose father, Alexander Osborne, was the Assistant Purser on the Zamzam, traveled from Raleigh, South Carolina.

Survivors with about 1/3 of the family
members who were in attendance
Photo by Jim Turner, Photo Products, Pittsburgh, KS
The Danielson family
Laurence, Eleanor, Evelyn, Luella, Wilfred and Lois
Here are some
additional photos taken at this reunion.

Anne Young Snyder, granddaughter of Fred and Doris Young, attended the reunion with her aunt Judy Young, daughter of Fred and Doris Young, and with her own two young daughters, Kristen and Abby. Zamzamer Lydia Rogalsky, who never married and is no longer living, was represented by 9 relatives - great-niece Peggy Harden and husband Glen from South Dakota and Sandy Bartel, Larry and Eveline Bartel, Karen Wiebe, and Monty and Lori McCoy and their teenage daughter Jordan, all from Kansas.

Other family members who traveled to Lindsborg for the reunion included all three of Laurence Danielson’s daughters - Laura Danielson from New Mexico, Jan Osburn from Colorado and Linda Ritter from Belgium. Two of Eleanor Anderson’s children were present - James Nelson and Jyl Josephson and son Aksel from New Jersey, and her son Paul (Pablo) Nelson from California. All three of Lois Carlson’s children were there with their families - Julianne and Matt Davisfrom Colorado with Kirsten, Ryan and Erik; Chris Krumm and her sons Ben and Mitch from Wichita and; Justin and Chris Carlson from Wichita with Grady and Malin.

Dr. Timothy Demy, who is on the faculty of the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, was in attendance and gave a presentation on the Battle of the Atlantic and how the Zamzam incident fit into that context. Bob Shuster, who had attended two previous reunions, is an archivist at the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College in Illinois and talked about archived Zamzam materials.

Other speakers included Peter Levitt, who gave a two-part presentation on the historical context of the Zamzam incident and his family’s particular experience, including internment because of their British citizenship. Geoffrey Newman and Elisabeth Curtis, both attending a reunion for the first time, provided background information about their fathers and told how the sinking of the Zamzam impacted their families.

Alice Schellenberg related details of her Zamzam experience in a question-and-answer exchange with her daughter Lois Scheirer, and was gifted with a new umbrella by Anne Snyder, to replace the one she took with her when abandoning ship. Luella Danielson Holwerda told the story from her perspective as a 4½ year-old child, and as she has written in a book for children. Wilfred Danielson introduced his 100-page bibliography of Zamzam materials, the most comprehensive Zamzam bibliography in existence. Eleanor Anderson also talked about previous reunions, all of which she had organized and coordinated.

A panel of all twelve Zamzam survivors shared personal memories of the experience and the long-lasting effect the incident had on their families. The spouses of Zamzam survivors were also given an opportunity to talk about what it is like to marry into the Zamzam family. Anne Snyder, granddaughter of Fred and Doris Young, talked about the use of social media to promote and preserve the Zamzam story. She has also established a Zamzam Facebook page. A large contingent of grand-nephews and nieces of Lydia Rogalsky shared their memories of her and how her story impacted them.

Other reunion events included welcoming remarks by Laurence Danielson and by former Lindsborg mayor and community leader Don Anderson. Devotional times were led by Evelyn Danielson Ternstrom and T. Gordon Smith. A performance by the Lindsborg high school Swedish Dancers was a special treat.

Sunday morning all attended a special worship service in the Messiah Church sanctuary at which Zamzam survivor Pastor Victor Johnson preached. About 200 reunion participants and church and community members were in attendance. After the worship service a reception was held in the Fellowship Hall and was followed by closing remarks offered at an open mic by anyone who wished.

This reunion was the last hurrah for Zamzam survivors as advancing age makes it increasingly difficult to travel. As “God Be with You till We Meet Again” was sung at the close of the Sunday morning worship service, it was with the realization that this was indeed the last time this group would be together.

This report of the 2016 reunion was provided by Lois Carlson.