‘A guy like him should be remembered’
Lunenburg man keeps father’s story alive long after death Watch next week’s South Shore Breaker for part 2.
Editor’s note: Thirty years after his father Einar’s death, Peter Rognerud still speaks passionately about his remarkable life. “It is important to keep the story alive ... I think a guy like him should be remembered,” Peter said from his home in Lunenburg. For much of his life, Peter didn’t know much about his father’s life journey. That’s because the two didn’t speak for many years. “My father was a difficult person to live with,” Peter said. “He was a man of very rigid discipline, very stubborn, very immovable.” Eventually, he pieced together the saga of Einar Rognerud from talking to his mother and from stories shared by his father when he was dying. “I had a father I didn’t come to understand until I was in mid-life. But when I look back, I see a man that I have nothing but admiration for and pride.” A LIFE AT SEA Einar “Eddy” Rognerud was born in 1915 in Hole, in the Ringerike district of Norway. The family’s farm sat on a small island in the middle of Steinsfjord. It took an hour for Einar and his two brothers, Ivar and Magnus, to row or skate across the lake to shore and walk or ski to school. “My father had vivid memories of hoeing potatoes at five years old,” Peter said. He described his grandfather Martin as a “brutal taskmaster. My grandfather was a very stern man,” he said. Peter pieced together the remarkable story of a Norwegian boy who became a man earlier than most. He left his brothers behind on the farm when he ran away at age 12 to go whaling on a three-masted barque. He also went sealing. “From then on, he more or less continued at sea,” his son said. THE INVASION OF NORWAY Thirteen years after leaving his family as a boy to go to sea, Einar was in South America serving aboard the Norwegian Freighter Thode Fagelund when German troops invaded Norway on April 9, 1940. The rest of the Rognerud family, now trapped in Norway, fled the farm after burning it, taking as many belongings as possible in the family car, including their pig. Einar’s father and younger brother Ivar fled to the mountains to join the resistance. However, older brother Magnus became a Nazi collaborator and joined the SS, creating a deep rift in the family. That rift intensified after Ivar was captured by the Nazis and brutally tortured. “It left him very damaged for the rest of his life,” Peter said. Peter learned his mother and grandmother feared Einar and his father would have killed Magnus if they found him. Einar and Magnus would reconcile many years later when it was learned Magnus fought in Finland, not Norway. WAR AT SEA During the years following the German invasion of Norway, Einar joined the Norwegian navy. He served as a gunner aboard PT boats in the English Channel and on foreign ships leased to the Norwegian government used in North Atlantic convoys. The vessels were part of the Norwegian Shipping and Trade Mission (Nortraship). He also took part in the invasion of Sicily. Peter learned his father had been torpedoed more than once. His father told him about being in the water after being torpedoed and hearing beautiful music. “He said some guy grabbed him by the hair and he could have hit the guy because he woke him up,” Peter said. Einar also told his son about being shipwrecked off the Azores and the harrowing tale of the S.S. Askild foundering on the rocks at Chance Cove, N.L., near Cape Race, while on its way to join a convoy. Einar was one of three men that managed to walk 16 kilometres over harsh terrain in severely high winds to the base of Cape Race. The men scaled the 30-metre cliffs to knock on the door of the Cape Race lighthouse to secure help for the 17 survivors of the sunken Askild. The Cape Race Signal Station received the distress call from the RMS Titanic on April 14, 1912. As a ship’s gunner, Einar also sailed the infamous Murmansk Run arctic convoy route non-stop for a year before being hospitalized from the stress of the ordeal. He left the hospital against the advice of his doctors after 28 days to return to active duty. The Murmansk Run claimed 104 allied merchant ships and 18 warships. Peter also learned how his father received part of his gunnery training in New York, Scotland and at Camp Norway, in Lunenburg, where he met his soon-to-be wife, Beatrice Eileen Naas, as they danced the Blue Skirt Waltz during a weekend dance held at the camp.