Home2024 Honorary Marshall

Honorary Marshall

Jeanne Kohl-Welles

Happy Syttende Mai to our Norwegian and Norwegian-American community members. I have been celebrating Syttende Mai, for many years and always look forward to it. I feel honored by my Norwegian heritage, which allows me to feel a deep connection to the annual celebration.

My grandfather, Torger Sinnes, was a 13-year-old Norwegian immigrant whose parents sent him off to travel by himself on a ship to New York near the turn of the 20th century, as his family could not afford to support all their children during the potato famine. He created a life in the United States, married my grandmother, Isabel Sheldon, in North Dakota in 1906 and died in Los Angeles in 1960.

His strength in his pursuit of a new life at such a young age is an inspiration to me, as is the resilience of all immigrants who leave behind loved ones, familiar places, and comfortability in the search of a better life. I have visited his family home along a fjord northwest of Trondheim, as well as the cemetery where his parents were married and buried – in separate areas of the cemetery as they did not like each other and didn’t want to be buried next to each other. It was a very special experience to have been able to visit a place that was significant to my family’s heritage and history. It also reflects my appreciation of my having represented Ballard, the center of Nordic culture in the Northwest, for a long time while serving in the state Senate and on the King County Council.

 

BIO:

Jeanne Kohl-Welles is an American politician and academic. She was a member of the King County Council representing the 4th district from 2016 to 2024. She previously served as a member of the Washington State Senate from 1994 to 2015 and the Washington House of Representatives from 1992 to 1994.