Thousands of descendants of Norwegians dedicate their time to promote Norway abroad. Russell and Alison Wiigs were recently celebrated by the King for more than 25 years of excellent service in Canada.

Russell and Alison Wiigs have been active in the Norwegian community in Calgary, Canada since 1992. For their outstanding work, they were awarded The Medal of St. Olav in 2014, and this spring they got to meet with the Norwegian King Harald V in the Royal Palace.

“You don’t expect these things to happen. We are both very humbled to receive them and proud of the medals,” an emotional Russell said.

Passion for Folk MusicRussell and Allison Wiigs were awarded the St. Olafs Medal in 2014.

“We were very graciously received and he is a very good conversationalist,” Alison said about the audience with the King earlier this May. “It was very dignified, but at the same time informal and welcoming.”

The Wiigs have been actively contributing to the Norwegian community in Calgary for several decades. Although their children were exposed to their Norwegian heritage growing up, it was only when they moved away from home, that Alison and Russell started to get involved.

Alison likes music and singing, and is part of the Scandinavian choir, and they both have a great passion for Scandinavian Folk Dance. Russell also has a natural tendency to get involved with organizing events and take on leadership roles.

“Together we are a good pair,” he commented.

Norwegian background

Russell’s mother emigrated to New York City in 1929 from Northern Norway. There she met a Norwegian man from Brooklyn whose parents came from Southern Norway. Russell’s grandparents on his father’s side also met in the US. While Russell is Norwegian on both sides, Alison’s background is Irish and Scottish from several generations back.

“To me it’s phenomenal that I got the medal, but to me the best part is that so did Alison,” Russell said enthusiastically.

The Medal of St. Olav was founded by King Haakon VII on 17 March 1939. It is conferred as “a reward for services in advancing knowledge of Norway abroad and for strengthening the bonds between expatriate Norwegians and their descendants and their country of residence”.