Obituary for Brynhild Rowberg

Brynhild Rowberg, age 101 of Northfield, passed away on Friday evening, May 17, 2019, at the Care Center of the Northfield Retirement Community. Brynhild C. Rowberg was born on August 26, 1917, in Northfield, Minnesota, the daughter of Andrew A. and Marie C. (Rollag) Rowberg. She graduated from Northfield High School in 1935 and from St. Olaf College in 1939. From 1939 to May 1941, Brynhild worked in Minneapolis, moving to Washington to become an employee of the State Department. Entering the American Foreign Service in February 1945, she was appointed to the London staff of the Office of the […]

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Brynhild Rowberg, age 101 of Northfield, passed away on Friday evening, May 17, 2019, at the Care Center of the Northfield Retirement Community.

Brynhild C. Rowberg was born on August 26, 1917, in Northfield, Minnesota, the daughter of Andrew A. and Marie C. (Rollag) Rowberg. She graduated from Northfield High School in 1935 and from St. Olaf College in 1939.

From 1939 to May 1941, Brynhild worked in Minneapolis, moving to Washington to become an employee of the State Department. Entering the American Foreign Service in February 1945, she was appointed to the London staff of the Office of the Political Advisor to the Commanding General for Austria. Since Austria was still in German hands, the office prepared for the eventual occupation of that country. Ms. Rowberg traveled to the United Kingdom in a 90-ship convoy which was attacked, unsuccessfully, by a U-Boat. She was in London during the last raid on the city by the Luftwaffe and during the time when V-2 rockets fell frequently on the city.

In late March 1945, U.S. strategy changed and it was decided that Austria would be occupied by troops coming from the south, so the staff was transferred to Allied Headquarters for the Mediterranean Theater at Caserta, Italy. There it became part of the 2600th Special Detachment, Fifth Army. Following the end of the war in May 1945, the detachment was transferred first to Florence, then Verona, then Salzburg, awaiting the conclusion of negotiations with the Soviets regarding the occupation of Austria. After the agreement was reached in August, the detachment moved to Vienna.

Ms. Rowberg served in Vienna, with a brief interval in London at a meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers, until 1950, when she was transferred to the American Embassy in Prague. In 1952, she moved to the Embassy in Athens and in 1956 to Saigon. In 1956, she was commissioned as a Foreign Service Officer of Career, consular officer and secretary in the diplomatic service. From 1958 to 1962, she served in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research in the State Department, leaving that position in 1962 to become American Consul in Bremen, Germany.

In 1967, she began work as political officer in the Office of Korean Affairs in the State Department. During the following year, she was involved almost exclusively in the negotiations with the North Koreans that led to the release of the crew of the USS Pueblo, which had been captured by the North Koreans. An account of some of her duties in this connection can be found in Trevor Armbrister’s book, A Matter of Accountability.

Transferred in 1971 to the American Embassy in Taipei as deputy chief of the economic section and military assistance officer, she remained on duty there until a sudden, devastating hearing loss compelled her to retire. After living for a time in northern Virginia, she moved in 1978 to Northfield with her aged mother, for whom she was caring.

In Northfield, she served as president of the local League of Women Voters, in various capacities at St. John’s Lutheran Church and in several other organizations. She wrote the introduction to a book published by the Norwegian-American Historical Association, as well as a number of pieces for the Minnesota Historical Society. She was a speaker at the Society’s 2005 commemoration of the end of World War II.

In 1967, Ms Rowberg received the Distinguished Alumni Award from St. Olaf College and in 2001 the Distinguished Alumni Award from Northfield High School.

Ms. Rowberg was preceded in death by her parents and her brother, Leland, who was killed in military action in 1944. She is survived by several cousins.

Funeral services will be 11:00AM, Saturday, June 8, 2019, at St. John’s Lutheran Church, Northfield. Interment will be in Palisades Lutheran Cemetery, in Beaver Creek, MN. Visitation will be one hour prior to the service at the church and a reception will follow.

Memorials are preferred to St. Olaf College, St. John’s Lutheran Church, or the Northfield Historical Society.

Arrangements are with the Benson & Langehough Funeral Home. www.northfieldfuneral.com

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Funeral

June 8, 2019 - 11:00 AM

St. John’s Lutheran Church
500 3rd St W Northfield, 55057 Get Directions

5 Comments

  1. Kathy Akre

    She was such a remarkable and special lady, a treasure to know and honor to call her a friend

    Reply
  2. Stephen Gangstead

    Brynnie was for years the esteemed doyenne of the Midwest chapter of the American Foreign Service Association. Remarkable lady, amazing resume – she made good things happen.

    Reply
  3. Bill Johnson

    In 1948 our family moved to Nevada Street, next door to the Rowbergs. That was the beginning of what became a seven decade friendship with Brynnie. I will always be grateful for her written contributions to the Northfield Historical Society and the Minnesota Historical Society. Her memories of WWII are invaluable.

    Reply
  4. Joyce Gabriel

    Oh my dear Brynnie. I feel fortunate that I can call you family. About 10 years ago I had the opportunity to record a piece of oral history. Here is a link: perhaps if interest. Needless to say she was a bright spot to me and to many through the years. Thank you Brynnie. Your memory lives on.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ew41XAAcHus

    Reply
  5. Rachel (Rowberg) Barnes

    I have always marveled at “cousin Brynnie”, cousin to my father Willard Rowberg. Though I only met her once in person, she kept in touch with family through letters and email past her 100th year. It was always intriguing to hear her account of latest travels, memories of past travels, people she knew, and her perspective on the current political climate based on her personal experience of many decades in the foreign service. She had a way of expressing these with a subtle humor sometimes, other times a painful sorrow, and yet other times an air of marked jubilation. She kept a sharp mind active and brilliant to her final years. I always appreciated her diligent and loving visits to our Aunt Helen during Helen’s years of decline with Alzheimer’s. Brynnie kept extended family spread abroad up to date on Helen’s latest developments. She was a truly caring person. She will be missed by many adoring relatives.

    Reply

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