It’s always interesting on how and what might stimulate someone’s interest in a certain topic, person or place. What is it about Borghild Jensen Anderson that caught my attention?
I guess it was the following statement which was part of a talk entitled “Missions in the USA” at Morgantown Christian & Missionary Alliance Church for the Women’s Missionary Prayer Fellowship on March 21, 1991.
“As a Christian missionary, she spent eight years in Seward, Alaska at the Jesse Lee Home orphanage when a young bride, then two years teaching school in Llanito, Columbia, S.A. in her middle years when a widow sending the child of her 40s to college, and finally, six years in her retirement teaching for Hawaiian Christian Missions on Maui. . . .Her body is wrinkled and short and rather unnoticeable until you realize you are in the presence of a totally unselfconscious, unselfish dynamo, of a person overflowing with love. (Did I mention that she is eighty-three and legally blind and a widow of many years and my mother? ”
Now does’t that sound as someone who should be celebrated for International Women’s Day (March 8, 2015) even if no one will read this until March 12th?
Borghild’s father, Anders, emigrated from the island of Donna, Helgeland, Norway just below the Arctic Circle in 1905. He had spent his mandatory year in the Norwegian military and had completed his education in shipbuilding. Once he arrived in Minneapolis he attended St. Olaf’s College to learn the English language as St. Olaf’s had a special language class for immigrants. A year later he returned to Donna to marry Johanna Maria Mork on May 30, 1906. Two weeks later they left for the United States, this time to live in Balfour, North Dakota. It was there that Borghild was born. They remained in Balfour for another year and half before moving on to Seattle, Washington where her brother Arvid was born. The family’s last move was to Rosedale, Washington where they bought 33 acres. In order to get to work, Anders would walk to Gig Harbor to catch the ferry and at the end of the day, reverse the process by walking from Gig Harbor to Rosedale. Once home, he continued his work day by working on their ‘big house’ so the family could move into it and the current long house turned into their chicken coop.
Borghild attending the Rosedale School for grades 1 - 8 (1913/’21) and the ninth grade which was held in the Gig Harbor Community Hall while awaiting completion of Union High School (now Harbor Ridge Middle School). When she graduated in 1925 she attended the College of Puget Sound (UPS) for a year before transferring to Western Washington Normal School (WWU) earning her teaching certificate in 1927.
Her first teaching assignment was teaching the sixth grade in Castle Rock, Washington, for $20 per month. Borghild taught at Castle Rock for three years and it was there that she met the love of her life, a tall curly haired Swede named Albert Sigfred Anderson. They married June 30, 1930, in the Rosedale Union Church, and five days later sailed for Seward, Alaska.
For the next seven years they were employed as the dean and matron of the Jesse Lee Home orphanage for boys. Their first child in 1933 was not their own biological child but 4-month old Ernest Berestoff. (Because Ernest was found to have only 10% of his hearing and the Bureau of Indian Affairs would pay for his schooling they were not allowed to legally adopt him.) A year later their daughter Joan Marie Anderson was born, soon to be followed by Ellen Amanda Anderson. In 1937 the moved back to Rosedale in time for the birth of David Noel Anderson. Albert turned to carpentry to support his growing family, but remained active in the Rosedale Union Church and the youth work at the Memorial Presbyterian Church in Gig Harbor. Borghild was church pianist and taught piano lessons.
An important facet of their family was that it was comprised not only of their biological children but also foster children to whom Albert and Borghild were true parents in heart, “Mom and Dad” for life, giving all their children security and value and love in a deeply Christian home. After David came Diana Thompson in 1943. Later Joel Albert Anderson was born to them and then Dorothy White and her sister Mary Ann came only to be followed by Jimmy Ross in 1955 and finally Sharon Hatcher. Unfortunately, David Noel Anderson died in 1954 of leukemia.
As the children grew up and when to college, Borghild went back to teaching in 1958. First at Vaughn and then at Artondale, while she herself attended the University of Puget Sound earning her BS in Education in 1961. Shortly thereafter, Albert was diagnosed with cancer and died in March, 1962.
When Joel the youngest was about to leave for college Borghild took a leave of absence from her 4th grade class at Artondale to teach in Llanito, Colombia, S.A. Later, after retiring from Artondale at age 65, she went to Paia, Maui, Hawaii where she taught at her own expense for the Hawaiian Christian Missions for another 6 years before finally returning to Rosedale.
And I think we should end this remarkable life with Lois Stone’s recounting of a story about Borghild’s sharing her Christian love.
“One fall evening Borghild had retired early after a busy day playing the piano for the nursing home folk. She awoke late in the evening and heard someone prowling around her bedroom. When she asked “Who’s there?” a man’s voice answered, “Don’t worry, lady. I just need some money. I’m not gonna hurt you. I have to get back to town. My friends took my boots and my coat and dumped me out of the car. I knocked on your door but no one answered so I came on in.” You see, my friend trusted everyone so she never locked her doors. What was to follow is the mark of a true believer. As Borghild was getting out of her bed and putting on her robe she said to the intruder, “Now you listen to me. There’s a chair over there in that corner. I want you to sit down and I’m going to pray for you.” Who knows whether God was watching over her or if the voice of this elderly lady so stunned the intruder that he had no choice but to obey her command. I believe God was taking good care of her and I know this is what she believed.
“At any rate, Borghild prayed and then she said to the man, “Now, I’m going to make you some hot coffee to warm you up - you look very cold.” She went to the kitchen and could hear the intruder in her bedroom opening drawers still looking for money. Fortunately, Borghild’s son lived right behind her on the hill and she was able to use the kitchen phone to alert him to what was going on. He immediately put a call in to the police. When the intruder came into the kitchen and saw another man there, he instantly tried to run away. He was immediately met at the door by two police officers who just happened to be in the neighborhood. After the police had taken the man away, Borghild turned to her son and said “Tomorrow I want you to take me to the jail to see that man. I’ve got a lot of witnessing for the Lord to do there.”
It was shortly thereafter that Borghild passed away.
To read more about Borghild Jensen Anderson you might want to make an appointment to stop in for a visit at the Harbor History Museum’s Research Room.