You never know who will walk through the door of Vesterheim, the national Norwegian-American museum and heritage center in Decorah. On one particular July day, Vesterheim had a visit from two wonderful people, Greg Sampson and his daughter Jenna. Greg is a former NFL player for the Houston Oilers (’72-’79), two-time Rose Bowl Champion for Stanford University (’71, ’72), and longtime member of the Sons of Norway. His ancestors, the Nomeland and Dale families, come from Valle, Norway. He stands 6’6’’, wears a size 16EEEE shoe, a size 16 wedding ring, and a size 8 baseball hat. A modern day Viking!
Traveling from California together, the two enjoyed a great father-daughter trip that included stops in Chicago, Dyersville, Decorah, and other Midwestern cities. As strong Norwegian-American’s both Greg and Jenna were excited to visit Vesterheim and learn more about their own heritage. Between the tours of the outdoor division, museum exhibitions, and museum store, the Sampson’s had a great day embracing their Norwegian-ness.
Jenna particularly was reminded of the family traditions of her youth. “We were stunned at the size and scope of the museum, and thoroughly enjoyed the outside buildings tour with your wonderful guide. The museum included a similar bunad to the one my grandmother brought me from Norway, as well as the wood carvings and rosemaling I grew to love as a child. Visiting Vesterheim was such a special experience!”
Greg also expressed his gratitude as well as his urge for others to come visit Vesterheim. “Coming to Vesterheim was a once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage for someone like me, traveling from the West Coast. I encourage others of Norwegian descent to make it a priority on your life list—to make the trip to Decorah to see this museum. Don’t wait until you’re retired! Go now, so that you have plenty of time to pass on what you learn to your children and grandchildren.”
Thanks Greg and Jenna for stopping by Vesterheim. I hope all of you other modern-day Vikings will do the same, just please don’t knock down our door!