Nylander family reunion held at Caribou museum

15 years ago

    The Nylander Museum of Natural History in Caribou recently hosted a Nylander Family Reunion party in concert with the seasonal end-of-summer party. Although most of the descendants of the museum's original curator live fairly close-by, some visitors came from as far away as North Carolina to meet with family members and enjoy the festivities. Five generations of descendants met at the museum and shared stories, pictures, and family memories of the "Old Professor" who was the museum's first curator in 1939 when the Nylander opened to the public.

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                                 Contributed photo
    Ten of Olof Nylander’s great-grandchildren gathered at the recent family reunion held at the Nylander Museum in Caribou. The great-grandchildren are, from left, Tammy Clark, Heidi LaMothe, Kim Ouellette, Lynwood Monteith, Deborah Tardy, Nelson Ketch, Doris Doll, Vickie Ketch, Cindy Levasseur and Diane Hopkins.

    Olof Olsson Nylander emigrated to America in the late 1800s, and stayed with his two brothers, Jacob and Lars, in the Boston area. He worked mostly as a decorative house painter in the Boston/Newport, R.I. region before coming north to settle in Woodland, where the Swedish community immigrants had preceded him.
    He and his wife Wihemina Christina Johanson Nylander had two children, a son Henry, who was seriously injured in a skiing accident and never married, and a daughter Eldina, who married George Ketch and began the local Nylander-Ketch family line.
    Olof Nylander was a true conservationist, not only of the animals and plants he studied, but also of local history. He recognized the significance of documentation and often engaged photographers to record his work. The museum is blessed with many unique photos that profile his work and his colleagues who came to far northern Maine to visit the museum and the man. Not all are identified, of course, and the museum's staff was hoping to retrieve as much information as possible during the reunion event. Many old photographs from the museum's archives were displayed on tables under a protective transparent covering in hopes that the family could help identify some of the people and places as yet unknown. Some remain unidentified; and most of those will remain on display in hopes that other museum visitors may share some knowledge with the museum staff.
    Frank Grant of GrantVisuals in Presque Isle videotaped the family members during the reunion and captured their memories in hi-definition film that will be added to the Nylander's archives to better document the family of Olof Nylander.
    Guests enjoyed the Nylander's usual array of refreshments — some with a distinctive Swedish flavor. Swedish meatballs, Swedish brownies, butter cookies, and even a bit of pickled herring graced the Nylander's buffet menu in hopes that the honored family guests would find some tidbit reminiscent of their background.
    "This family reunion event was proposed by the Nylander Museum's new hostess Liz Maifeld. It's amazing that such a party to honor the family had never been considered before or that it never crossed my mind. The family has been so supportive and helpful for years. This recognition event was long past due," said Jeanie McGowan, director of the museum. "Since Liz began working at the museum, she has enthusiastically championed the cause of sharing with our visitors the very interesting Nylander history and his many accomplishments in the natural history world. The reunion served not only to gather the family together for some fun, but also to create a venue for some of the younger descendents to learn things about their ancestor that they may not have already known."
    Many of the Nylander descendents are actively involved with the museum. Nylander's grandsons Herbert and Alton Ketch volunteer at the museum on a regular basis and help to keep the paint fresh and the outside upgraded. Many of the relatives set up and man the Nylander Museum exhibit at the Northern Maine Fair's Historic Pavilion, winning awards for their displays and knowledge. Victor and Gloria (great-granddaughter) Winslow donated the Chapman Sandstone flagstones that grace the lavender-hedged Winslow Walk at the museum's Main Street entrance. Many family members bring visitors to the museum and share their memories and stories, helping to keep Olof's history alive and well.
    "We are very appreciative of the family and grateful that they are so involved. It's quite fun to see new field specimens collected by family members who drop by with their newfound treasures. We certainly hope they continue to work with us to keep this museum the "hidden jewel" with its unique offerings that so often captivate our visitors — especially those from out-of-town. We will always need volunteers and supporters with sincere interest in the Nylander's survival," said McGowan. "The reunion party was a small token of our appreciation — and quite a lot of fun for all, I think."

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                               Contributed photo
    The great-great-grandchildren of Olof Nylander who attended the recent Nylander Family Reunion at the museum in Caribou are, from left: Mindy Clark, Heather LaMothe, Dylan LaMothe, Cindy Ketch, Marie Clark, Andrew Susee and Annette Lambert.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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                         Contributed photo
    During the Olof Nylander Family Reunion, family members clustered in generational groups for photos. The oldest living generation of Olof Nylander descendents are five grandchildren who all live locally and are shown here with the museum’s Old Professor display. Grandchildren are, from left, Arlene Ketch Monteith, Herbert Ketch, the Olof Nylander effigy, Alton Ketch, Lantie Ketch Kinney and Max Ketch.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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   Jesse Lambert, the great-great-great grandson of Olof Nylander traveled from North Carolina with his mother to attend the Olof Nylander Family Reunion held late this fall at the Nylander Museum in Caribou.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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    Two-year-old Karson Reidy, the great-great-great-grandson of Olof Nylander, was one of the youngest descendents at the recent reunion held at the Nylander Museum.