Mrs. Irene Eggertson passed away in December at her Winnipeg residence. Although not of Icelandic origin, she played a pivotal role in helping to save two of the Icelandic community’s cultural entities: the “Icelandic Presence” at the University of Manitoba and the Lögberg-Heimskringla newspaper.
Irene Weidermann was an American by birth. Grettir Eggertson of Winnipeg met Irene on a visit to Kansas City, Missouri. He was a civil engineer who had graduated from the University of Manitoba B.Sc. (E.E.) in 1925.
They were married in 1935. During WWII Grettir was in Iceland as a consultant in development of the country’s hydroelectric resources. Irene accompanied Grettir on many of his visits to Iceland then and throughout the years. Grettir passed away in 1984.
In 1914 Grettir’s father Arni, visited Iceland where he signed on as a major North American fundraiser for the establishment of the Iceland’s first shipping company, Eimskip. He subsequently was appointed to its first Board of Directors. Some years later Grettir succeeded his father on the Board. Before retiring, he spearheaded the establishment of the “Eimskip University Fund” – an endowment at the University of Iceland.
In 1999, when the University of Manitoba’s Icelandic Department and the Libraries Icelandic Collection were in danger of being dismantled, Irene was the lead donor to the VIP Campaign. The Government of Iceland made a major donation, as did the Eimskip shipping company and the Eimskip University Fund. In 2004, a campaign was launched to save Lögberg-Heimskringla from closing down. Irene, a loyal subscriber, immediately sent a donation to Lögberg-Heimskringlas’ Future Fund Capital Campaign, again a lead gift.
She continued her interest in the campaign, as well as in the paper, long after the campaign had been completed and had exceeded its goal. In 2000 Irene quietly added to the Grettir Eggertson Fund at the University of Manitoba for Icelandic Studies that was originally started by her husband in the 1960s. About the same time she established the Grettir Eggertson Memorial Scholarship to support scholarships in the Faculty of Engineering. Irene passed away peacefully at her condominium on December 11th, 2009.
She was 97. Her obituary related funeral arrangements only. A small reception was held at Bardal Funeral Home, attended by a few friends and a great-grandniece. There were no formal speeches or eulogies, as she had requested. Irene’s interest and generous support of the University of Manitoba’s Icelandic Presence and of the Lögberg-Heimskringla newspaper, vital at a time when needed most, will not be forgotten. We of Icelandic descent are grateful, and we honour her memory.