War hero to receive state funeral

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Gunnar Sønsteby, Norway’s most highly decorated hero for his resistance efforts during World War II, is also receiving the highest of state honours after his death last week at the age of 94. His funeral announcement was published in newspaper Aftenposten on Wednesday.

Gunnar Sønsteby being adorned as a Commandor of St Olav's Order in 2006. He earlier had received Norway's highest honour, the War Cross with three swords, and held honours from Poland, the US and Great Britain. PHOTO: NRK/Views and News

Sønsteby will receive a full state funeral from the Oslo Cathedral, with all costs covered by the state, at noon on Friday May 25. Members of the Norwegian government, the royal family and other high-ranking dignitaries are expected to attend.

Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that a memorial reception will be held after the funeral in the large lobby of the Oslo City Hall, where the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded every year. Its walls are covered with murals, many of which depict the drama of the war and the resistance fighters like Sønsteby who played such an important role.

Sønsteby died May 10 after a relatively short illness and a long life dedicated to freedom and democracy. After initially being declared unfit for military service in the late 1930s, Sønsteby became Norway’s most daring and elusive resistance fighter and saboteur during the five-year occupation of Norway by Nazi Germany.

After the war he moved to the US to finish his education at Harvard and work for awhile, but he returned to Norway in 1950, went into private business and worked for shipyard Aker, Phillips Petroleum and Getty Oil Co in Norway. He later launched a new career as a public speaker, keen on making sure Norwegians wouldn’t forget the ordeal of World War II or take Norway’s freedom and democracy for granted.

He was one of the last surviving heroes of World War II and became a valued friend of Norway’s royal family. He served as best man to another war hero, Erling Lorentzen, who married Princess Ragnhild, the elder sister of Norway’s current King Harald V.

Sønsteby is survived by his wife Anne-Karin, whom he married in 1953, and three daughters, Elisabeth, Cecilie and Marianne.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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  • Puts it all in perspective: what a comfortable and almost plastic world we live in! Born in ’75, I’ve never known a day’s real hunger; never really feared for my life and take so much for granted. Let’s be honest, if if wasn’t for guys like this…we’d all be in a less pleasant place. And that’s an understatement.

    If not for Mr. Sønsteby and his ilk; I scarcely reckon I’d have permission to write this.

    RIP and Respect.