She was a pioneering politician in Norway and ended her career by leading the Norwegian Nobel Committee. Tributes poured in once again this week when Kaci Kullmann Five was laid to rest in a funeral that attracted top government officials and flowers from Norway’s king and queen.
More than 30 wreaths surrounded Five’s simple casket inside the Lommedalen Church on Monday, even though her family had requested contributions to Norway’s national cancer association instead of flowers. Mourners simply felt a need to hail Five publicly after she died on February 19 after a two-year struggle with breast cancer, at the age of 65.
She was the first female leader of Norway’s Conservative Party, the first Member of Parliament to carry on her duties while pregnant and the first female leader of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, which awards the Nobel Peace Prize every year. The wreaths around her casket came from the Royal Palace, the Parliament, the Government, the Nobel Committee and a long list of organizations that Five had cooperated with and supported over the years.
Among those speaking at her funeral were Prime Minister Erna Solberg, the President of the Parliament Olemic Thommessen and the new acting leader of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Berit Reiss-Andersen, a prominent Norwegian lawyer who serves as head of the Norwegian Bar Association.
There were several other goverment ministers in attendance including Finance Minister Siv Jensen, Defense Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide, Education Minister Torbjørn Roe Isaksen, Environment Minister Vidar Helgesen and Jan Tore Sanner, minister in charge of local governments. Kåre Willoch, the partriarch of the Conservative Party and former prime minister, told news bureau NTB that he would remember Five as “a warm and good person and an outstanding politician.”
Some of her political opponents were there, too, with Carl I Hagen of the Progress Party clearly emotional when he arrived at the church. “I remember well when Kaci came to a meeting of the (parliament’s) finance committee in the 1980s with her little daughter,” Hagen told NTB. “She was the first to do something like that. It’s difficult to find anyone who can say anything negative about Kaci.”
She was described in the eulogies as professional, conscientious, knowledgeable and friendly. “She will be deeply missed,” wrote her Nobel Committee colleagues Reiss-Andersen and Olav Njølstad, secretary to the committee, in newspaper Aftenposten on Tuesday. “With Kaci Kullmann Five’s death, the Nobel Committee has lost a wise and unifying leader, a dear colleague and good friend.”