Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of Birth1896
Marital StatusMarried
Next of KinHilda Westerlind (wife)
Trade / CallingSailor
Service Details
ForceNorwegian Merchant Navy
BranchSoldier Biographies
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathMay 12, 1982
Age at Death86
Buried AtSunset Memorial Gardens, Thunder Bay, Ontario

Westerlind, Karl

Karl Axel Manfred Westerlind was born in 1896 in Sweden, the son of Johan August Westerlind and Alexandra Katarina Byström. When he was about 17 years old he joined the Norwegian merchant navy and the First World War started a year or so later. At the time Norway had one of the largest merchant fleets in the world. It was officially a neutral country but during the war hundreds of Norwegian ships were sunk by German submarines and more than 1,000 sailors died.

Karl served in the merchant navy for about six years. He was married in Norway on 19 February 1918 to Hilda Johanson. Hilda was born in Skorstad, Norway and she was about a year older than Karl. Their first child, Gunnar, was born in Skorstad. Karl and his wife and son immigrated to Canada in the spring of 1923, arriving in New Brunswick via England on 15 April on the SS Ausonia. Karl’s older brother, John Valentin Westerlind, had immigrated in 1913, at age 22, and he was living in Port Arthur, Ontario. In Canada he went by the name John West.

Karl and Hilda settled in Port Arthur at first and they had two daughters, Doris (1931) and Ruth Irene (1936). Karl worked in construction for several years and he was employed on building projects in Kenora and Atikokan. From about 1926 to 1953 he was a millwright at the provincial paper mill in Port Arthur. Following that he worked at the Mando paper mill in Fort Frances then, starting in 1956, at the Mando mill in Kenora, where he became assistant safety supervisor. He retired in 1965, at age 69. He was a member of the Machinist’s Union, the Swedish Baptist Church, the Vasa Order, Gold Hill Lodge in Kenora and the Canadian Order of Foresters in Thunder Bay. His hobbies included fishing and doing carpentry work.

After retiring Karl and his wife returned to Port Arthur, where their children and grandchildren lived. In January 1968 they celebrated their golden wedding anniversary and Karl’s brother, John West, attended from his home in Atikokan. The following year Karl’s younger brother Gustav made a trip from Sweden and the three brothers enjoyed his three-week long visit. It was the first time Karl had seen Gustav in 52 years. Gustav was retired and lived in Stockholm, where his son was the editor of a large newspaper, the Stockholm Daily News.

Karl’s wife Hilda passed away in the Thunder Bay Hospital on 18 October 1977, at age 82. She was predeceased by a daughter Mildred, a brother Martin in Canada and a sister Gudren in Norway. She also had three brothers and two sisters still living in Norway. Karl died in the Thunder Bay Hospital on 12 May 1982, at age 86. His funeral was held three days later and he’s buried along with his wife in Sunset Memorial Gardens. His brother John West also died in 1982 and he’s buried in Little Falls Cemetery in Atikokan. Karl was survived by his three children, all of Thunder Bay: Gunnar, Doris (Mrs. Nick Daciw) and Ruth (Mrs. Clyde Baglien). Gunnar passed away in 1999, Ruth in 2007 and Doris in 2008.

By Becky Johnson

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Thunder Bay newspaper articles courtesy of Thunder Bay Public Library.

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