News - Kane County

Geneva History Museum receives 2 Swedish chests, more

Margit Lundgren (left) stands with her sister Ingrid Erikson Rowlett as they donate two chests and other items to the Geneva History Museum on June 10.

GENEVA – It’s a love story that will go down in history.

According to Geneva resident Ingrid Erikson Rowlett, her parents – Helge and Maj-Lis Erikson – met on a ship coming to North America in 1954. Her mother, Maj-Lis, was going to America from Canada then back to Sweden, and her father, Helge, also was traveling to America. After meeting, and unfortunately departing, love letters soon began to pass between the two. Three years later, the pair married in Geneva with a wedding cake shaped as a ship, honoring the place they met.

Wanting to share their family’s unique history, Erikson Rowlett and her sister, Margit Lundgren, on June 10 donated two antique chests they inherited from their father and a great aunt to the Geneva History Museum.

According to Erikson Rowlett, the sisters hope to preserve the chests and share them with everybody in town.

The chests, both more than 60 years old, are covered with old, Swedish stickers and stamps, including a sticker of the ship where their parents met. Along with the chests, the two donated passports, photos and love letters written in Swedish and exchanged between their parents. The Geneva History Museum aims to have the letters translated.

Terry Emma, executive director at the Geneva History Museum, hopes to highlight the chests along with the Erikson’s family story for the upcoming Swedish Days festivities.

“It’s appropriate right before Swedish Days to have proof of our heritage,” said Emma.

She also encourages others who may have interesting or historic artifacts to donate. “Rather than sitting in the attic, the museum acts as that place for things to come,” Emma said.

Erikson Rowlett hopes the donations bring “enjoyment and knowledge, to look back at history.”

The Eriksons have lived in Geneva since 1957, starting a cabinet company on Kirk Road in Geneva. Their legacy and involvement with the community can be seen throughout the town, with their countertops in the Geneva Diner and their homemade pancake recipe used by the Geneva Lutheran Church for its traditional Swedish pancake breakfast during Swedish Days.

Erikson Rowlett and Lundgren now run the family business, I.B. Quality Cabinets Inc., which currently is at 612 S. 1st St. in Geneva. Honoring their heritage, the Eriksons are involved in Swedish Days, helping sponsor Sweden Väst and creating a traditional May Pole for the festivities.