Swedish love story continues with new donation to Geneva History Museum

Embroidered linens journeyed from Sweden, now part of local history

Helge and Maj-Lis Erikson met on a ship coming to American in 1954. They eventually lived in Geneva. Their daughter, Ingrid Rowlett, donated embroidered linens that her mother brought from Sweden to the Geneva History Museum.

GENEVA – The love story of Helge and Maj-Lis Erikson, who met on a ship coming to America in 1954, lives on in a new gift from the family to the Geneva History Museum: embroidered linens.

The family previously had donated two antique chests, passports and love letters written in Swedish.

“He was coming to stay with a relative and she was coming to get a divorce in Canada,” said their daughter, Ingrid Rowlett, now of Shelbyville but formerly of Geneva.

“He stayed with his aunt in St. Charles until he bought a house on Kirk Road. She had to go back to Sweden to take care of her children,” Rowlett said. “They wrote letters back and forth for two years while he saved money for her to come here.”

The Geneva History Museum had the dozen or so letters translated so Rowlett and her family could read them.

“She wrote, ‘What should I bring? Dishes or the linens?’ ” Rowlett said. “She had linens inherited from her mother, Ingrid Erikson, who passed away when she was three.”

The linens are embroidered white on white with the initials I.E. for Ingrid Erikson, Rowlett said. They probably were used as dish towels.

Linens embroidered with initials M.E. for Maia Erikson, an aunt who helped raise Ingrid Rowlett’s mother, Maj-Lis. Rowlett plans to donate these linens to the Geneva History Museum as well.

After her death, Ingrid’s sister helped raise Maj-Lis, Rowlett said.

She also has embroidered linens with the initials of the sister, Maia Erikson, who helped raise her mother, Rowlett said.

Geneva History Museum Executive Director Terry Emma said they don’t know how old the linens are.

“But it’s kind of cool – however many generations – the towels, trunk and letters share the same story,” Emma said.