Halla (Arngrimsdottir) Budvarson

Central Alberta



Life and Work

It troubled Halla Budvarson that someone might leave her home hungry or empty-handed.

The mother of ten children, and an early Icelandic pioneer in the New Hill district, Halla had a tough life, doing the chores required on a mixed farm and keeping her family fed, clothed and content. Her tasks were especially burdensome, since her husband, Jón, was permanently disabled shortly after their arrival here from Iceland, when he fell and broke his arm, and she had to assume many of the duties that he otherwise would have been able to do. One of her children, born prematurely, suffered from a chronic skin condition which required special care and attention. Another infant daughter died at only three years of age. Through the poverty and sickness of those early years, she remained a bright ray of hope. She cared for her own family and many of her neighbours, and many of them learned Icelandic from her, as they enjoyed her generous meals, kaffi and baked goodies like pönnukökur, kleinur and vínarterta.

Although her children often teased her about weighing less than a sack of flour, Halla Budvarson was a women with faith, hope and love of the mightiest. She endured countless hardships in her native home, Iceland and in central Alberta where she emigrated in 1905, but she maintained her wonderful sense of humour and outstanding hospitality throughout her years. Her lífsglađi (gladness for life) was remarkable and her family and friends remember her as one who was happiest when surrounded by people, serving them coffee and the best food she had.


Tribute given by Pat Craig at Halla's Funeral
March 13, 1966

She opened her door -

She opened her heart,

To all who knocked,

To all who came,

She served coffee and eats,

She served with love,

Young and old will, reverently,

Remember her name.

Letter of Appreciation by Joanne Jarvis

Today I find myself full of memories of my younger years, and thinking how lucky I was to have you in my life. Having you live with us gave me the full understanding of a loving grandparent.

As a child I took so much for granted. I always knew that if Mom or Dad didn't have time to help me with any task I thought I needed—you did.

You always took time to help care for me, love me and never asked for anything in return.

I think back now to the number of hours you would spend over a hot stove making ponnukokur and kleinur, only to have us kids or family or neighbours eat them as fast as you would make them. I'm sure the only time you had some left for the next day was when you put caraway seed in them. Do you remember, Amma, how upset I would be over that caraway seed?—and your reply was always—it is good for you.

It has always been a special time in my life, Amma, when we could have coffee and a mola soppa together.

Being a grandmother myself now—how I wish I would have listened to you, and learned how to card and spin wool and knit. These are more of your many tasks, that I took for granted.

You were the best person to take care of scraped knees and scratched elbows and banged heads. It was something in the way you touched me.

I remember, Amma, the day you and I were sitting out on the front porch with our coffee and ponnukokur, comparing hands. I thought what knotted brown splotched hands you had, and I was so proud of mine, and now here I am with brown splotched grandmother hands myself.

Amma, this is my appreciation letter to you, to thank you for filling my life with love and guidance, and always having the time for me when the rest of the world was busy.

Love you always Amma, Joanne