• Last modified 422 days ago (Feb. 22, 2018)


Surprise reunion was a new beginning

Staff writer

A trip that was planned as a combined Christmas and birthday gift for Peggy Blackman of Marion from her daughter, Kay, turned out to be more than she dreamed it would be. She reconnected with Marion High School exchange student Alf Tangvald, whom she hadn’t seen in 28 years.

“I couldn’t believe it!” she exclaimed. “We had a tearful reunion. We just clung to each other. We had so many wonderful experiences with him in our family. He was like a son.”

He had stayed in the Blackman home during the 1982-83 school year, and it turned out that he was living just 20 miles away from her granddaughter, Alesha, and her family in Tampa, Florida.

Peggy and Kay, Alesha’s mother, were visiting them in early February when Alesha secretly arranged a meeting with Alf. A few months earlier, she had connected with Alf on social media.

“She remembered the rocking horse he built for her in shop class, and she remembered his name,” Blackman said.

When Alf joined them for lunch at a restaurant, Blackman was completely taken by surprise. She recognized him immediately, she said, even though he now was 52 years old. She had seen him once before in 1990, when he was getting his master’s degree in America and had come to Marion for a visit.

For one and a half hours, with conversation swirling all around, they exchanged information about their families.

Alf asked about the teachers he remembered from Marion and knew that Leo, Peggy’s husband, had died three years ago. He remembered Blackman’s parents, Dick and Pearl Thompson.

“Alf was such a delight to have in our home,” Blackman said.

That, obviously, was the opinion of his teachers and school friends, as well, because a whole page in the Marion High School 1982-83 yearbook was dedicated to him.

“Alf enjoys year in America,” is the headline.

Alf is described as tall and blond. He played football for the first time and, being an avid soccer player in Norway, he was a good kicker. He was a good student, as well, and won an Outstanding Social Science Award from teacher Pat Jackson.

“American people were very easy to get along with,” he had said.

At the reunion in Florida, Blackman learned that Alf and his wife have a 25-year-old daughter and 24-year-old son in Norway.

“He said his year’s stay in Marion as an exchange student changed the direction of his life,” Blackman said.

Alf is chief financial officer of an international company in Norway. He has lived in Singapore and Greece and now works in Tampa.

The couple plan to retire there, but they still own a house in Norway.

Alf wants to bring his wife to Marion to visit Blackman and connect with old friends. She plans to invite him to Old Settlers’ Day this fall, when the class of 1983 will celebrate its 35th anniversary.

“I would put them up in the Elgin,” she said.

The meeting in Tampa was the renewal of a friendship that Blackman said would be ongoing.

“This is a new beginning with Alf and our family,” she said. “It’s a joy that after all these years we could meet and have a new beginning.”

Last modified Feb. 22, 2018