Written by Ida Lassen Chugg, Daughter
Oda Helene Nielsen Lassen was born on August 20, 1918, in Aalborg, Denmark. She was the fifth of sixchildren that was born to Thomas Marius Christian Nielsen and Larsine Nielsen. Mother’s father was a sea captain which required that he had to learn to speak English. As a youth, he sailed the seas and around the world several times. When mother wasborn, her father was still a sea captain and was sailing wood from Sweden and Finland to Denmark and to other countries. He did not see my mother until she was 8 months old. My mother’s mother, Larsine, liked to sing—especially to her small children. One of her favorite songs was “Deb-oh-deb,” and this song has been passed down through generations.
As the family began to increase and the children began to get older, Thomas wanted to spend less time away from his family and decided to stopsailing and become a car chauffeur. Occasionally,the owner of the car would let Thomas take his family on trips. They would go to visit mother’s great aunt Karen and mother’s grandparents who lived in Lild, Thisted, Denmark.
Mother started school when she was 7 years old. She was a good student and was numbered among the top 5 in her class. She liked to do her homework and was always reading. When the teacher in First Grade taught the students “The Lord’s Prayer,”mother had tears in her eyes, and thought that was the prettiest thing she had ever heard. In school in Denmark we would always sing a hymn, and stand and say the “Lord’s Prayer” every morning.
While my mother was still young, she was hit by a bicycle and lost her two front teeth and damaged her knee which has given her trouble ever since. My mother had a favorite aunt she loved to go and visit. Her name was aunt Margrethe who was an excellent seamstress and sewed mother several beautiful outfits. One was a knitted sweater and a dress with matching knitted socks. Even though my mother was only 5 years old, she still remembered the outfit, and the picture her aunt paid for to be taken of her. Aunt Margrethe died when my mother was about 9 years old. She had left 3,000 kroners for each of her 3 nieces—my mother Oda, her sisters Irene and Olga. Thomas and Larsine took 2,000 kroners from each daughter and used the money to buy a nice two story brick home which her father, Thomas named “The House of Neptune.” This house had five bedrooms with a nice big yard with gooseberries and black currents. The family had chickens and several dogs in the yard. Larsine taught mother how to knit. Oda knitted underclothes for the family and eventually mittens and socks. Oda graduated from High School at the age of 14—having attended school for 7 years. Her lowest grade was an A-. Her teacher tried to talk her into going to a junior college, but Oda was afraid to go. Her older sister, Irene, had gone and later dropped out because the teacher was hard to get along with.
Mother worked at various places—a spice factory, a candy store, a saw blade factory, and a textile mill earning between 20 – 29 kroners a week. She gave her mother 18 kroners of her money for room and board.
In 1938, at her second encounter with father, the spirit whispered to her that “this was the man she was going to marry.” Mother thought, “How silly”, she did not care that much for him at the time. He was almost 5 years older that she was. They had a fun summer together sailing, swimming, and helping Hilmar win sailing races in his father’s sail boat.
In Denmark, renting a furnished apartment was unheard of, so father and mother prepared for marriage by each saving 1,000 kroners. Father was working sailing boats, and mother was working at the textile mill. With this money they bought bedroom furniture, table and chairs, a couch, two armchairs, and a carpet. The couch and chairs were made from a pretty blue material, the curtains were tan with blue flowers, and the drapes were blue. Mother said their apartment was very pretty.
Mother and father were married on April 15, 1939. They waked to the city hall and were married. In the evening mother’s mother made a nice dinner for their close family. They took a taxi (which was special) to their apartment at Annebergvej 97, in Aalborg.
One morning Mother looked out of her window to see the sky black with airplanes. Dad had worked all night at the shipyard and had come home at 7:00 am to
announce that Germany has occupied Denmark. Birthe was one month old. Because of the war everything had to be rationed. Potatoes were not always available in the stores, my family often ate yellow beets with a milk gravy and side pork several times a week. Bananas or oranges were not available because the Germans took most of the fruit for their army. The soap that was available seemed to be half clay and obviously did not clean very well. Cleaning supplies were also difficult to obtain. The last year of the war there was not enough coal to keep the one room we heated warm. My parents were very grateful though that they always had enough food to eat. We never starved, but the food we did have was very simple.
In 1943, my parents were able to purchase a dairy store on Ryesgade 8st th (8 is the street number, st means the first floor, and th means on the right side) in Aalborg, Denmark it was very successful business. Palle Hansen, one of Father's friends, lent my parents the money to buy the business. In their store they sold milk, eggs, ice cream, bread, and a few Danish pastries. They also had a large mixing machine that was used for whipping cream. The whipped cream was then put in a white box shaped like a bowl, weighed and sold. The store was in a large apartment building that housed eight families. One day a German lady came into the store and started acting so funny. She could not make up her mind what she wanted and kept stalling for time. That evening it was discovered that my parents cash box had been stolen which contained 350 Danish Kroners along with their much-valued ration stamps, which they needed to buy more goods for the store. Someone had apparently entered through our back door and searched until they found the cash box while the German lady kept Oda busy in the store.
World War II ended and Mormon missionaries returned to Denmark. One day Mormon missionaries, Elder Willard Lyle Petersen and Elder Bryce Baxter, knocked on our door. Up to this time we had belonged to the state church of Denmark - the Lutheran Church. It was on a cold winter day in the month of January in 1948 when the missionaries knocked on my mother's door. Oda went to the LDS church where she saw several people that she had known since her childhood who were kind to her. She felt a nice feeling there as well, but she still could not understand the gospel. A little while later, the missionaries taught my mother about the Word of Wisdom. Oda knew that cigarettes were not good for her, so she decided to stop smoking, and now as she studied the Book of Mormon and the pamphlets, the gospel started making sense to her. The Holy Ghost manifested to her that what she was reading was true and was from God. Oda began to talk to Hilmar about the church. He wanted to go to church also, and agreed to pay tithing before they were even baptized. Hilmar's testimony and answers to his prayers came by attending church and living all of the commandments. They were both baptized along with Birthe on September 4, 1948.
Soon after they joined the Church, they realized the eternal blessings and promises with a temple sealing, and desired this for their family. There were no temples in Europe at that time and no promises of any being built in the near future. Many prayers were offered in those days as to how a temple marriage might be accomplished. It would mean immigration to either Canada or the United States. A round-trip ticket for a family of five was too expensive to even consider. Lyle Petersen of Blackfoot, Idaho, one of the missionaries who had baptized my parents, told them that his father could use a farm helper, and he offered his father as our sponsor.
Oda and Hilmar started advertising in the newspaper to sell almost all their possessions. Hilmar had acquired many worldly goods from sailing to so many different countries, but we had to sell everything that we could and then give the rest away to come to America with the exception of what would fit into a trunk and a few suitcases. After Father purchased our tickets, he only had $50 left and had to borrow $200 from a friend.
We took a train to Copenhagen. We then caught another train in Copenhagen on December 25, 1952 that boarded a ferry and crossed the water to Gotteborg, Sweden. We then boarded a very large ship called Grisholm in Gotteborg, Sweden that was enroute to New York City and found our little cabin. It had a small window in it and two sets of bunk beds. We woke up very early the morning of January 10, 1952 and watched all of the lights of New York City as they came into view. It was still dark as we approached the New York Harbor, but we were so thrilled and excited to be in America. The trip took 14 days to sail across the Atlantic Ocean. We took the bus to Salt Lake City where we tried to settled but Hilmar could only find a job as a dishwasher that paid $.75 an hour, it was not enough to support a family. Hilmar left us behind in Utah and went to California where he had a friend that was able to help him find a job in San Fernando as a brick mason. We lived in San Fernando until 1964 when we moved to Camarillo.
In Oda’s lifetime she gave birth to seven children and was a great Mother. She always put her family first in her life. When her order children had left home and her youngest child in school, Oda wanted to open a health food store. In July of 1971 Hilmar set Oda up in business. At the time of Oda’s death some of the children had become involved in the business and there were a total of 11 Lassen’s Health Food Stores. Oda left behind 28 (two had preceded Oda in death) and 49 great grandchildren. She was our beloved Bedstemor and she is greatly missed!
In mother’s Patriarchal Blessing these things were said: You have a natural tendency to a testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ….You have very capable hands….If you honor the Priesthood in your home and have family prayers your family circle will remainintact. The destroying angel shall pass you by and from your home shall go a righteous posterity of sons and daughters….Obey the Lord’s law of health. If you do so, you will live out your allotted number of years in joy and in happiness….The spirit of Elijah will strive with you and I admonish you to heed its promptings. The Spirit of the Lord will go with you and from almost unheard of ways you will find records of many choice and noble souls who are your ancestors….Guard your health, your emotions, and your temper. The difficulties of this life that come to you will never be greater than you can bear.