In Memoriam: Professor Emerita Kaaren Grimstad
From Ray Wakefield
From Monika Zagar
Kaaren and I go way back. She was the first faculty member at U of M who invited me home for lunch. That happened in 1994 when I interviewed for a tenure-track job in Scandinavian.
When I started teaching, Kaaren offered support, advice, and a rare sense of humor. We didn't always approach issues and problems exactly the same way but we defended all things Scandinavian with passion and with a mighty effort. We labored together on teaching materials, worked on definitions of minors and majors, collaborated on organizing conferences and meetings, we chose guest speakers. Kaaren, a solid, lucid scholar who hated bragging, was always ready to give a lecture in my class or enlighten me—a modernist—on medieval intricacies. We became very good friends.
Because we lived in the same neighborhood in St. Paul we met often, shared a cup of tea, a movie, or a walk. Baked many a turkey for dinner, had endless discussions about books, music, Scandinavian noir, academia. Kaaren's partner, Fred Franklin, and my daughter Lena enjoyed a game of tennis and we all enjoyed a good laugh. Kaaren added a bit of flair to our relationship when she treated me to a fancy dinner at Frost for my full professorship.
But foremost, Kaaren was a principled person, direct and honest, without a hidden agenda, who I loved dearly. Still do. After we both retired we corresponded regularly if not terribly frequently. We saw her and Fred in the fall of 2021 when Al and I visited Minnesota. We sat in Kaaren's lovely apartment, admired her Icelandic watercolors, shared some scones and a glass of wine. She and Fred struck me as old and spry and witty and happy. We enjoyed each others' company very much. We parted by saying, till next year! I will miss her.
From Jana Schulman
It’s been more than a month since I heard that Kaaren had passed away in her sleep and she has been on my mind since I heard the news. I remember Kaaren in many and varied ways: as my dissertation advisor from whom I learned how to be an advisor to my students; as a friend who introduced me to Moomin trolls and tried to convince me to try riding Icelandic horses; as a colleague who contributed to a collection of essays I edited; as the author of an edition and translation of Völsunga saga that I use in my own teaching and scholarship.
I recall my first year at the University of Minnesota when Kaaren, Hans Fixx, and I translated the chapter on women and inheritance from the thirteenth-century Icelandic law code, Jónsbók. We were a class of three. She encouraged me years later to translate the entire text, which I did, but might not have done without her urging. I remember her excitement when she and Maria Bonner were working on their articles examining the dialogue in Hrafnkel’s saga as well as her love of hedgehogs.
She will be missed.