Born in 1913 and died in 1993…simple words that cannot sum up the life of Solveig Sattre. A better summation would be that she was the heart of Yo Hi.
One of five sisters, she was born the daughter of a college professor of biology who had hoped to have his own (male) basketball team. Growing up in Moorhead, Minnesota, she was a “black” Norwegian who obtained her bachelors degree from Concordia College in Moorhead and her masters degree from North Dakota State University. Breaking the stereotype of the strapping, blonde Nordic, Solveig was a petite black-haired woman. She would occasionally tell a story about her nother walking part of the way home with a visiting neighbor one September evening. After a few minutes her mother stopped and said that her rheumatism was too bad to continue the walk. She went home and, unexpectedly, had Solveig.
She defied other pigeonholes too. She worked in Alaska as a civilian during WWII and taught on an Indian reservation in South Dakota before going to Japan in 1951. Solveig was a wonderful dichotomy, one part an intensely private person who needed her ‘space’ and repected that of others; the other part, friendly and outgoing. Her solution during the days in the BOQ was to make the community kitchen into a welcoming area which served as a neutral ground. She would stop in with a suggestion for coffee in the kitchen and in that way no one would be constrained to stay when the need for a retreat to solitude arose.
Solveig embraced life with love and compassion. Although she was not blind to reality, her empathy helped her approach to every situtaion. Her appreciation of beauty and things Japanese made her a wonderful ambassador to the Japanese people as well as an inspiration to her students. She was an honored customer of art dealers who gave her first chance to buy many really fine kakimono, netsuke and paintings as well as pieces of jewelry.
The following observation was written by one of her former students. “This memorial in remembrance of Solveig Sattre is a tribute from her former students and a statement of our affection for her as well as her qualities. In that “great cloud of witnesses”, may it please Miss Sattre to know with what fondness and high regard we hold her and, finally, for us to say “thank you” for the practical seeds of knowledge she sowed within us. How many lives did she touch? Perhaps the number is not unlike the yeast in the bread she taught us to bake.
“It has been almost half a century since many of us sat in Miss Sattre’s classrooms, however, we remember her teaching in Home Economics and Science as she unconsciously twirled a strand of her dark hair and overcame the comfortable chaos of “hands on” classroom learning with her soft-spoken voice. It probably did not occur to us then exactly who cleaned up the gooey mess in the electric mixers or untangled the bobbins and broken needles of the sewing machines we used.
“Miss Sattre was patient, kind and persistent to teach those things which would become practical, helpful, and usefull in our everyday lives, whether such knowledge was to sew a fine seam or understand the basics of plant life. She knew what we needed to know and knew how to teach it. Many of her teachings have been passed on to our children and grandchidren.
“Miss Sattre touched our lives by her example of polite authority and dedication. She was generous and forgiving of our youthful mistakes. She smiled easily and often. She was a large person in a small body. She cared about us. Now it is appropriate and certainly past time for us to say how much we care about you, Miss Sattre. In sunshine or shadow, you rest in purposes fulfilled and your courses well run. We remember and thank you.”
Solveig is the only high school faculty member who served at all phases of Yo Hi from up on the bluff in Yokohama to the beach and its conversion to Nile C. Kinnick and then its reincarnation at Yokosuka.
After her retirement in 1988, Solveig spent her final days in Florida.
Generous person that she was, Solveig would have wanted to share her memorial with other members of the Yo Hi faculty who are no longer with us.
Prepared by Barbara M. Edwards and Lorna Donaldson.