Harriet Safstrom

1920 — 2016

Harriet Maria Rutstrom was born on New Year’s Day, 1920, to Anders Alfred and Augusta Andersdotter Rutstrom. Growing up in Ballard, Seattle’s hub for the Scandinavian immigrant community, Harriet’s first language was Swedish, like her two older siblings, Margaret (Wahlquist) and Rodney. Her father worked in a tannery and as a craftsman, restoring homes. Harriet attended Ballard High School, graduating in 1937, and continued on to complete the nursing program of Swedish Hospital in 1941, as well as the degree requirements for a B.S. and certification as a registered nurse from the University of Washington. She also found a few elective hours so she could refine her Swedish skills in a couple of language classes in the Scandinavian Department (a “bird course” for her, no doubt). Harriet and her family attended the Ballard Covenant Church, later finding Christian fellowship for most of her life at the First Covenant Church, then known as the Swedish Tabernacle. Harriet was confirmed in that congregation in 1934, and would go on to serve faithfully there as a deaconess and in several other roles over the years.

Harriet met Bill Safstrom (1920-2000) at an engagement party for mutual friends. The Second World War interrupted their courtship, but the couple found time to get married on March 26, 1944, at Camp Lee in Petersburg, Virginia, while Bill was serving as a lieutenant in the

U.S. Army. While Bill was in the Pacific Theater, Harriet was a war wife, worked as a nurse, sending and receiving lots of letters, and saving money for their future life. After Bill returned, the couple settled down north of Ballard and raised four children, Cheryl (Knudsen), Bill, Don, and Marilyn (Elde). Harriet worked at home while Bill established and built up his own accounting practice. Always the sensible pair, Harriet and Bill found time in their golden years to splurge on the trip of a lifetime, traveling around Sweden and meeting their cousins.

Harriet was sharp as a whip, was an avid reader, enjoyed games and had an amazing recall for trivia and facts. She perfected the art of baking pepparkakor, loved a good laugh, and retained a playful, girlish spirit her whole life. She taught her grandchildren how to shoot rubber bands, and (mostly) looked the other way while they sneaked candy out of the candy dish. Above all, she took delight in her family, and enjoyed gathering everyone for regular birthday parties and major holidays. She was a constant in the lives of her children and grandchildren.

Three days shy of her ninety-seventh birthday, Harriet left this earthly life surrounded by her family, as they shared fond memories, laughter and tears. For her funeral, her entire family, including all twelve of her far-flung grandchildren, her nephews and nieces, and many friends gathered once again in the old tabernacle to sing her favorite revival hymns and salute a great lady. Peace to her memory.

— Gathered by her family

Memorials may be directed to First Covenant Church of Seattle, Washington.