Written from an interview with Dorothy Ballestraci Lundbohm, wife of Carl.

While most of the Swedish immigrants early in the 1900s worked at industrial, trade-skilled jobs, Carl Lundbohm personified the professional of the highest caliber both ethically and successfully, rising to the highest level possible in his field. His diverse titles include: teacher, director, building designer, program developer, musician, soldier, disciplinarian, educator, coach, administrator, carpenter, golfer, athlete, board member, church youth director, Vasa District Master, Vasa Grand Lodge Deputy, father, grandfather and great-grandfather.

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As I peruse the stack of photos, awards, ribbons, plaques, articles, news clippings and poems which Carl earned, there are so many plaques and awards that I cannot organize the to fit within one photo. What could possibly be the background of a humble Swede, a child of musicians and soldiers, with no tie to the USA?

Born in Mjölby, Östergötland in 1921, at age 8 he played the trumpet in the Swedish Salvation Army band along with his father. Although talented, that was not to be his destiny in the new land.

Traveling as a skilled trumpet player on ships Drottningholm and Kungsholm, he played in a dance band arriving in the U.S. in 1939, age 18, with no English language skills, and never looking back.

In 1945 Dorothy Ballestraci of Bridgewater, MA commuted on the same train. Dottie was headed to Boston Dispensing Lab to become a lab technician and Carl was returning from Brockton, MA where he attended physical therapy school. As a physical therapist he worked in both Boston and Brockton Hospitals.

As the war unfolded, Carl’s friends volunteered for the military service. When he asked the recruiter if he could also join, even though he was not a U.S. citizen, the response was that he would take them all. So Carl became a paratrooper who was so seriously injured during parachuting maneuvers when jumping from a plane, he was not expected to walk again. But the resilient Swede recovered. While in service, in January 1944, he was, to his surprise, sworn in as an American citizen. Carl was honorably discharged in 1945 as the war ended.

Marrying in 1950, the Lundbohms both worked full-time supporting each other as Dottie assisted him in perfecting his English language skills. From total immersion while visiting Sweden and taking a Harvard language course, Dottie became quite proficient in the foreign language. This was especially unique as Dottie was a product of an immigrant Italian family.

But Carl's love was fitness and exercise; he was accepted in the renowned Posse Nissen School of Physical Education, earning a Bachelor’s degree and later a Master’s degree at Staley College in Brookline, MA. Closed in 1957, Staley had many famous graduates, including President J. F. Kennedy. With Carl’s physical fitness, education and experience with therapy, he taught in Boston schools and the Boys’ Club.He moved on to Rhode Island, teaching first in Hopkinton where he was elected to the Town Council, then on to the Chariho School system.

In Chariho schools, Carl was known as a strict disciplinarian (which he really did not like), athlete, coach, dedicated teacher and athletic director; with a firm hand he kept the boys in line while the girls were quite taken with his skills, appearance and charm. However, at home, Dottie assures me, that he was a typical, patient, reserved Swede with his own family.

His son Eric recalls entering Chariho High School as a freshman with dad and others informing the boys that they should cut their hair. All must look clean cut and conservative.

Carl's talents, dedication and accomplishments continued. In 1988 the school's new, huge, impressive athletic complex and field was dedicated to him. A large granite monument was erected at the complex which showed peoples’ respect for years of service. A Chariho year book was dedicated to him.

While playing the professional educator role, he was active in civic activities, too. As an Ashaway Lutheran Church council member, he drew the preliminary design of the new church which he helped build. His many awards and articles include: Lions Club Outstanding Service, organizer of first Junior Olympics in Chariho; Chariho Sports Booster Club award, Chariho Athletic Complex constructed and dedicated in his honor; RI Rotary Club Harris Fellow Award for service to youth; Chariho Athletic Hall of Fame; 2009 RI Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Assoc. Hall of Fame. In RI, if Don Bousquet, the famous cartoonist, chooses to draw you in a cartoon, as he did of Carl, you have really made it.

I was privileged to attend the awarding of the Rhode Island Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association Hall of Fame award ceremony in 2009, when Carl gave his humble acceptance speech. It was moving to see his proud children and grandchildren in tears.

Married for 61 years, the Lundbohms have two children, Karen Ebba and (Carl) Eric Paul as well as five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. One grandson, Björn, is especially proud of his Swedish heritage. When his son Jordan Carl was born, he went home from the hospital in a knitted Viking helmet baby cap.

Although Carl was reputed to be a serious educator, he often dressed in Swedish costume, danced folk dances and even became “King Carl” along with Dottie as “Queen Silvia,” at the Vasa mock wedding of Crown Princess Victoria. At every Vasa meeting he led the Swedish birthday song for that month’s birthday persons.

When he became very ill and in a hospital bed at home, he sensed my sadness and would don a silly hat and laugh when I entered and left. That is the last memory I have of my good friend “King” Carl Lundbohm.

By Dr. Lorraine Colson Bloomquist
Professor emerita, Dept. Kinesiology of the University of Rhode Island; member of Quahog Vasa Lodge, RI and member of the board of the Rhode Island Swedish Heritage Association.