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Charlotte Amalie
Saturday, June 25, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesPEDERSEN HEADING 'HOME' AFTER 22 YEARS HERE

PEDERSEN HEADING 'HOME' AFTER 22 YEARS HERE

As she prepares for a new chapter in her life, St. John businesswoman Aase Pedersen sheds a tear for the life she is leaving behind.
"I haven't dealt with leaving St. John yet — I've been so busy packing," she says.
After 22 years of life in the place she describes as her tropical dreamland, Pedersen is about to return to her native Norway. "This was my plan," she says. "I'm turning 60 this year. I have a wonderful family and I come from a town that's a lot like St. John — about 5,000 people, seaside town, resort area. And everyone came from there, my mother, my father, grandparents."
On Monday, May 22, she officially resigned her position as co-president of the St. John Action Committee, one of two civic organizations she helped to establish on the island.
Three weeks earlier, she had closed on the sale of Wicker, Wood and Shells, her shop and art gallery in the Mongoose Junction shopping center.
Pedersen has always been ready to light up a cigarette and share some neighborly chat. In the midst of her preparations to depart, it's still so. She recalls that she first came to St. John in 1978 as a lark, visiting with friends on St. Thomas who had told her about the island.
As they were driving near the Red Hook dock one day, they spotted a ferry boat — and hopped aboard. St. John made quite a first impression on her: "I saw it and fell in love and wanted to live here, and that was it," she says. "I went home to New York and gave up my rent- controlled apartment."
She remembers finding her new home filled with open-hearted local St. Johnians and a small community of free-wheeling continentals. Her first challenge was to carve out a way to make a living. She found it in a souvenir shop whose original owners, National Park Service workers who were being transferred, had put it up for sale.
In addition to showcasing the creativity of others, "I really felt the shop gave me the ability to be creative as well," she says. While she didn't make any of the items sold in the store, she did make the decisions on what to sell so that it had more variety.
She soon joined the Lioness Club — in the days when Lions were all of the male variety — and there she made some lasting friendships among the St. Johnians. A self-professed love for the local people and a spirit of volunteerism led her to help found the St. John Community Foundation and later the St. John Action Committee with the help of architect Glen Speer and businessman Elvis Yearwood.
"I'm very proud of what we did," she says. "We stepped in just after [Hurricane] Marilyn, when things were in disarray and a lot of people felt hopeless."
Now, she reflects, the island is more prosperous than ever, and the action committee is taking a hiatus from its activities — while remaining an organization with a solid reputation among the island's residents and businesses.
Having come from a small town where generations of families had endured, Pedersen says she immediately felt a special affinity for Virgin Islanders. And she's saddened by the impact of the population boom that's taken place since 1989. As the outside world discovered St. John, new arrivals started to treat the island as a business opportunity instead of their new home, she says.
"It's not easy to be a St. Johnian today," she reflects. "I think the influx of people from other places since [Hurricane] Hugo has been overwhelmingly massive. It would have been hard for any community to assimilate it." As a result, she says, native St. Johnians have lost some of their warmth toward strangers.
In spite of the changes, Pedersen says, she is still in love with her adopted island. She cherishes the New Year's mornings when at 8 a.m. she shared a toast with members of the Wesselhoft family at their home on the hill overlooking Cruz Bay.
On Wednesday, a group of Pedersen's childhood schoolmates arrived on island for a visit. When they return to Norway on June 2, she will go with them. Since they're all turning 60 this year, she says, it's part of one big birthday celebration. That's the plan.
She feels good about having turned her shop over to new owners who know the business and the island, but the sight of Gladys Gifford, her long-time assistant, still makes her cry as thoughts of her imminent departure overwhelm her. But she quickly brightens, saying she's looking forward to sharing life with her 10 nieces and nephews and returning to the 280-year-old, recently restored home where she grew up.

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As she prepares for a new chapter in her life, St. John businesswoman Aase Pedersen sheds a tear for the life she is leaving behind.
"I haven't dealt with leaving St. John yet -- I've been so busy packing," she says.
After 22 years of life in the place she describes as her tropical dreamland, Pedersen is about to return to her native Norway. "This was my plan," she says. "I'm turning 60 this year. I have a wonderful family and I come from a town that's a lot like St. John -- about 5,000 people, seaside town, resort area. And everyone came from there, my mother, my father, grandparents."
On Monday, May 22, she officially resigned her position as co-president of the St. John Action Committee, one of two civic organizations she helped to establish on the island.
Three weeks earlier, she had closed on the sale of Wicker, Wood and Shells, her shop and art gallery in the Mongoose Junction shopping center.
Pedersen has always been ready to light up a cigarette and share some neighborly chat. In the midst of her preparations to depart, it's still so. She recalls that she first came to St. John in 1978 as a lark, visiting with friends on St. Thomas who had told her about the island.
As they were driving near the Red Hook dock one day, they spotted a ferry boat -- and hopped aboard. St. John made quite a first impression on her: "I saw it and fell in love and wanted to live here, and that was it," she says. "I went home to New York and gave up my rent- controlled apartment."
She remembers finding her new home filled with open-hearted local St. Johnians and a small community of free-wheeling continentals. Her first challenge was to carve out a way to make a living. She found it in a souvenir shop whose original owners, National Park Service workers who were being transferred, had put it up for sale.
In addition to showcasing the creativity of others, "I really felt the shop gave me the ability to be creative as well," she says. While she didn't make any of the items sold in the store, she did make the decisions on what to sell so that it had more variety.
She soon joined the Lioness Club -- in the days when Lions were all of the male variety -- and there she made some lasting friendships among the St. Johnians. A self-professed love for the local people and a spirit of volunteerism led her to help found the St. John Community Foundation and later the St. John Action Committee with the help of architect Glen Speer and businessman Elvis Yearwood.
"I'm very proud of what we did," she says. "We stepped in just after [Hurricane] Marilyn, when things were in disarray and a lot of people felt hopeless."
Now, she reflects, the island is more prosperous than ever, and the action committee is taking a hiatus from its activities -- while remaining an organization with a solid reputation among the island's residents and businesses.
Having come from a small town where generations of families had endured, Pedersen says she immediately felt a special affinity for Virgin Islanders. And she's saddened by the impact of the population boom that's taken place since 1989. As the outside world discovered St. John, new arrivals started to treat the island as a business opportunity instead of their new home, she says.
"It's not easy to be a St. Johnian today," she reflects. "I think the influx of people from other places since [Hurricane] Hugo has been overwhelmingly massive. It would have been hard for any community to assimilate it." As a result, she says, native St. Johnians have lost some of their warmth toward strangers.
In spite of the changes, Pedersen says, she is still in love with her adopted island. She cherishes the New Year's mornings when at 8 a.m. she shared a toast with members of the Wesselhoft family at their home on the hill overlooking Cruz Bay.
On Wednesday, a group of Pedersen's childhood schoolmates arrived on island for a visit. When they return to Norway on June 2, she will go with them. Since they're all turning 60 this year, she says, it's part of one big birthday celebration. That's the plan.
She feels good about having turned her shop over to new owners who know the business and the island, but the sight of Gladys Gifford, her long-time assistant, still makes her cry as thoughts of her imminent departure overwhelm her. But she quickly brightens, saying she's looking forward to sharing life with her 10 nieces and nephews and returning to the 280-year-old, recently restored home where she grew up.