By Kate Klimesh
Traveling on West Broadway in Decorah, the fence full of flags at 501 is definitely eye-catching. There is meaning behind each one, as well as opportunities to connect. A new mode of expression for the homeowners, who noted the fence space was the perfect conduit for displaying and expressing their global ties and promoting a welcoming environment for all.
Michael Wilker and Judy Kittleson moved to Decorah this year from Washington D.C. Kittleson’s family has roots in the area, a Luther College graduate having grown up in Elgin, and she was able to spend time with her mother living in Decorah before she passed away this June. “We would come to visit every summer, and we have a lot of family history here. Right away we knew, it just feels like home,” Kittleson stated.
Kittleson is an English as a Second Language teacher, and Wilker was called to serve the First Lutheran Church as senior pastor in January of this year. When they moved to Decorah, they had their American flag, and purchased a Norwegian flag to celebrate their return to Kittleson’s and the community’s Norwegian heritage.
“We wanted to show that we are welcoming of all countries and heritages. Everyone is welcome here,” noted Wilker. “Being an ESL teacher, it’s important to me to welcome newcomers,” added Kittleson. The pair began purchasing flags from places they had traveled to or lived in, or places that they felt needed additional awareness. The couple had several friends and acquaintances from across the globe. Once the flags began going up, a neighbor, Alejandra Cruz, who happens to be the Luther College International Student Coordinator, came to visit to compliment the flags on display. “I saw the flags and I thought ‘our international students will love that.’”
That led to an opportunity to become a Friendship Family for two international student attending Luther College, Banele Gumede from South Africa and Andrea Triminio from Honduras.
Find the full story in the Public Opinion.