John & Lilia Arnason

page 1 | page 2

home | back to NIHM website
The Book Of Life
Alphabetical Story Index
Taken from the Icelandic Appeal website, circa 2000.
Arnason, John & Lilia

By Lilia Arnason

I am the only daughter of Kristín Rannveig Björnsdóttir Byron and Bergþór Emil Johnson.

My mother’s parents were Margaret Kristmansdóttir (b. July 10, 1854-d. Jan. 1, 1941) and Björn Björnsson Byron (b. July 17, 1849-d. Apr. 11, 1930). Margaret, my amma, was born at Fítjar in Miðfjörður, Iceland to Kristmann Magnússon and Magdalena Tómasdóttir. They came to Canada in 1887, and eventually settled in Selkirk, Manitoba.

They had five children, including my mother, who was born in Selkirk Dec. 25, 1896. Of note is the fact that my uncle was Wally Byron, the goalie of the Winnipeg Falcon hockey team who won the first Olympic championship in 1920. Björn, my afi, was born at Valdaris in Víðidalur, Iceland. After moving to Canada and marrying my amma, they remained in Selkirk where he owned a store. His parents were Björn Guðmundsson, who last lived in Svínadalur, and Gróa Snæbjörnsdóttir who was born at Gilstaðir. Gróa’s father was Snæbjörn Halldórsson, who was a son of Halldór Brynjólfson, bishop at Hólar.

My father’s parents were Oddfríður Þuríður Þórðardóttir (b. Oct. 23, 1870-d. May 31, 1945) and Einar Johnson (b. July 26, 1886-d. Dec. 4, 1956). Oddfríður was born at Ánabrekka in Borgarhreppur in Mýrasýsla. Einar was born at Skeið in Svarfaðardalur. He came to Canada in 1883 at 17 years of age and married Oddfríður in 1893. The couple lived on Hecla Island where Einar made his living as a fisherman and as owner of a dog team livery that provided service to the northern part of Lake Winnipeg.


My grandparents were blessed with five children including my father who was born at Hecla on Aug. 1, 1896. In 1919 the family moved to the Lundar district where Einar owned a livery stable. Oddfríður worked as a midwife and was also known for her poetry.

My parents met in Winnipeg and were married there on July 19, 1924. My father was a man of many talents and at various times in his life was a merchant, a teacher, and a real estate agent. He was also well known in the Icelandic community as a poet and a writer. He died at 54 years of age on Feb. 25, 1950.

My mother, who was nicknamed “Teenie”, was known for her devoted work in the Unitarian Church and the Icelandic National League. She was recognized for her contributions when she was named the Icelandic Festival Fjallkona in 1971. She died Oct. 1, 1976.

I was born on Mar. 29, 1925 in Winnipeg. I graduated from the University of Manitoba in Home Economics in 1946. My parents had a cottage in Gimli, and that was where I met John Arnason.

My husband’s parents were Jóhann Vilhjálmur Jóhannsson Árnason (b. Oct. 3, 1885-d. Dec. 4, 1965), and Guðrún Björg Björnsdóttir Johnson (b. Oct. 20, 1888-d. Aug. 25, 1998). When Guðrún, or Rúna, Arnason died in 1998, she was 109 years old, and at that time was the oldest living Icelander in the world.