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Gunvor Elisabeth Sontum Sweetman
Aug 31, 1930 - Apr 22, 2023

On April 22, 2023, Gunvor Elisabeth Sontum Sweetman, our beloved matriarch, passed away at the age of 92 in Santa Cruz, California.

Born in Oslo, Norway, August 31, 1930 to Randi Margaret Riekeles and Christian Edward Sontum, she was the eldest of three daughters.

Gunvor was nine when Germany invaded Oslo in April of 1940. Her father drove the family through the Blitzkrieg before travel became impossible, and was able to purchase a farm outside Lillehammer, where the children lived during the occupation. This period greatly influenced her in later life; she sometimes winced when a crop duster flew low over the farm in Turlock, California.

When Gunvor was 18, her family emigrated to New York by ship. Gunvor later attended UC Davis earning a degree in Animal Husbandry in 1951. Two months before graduation, she met the love of her life, Frank G. Sweetman, who was a Lieutenant in the U.S. army, about to be deployed to Korea. Upon graduation, she returned to her family in New York. In spite of strong objections from her father, who was concerned that she was marrying a soldier, she flew back to California. Frank and Gunvor were married the next week, on September 8, 1951. Gunvor knew what she wanted, and their passionate romance of 60 years is inspirational to us all.

Not to be deterred from her dreams, she and Frank purchased a farm in Turlock - raising their two children, Robert and Karin, along with assorted cows, sheep, pigs, chickens, dogs, and almond trees. Gunvor and Frank created many treasured memories for their six grandchildren by hosting an annual “Summer Sports Camp” at the farm.

Gunvor loved her family, classical music and Frank’s ukulele serenades, swimming and tennis, skiing, reading, drawing and painting, travel, dancing, her treasured memories of family at Lion’s Head Ranch, and her visits with her Norwegian relatives.

Gunvor was Frank’s business confidant, her children’s mentor and powerful guide. She worked several years as a Braille transcriber at Downey High School in Modesto, and as a 4-H community leader.

She was logical, pragmatic, stoic, spiritual, and wise. She believed in the power of education, saying it is “…something that can’t be taken away from you.” She and Frank generously paid for their grandchildren’s college educations - for which they are most grateful.

Gunvor is survived by her son, Robert Sweetman (Sue) in Arleta, California, and her daughter, Karin Estess (Paul), in Aptos, California, her brother & sister-in-law, Thomas and Linda Sweetman, her nieces, Erica Sweetman (Rick), Rebecca Strisower (Ed), her cousins, Carl Arthur and Eva Solberg, Victoria Hurley (Liam), Christian Sontum, and her cousins by marriage, Karolyn and Jerry Podesta, Linda Suttich (Jack), Kay and Monte Hess, Cindy and Dennis Collins, and their beloved families.

Gunvor was preceded in death by her mother and father, Margaret Riekeles and Christan Edward Sontum, her sisters, Randi Chamberlain and Eva Pahnke and niece Cindy Fegley, who are survived by her sisters’ children, Mimi Fegley, Jimmy Fegley, Kristin Pahnke, David Pahnke, and Jonathan Pahnke.

She rejoiced in the love and accomplishments of her six grandchildren: Abraham J. Estess (Allyson Marquand); Elisabeth M. Estess (Mitchell Denker); Michael A. Sweetman (Becca Howden); David M. Sweetman (Lauren Harris); Annemarie A. Estess (Pedram Parasmand) and Ethan E. Estess (Laura Nineham-Williams). She is blessed with the legacy of her nine great grandchildren, Shane, Ashton, Riley, Jackson, Wyatt, Owen S, Owen D, Alice, and Miles.

She always will be in our hearts as we honor her throughout our lives.