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Johannes Vangsnes

Obituary of Johannes Vangsnes

Johannes "John" Vangsnes died peacefully on February 11, 2020 at the age of 97. He was born in Bergen, Norway on December 14, 1922 to Elsa and Per Vangsnes. His childhood was filled with skiing and hiking in the mountains surrounding Bergen and the fjords of Hardanger. At the age of 17, John joined the Norwegian resistance movement in opposition to the occupation of Norway by Nazi Germany. Upon learning that he and others were at risk of capture, John and a compatriot devised an escape plan. After taking the train from Bergen to Trondheim they skied to safety in neighboring Sweden. While a refugee in Sweden, John continued his studies at the University of Uppsala. When transport out of Sweden became possible, he joined the Royal Norwegian Air Force, based in Canada during occupied Norway. Following World War II, John returned to Norway where he studied for a year at the University of Oslo. His growing commitment to working for international peace and security inspired him to earn an MA in International Relations from Columbia University in New York and led to a career at the United Nations from 1949-1960. His responsibilities at the UN included managing encrypted diplomatic communications and supporting peacekeeping missions in Pakistan, India and Somalia. It was at the UN that he met Doris (China) Franceschina who became his wife of 51 years. In 1960, John and China visited the Finger Lakes region of Central New York. The area reminded them of the fjords of Western Norway and it became clear that this was where they wanted to raise their children. They bought a 200-acre farm with vineyards overlooking Seneca Lake, and moved with their three children to "Troll Farm". Over the next 35 years, John established himself as a successful grape grower for the local wine industry. During this time, he became a leader in promoting the economic interests of grape growers in New York State. While managing the farm, John also taught world history at the Watkins Glen and Odessa-Montour high schools. John believed that exercise was key to a long and happy life. He was a tennis enthusiast, playing regularly on his backyard court until the age of 75. He loved taking long walks, planting trees, sailing on Seneca Lake, and swimming in his pool on summer nights. A Norwegian-American immigrant, John held fast to the belief that we are all global citizens, here to make the world a better place. He reflected often on his experiences and good fortune, and was always ready to share stories about of his life, especially his beloved homeland, with his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. John was preceded in death by his wife, China. He is survived by his son, Peter Vangsnes (Melanie), Waterford, VA and daughters, Nicola Vangsnes, Durham, NC and Gillian Ryan (Jim), Ithaca, NY; grandchildren, Alexandra Vangsnes, Paris France and Caroline Vangsnes, Boston, MA, Flannery Hysjulien (Reilly Coch), Ithaca, NY, Liam Hysjulien (Crista Cuccaro), Durham, NC and Aidan Hysjulien (Sara Janda), Athens, GA, Erik Devenpeck, Ithaca, NY, Carla Devenpeck, Denver, CO, and Kaylee Ryan, Denver, CO; and great-grandchildren, Nora Coch and Clay Hysjulien, Ithaca, NY; brother, Einar Vangsnes (Eve), and sisters, Ingeborg Fr√łysland (Harry) and Greta Taraldsen, Bergen, Norway; many nieces and nephews; and some very good friends. A celebration of John's life will be held in the spring. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to an organization of one's choice or to UNICEF at unicefusa.org.
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