Florence M. Bjork, Rowe’s oldest resident and recipient of the Town of Rowe, Massachusetts “Most Senior Citizen” Ceremonial Cane, died on March 14, 2023 at her home at 288 Zoar Rd. She was 106.
She was born November 17, 1916 in New York City being the daughter of Toivo E. and Fannie (Palokangas) Hill.
Her mother being 16 years old was the only one of the family and relatives in Finland who had a desire to come to America. She bought a ticket for the RHS Titanic. When she was getting ready to board the ship at Liverpool, England a friend came and asked her if she would sell her ticket because she wanted to join her sister who was already on board the ship. Mrs. Bjork’s mother sold the ticket to her and then boarded the next ship, the RMS Caronia, to America.
Florence after graduating from Hempstead, Long Island High School became employed as a stenographer in the Commercial National Bank and Trust on Wall Street, New York. She worked there for five years during the Great Depression afraid of giving up her job and finally resigned. Then she became employed by the Shell Oil Company in the RCA Building (formerly called the GE Building), now known as the Comcast Building at 30 Rockefeller Center. She worked there as a stenographer and secretary for her boss, Mr. G.C. Cunningham and then took dictation for a civil engineer and electrical engineer. When working at Shell Oil Company, from one of the windows Mrs. Bjork had witnessed the sinking of the S.S. Normandy, an ocean liner. The ship caught fire while being converted to a troop ship on February 9, 1942. It capsized onto her port side and sank in the Hudson River. Florence met her future husband also while working for Shell Oil. Mrs. Bjork’s office was located on the 30th floor. He was a Staff Sergeant and later was promoted to First Lieutenant in the United States Army.
Mrs. Bjork married Wendell W. Bjork on June 12, 1943 in Wilmington, North Carolina where he was stationed at Camp Davis. He then left for Europe to be a radar officer with the 413th Anti-Aircraft Gun Battalion that landed with World War II invasion forces on D-Day – June 6, 1944 on Omaha Beach in Normandy, France. Wendell died July 25, 1988.
In 1945 Florence moved to Rowe with her late husband who later became postmaster. Mr. and Mrs. Bjork also operated the village store in their home. In 1954 when a brick building next to their home was built, the post office and store were moved into it. Mrs. Bjork was Rowe postmaster from 1974 to 1980. She was also a member of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Greenfield, Massachusetts
During her many years in Rowe, Mrs. Bjork served as Town Treasurer in 1956, 1959 and 1960; Town Auditor in 1957 and 1958 as well as being Board of Selectman’s Administrative Clerk in 1964 and 1965. She also did clerical work for the Rowe Board of Assessors.
Mrs. Bjork was an original charter member of the Rowe Historical Society and served as its treasurer from 1962 to 1970. She has put on a temporary loan many items of an old country store as well as other artifacts that are displayed at the Kemp-McCarthy Memorial Museum of the Rowe Historical Society, Inc.
Survivors include two sons, Alan W. and Timothy J. Bjork, caregivers, both of Rowe, a granddaughter Jasmine M. Robinson and husband Luke, as well as two great grandchildren Henry B. and Lily C., all of Laconia, New Hampshire, and a cousin Bertha V. Pakin of Somers, New York.
At Mrs. Bjork’s request there will be private services for family only with burial in the spring at the Rowe East Cemetery.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Florence M. (Hill) Bjork, please visit our floral store.