Jane Aitken in Class Picture of Scandinavian Programs
Most special places on earth have a story that begins with its settling inhabitants, and Long Beach Island (LBI) is no exception. Did you know that many of the earliest settlers arrived on LBI from Scandinavian countries? One of the proudest among these descendants is a man well-known to LBI long-timers – his name is “Rick” Aitken, owner of A. Richard Aitken, Jr., Builder-Contractor, LLC.
First, a bit of Rick’s history. In 1929 Rick’s grandmother, Ingeborg, and grandfather, Ingvald Dalland, arrived on a boat from Norway and settled in Brooklyn, New York. Ingvald was a carpenter in New York City, but because the country was in the midst of the Great Depression, there was no work available which meant no food for the family. They heard about a Scandinavian community on Long Beach Island where they could fish for food and survive. So, the family moved to Barnegat City, now Barnegat Light, where Rick’s grandfather became a commercial fisherman. He worked hard to own his own lobster boat, depicted in the stained glass window located at Rick’s office in Ship Bottom.
Ingvald and the other men of the community built the church, Independence Dock (now known as Viking Village) and the firehouse. Rick’s grandmother, Ingaborg, taught the children Scandinavian songs and dances, and despite the Depression and war, Barnegat Light was a close knit community filled with love, laughter and celebrations of their heritage and of life. The photo [located above] , taken in the Barnegat City firehouse shows Rick’s mother, Jane at age 7, among the other Scandinavian children dressed in authentic heritage garb, along with Ethel B. Jacobson (standing at center of photo), who was the local teacher at that time. The elementary school in Ship Bottom bears her name.
Now, more about “Rick, the builder,” shown in the photograph [located above] at approximately age 4 with his sister, Christi. A. Richard Aitken, Jr., has been building quality custom homes on LBI for more than 30 years. Rick’s artistic eye, love for design, and knowledge of what is architecturally accurate is what drew him into the construction industry – his ancestry is what brought him to LBI. Rick’s heritage has helped him over the years to establish a company built on hard work and honesty. It is not all about building one house then moving onto the next, but rather about building both a home and a relationship with its occupants that will last throughout the generations.
One of the key contributors to Rick’s success is his sister, Tracy. Sadly, she passed away from breast cancer in 2013. She will be forever remembered for her positive attitude and courage in the face of adversity. The memorial is located on Long Beach Boulevard and celebrates her life, the Aitken family heritage, and our strong community here on Long Beach Island. Inspired by Tracy, one of Rick’s favorite quotes from Vivian Greene, “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain,” is written on the memorial plaque.
If you have occasion to pass by Rick’s office in Ship Bottom, feel free to stop by and take a look at the memorial and stained glass window – you will then begin to understand what this heritage and sense of community is all about.