Click here to return to Obituaries page

Johan Gerhard de Besche

Johan Gerhard de Besche passed away in his sleep at his home in Atkinson, New Hampshire on May 5, 2008, surrounded by friends and family. He was born September 1, 1911 in Jeløy, Norway. His family moved to Bergen, Norway in 1916. He left home to go to sea when he was 17, and sailed before the mast until 1933, scaling the ladder from deck-boy to able-bodied-seaman. At the Bergen Maritime Academy he took his Chief Mate’s exam in 1934 and his Master’s in 1936, both with honors.

From 1934 to the beginning of World War II he worked for the Bergen Steamship Company on various vessels—including the steamer M/Y “Stella Polaris,” where he and a passenger from Vermont named Lucile Farnsworth met and fell in love. They married in 1939.

After Hitler invaded Poland in 1939, Johan served on vessels in the North Sea, helping the transport of refugees and supplies in those waters full of enemy mines, submarines, and aircraft. When Germany invaded Norway in 1940, Johan was captured twice, escaping both times. His wife Lucile was in the United States; to reach her he crossed into Sweden, traveled across Russia to Japan, and hitched a ride on a Norwegian ship to San Francisco. He and Lucile were finally reunited in Vermont, where he saw his son Jean for the first time.

The Norwegian Shipping and Trade Commission—Nortraship—was established to coordinate the efforts of all Norwegian merchant ships, and became Norway’s greatest contribution to the war effort. Johan was assigned to Nortraship’s New York office, working in security and intelligence management for the rest of the War.

After some years running the Sugar Hill Inn in Franconia, New Hampshire, Johan and family moved to Atkinson, New Hampshire in 1952, where Johan pursued his interest in dog training. He and Lucile established Trollgaard Kennel, which specialized in training and breeding retrievers. Johan was a renowned retriever trainer and handler for over 30 years, and Trollgaard a center of retriever work that helped hunters and conservationists. He was a long-time member of the Rotary Club in Haverhill, Massachusetts and the Colonial Field Trial Club.

His dear Lucile died in 1992. They had five children: Jean (1940-1948), Ingrid Elisabeth, Austin Farnsworth, Anne Lucile, and Johan Oscar. Johan is also survived by ten grandchildren, 9 great-grandchildren, and many nieces and nephews. This large and loving family will miss him very much.

A memorial service will be held at St. Christopher’s Church, 187 East Road, Hampstead, New Hampshire on Sunday, June 8, 2008 at 3:00 pm. In lieu of flowers, contributions in his name may be sent to: The Kimball Library, 3 Academy Avenue, Atkinson NH 03811; or: The Jackson Laboratory (a genetics research and services laboratory), attn Penny Fox, 610 Main Street, Bar Harbor, ME 04609. Arrangements by Dole, Childs & Shaw Funeral Home, 148 Main Street, Haverhill.

Online condolence may be sent to


Click here to return to Obituaries page