Foreign exchange student, turned ambassador, invites Lemoore ladies to Kenya

By Ed Martin, The Leader Editor
Caroline Daley and Anne Sutton just days before departing to Kenya.
Caroline Daley and Anne Sutton just days before departing to Kenya.
What do a pair of likeable librarians, retired after years of “shushing” wayward students, do for fun?  Well, frankly they do what every other self-respecting librarian would do: They catch the next available plane for Kenya, the domain of elephants, lions, and at least one Norwegian ambassador, who at one point in the disco-dominated era ‘70s, just so happened to have been a foreign exchange student at Lemoore High School.
Norwegian Ambassador Victor Ronneberg with Anne Sutton (left) and Caroline Daley in Kenya.
Norwegian Ambassador Victor Ronneberg with Anne Sutton (left) and Caroline Daley in Kenya.

The engaging young man from 1976-77 is Victor Conrad Ronneberg, who returned home after his foreign exchange stint in the Lemoore home of Anne and Willie Sutton and immediately set about creating a life – and a resume – that resulted in a long, distinguished career in Norway’s political world. He’s currently serving as Norway’s ambassador to Kenya, having earned his appointment in 2014.

The two lady librarians – also long-time Lemoore residents – are Anne Sutton and Caroline Daley, both of whom left the United States for the Dark Continent on July 26 – at the invitation of Ronneberg.  Sutton, for 25 years, worked at the Kings County Library in Lemoore, while Daley was a mainstay for many years in Liberty Middle School’s library.

Sutton and Daley are currently travelling in Kenya, having so far visited Nairobi and only recently flew to Masaai Mara for a safari. They returned on Tuesday and according to Daley, it was an eye-opening experience. “We just got back to Nairobi from our stay at Base Camp Eagle View safari. We saw so many different animals.” 

Ronneberg, who is hosting the two Lemooreons, says Sutton and Daley have a full plate before them – and he plans to keep them even more busy.

Ambassador Victor Ronneberg delivers his credentials in Kenya.
Ambassador Victor Ronneberg delivers his credentials in Kenya.
Photo Contributed

The two are being treated like diplomats. They are living, during their stay, in the ambassador’s residence. “We will have a housekeeper, a driver, and a cook,” said Caroline Daley. “I am really looking forward to this trip,” she said prior to leaving. “When Anne mentioned this trip to me, I (jokingly) reminded her that I was her traveling companion.”

The two have traveled together before. They left Lemoore on July 26 and will return August 9 from Africa. The two aren’t finished with their summer travels. They’ll also visit Panama at the end of August and have also previously visited Ireland together.

Sutton and Daley are visiting a country – Kenya – which is a regional leader in Africa, a country in what may be the most politically diverse continent on the planet, a land mass that is home to Egyptians in the north and South Africans in the south. Kenya is a relatively stable country in a region known for its unstableness and has been a growing economic center in East Africa.

 Kenya, according to World Bank Group (WGB) statistics, has an estimated population of 46.1 million, which increases by about one million a year. With support of the WGB, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other development partners, Kenya has made significant structural and economic reforms that have contributed to sustained economic growth in the past decade. Development challenges include poverty and inequality, and vulnerable of the economy to internal and external shocks.

As an exchange student living with Anne and her husband Willie and family, young Victor was a real treat, and Sutton is certainly not surprised that when he returned home to after his year-long exchange visit to Lemoore, that he embarked upon a long, distinguished career that included a job advising the Norwegian Prime Minister – and now is doing his diplomatic best as Norway’s ambassador to Kenya.

Both Caroline and Anne’s children attended Lemoore High School with Ronneberg. “We opened up our home to him. He fit right in, and his family and my family became very, very close,” said Sutton. “He did very well in school. He had spent the summer in Israel, and he had traveled extensively. He is an international-minded person, no doubt.”

So it wasn’t surprising at all when Anne learned that her former exchange student had become an ambassador.

“He was just interested in everything,” remembered Sutton, surrounded recently by friends in the Lemoore Starbucks where she spoke fondly of her former exchange student. “He didn’t get involved in sports too much, but he was always very active at the high school. Mr. (Clayton) Wagley, his photography teacher, was one of his favorites.”

Was he ever any trouble? “Absolutely not,” said Sutton proudly. “We adopted all his friends too. He was just a very likeable guy, and obviously we ended up with a very special bond.”

Ronneberg has nothing but fond memories of his time in Lemoore. “When I first heard (in 1977) from AFS that I would go to Lemoore, I was thrilled,” remembered the Norwegian diplomat.  “Having lived all of my life in a rather big city, a smaller town like Lemoore sounded perfect – and indeed it was. It was easy to get to know people. I clearly remember how well I was received by Anne and Willy, Dru and Fynn. They treated me like a member of the family from the very first day.”

Ronneberg easily fit into the Lemoore lifestyle, making friends and getting involved in school activities. “It was also easy to get to know people at LHS,” he said.  “It was a terrifying experience to talk to the whole school during one of the first days. Both the students and the teachers seemed interested in me, and I was indeed interested in them. I made many friends, and some of then I’m still in contact with. I also clearly remember the principal, Mr. Peterson, my drama-teacher Ms. Palermo – and the school play she lured me into – and Mr. Wagley, who taught photography and also took me skiing.”

Ronneberg relishes the memories created in Lemoore. “My memories from Lemoore are many – and all are good. The year (in Lemoore) made lasting impressions and helped form my personality.”

Ronneberg said that after leaving Lemoore, he returned to his home country, fulfilled one year of compulsory military service (in the Norwegian Special Forces), and then began his studies in political science at the University of Oslo.

He also spent a year at the College of Europe in Belgium (Brugge) studying the European Union, and attended summer courses in Austria (at the University of Vienna) and in New York (as an intern at the UN). He travelled quite extensively during those years: a summer at a Kibbutz in Israel and as a backpacker in Russia, India, China, Australia and Japan.

He paid for his schooling and travel working most weekends as a taxi-driver in Oslo.

“I always wanted to become a diplomat and was accepted to the Norwegian diplomat training academy after I finished my studies in 1986,” he said. “It has been a very stimulating experience, having worked closely in many areas and with diplomats and politicians from many countries. It has always been important for me to try to understand before judging. My year in Lemoore was essential to that end.”

 The ambassador reported to Kenya in September, 2014 with the objective of improving commercial ties with the African country. Over the past two years, Norwegian investments in Kenya have grown substantially, mainly within retail, telecom and financial services.

He previously served at Norwegian Missions in Canberra, Copenhagen and Brussels as an envoy to NATO. He was Director General of the Services Department in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Oslo prior to reporting to Kenya.

Ronneberg is married to a Norwegian, Annlaug, who is presently serving at the deputy Norwegian Ambassador to Uganda. they have three kids, Kristine (28) working for KPMG in London, Tobias (26) studying engineering in Norway, and Victoria (17) who attends the International School of Kenya in Nairobi.

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