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Verna Blythe Ayer Akerberg
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Birth: Jul. 1, 1869
Barnwell County
South Carolina, USA
Death: Nov. 15, 1952
Jönköpings kommun
Jönköpings län, Sweden

Verna B. AYER was recorded in an 1895 City Directory for St. Paul, Minnesota as living at 143 W 4th St. with occupation Stenographer. What drew her from SC to MN is thus far unknown, perhaps relatives, friends or friends of relatives.

Apparently while living in St. Paul, Verna met a Swedish artist (sculptor) named Knut Johan Efraim Åkerberg (1868-1955). He was born 08 Feb 1868 in Stockholm, Sweden. He was shown in a 1903 City Directory for St. Paul, Minnesota as living at 193 S. Waba with occupation, sculptor.

There is a passenger record that he departed from Stockholm, Sweden on 30 Dec 1892 when he was not yet 24 years old with destination Hull, England. That could have been the first leg of his journey to America.

Knut's parents were Johan Erik Åkerberg (1828-1899) and Sofia Charlotta Karolina Wallenstråle (1828-1901), each of whom were born and died in Stockholm, Sweden.

There are several references to Knut's art (sculpting and painting) online including at the National Museum of Sweden. Verna was also an artist, possibly as a result of her meeting Knut but probably an interest of hers prior to their meeting. It's possible that their mutual interest in art facilitated their meeting and falling in love in St. Paul.

In the Thursday, 11 Jul 1912 edition of The Indianapolis Star, on page 15, the following article was published.

MOSAICS GIVEN LIFE BY WOMAN'S GENIUS -- Mrs. Verna Akerberg, Formerly of St. Paul, Wins Praise in Munich.

ST. PAUL, Minn., July 10 -- A former St. Paul woman, Mrs. Verna Akerberg, is the recipient of signal honors in Munich, Germany, at the hands of the art critics for her work in mosaics, which is said to be unexcelled by any artist working in this medium. Verna Akerberg is the daughter of Mrs. James W. Hamilton of 147 Kent street. Both Mr. and Mrs. Akerberg are well known in St. Paul, where they resided until about seven years ago, when they went to Berlin. Mr. Akerberg, who is a sculptor, has achieved fame through his royal monument, which was recently unveiled at the University of Berlin.

Verna Akerbert's successful achievements in the medium of the mosaic are especially gratifying to her many friends for the reason that her career in painting, which started off with such promise, was blasted by poor health, from which she is still suffering.


Unable to find strength to stand before her canvases she was forced to give up the one great ambition of her life. Her artist instinct sought other means of expression, however, and she took up the mosaic work. This can be done sitting. She has become so intensely interested in this that she is doing it after the manner of the medieval mosaic workers, who broke and prepared all their own stones for their mosaics, such as those in the San Marco Church in Venice and many other examples of what was beginning to be judged a lost art until Mrs. Akerberg has showed new possibilities in it.

The art critic of the "Suddeutsche Monatshefte," a monthly magazine of Munich, in a recent review of her work, writes: "It is necessary to say that the art of Verna Akerberg stands distinct from all that one calls realism. Effects which she reaches can never be produced by merely naturalistic observation although this conservation is indispensable in training."

"She creates with the eyes and the soul of a seer whose glance penetrates into the deeper reality of things and halting before her picture one is seized with a feeling of at-homeness it is as if one had already from the beginning known this work and as if one now for the first time recognized it.

"The tablets she has constructed represent simple forms or incidents of life; bowls and vessels filled with flowers, fishes which shim among reeds and see weeds, twining vines, squirrels, a monumental dark-colored cock; a creeping, pilfering cat, a nest of birds which defend their broods against a snake whose body encircles a tree branch while the head creeps forward.

"Such a picture as this," writes this critic, referring to the snake picture, "set into the middle of a plain-colored wall, would, through its power, through it self-containment, dominate the whole wall and create the noblest and most beautiful effects." He speaks at length of the possibilities in mosaic for handsome mural decorations which have been revealed to him by Mrs. Akerberg's work.

In the publication THE HOUSE BEAUTIFUL, Vol. XXXII, No. Six, November 1912, on page 179 are these entries.


Mrs. Verna Akerberg, a St. Paul artist who has spent the last few years in Munich, has received high honors throughout Germany for her work in mosaics.


In olden days mosaic work was used not only for pavements, but for wall and for detached objects such as monuments and pitches of furniture. It was composed of pieces of marble, glass or enamel, cut in small cubes or other geometric form, and these laid into wet plaster along the lines of the previously dotted-in cartoon or pattern. No attempt was made at regular spacing and mechanical effects were thus avoided. Roman, Byzantine, and Medieval artists reveled in this form of expression; Renaissance artists less so, for with the wrist of the Giottesque school fresco took the place of mosaic painting.

All such makeshifts are scorned by Mrs. Akerberg who insists that the mosaicist must make her own designs; "for," she writes, "one has only to see the bungling reproductions of old mosaics by modern workmen to understand this. Vary a color scheme ever so slightly through failure to match the old colors and the whole is spoiled. By working out one's own designs one sees, as the cubes are laid in, that colors must satisfy one another's demands; for mosaic is an inflexible medium. I worked first in glass, ordering it from Venice; but the colors were mostly too sharp, so that out of four hundred or more pieces I could chose only about forty of sufficient delicacy. Now I use mostly marble, chipping it myself, and keeping to a very limited range of tones, as the earliest workers did"

It is regrettable, but perfectly comprehensible, that on account of the high duty Mrs. Akerberg refuses to exhibit in America the work which has charmed Munich and Paris. But it is to be hoped that our architects may become aware of her achievements and invite her here to contribute to the embellishment of some appreciative client's home.

In 1905, a bronze medallion was sculpted by Knut Akerberg which showed across the circumference of the front VERNA BLYTHE AYER AKERBERG MVNCHEN [Munich] MCMV [1905] over a woman's profile (certainly Verna's). A image of that medallion with Verna's profile, as sculpted in 1905 by her husband, Knut Johan Efraim Akerberg, is shown at the above right.

Verna and Knut were married 09 Jun 1897. They travelled, studied, created and exhibited internationally, primarily in Sweden, Germany and France.

Verna and Knut both died and were buried in Sweden. From ENGLAND AND WALES NATIONAL PROBATE CALENDAR (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1966, London, England Registry, it is known that Verna died 15 Nov 1952 with probate date of 19 Mar 1954. And, from the Swedish Death Index, 1901-2006 it is known that Verna was born in Barnwell, South Carolina, USA on 01 Jul 1869.

From that same Death Index, it is known that Knut was born 08 Feb 1868 and died 15 Apr 1955.

Verna and Knut had no known children.

Verna's mother was Lillie MOORE who was first married to Verna's father, Gen. Lewis Malone AYER (1821-1895). After Gen. AYER's death, Verna's mother was married to James W. HAMILTON (1866-1949) who was from Canada.

Verna's maternal grandfather was the noted Presbyterian minister, the Rev. Thomas Verner MOORE (1818-1871) who served for several years as the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Richmond, VA. His parents were from the northern Ireland town of Limavady.

His first wife was Sarah BLYTHE (1816-1849), daughter of the Rev. James BLYTHE (1765-1842) who was one of the founders and the first president of Hanover College in Indiana. Sarah BLYTHE was Verna's maternal grandmother. Verna Blythe AYER was named for her maternal grandfather (Verner) and for her maternal grandmother (Blythe).


Verna's older brother, Hartwell Moore AYER, named one of his children Verna Blythe AYER for his sister, Verna. She was Verna's niece. Some records show her first name spelled Verna, but her obituary, death certificate and gravestone showed it spelled Verner (but pronounced "Vernah" in the south). It is likely the spelling of her first name in her obituary, on her death certificate, and on her gravestone all came from a single source (her husband, probably) and may have been incorrect. References to her in her childhood including on the 1920 census and in newspaper articles about her school accomplishments and visits to her by family members, and posthumously to her in her grandmother's obituary consistently showed the spelling as Verna, not Verner. It is also of note that the source of the information on her death certificate (probably her husband, Curtis Frank RHEM) misspelled her maiden name (her father's surname) as AYERS instead of the correct AYER. On Curtis Frank RHEM's own 1956 death certificate, her name was posthumously recorded as Verna AYERS RHEM. And, on their son's 1949 death certificate, her name was posthumously recorded as Vernes AYERS. His name was Curtis Frank RHEM, Jr., and he was born 30 Dec 1939, two days before his mother died. His death certificate shows he died from polio at the age of 9 years, 6 months and 26 days.
Family links: 
  Lewis Malone Ayer (1821 - 1895)
  Lillie Moore Hamilton (1846 - 1919)
  Knut Johan Efraim Åkerberg (1868 - 1955)
  Marie Louise Ayer Vandiver (1865 - 1938)*
  Hartwell Moore Ayer (1868 - 1917)*
  Verna Blythe Ayer Akerberg (1869 - 1952)
  Paul Earle Ayer (1876 - 1910)*
*Calculated relationship
Gränna Kyrkogård
Jönköpings kommun
Jönköpings län, Sweden
Created by: Bob Webb
Record added: Dec 29, 2013
Find A Grave Memorial# 122401834
Verna Blythe <i>Ayer</i> Akerberg
Added by: Bob Webb
Verna Blythe <i>Ayer</i> Akerberg
Added by: Bob Webb
Verna Blythe <i>Ayer</i> Akerberg
Cemetery Photo
Added by: Bob Webb
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