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8 December 1999


Author: International News

GENERAL Jarl Wahlström (R) was promoted to Glory on 3 December after a very long illness. He was aged 81.

The General was one of the Army’s great statesmen, who in his personality exemplified his Master’s graciousness – and joy. Within minutes of being elected the Army’s 12th General in 1981, he was telling a television reporter that he wanted to be a General who would bring ‘a spirit of enthusiasm and optimism’. His enthusiasm was nothing new, for, as Candidate Jarl Wahlström, he arrived in England from Finland’s capital city, Helsinki, to become a cadet in the Enthusiasts Session at the International Training College on 19 August 1937. He was the first Army General to be trained at the Denmark Hill college.

The youngest of the three sons of Colonel and Mrs Rafael Wahlström, the General served as a cadet-sergeant at Denmark Hill before returning the following year to his home territory, becoming the assistant officer at Oulu Corps. The outbreak of the Second World War necessitated his being called up for military service for four years, the last two of which were spent as a battalion chaplain. It was while still a military chaplain that Captain Jarl Wahlström married Lieutenant Maire Nyberg.

Always an enthusiast for youth activity, he was appointed territorial scout organiser, a position he held for seven years, later becoming youth secretary for the Helsinki Division and then territorial youth secretary. As training principal for five years he was able to influence the lives of many future officers. Administrative responsibilities as private secretary to the territorial commander, as divisional commander and as chief secretary, all provided preparation for his ultimate responsibility. His
faithful and effective work for the Army in Finland was recognised by his appointment as a Knight of the Order of the Finnish Lion.

Jarl Wahlström’s first overseas appointment came in 1972, as chief secretary for the Canada and Bermuda Territory, a responsibility he held for five years until he returned to his homeland as territorial commander. In January 1981 he was appointed territorial commander for Sweden before becoming General in December of that same year.

The General’s enthusiasm for music has shone through and enhanced all his appointments. Proficient as an exponent of the cornet, piano, mandolin and guitar, he was a composer of words and music of many songs published in Finland. Some appeared in The Musical Salvationist.

At home in the English, German, Finnish and Swedish languages, the General brought internationalism to his high office. A Rotarian for many years, he at one time served as the President of the Helsinki club and, during his leadership of the Army and in retirement, had other honours bestowed upon him:

Order of Civil Merit, Korea (1983);
Hon Doctor of Humane Letter from Western Illinois University (1985);
Commander, Order of the White Rose, Finland (1989).

Landmarks in his period as General included an International Leaders’ Conference in Berlin, West Germany, held in 1984, and an International Youth Congress in 1985 with 5,000 delegates – the first international congress to be staged outside the Army’s motherland, the first in the USA and the first worldwide youth gathering since 1950. In 1985 General Wahlström also led 1,500 delegates from 23 countries in a six-day Holy Land Congress. The new English-language Salvation Army songbook was issued just two months before his retirement in 1986, the first revised edition for 33 years. Song 857, ‘Great joy is found in serving Jesus’, is from the pen of the General.

Jarl Wahlström will be remembered as ‘the caring General’, one with a quiet strength which enabled him to make clear-headed decisions. During his four-and-a-half years of high office he, with Mrs Wahlström, toured the Army world, reviewing the work and encouraging the ranks. Received by royalty, heads of state and national leaders, he proved an outstanding ambassador for the Army.

Salvationists everywhere will wish to surround Mrs General Maire Wahlström and their children, Ulf, Inger and Jarl, together with the grandchildren and other members of the family, with prayer at this time. Mrs Wahlström, whose devotion to the care of the General during his long illness and whose radiant spirit during that time has been an inspiration to all, can be contacted at:

Borgstrominkuja 1 A 10
00840 Helsinki 84,

The funeral service will take place in Helsinki on Friday 10 December. The Chief of the Staff, Commissioner John Larsson, will represent the Salvationists of the world on that occasion and will speak words of tribute. A memorial service featuring the General’s music and songs will be held in the new year.


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