By Gene Kangas, Professor Emeritus
(Edited from the original text in the Finnish Monument booklet)
As the twentieth century was drawing
to a close,
a small group of Finnish/Americans began looking forward as they initiated discussions
of an admirable way to permanently celebrate Finnish heritage in North America.
Eventually a committee was formed for that specific purpose. It was unanimously
decided that a memorable sculptural monument should be designed and built of
substantial materials for location in Fairport Harbor, Ohio. Fairport, like
many Great Lakes towns, provided home and opportunity for first and each following
generation of Finnish/Americans. Veterans Memorial Park in Fairport was chosen
as a proper and permanent site for the monument; and, it is only two blocks
from the Finnish Heritage Museum.
The Finnish Monument Committee
potential costs involved with such an ambitious project, ultimately arriving
at a projected goal. Next, a plan of action was determined that required no
public funding but did include private donations, business gifts, and in-kind
services. A time schedule was established and the project began. The committee
met specifically to brainstorm ideas for the monument's basic design and materials.
Finally, a scale model was agreed upon and presented to village officials for
The Finnish Monument was designed to
ideas. It has three sides, each with different imagery. Granite was chosen to
establish the foundation and strength of the sculpture. About two decades ago,
granite was voted one of six Finnish national "Nature Symbols." Kapeen
Kivipojat Oy of Teralahti quarried the monument's stones out of solid bedrock
in Finland; then they were shaped, polished, and detailed in another Finnish
factory before leaving by ship for America. The granite's trans-Atlantic journey
retraced the paths of many of the first immigrants who settled in this country.
Balmoral Red granite, which formed
over 1500 million
years ago, was selected for its color and popularity. Work began in 2002 at
Sorvikivi Oy in Savitaipale, Finland on the granite sculpture following committee
specifications. Owners of Sorvikivi, Eero and Kaarina Vainikka, are world famous
for the quality of their craftsmanship. While almost the entire stone surface
was meticulously smoothed, polished and then engraved, some surfaces were intentionally
chipped and made rough. The intent is to illustrate words in the monument poem,
which acknowledge that much has been accomplished but more remains to be done.
For well over a century, people of Finnish heritage arrived in North America
willing to work hard and contribute in any way they could. That spirit continues
The monument pinnacle features an
of flying swans. Swans mate for life and each of every pair is loyal and boldly
protective of its partner and family. Their color is simple and pure. They are
capable of flying great distances in search of food and habitat. Swans are like
the immigrants who crossed a great ocean to come to this land. Like granite,
swans were also voted a Finnish national "Nature Symbol," making them
appropriate images for this monument. In Finland, ancient drawings scratched
into rocks thousands of years ago depict primitive renderings of swans. And,
a majestic white swan silhouetted against the blue sky resembles the reverse
design of the Finnish flag.
Each of the three sides of the
pyramidal stone form
has its own unique identity. The first side includes its title, Finnish Monument.
Below that are the words "Dedicated to celebrate and honor all Finnish
heritage families." Side two displays an outline map of Finland. Above
the map are the crossed flags of the United States and Finland. Below the map
are the words "Old Friends - Strong Ties" "Vanhat Ystävät
- Lujat Siteet." Inscribed on side three is the poem "The
The Finnish Monument is centered
upon a 30-foot
diameter circle of pavers and landscaping. Each granite section is equilateral
in form. The bottom section measures 62 inches on a side and is 28 inches high.
The combination of the two stone forms reaches 10 feet 8 inches from ground
level. The total height including the stainless swans is 16 feet. The sculpture's
combined weight of stainless steel and Balmoral granite totals 12,000 pounds.
Its impressive size, location, and quality of materials make it a significant
landmark for the village's public park.
The Finnish Monument in Fairport
Harbor is a significant
addition to all public sculptures in North America that honor the legacy of
brave Finnish immigrants. Throughout all aspects of the project, the monument
committee endeavored to qualitatively exceed its original proposal. It is the
sincere hope of the monument committee that the public site will become a place
of respect, to be visited often; and, that it becomes a special place for private
thought and reflection.
They voyaged so very, very far
Leaving friends and
Guided by the brilliant North Star,
with heart and hands.
They labored hard as they tried
To build, create, and
Quietly, they laughed and cried
In private homes
with open doors.
Like soul-mated swans, faithfully true,
They soared beyond
their safe space.
On powerful angelic wings, they flew
Contented with this wondrous place.
Below, sparkling waters glowed bright
Magically inspired by
every setting sun.
Oh, much was fulfilled, so much set
Tomorrow's promises wait to be done.
By John Leivo, Chairman
I wish to sincerely and personally
thank the members
of this committee for the fine work that they have done. Thank you Leila Sajner.
Thank you Matt Lehtonen. Thank you Kathy Cottage. Thank you Heikki Perttu. And
special thanks to you, Professor Kangas for your design and the hard work you
have done on this monument. I would like to express my thanks to all of the
people who helped us finance this program, individuals, businesses, and contractors.
Also, thanks to the speakers and performers, volunteers, and all of those that
attended the wonderful dedication ceremony. The committee also wishes to thank
all village officials and employees for their helpful co-operation.
Vielä kerran haluan sanoa
kiitokset Teille kaikille
suomalaisille. On niin hyvä nähdä Teidät näin lukuisana täällä. Ei nyt enää
useinkaan näinä päivinä saada kokoon tällaista suomalaista joukkoa. Tuhannet
kiitokset Teille kaikille siitä avusta, mitä olette meille antaneet, ja kiitos
siitä, että tulitte!
Personal Comments From Committee Members
Each committee member
volunteered his or her services
to ensure this project's total success. Each provided a brief personal comment
to indicate their reason for involvement.
"Being part of this
committee was an honor
and a great privilege. It's an expression of love for our families, past, present
and future. I hope that everyone who visits this monument will stop to remember
their heritage, whatever it may be." Kathy Cottage
"After my grandparents
died, I promised
myself to strive to do something important to honor their memory. It has taken
three decades for the proper opportunity to present itself. My participation
in the creation of the Finnish Monument fulfills that heart felt commitment." Gene Kangas
"I am glad and proud to
have been involved
in leaving something important for future generations of Finnish/Americans.
The new monument should provide lasting memories for many years to come." Matt Lehtonen
"We took a chance at a
better life for
ourselves and our families, and we found it here. Working on this committee
has given me the opportunity to leave something that will be here for future
generations to enjoy and honor all of the Finnish immigrants that came here." John Leivo
"It is important to me to
leave a lasting
mark to honor generations of Finnish men and women who with their talents, perseverance
(sisu) and love of their new homeland were a part of the mosaic that created,
built and preserved this great country." Heikki Perttu
"After being in the United
States for decades
and having already raised his own family, my great uncle Jack Malkamaki sponsored
my family to come to his home in America in 1955. That was quite a RISK for
my mom's uncle, yet he generously provided us with a great chance in life. This
monument is one way that I can personally honor my great uncle's wonderful gift." Leila Sajner
Thank You - Kiitos
The Finnish Monument provides a
recognition for all Finnish immigrants that came to America to help make it
an even greater country. While it was a considerable sacrifice to leave the
security of their homeland, many new Finnish/Americans bravely accepted the
challenge. If each of our parents or grandparents had not risked that epic journey,
many of us would not have had so many incredible opportunities. This is true
for more recent first generation Finnish/Americans as well. We all share a common
feeling, to honor and respect our ancestry.