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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.

Committee

The Finnish Monument Committee thoroughly investigated 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 approval.

The Finnish Monument was designed to represent several 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 wereFHMonceremony 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 today.

designerANDmakerThe monument pinnacle features an abstracted portrayal 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 Finns."

The Finnish Monument is centered upon a 30-foot diameter circle of pavers and landscaping. Each granite sectionFHMon4men 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.

Monument Poem

THE FINNS

     They voyaged so very, very far   
     Leaving friends and homelands .
     Guided by the brilliant North Star,
    They came with heart and hands.

                 They labored hard as they tried
                 To build, create, and explore.
                 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 right,
                                          Tomorrow's promises wait to be done.


                                                       Gene Kangas

Monument Committee
By John Leivo, Chairman

InstallingFHMonument

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

GeneSwans

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

Monument2views

Thank You - Kiitos

The Finnish Monument provides a permanent visual 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

         

 

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