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of Fairport Harbor,Ohio USA  
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Cleveland Plain Dealer Story by Tom Feran

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Finns' sisu helps shape museum in Fairport

Saturday, July 07, 2007
Tom Feran
Plain Dealer Reporter
Dr. Amy Kaukonen was valedictorian in high school and the youngest woman ever to graduate from her medical school before becoming Ohio's first woman mayor, and one of the first in the nation, in Fairport Harbor in 1922.

Nationally known and no mere figurehead, she approached the job with characteristic vigor -- showing her Prohibitionist sentiments by leading a flurry of police raids against stills, speakeasies and rumrunners that proved so effective she had to leave town because of threats on her life.
"She was tough, smart and good-looking," said Lasse Hiltunen, the former principal of Fairport's McKinley Elementary School, who has done extensive research on Kaukonen. What really drew his attention, however, was the fact that she was the first "Finn kid" to graduate from Conneaut High School -- part of a Finnish-American community that once thrived in and even dominated lakeshore communities east of Cleveland.

Appropriately, he gave a talk about her last week during the grand opening of the Finnish Heritage Museum in Fairport Harbor, in the former village hall that was planned during Mayor Kaukonen's term but built a few years later.

To Hiltunen and other volunteers, she exemplified what Finns call "sisu" -- the same prized spirit of will and determination that turned the museum into reality in a remarkably short time.
Teacher Linda Katila came up with the idea five years ago, proposing a place where the culture, traditions and local history of the close-knit community could be preserved. It really took off when she mentioned it to Veikko Malkamaki, a local contractor who called friends and set up a meeting to talk about it.

Ten people showed up. They called themselves the Fairport Finnish Museo Association, agreed to meet monthly, started building a collection and began raising money. The effort picked up steam and attention with dedication of the 16-foot Finnish Monument in Veterans Memorial Park four years ago.

By 2004, the group had quadrupled in size, registered as a nonprofit organization and was looking for a home. Members found that home in the old village hall, a sturdy but dilapidated two-story brick building at 301 High St.

Built from the same red brick that paves local streets -- "which makes this thing really a part of this town," Hiltunen said -- it was used most recently as a senior center, but once served as the police station, complete with jail and walk-in safe, housed the volunteer fire department and had the big upstairs room for monthly village council meetings.

Council agreed to lease it late in 2005. In partnership with the village and the Lighthouse Community Arts Association, the museum won federal grant money to start renovation. Work started in earnest last fall under museum president Heikki Penttilä, an architect who could serve as general contractor and gets credit for keeping the project on an ambitious timetable.

Malkamaki's crews had enough interior work done by the holidays to allow the group to hold Pikku Joulu, or "Little Christmas" festivities, and open a Saturday-only gift shop selling Finnish blends of coffee and homemade nissu sweet bread.
Work continues on the second floor of the hall, but visitors can browse the shop and the main gallery, with its exhibit chronicling the Finnish-American experience in images, literature, crafts and artifacts.
The joke in Fairport Harbor used to be that half the population was Finnish, half was Hungarian, and the rest were foreigners. It wasn't far from truth. Census figures from the village's heyday in the 1920s showed that half the population of 5,000 was Finnish -- part of a migration that spread from New England to the Pacific Northwest across the upper Midwest around 1870. In Fairport and other enclaves, Finns laid railroad tracks and worked on lake freighters, paid by the ton to hand-shovel ore at the docks.

Malkamaki's crews had enough interior work done by the holidays to allow the group to hold Pikku Joulu, or "Little Christmas" festivities, and open a Saturday-only gift shop selling Finnish blends of coffee and homemade nissu sweet bread.
Work continues on the second floor of the hall, but visitors can browse the shop and the main gallery, with its exhibit chronicling the Finnish-American experience in images, literature, crafts and artifacts.

The joke in Fairport Harbor used to be that half the population was Finnish, half was Hungarian, and the rest were foreigners. It wasn't far from truth. Census figures from the village's heyday in the 1920s showed that half the population of 5,000 was Finnish -- part of a migration that spread from New England to the Pacific Northwest across the upper Midwest around 1870. In Fairport and other enclaves, Finns laid railroad tracks and worked on lake freighters, paid by the ton to hand-shovel ore at the docks.

That work is long gone. Fairport's population hovers around 3,000, and time and assimilation have diminished the size of the old ethnic community, but not its vibrancy, if you listen to Hiltunen, who emigrated with his family from Finland in 1949, or museum treasurer Niles Oinonen, a retired Air Force officer who returned to live in the place where he knows just about everybody.
They take particular pride that the museum will be open in time for both Fairport's annual Mardi Gras, which runs through Sunday, and FinnFest USA, an annual cultural celebration in Ashtabula Thursday through Saturday, July 26-28.
Not that they're surprised.

"There's nothing that can surpass collective Finnish sisu," Hiltunen said.
To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:
tferan@plaind.com, 216-999-6251

News Herald Story by Jason Lea

Strong start to Finnish Heritage Museum
By: Jason Lea
JLea@News-Herald.com
07/02/2007

The Finnish community has such a strong presence in Fairport Harbor, the school report cards used to be in that language, Lasse Hiltunen said.

"At one time, Fairport schools printed their report cards in three languages - Finnish, Hungarian and some other language, starts with an 'E,'" Hiltunen joked.

In fact, some said the "F" and "H" of Fairport Harbor stood for "Finn" and "Hungarian."
Hiltunen was a member of the committee that orchestrated the grand opening of the Finnish Heritage Museum in Fairport Harbor Saturday and Sunday.

Although the ribbon cutting was Sunday, Finns from as far away as Toronto started celebrating early.
The museum's first exhibit "The Finnish-American Experience" was opened to the public Saturday. Finnish-Americans, some who could trace their heritage through six generations, celebrated along with the SISU Folk Dancers from Toronto. ("Sisu" means guts or perseverance in Finnish.)
The folk dancers were accompanied by the Toronto Pelimannit (Finnish for "music men") Saturday and a recording Sunday. They stomped and clapped their way through merimies katrilli, karjalaisen katrilli and other folk dances.

The weekend-long party included food, a parade, kantele performances and lectures on the importance of Finnish culture to Fairport Harbor. (For those who are not up on their Finnish, a kantele is a zither-like string instrument from Finland.)

"The story of Fairport Harbor and the story of the Finns is so tightly intertwined, you can't separate them," said Keikki A. Penttila, president of the Finnish Heritage Museum.

Histories of several old Finnish families hang on the museum's walls. Some of the family names are still recognizable in Lake County: Saari, Killinen, Katila and more.

In fact, it was Linda Katila who pushed for a Finnish museum in Fairport.
"So much of the Finnishness was starting to disappear, and many of the items that had been brought from Finland were being discarded," she said.

"I think it's important to retain the culture, because, if not, it will disappear."

Katila cut the ribbon for the museum Sunday. That moment culminated almost five years of work that began when Katila and nine others met in Luther Center Nov. 18, 2002, and started planning a cultural museum.

Even though the museum did not have a permanent home, it still had exhibits. Finnish textiles were exhibited in the Willoughby Fine Arts Center and other artifacts were displayed at the Lake County Historical Center.

Now the museum's permanent residence is at the corner of High and Third streets in the former village hall, police station and fire house.

"The Finnish-American Experience" features furniture, clothing, teapots and other trinkets from Finland. There is also a display dedicated to Dr. Amy Kaukonen. In addition to being the Fairport mayor from 1922 to 1923, Kaukonen was also the first female mayor in the state and the second in the country, Penttila said.

A representative from the Consulate General of Finland in New York attended the weekend's festivities.
"For a small country like Finland, culture is very important. This is a pivotal part of the Finnish identity and all of you with Finnish background carry this heritage with you," Magdalena Herrgard said. "We feel you are the natural diplomats of Finland."

Ray Sines, president of the Lake County commissioners, joined the celebration and offered a framed commendation from the commissioners.

"As a football player from Perry, I still have some bruises from the Finnish football players in this community," Sines joked.

Canadan Sanomat by Aarre Ertolahti (see below for translation)

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Canadan Sanomat Page 2 (see below for translation)

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Canadan Sanomat Page 3 (see below for translation)

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Canadan Sanomat Translation by Elaine Lillback

                                             CANADAN SANOMAT
                                                       June 2007

                    New Finnish Museum in Fairport Harbor, Ohio

The restoration of the Finnish Heritage Museum is near completion in Fairport Harbor, Ohio.  In the left picture a workman for Harbor Construction Company assembles a new heating junction in the wall of the main gallery, which in the future will be a main display area.  On the right, a brick wall is being removed preparing for the installation of a large window.  The old bricks are similar to those previously used in the village’s road construction.
  On the shores of Ohio’s Lake Erie, in the center of the little village of Fairport Harbor, a small group of ancestral Finns and friends have recently been ambitiously renovating the old municipal building with professional help.
  Originally the two story building was used to house the police and fire station, and offices for the city officials.  Lately it had served as the center for retired citizens.  Following renovation, the building’s frontal view will have a big picture window allowing ample light for the Finnish Heritage Museum’s gallery.
  “Can anything be more exciting?” asks Lasse Hiltunen, the museum member and webmaster.  “This is the turning point, not only for the FHM, but for the Fairport village’s history awareness of the Finnish contributions.  Many of our villagers, as well as northeastern Ohioans, are interested and consider this a kind of Finnish renaissance.”
  The completion of the project before the opening will be a hurried process, but with SISU, it will be done, predicts Hiltunen.

                         Finnish Heritage Museum Opens in Fairport Harbor

  Fairport Harbor is a small village on the southeastern shores of the state of Ohio
to the east is Ashtabula where the 2007 Finn Fest is being prepared for July 26-28.
  Linda Katila, a local resident, had the idea in 2002 to start preserving the area of Finnish American history.  Veikko Malkamaki gathered together interested individuals, arranging a meeting.  At that meeting the Fairport Finnish Museum Association was established.  It was under that name that the museum began.  Original establishing members were Ailiin Andrews, Vivian Heikkinen, Linda Katila, Raili and Marrti Lehtonen, Laura and Veikko Malkamaki, Niles Oinonen, John Ollila, and Viola Pohto.
  The first official meeting of the group met at the Zion Luther Center on November, 2002, and then in January 2003 a continuing group made a strong agreement to continue and accomplish their desired goal.
  The group has been able to acquire the former Fairport municipal building as their meeting place, and it has been under renovation under the name Finnish Heritage Museum.  It is located on High and Third Street corner just two blocks from Lake Erie, and two blocks from the Finnish Monument in Veterans Memorial Park.

                                                              -2-
   The building was formerly Fairport Village Hall, a police and fire station.  Its latest use had been as a center for senior citizens. The building dates to 1900 and is therefore appropriate as a museum site.
   The opening of the museum will be June 30-July 1 and it will be family friendly.  Saturday June 30 there will be food, presentations from 9:00 am. to 4:00 pm.  In the evening there will be an opening celebration at the Fairport Harbor Senior Center.
  Sunday, July 1, the morning bilingual church service will be at Zion Lutheran Church and will be followed by a parade from the church to the museum.  The official opening program is at 1:00 pm
  The museum’s first exhibit is entitled “The Finnish American Experience” It will open at 9:00 am on Saturday the 30th.
   The museum’s distinguishing statement has been chosen to be “Then and Now/Ennen ja Nyt”.  The purpose is to preserve the knowledge of Finnish and Finnish-American culture and inheritance.  There is much meaning to the in-between culture (then in Finland, now in America).
  The collection of historical items and their exhibit will be embellished by the virtual exhibit on the website, available to all.  The third offering of the museum will be the library offering which will be used conjunctively with the visual offerings.. 
The library accepts gifts of books and genealogical materials.
  The museum is happy to receive textiles, dishes, glassware, furniture, books, postcards, pictures and other items used by the Finns.  Handmade items and memorial brochures such as of the 1952 Olympics are welcomed.
   The museum’s present day executive board members are:  Heikki Penttila, president; Pat Spivak, vice-president; Laura Malkamaki, secretary; Niles Oinonen, treasurer; Lasse Hiltunen, webmaster.  The membership of the museum has grown to 120 members, and with the dedication program we anticipate new members.
  Contact with the museum may be made by mail: Finnish Heritage Museum, P.O. Box 1121, 301 High Street, Fairport Harbor, Ohio 44077 USA.
Website:
www.finnishheritagemuseum.org
(Elaine Lillback's translation is gratefully acknowledged )



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