Sharon OJanpa Mackey, FHM Staff Reporter


It was truly a singular day for the Finnish Heritage Museum (FHM) in Fairport Harbor, Ohio, on October 9, 2017. Our regularly scheduled meeting on that day included a special centenary dinner to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Finland’s independence. FHM also had two special anniversaries of its own to commemorate – 2017 is our 15th year of existence and our 10th year of being in our permanent home at 301 High Street in Fairport Harbor. So we really did have a lot to celebrate!

What better way to mark all these important dates than with a lovely and enjoyable dinner. This dinner was held at Zion Lutheran Church in Fairport Harbor, and was well attended by Finns and non-Finns alike. The before-dinner program started off with the singing of the Star-Spangled Banner, followed by Maamme. FHM President, and Master of Ceremonies for the evening, Lasse Hiltunen, pictured above, shared a welcome proclamation to all who were there.HappyWand1

As people made their way in and found a table, they were treated to a musical presentation by John and Linda Sippola Riddell, otherwise known as the Happy Wanderers, from Ashtabula, Ohio. John sang several songs, accompanied by Linda on the accordion. In addition, Linda played a tango, a polka and a waltz. It was fascinating to watch her fingers do what seems to me impossible: playing the keyboard with one hand while the other seemed to move of it’s own free will among the buttons on the other side of the instrument. How on earth does it all get coordinated?

John ended this musical interlude by singing the hymn Finlandia, or Be Still My Soul, which was composed by Jean Sibelius. Of course, Linda accompanied him on her accordion. Their performance was a beautiful introduction to the rest of the evening.FrankS

Frank Sarosy, a former mayor of Fairport Harbor, and in whose tenure FHM came to its present location, then presented a “Special Resolution of Appreciation and Commendation” to FHM for its continuing contributions to the Village of Fairport Harbor.


Lasse Hiltunen, playing the part of a TV news anchor from WFHM, reported to the world on the celebration of the evening.

He was assisted by reporters David Pohto, on location at Zion Lutheran Church; Jane Hiltunen on location in Helsinki on December 6, 1917; Shirley Northcutt, reporting from St. Petersburg, Russia in the early 1900’s as Finland declared its independence from Russia; and Laura Malkamaki, from the King’s Palace in Sweden in 1944. Laura reminded us of the 70,000 Finnish children who found Sweden to be a safe harbor during WWII; approximately 60,000 of these children were able to make their way back to Finland, according to Laura. Finally, Donna Lesiacsek reported on November 8, 2002, from the Zion Lutheran Church Luther Center in Fairport Harbor, where a number of founding members of the Finnish Heritage Museum have gathered to make a dream come true. Their heritage and history must be preserved. How can they succeed in doing this?




From that discussion in 2002 grew what is today the Finnish Heritage Museum. Some of the highlights produced by FHM include three Murder Mystery Dinners, a high tea with purse swap, nisu bakes, Finnish language classes, several concerts, tours of the Fairport Harbor lighthouse and museum, a tour of the US Coast Guard station, Finn Hollow day, and several movie nights. We have also been funded by the Ohio Arts Council Initiative on Aging to produce three events – “Sisu is in the Heart,” “Thirty Plays in Sixty Minutes,” and a culmination event - Dancing Fairport. The latter can be found on YouTube, with a link from our website – finnishheritagemuseum.org. We will continue to provide educational tours to schools and other groups, and we will do the best we can in keeping alive our area’s legacy of Finnish culture and history.

Picture ID: Row 1 David Pohto, Jane Hiltunen Row 2 Shirley Northcott, Laura Malkamäki

After this presentation, it was time to eat. The food was delicious, prepared and served by the Fairport Family Restaurant. The next time you are in Fairport Harbor, stop in and have a great lunch or dinner. And of course, we would love to see you at the museum.

Text © Sharon Mackey, Photos © Bill Lukshaw 2017









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