Sharon OJanpa Mackey, FHM Staff Reporter

terveposterIt’s time to celebrate the volunteers who make the Finnish Heritage Museum run, and have brought it to the forefront as both a source of knowledge and a prominent institution in the village of Fairport Harbor, Ohio. As an entity, the museum has been in existence for more than 15 years. Those years have seen many changes and much growth for our museum and the group of people who keep it working.

Many people who were in on the beginning are still giving freely and joyously of their time. Case in point – Veikko and Laura Malkamaki, who also have the Finnish Treasures gift shop in town, have supported the museum from the beginning. Millie Honkala Laituri continues to supply refreshments for meetings when she is called on to do so. John and Barb Ollila are always available, John to lead tours and tell the old stories, Barb as manager of the museum gift shop. John has even been known to break into song, singing the old sea shanties of the great lakes. (Nothing to do with the museum, but it sure is entertaining.)

One added and unexpected bonus is the renewing of old friendships. As FHM President Lasse Hiltunen commented, “One of the real bonuses of FHM membership is rekindling old friendships, some going as far back as high school.  In certain cases, that friendship never stopped, but took a fifty-year hiatus, only to be revived. So is my friendship with FHM treasurer and FAR reporter, Sharon Ojanpa Mackey.  She and I are best friends and it is through the museum and its work that friendship continues.”

Our curator, Suzanne Jokela has put her heart and soul into the museum, as testified to by the number of visitors, school classes, and other civic groups who come by for tours. When volunteers are needed, our President, Lasse Hiltunen and his wife Jovette are ready to explain how the museum came to be, to give tours, or anything else which might be needed. (Lasse is always good for a pun or two.) Co-curators Janine and Larry LaBounty and several other members also assist Suzanne.

Ken Quiggle has served as vice president and is the current liaison between the museum and the Finnish Cultural Garden in Cleveland’s University Circle. He is ably assisted by Olli Patrikainen, Ron Puera, Suzanna Hill Hinkleman, and Alan Steytler. This garden has hosted many visitors and is very much in the public eye as it is in the heart of Cleveland.

We are very fortunate in that our members take on the jobs of committee chairs as needed. A few of the current volunteers are Hal Pelto, Anne Pohto, Donna Lesiacsek, Bill Lukshaw, Ailiin Andrews, and Heikki Penttila. Jane Hiltunen is our historian, Bill Lukshaw our videographer, Diane Torkko, the liaison to the Fairport Harbor Tourism Council, and Ron and Nina Boyett, fundraisers.

More than a few people stop by the museum to see the old loom, hand made in Finland 100+ years ago, on display in our gallery. If they are lucky they will see our resident weaver, Rebecca Steinback, working on the loom, producing one of a kind items or giving a lesson.

Beverly Harbour can often be found behind the register in the gift shop or out at the post office, picking up the mail. She makes delicious macaroons for our meeting nights, if needed. Manning the register on a rotating schedule are Emily Mummey, Shirley Northcott, Helen Hadden, Kathy Pierce, Linda Penttila, and John Kangas, among others. Richard Knuth has many tales to tell, as do many others who come for coffee on Saturday morning.

The building, being an old fire station and jail, seems to need constant care. Our current vice president, Heikki Penttila has gathered a steadfast committee to make sure it stays strong. He knows he can call on Ken Quigggle, Dennis Nelson, David Katila Bill Newbury, Ron Boyett, Lasse Hiltunen, and Dennis Mackey to help out with repairs and inspections.

Virpi Buck, a retired teacher like so many of our members, has put her teaching experience to good use – during certain times of the year, she teaches a Finnish language class to members and anyone else who is curious about this difficult language. Stick your head in the door on Tuesday evening and you may be surprised to hear so much laughter amid the difficult-to-pronounce Finnish words.

The father / son team of Dennis and Adam Mackey keep our security system running smoothly, along with Ron Boyett. The Fairport Harbor police Department thus has one more tool in fighting crime.

Perhaps our most famous committee is the Genealogy Committee, headed by Donna Lesiacsek and Anne Pohto. This committee also includes Ken Quiggle, Lasse Hiltunen, Jeff Werronen, Ron Toivonen, Larry King, Bill Newberry, Shirley Northcott, Juanita Cleary, Bonnie Lackey, Lisa Heiskanen, and Richard Ohler. Our Genies have presented programs for several groups in our area, especially a story that Ron Toivonen uncovered when doing research for a Finnish family from Switzerland.

I hope I haven’t left anyone off our list of volunteers, but chances are good that I have. If your name should be listed here please send me a message via our website, www.finnishheritagemsueum.org, telling me all that you have done or are doing for the museum. We also want to thank the Village of Fairport Harbor for maintaining Finn Hollow Park, next door to our museum, and our parking areas.

Programs coming up in 2018 include a discussion of long range plans for the museum, St. Urho’s day celebration, a talk by Finnish exchange students, Juhannus celebration, a discussion of the Finns who settled in Geauga County, a presentation about the Sami, and a program to honor our veterans. For the full schedule, including times and dates please visit our website, cited above.

Text © Sharon Mackey, Photo by Lasse Hiltunen








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