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by
Sharon OJanpa Mackey, FHM Staff Reporter

Jeff1 Do you remember the Blue Star Mothers? Even though the private, nonprofit group is still active today, most people associate it with WWII, when it was originally formed. A Blue Star Mother usually displayed a blue star in a window of her house, designating that a son or daughter was serving in the armed forces of the United States. The Blue Star Mothers often made up care packages for the servicemen who were serving overseas. A recent check of the history of Fairport Harbor, Ohio, showed that there were quite a few Blue Star Mothers in this small town.

At the November 12, 2018, meeting of the Finnish Heritage Museum (FHM), we wanted to show how much we appreciate the veterans who served in WWII, and how much our adopted homeland and town meant to us then as well as now. One of our members, John Ollila, had obtained numerous letters written by WWII servicemen to the Blue Star Mothers. Anne Pohto, Program Chair at the Museum, was able to find several descendants of the original letter writers, and she asked them to come in to read the letters their relatives had written. These original letters written from our soldiers and sailors were all sent to Mrs. Jack Liimakka, who then gave them to their proper recipients.

FHM war Vets Greg Mischo and Richard Ohler enjoy the fabulous food offered.

FHM member Richard Ohler had the honor of reading the first letter, written by Allan Liimakka. Allan had written the letter on January 3, 1943, from somewhere in North Africa. His letter was typical of the other letters received in Fairport, in that each letter writer thanked the Blue Star Mothers for the packages they had received, and the treats which all enjoyed. Allan wrote that there quickly was nothing but crumbs left in the box he received. Allan especially enjoyed the dates, which were grown near where he was stationed. After reading this letter, Richard told of his own service as an ammunitions handler in Korea.

Navy veteran Tom Matpack then read the letters from Raymond Keto and George Koski. Larry LaBounty, FHM member, read letters from Ralph Ylhainen and Arnold Rankila. Larry said he himself had served in the army, joking that he had joined because of an unrequited love affair. Bill Newbury read a letter from Arvo Saari and one from Arne Waltonen. Bill said he felt guilty about his time in the service because he never got shot at.
FHM Membership Chair Bill Lukshaw then read letters from Carl Fenley and Victor Nicardo. Bill himself served 21 years in the army, mostly in Germany and Eastern Turkey. Judy Maki Leathers read two letters, one from her father Alex Maki, and the second from John Kiikka. Greg Miscko read a letter from Richard Perala, whose wife was at home expecting their first child. Greg served our country in Viet Nam, living outdoors and carrying all his provisions. This life made him appreciate the qualities of civilization.

Chip Knox, who served in the Merchant Marine, then read a letter from John Bodak, who was a celebrated sports figure in Fairport, and was later listed as missing in action. The last two letters were from Tony Varga and were read by Ron Peura. Ron was in the Navy for six years as an aircraft mechanic, then became a pilot. He made many trips dropping pamphlets over Thailand, and would then have to fly back to his base and repair his airplane where it had suffered bullet holes.

Our final narrator of the day was Janice Tecil Kondik, whose daughter has served 33 years in the navy and the air force, including commanding a joint task force in the Middle East.

This treasure trove of letters found their way home from all over the world – China, the South Sea Islands, Morocco, Iceland, Northern Ireland, Hawaii, and places the letter writers weren’t allowed to mention. All the letter writers were grateful for the care packages sent from their hometown. We thank all of these veterans for their service.

ohler matpak labounty newby

Richard Ohler -------------Tom Matpack--------------- Larry LaBounty ------------Bill Newbury

lukshaw leathers mischo knox

Bill Lukshaw-----------------Judy Maki Leathers-----Greg Mischo----------------Chip Kox

peura tecil annep

Ron Peura-------------------Janice Tecil Kondik-----Anne Pohto, Program Director

------------VETERANS, THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE ---------------

Text © Sharon Mackey, Photos © Jane Hiltunen, 2018

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