By Lasse Hiltunen, President
It is always appropriate to begin by saying: “Kahfi on aina päällä!” This is an un-alterable axiom in the Finnish Culture. For our American friends, it means ”the coffee is always on. That combined with world-famous nisu (coffee bread) makes a very tasty combination. Together, they seem to get the usually quiet Finns to open up and discuss issues at hand.
2013 will bring some exciting projects that seem to the hallmark of Finns—always doing something with their hands and minds. Whether it is keeping records, setting up displays, updating genealogical files, putting together a refreshments table, adding trim pieces upstairs, painting, fixing the toilet and sink, shoveling snow, cleaning, fixing the furnace, or even building one of a kind kanteles, Finns and their spouses (who become Finns by marriage) are always involved in building something. And so it is again this year.
Our success and the success of any volunteer organization is measured by volunteerism. If that axiom is indeed true, then we have a tremendously rich institution.
It is certainly worth noting last year’s activities since they were very Finnish in nature and certainly touched the lives of participants and others involved. FHM represented itself at the Tree City, USA program, took a tour of the Fairport Harbor Coast Guard Station in Grand River, sponsored “nisu bakes” at the church, built and paraded a float titled “Squeaky Clean” (showcasing Finnish saunas, and took first place in its division), presented a talk and digital show about FHM to the Hudson, Ohio chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and presented a talk regarding first elected woman Ohio Mayor Dr. Amy Kaukonen at the FH Bicentennial celebration. FHM also hosted the “Dessert Portion” of a Lake County Museums Progressive Dinner in collaboration with Fairport Marine Museum and Lighthouse.
“In House” programs included a celebration of National Apron Day, where members wore their favorite aprons and related stories and memories that those aprons or esiliinas represented. To commemorate Fairport Harbor Village’s Bicentennial, FHM opened its doors for a “Cultural Tour” with many visitors seeing our exhibits for free. West Geauga’s Senior Citizens toured our museum and sat down for a real live “Kahvi Pöytää” or coffee table complete with traditional Finnish foods, presented at tables resplendent in Finnish tablecloths, napkins, and silverware set to showcase the meal.
Our regular monthly programs featured Finnish actors and actresses, kantele stories, and many programs that drew standing room only attendances.
The Fairport Finnish family genealogy programs and the Fairport Finnish businesses presentations had the highest attendance. Families presented were Hietanen, Hirvi, Hilston, Riippa, Ollila, Sironen, Kuhlberg, Werronen, Heitamaki, Salo, Silvi, Hautamaki, Vainionpää, and another Hilston branch.
The Fairport Finnish businesses included John’s Service Station, Makitalo Photography, Viola’s Beauty Salon, Mackey’s Market, Neal Printing, Heiskanen Shoe Repair, Lake County Bus Company, and Hill’s Hardware. Both series of programs illustrate just how important the Finns were to the establishment of the Village of Fairport. At one time, more than half of the inhabitants were of Finnish extraction, either immigrants direct from Finland, or first or second generation of Finns who had initially landed in some other area of Canada or the US.
Our Monthly programs will continue as in the past. Some of the months have already been reserved for this year, and Chairperson Ann Pohto and the Program Committee are already booking presentations for 2014.
It is important to note that the FHM has taken its place among the institutions of importance in Fairport Harbor. The collaboration with others, especially in the celebration of the Bicentennial, was excellent. This collaboration and cooperation continues and FHM is grateful to Fairport Harbor Mayor Tim Manross, the Village Council, the Fairport Harbor Tourist Board’s Pat Spivak, the Fairport Harbor School Superintendent Domenic Paolo, Fairport Marine Museum and Lighthouse’s Dan Maxon, and Columbus Sports Commission’s Linda Logan.
Donations to the museum continue to accrue, both in monetary donations and in unique historical items of interest. We welcome your donations. We are a non-profit organization duly registered as a 501 (c)(3).
Scholarship: This past year, the Nick Hiltunen Memorial Scholarship was presented for the first time to Andy Bodi, going to OSU. Another presentation will be made this year.
Genealogy and the search for Fairport Finnish ancestors continues and has evolved into passions for some members. The group meets monthly to share successes and problems and welcome visitors. Our resident Genealogist Ann Kalliomää Pohto has held conferences via appointment with Finns who are interested in their ancestry and how it relates to our database of families. Presently, we have paper copies of records dutifully transcribed and carefully filed and cross-referenced. One immediate goal is to have all of the records digitally copied and stored off-site.
FHM Hall of Fame has three new inductees presented at our February meeting. They are Fanni Luukonen, Frans Eemil Sillanpaa, Beatrice Ojakangas, and Melvin Laurie John Hakola. Interestingly enough, a possible link to a “ Finnish sister city” and a reposting of our Hall members is presently being investigated.
No organization these days continues without having fund raising activities. For the last two years, Fred’s Appliance Co. Madison, Oh, has donated a flat screen TV that we have used as a fundraiser with donations towards tickets. Those projects have been very successful. Our resident loom-master Rebecca Steinback has produced placemats and runners, which have been both raffled and sold in the gift shop. More fund-raisers are in the works, with a new Fund-Raising Chair: Pat Spivak.
Our diligent and capable Membership Chair, Elaine Kangas has produced another excellent report detailing our membership rolls. Presently our group has 156 paid applications (all categories) and 282 members. Membership has become a very important part of the Finnish Experience and has produced some “everlasting” friendships amongst members. That is an excellent by-product of member interactions over projects, coffee and nisu, and of course heritage.
The Finnish Heritage Museum website changed its looks somewhat and added some new items to make it more user friendly. Thus, www.finnishheritagemuseum.org continues to be an extremely viable window to our world.
2013 will prove to be an exciting year for FHM. In the works are projects. The first is titled the “Spirit of Finland,” a magnificent fourteen by six foot aluminum sculpture designed and created by Fairport High School graduate Ken Valimaki, whose works are found around the country. The second physical project is another step in the completion of the second floor meeting room, with installation of insulation, studs, wallboard, ceiling, and renovation of existing walls and access. This will follow a structural renovation completed this year, which shored up the second floor joists and the south wall. A “crack” in the mortar was also secured, plugging up a significant flaw that cost heating and cooling dollars. The building is secure and doing quite well for bricks and mortar heading towards the century mark. It is indeed a great location for such an important institution.
The Finnish Heritage Museum is thriving. Come join us. You do not even have to be Finnish to take part in the camaraderie of its members.
February 6, 2013.