Finnish Heritage Museum 301 High Street
Fairport Harbor, Oh, 44077
Map Here
Museum Hours:
Saturday 10am-3pm
"Tomorrow’s Promises Wait To Be Done"
By Jovette Hitunen

“Tomorrow’s promises wait to be done.” On June 10, over fifty guests and members of the Finnish Heritage Museum gathered at the Fairport Harbor Veteran’s Memorial Park to hear Professor Emeritus Gene Kangas describe the Finnish Monument that he designed 19 years ago.

Lasse Hiltunen, President of FHM, welcomed all to the program. After introduction of the honored guests by Anne Pohto, Chairman of the Programs Committee, and a welcome by Niles Oinonen, original master of ceremonies in 2003, Kangas began his presentation with stories of the importance of planning for the future when choosing a sculpture. The committee that met to bring this sculpture to Fairport was a small but forward thinking one. It took agreements between the community and the local government to place this 16-foot sculpture in its prominent position. Private funds, along with business donations of labor and materials, were used to pay for the monument.

After months of meetings to determine what the committee wanted in a sculpture, Kangas planned the design, got it approved by the committee and the local government, and then traveled to Finland to pick out the granite for the actual stonework. Unbeknown to Kangas, the company was located at #1 Kangas Street. Back home, Kangas was working with wooden balls in his artworks and this company had granite sphere art all around its showroom. Kangas was born in the North Star building in Fairport Harbor and he felt that the North Star guided the Finns. As he moved forward with the design, the North Star continued to have impact on his work. Discussions with the owner, Eero Vainikka, helped Kangas to bring back granite that proved to be “vandal discouraged.” Anywhere that there were top surfaces, the granite was left rough to prevent skateboarding, etc. The corners of the monument were flattened and rounded to make it safe in the event someone bumped into it and difficult to chip. Every facet of the monument was carefully planned and each of the three sides of the granite pyramid stone had its own unique identity.

As a young boy, Kangas worked with his grandfather to cut wood. One lesson that stuck was the day his father introduced the two man saw. Like most young boys Kangas jumped in and started pushing and pulling as fast as he could. The elder Kangas said to his son, “I pull and you pull, I pull and you pull. There is no push.” As they worked together, Gene saw quickly that if each took his turn pulling the work went smoothly and quickly. Just as he watched his mother and her sisters work in the local Suonio Bakery at the corner of 6th and High Street, these little lessons would help him learn what it meant to do his part and make life work.

The Balmoral Red granite (formed over 1500 million years ago) forms the pyramid and base of the sculpture. These two stone forms extend 10 feet 8 inches above ground level. Above the granite are two metal forms made from heavy American stainless steel. Combining the two represent the “joining of time and culture.” Swans, the Finnish national “Nature Symbol” were chosen to top the monument. Swans mate for life and they are very protective of their partners and family. “Swans are like the immigrants who had to cross a great ocean to come to this land.” The swans are mounted on ball bearings so they can move in bad weather. The time capsule below the swans holds a second set of ball bearings should they be needed. After the monument was placed, 23 families have names on the base of the monument with 108 more on the surrounding pavers. The landscaping continues in the round with three benches encircling the monument and birch trees all around. Due to our climate, river birches rather than traditional white birches were planted.

Many local Finnish families contributed to the success of the monument and there was $4,000.00 left over. That money was given to the local government to keep for subsequent repairs and/or upkeep on the monument. Three years ago, heavy storms moved the monument enough to tilt it. Kangas found a local company in Willoughby willing to move the monument back in place for $4,000.00. The pavers had to be removed so the company could dig. Two couples held onto the pavers until the work was done and then returned to the monument and worked to put them back together in the exact same places. The following is the poem written by the artist but with all immigrants in mind.


They voyaged so very, very far
Leaving friends and homelands.
Guided by the brilliant North Star,
They came with heart and hands.

They labored hard as they tried
To build, create, and explore.
Quietly, they laughed and cried
In private homes with open doors.

Like soul-mated swans, faithfully true,
They soared beyond their safe space.
On powerful angelic wings, they flew
Contented with this wondrous place.

Below, sparkling waters glowed bright
Magically inspired by every setting sun.
Oh, much was fulfilled, so much set right,
Tomorrow's promises wait to be done.

Gene Kangas

Everyone then gathered at Zion Church parlors for refreshments and conversation.