Carl Pellonpaa was much more than face on TV

Carl V. Pellonpaa was an Upper Peninsula treasure. The longtime host of “Finland Calling,” or “Suomi Kutsuu,” died Sept. 1. The show ran Sunday mornings on WLUC-TV6 from 1962 to 2015.

The son of Finnish immigrants, he instilled his affection for his heritage in many ways.

Perhaps the most notable was “Finland Calling,” which was the only Finnish language television show in the United States and the longest-running television program in the world with the same host.

However, Pellonpaa also was involved in local government, having been elected to the Marquette County Board of Supervisors, now known as the Marquette County Board of Commissioners, and served with the Michigan State Highway Commission, now the Michigan Department of Transportation.

Pellonpaa was the recipient of many honors and awards, including the Knight of the Order of the White Rose in 1988. He was honorary consul of Finland, and had visited that country numerous times.

Pellonpaa was 87 at the time of his passing. Considering he retired from his hosting duties of “Finland Calling” only in 2015, he was active through the later years of his life.

A 2008 article on MyNorth.com featured Pellonpaa and the show, with the story reading in part: “For loyal viewers, though, there is no mystery to the show”s enduring appeal. The bands playing traditional Finnish music, the interviews, the spoken Finnish language, images from Finland — it all forms a direct connection to the homeland for the large population of Finnish Americans in the Upper Peninsula and Wisconsin.

“Pellonpaa quotes a 1960 census figure that said 25 percent of the then-300,000 U.P. residents were first or second generation Finns. The show affirms the culture and the viewer’s very sense of self.”

A person didn’t have to be Finnish-American, though, to enjoy Pellonpaa’s company or his program. His presence transcended his heritage, although he undoubtedly was proud of his Finnish roots, having been the son of immigrants from that country.

Spreading that Finnish heritage was a big part of Carl V. Pellonpaa’s life, but it wasn’t the only one.

And for that, we are better off for having him in our midst all these years.

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