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100 years, endless memories

July 5, 2010

PAINESDALE - Audrey (Oates) Hunter guesses she could have been the oldest person in the room - she did, after all, graduate from the Adams Township School District in 1933.

"I was just 16 years old when I graduated from high school," she said.

Sitting at a table surrounded by old friends, Hunter was one of many who took part in the Jeffers High School 2010 Centennial Graduation Celebration, honoring 100 years of graduates.

Article Photos

Stacey Kukkonen/Daily Mining Gazette
Helen Kinnunen and Audrey (Oates) Hunter look over names in a bulletin during the Jeffers High School 2010 Centennial Graduation Celebration dinner banquet Saturday.

Hunter was situated at a table for the Jeffers Alumni Dinner Saturday evening, taking in all of her surroundings with Helen Kinnunen, who graduated with the Class of 1933.

Since leaving the school, Kinnunen has been back often, and likes the upgrades the school has undergone in the past few years.

"I like the addition of the elevator," she said.

From July 1 to 4, events for the Centennial Celebration were held in Painesdale, South Range and surrounding areas. Saturday, before the dinner, guest lecturer Kent Randell, from Finlandia University's Finnish Historical Archives, presented "Finnish Genealogy."

Randell informed participants about the origin of Finnish names and families starting with a brief overview of Finland's ties with Russia and the move to the United States, or "Uusi Lappi" starting around the 1880s. At the time, Finns began to settle in Massachusetts, Ohio, Oregon, Minnesota and Michigan's Upper Peninsula, which was rich in copper mining.

"After the mines closed, the Finns never left," Randell said.

A few Finns also settled in the Dakotas, retired to Florida and moved to Alaska, he said. During his presentation, he covered the Finnish alphabet, explaining "Y" is always a vowel in Finnish and while some Finnish names are prominent in the Copper Country, "B" names are not common in Finland.

"There is no Bekkola in Finland," he said. "It would be Pekkola."

Randell explained how Finnish names came to be, in some cases, depending on from where a family hails. Names ending with "en" could hail from the southern half of the country while names ending with "la" generally hail from the north, he said.

"In Finland, your name is where you live," he said. "Saari is island, Maki from the hill."

Also, a vast number of names are generated from titles, like farm names, soldier names, family names and clergy names, he said.

During his lecture, Randell offered several starting places for family genealogy, such as family Bibles, the census and the local county clerk's office. Various websites, such as the HisKi Project and the Finnish Family History Association, are also good sources. Members of the community are also welcome to visit Randell at Finlandia University to find out more about their genealogy.

Kelly (Koskela) Self attended the lecture and thought the presentation was a good source of information.

"I thought it was fantastic," she said. "I'm very interested in Finnish genealogy. I was born in Hancock and now I live downstate."

Self said her kids are even interested in learning about their Finnish background, as well.

Also during the Centennial Celebration, various locations were set up as viewing areas for people to look at thousands of historic photos. Harold Heikkinen, with the class of 1956, had his own collection, of approximately 8,700 images, set up in the library at the high school. Near the end of the 1960s, he began collecting old photos and taking photos to make his collection what it is today.

"I brought all the ones that pertain to Adams Township," he said.

Some of the photos featured in the display were of an earthquake in the Copper Country.

"Those were about 1,000 feet from my home," he said.

Stacey Kukkonen can be reached at skukkonen@



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