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Big monument for a big man

March 29, 2012
By Kurt Hauglie ( , The Daily Mining Gazette

HANCOCK - About two years ago, Mike Gemignani thought it would be a good idea to have some kind of likeness of "Big Louie" Moilanen made, so he started making inquiries.

Gemignani said he found someone who said he could make a carving of the Copper Country giant out of a log, but the price was too high.

After discussions between Gemignani and Dana Richter, who lives near what was Moilanen's farm in the Salo area north of Hancock, an idea was born to create a monument to memorialize Moilanen on the centennial of his death in 2013.

Article Photos

Kurt Hauglie/Daily Mining Gazette
Hancock Township resident Dana Richter, who is taking the lead for an effort to create a monument for “Big Louie” Moilanen, shows a drawing of the proposed granite monument and suggested inscription during a meeting Wednesday in the community room of Lakeview Manor in Hancock. Moilanen held several jobs in the Hancock area, was in a circus and was listed in the Guiness Book of World Records. He died in 1913.

Gemignani was one of a small group of people gathered Wednesday in the community room of Lakeview Manor in Hancock for a discussion led by Richter about how to go about getting a monument to Moilanen erected.

Although exactly how tall Moilanen was is a matter of debate, with descriptions ranging from 8 feet, 1 inch to 8 feet, 4 inches, Richter said the death certificate he found in the Houghton County Court House indicates he was 8 feet, 1 inch at the time of his death on Sept. 16, 1913. The certificate lists his age as 27 years, 7 months and 12 days.

Moilanen is buried in Lakeside Cemetery on M-203 north of Hancock, Richter said. The gravestone there lists his height as 8-feet-3-inches and weight at 560 pounds.

Richter said Moilanen was born in Finland and came to the United States when he was 4 years old. He grew up on the family farm in Salo. He had jobs as a farmer, a miner, a justice of the peace in Hancock, saloon keeper and circus "freak."

He was also listed in the Guinness Book of World Records.

"He put Hancock on the map," Richter said. "He was world-renowned."

Richter said the idea he has for a monument to Moilanen is a slab of granite 8-feet-3-inches tall with a plaque with a narrative of Moilanen. An estimate he received for the monument is $3,400, with a total cost of $5,000 to get it erected.

"Hopefully, we're going to get contributions that cover that," he said.

Although he has no connection to Moilanen, Richter said he does think something should be done to memorialize him.

"I'm totally unrelated," he said. "I'm a German from Minnesota."

Richter said Hancock officials are supportive of the idea of erecting a monument to Moilanen.

"The city of Hancock said they would find a place for it," he said.

Also at the meeting was Hancock City Councilman John Haeussler, who said the council does support the idea of a monument to Moilanen, but they want input from the public about exactly were it should be located.

"The council is very receptive to a Big Louie monument somewhere in the city," he said.

Haeussler said ideas presented so far for the location of the monument include on the grounds of the Finnish American Heritage Center on Quincy Street, Porvoo Park on the Portage Lake Shipping Canal and Montezuma Park on Hancock Street, which isn't used much since the Tori Market moved to the lawn of the former Hancock Middle School on Quincy Street.

"There isn't a lot of activity at Montezuma Park," he said.

Haeussler, who is chair of the Hancock Sesquicentennial Publication Committee, said there is a plan to honor Moilanen in some way during the celebrations next year.

"That is the centennial of his passing," he said.

Richter said the Houghton County Historical Society has agreed to get involved with the project, and they will be taking donations for the monument.

Gerald Perreault of the HCHS, who was at the Wednesday meeting, said donations for the monument won't be mixed with other funds of the organization.

"They will be deposited in separate accounts," he said.

Gemignani presented Perrault with a $100 check for the fund during the meeting.

Richter said he thinks if $1,000 in donations were received within the next two months, the project to erect a monument to Moilanen would have a good start.

He's hoping envelopes for donations for the monument will be placed in businesses in the area, Richter said. Donations can be sent to Big Louie Monument Project, Houghton County Historical Society P.O. Box 127 Lake Linden, MI 49945. Richter can be contacted at

Richter said he would like any relatives of Moilanen to contact him to be part of the effort to erect the monument to Big Louie.

Haeussler said the crowd at the meeting Wednesday may have been small, but if the word about the planned monument to Big Louie gets around, the project should be successful.

"We have to get momentum going to get to our goal," he said. "Our numbers are not strong, but our enthusiasm is."



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