ROCKLAND — Caryl Miilu, the invincible and inimitable wife, mother, grandmother, daughter, sister, aunt, cousin, and friend to all, left this world just as she lived in it, doing it her way. She transitioned peacefully surrounded by her loving daughters and sons-in-law as well as a very competent and compassionate medical staff.
She was born to Evelyn (Larson) and Arvo Lehto on May 14, 1935, in Rockland Township and christened Helen Carol Lehto.
As a young child, she changed her name to Carol only to discover there were too many Carols in her class, so she amended her name further by changing the spelling to Caryl with a y.
In the early years, Caryl and her parents lived in Bergland, and in 1941, her beloved “little sister” Sylvia Marilyn was born.
Childhood years were split between Rockland and Ontonagon which ignited Caryl’s ability to make connections whereever she was. This resiliency, or Sisu, served her well throughout her formative years.
Precocious and tenacious, Caryl graduated from Ontonagon High School in 1952, a year early.
Big changes were afoot on the homefront, too. A happy addition to the family was Caryl’s step-father the kind and gentle Albert Ojanen.
Then, foregoing a scholarship at the University of Michigan, Caryl sought employment in the administrative offices at the new copper mine in White Pine. There, as she liked to inform her daughters, she worked for the “big boss” dressing every bit the part of an administrative assistant. During her tenure, Caryl’s best friend and match-maker, Mary Lou (Besson) Isatalo introduced her to her future husband Douglas Carl Miilu.
After a whirlwind romance, Caryl and Carl were married on October 9, 1954. Eventually, the happy couple purchased and moved into the Martin house in Rockland.
They welcomed five wonderful daughters into this home over the next 15 years: Kim, Kay, Karen, Kamela (Kammi), and Karlyn (Kiki).
Thus began the legend of Caryl and Carl Miilu of Rockland. Always clever and courageous, Caryl had a knack for transforming her many hobbies and skills into employment opportunities. This hard-working mom taught music at Winona Public Schools, gave private piano lessons in her home, sold Avon, served as regional manager selling World Book Encyclopedia, and taught children with special needs in a community day program.
After 18 years of greeting dental patients for Dr. Johnson, Caryl retired to travel and spend time with her husband and family.
A dedicated community servant, Caryl taught Sunday School at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church and later became the organist and choir director. Central to her life, she served in this position until 2021. Caryl also served as secretary for the United Methodist Women, Church Council, and the Ladies of the Kaleva, Ainon Tupa No. 13. She volunteered for the election board, the Ontonagon Theatre of Performing Arts, and as cancer survivor, was proud to participate in cancer fundraisers.
An artist at heart, Caryl enjoyed acrylic and water color painting, knitting, crocheting, gardening, reading, singing, playing the piano, antiquing, collecting, doing crossword puzzles, playing Scrabble with her dearest cousin Mavis, playing Trivial Pursuit with her grandkids, baking, creating traditions, and welcoming people into her home which she fondly referred to as “grand central station.” At all hours of the day and night, she welcomed visitors with coffee and tea, bakery, and lively conversation.
Caryl is preceded in death by her parents Evelyn Ojanen, Arvo Lehto, and Albert Ojanen, and her loving and devoted husband, Carl Miilu.
In addition to the countless people she made a heartfelt connection with, Caryl is survived by her sister, Sylvia Lehto, daughters, Kim Miilu-Stipanovich (John), Kay (Miilu) Savela (Richard), Karen Miilu, Kamela Miilu, and Karlyn Miilu-Maxon (Richard); grandchildren, Nathan (Alyssa), Eric, Daniel, Kristopher (Stacey), Derek, Alexandra (Ximon), Travis (Ashley), Ryan (Angelyn), Ian (Colleen), and Luke; great-children, Braxtan, Ryder, Kolbi, Lola, Zeb, Emery, Elliot, Finn, and Brooks; sisters and brothers-in-law, cousins, and numerous nieces and nephews.
Funeral service will be held on Saturday, July 24, 2021 at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Rockland.
Visitation from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m, service at 1 p.m. burial at Woodlawn cemetery, with luncheon immediately following at the town hall.