Maria Kahma RantaX

Location: Ontonagon, Michigan

My husband Rudolf and I and our three young children lived in the city of Vaasa on the western coast of Finland, where I owned a store and Rudolf was a detective with the police department. After my husband made two exploratory trips to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, we decided to move from Finland to Michigan, and Rudolf prepared a home for us in the copper mining town of Winona. After farewells to my husband’s sister and my sister and her family, I traveled with our three young children by train to Hanko, then by ship to England, and by another ship across the Atlantic Ocean to Montreal, Canada. Our journey continued by train to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, across the Canadian border into the United States, and from Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan to Winona. Rudolf greeted us at the station, and as I stepped off the train and onto the platform, I declared (in Finnish) “Now I am an American!” We left Finland in 1913, just a few years before Finland became independent from Russia and fell into civil war, during which Vaasa was the center of one of the two fighting factions. Several years later, Russia attacked and involved Finland in a short but terrible war, followed by World War II. My nephew died as a soldier. While living in Winona, another daughter and son were born. We moved to a farm near Ontonagon, and then owned a restaurant in South Range. One Sunday evening, the children and I waited for Rudolf to return from an errand to take us for a drive. We waited … waited … waited. In the early morning, a telephone call from Houghton informed me that Rudolf had been the victim of a car accident. As I traveled by bus through the town of Atlantic Mine, I recognized our overturned car. Approaching the hospital in Houghton, I gathered strength to visit my dear husband, who survived for just a few weeks. With my five children, I moved to Ontonagon and established a boarding house business. Each morning before light I began the day of preparing breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Three times a day, my children set out plates and silverware and washed dishes. While I spoke Finnish and Swedish, along with only a few words of English, my children and I worked hard together, remembering our dear, wise, loving, adventuresome Rudolf.

Contributed by: Jane Phillips, Detroit, MI