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Evelyn Lancour McNamara
I was born in 1924 in Osier in the Upper Peninsula of Mihcigan I was the third child of Edward Lancour and Eva Morin. My parents did many things over the years to earn a living and raise their family. My parents sometimes worked at lumber camps during the winter and we would live there. I was a bit of a tomboy and I remember helping Dad build a general store on US41 and it was attached to our house. The store carried all of the staples and we also had a gas pump out front. Many aunts and uncles and cousins on both the Lancour and Morin sides of the family lived near us. I was the only kindergartner in the one room schoolhouse that we went to, so I spent more time on the teacher's lap than doing school work. On the way home from school we would go through the front door of my aunt's house, say a quick hello then head out the back door grabbing an apple out of the apple barrel there. As a young woman just before WWII, I married a neighbor boy and childhood sweetheart, Kenneth Rabideau, who was going off to war. I travelled to California alone by train to set up housekeeping near the army base while he was shipped out. There was a terrible mix-up in train schedules when I arrived in California and it was a couple of days before Ken and I were able to find each other. Our marriage was short-lived as he, an army medic, was killed in action in France before the birth of our son, Gary. Grieving and alone, I came back to the UP to my family. I hoped to start a rooming house for college students in Marquette, but at the time it was very difficult for a single woman to get financing for such a deal. After the war, I met Martin McNamara of Kiva, a cousin of a good friend of mine, and it was an automatic match for both of us. We soon married and moved to Eaton Rapids, near Lansing, Michigan, where I gave birth to 16 more children whilm we raised during the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and into the 1980s. I died at the age of 84 surrounded by my loving husband Marty and my caring family.
James Edwin Collins
Hello, I am James Edwin Collins, and I received the Albert Gallatin Award for thirty-nine years of service in the Coast Guard and U.S. Lighthouse Service when I retired. I was born in Brimley, Michigan, on June 13, 1896. When I was 12 years old, my father died. I was the oldest son so I went to work as a “cookie” in a lumber camp. Despite this adversity, I continued to improve my education. I was able to take the state examination and received my certificate of completion of Grade 8 for the State of Michigan. I was very proud of that accomplishment, but continued to work in lumber camps. I joined the army during World War I, worked at the Newberry State Hospital, and in 1919 passed the Civil Service test to join the United States Lighthouse Service. For the next 39 years I worked as Assistant Keeper at the Detroit River, Point Iroquois, Middle Island, Stannard’s Rock, and Manitou Island Light Stations, and I became Keeper in Charge at Huron Island Light Station in 1935. I retired from the Upper Entry Station on June 30, 1958. While at the Huron Island Station, I received the Superintendent’s Star for exemplary service. My wife, Laura, and I raised 5 children at the lighthouse homes we lived in. I truly saw the light in my lifetime.
Hilda Tapanni Hankianoja
I was born Hilda Tapanni Hankianoja on November 5th 1873 in Karsimaki Finland. My husband Isaak, son Frank and I came to Mass City in the late 1800s with all of my brothers. My house we built in 1900 is still with my son Emil’s family I was a quiet peaceful woman who kept my sadness to myself. I outlived Isaak and three of my five children. Two children died from consumption at ages 17 and 22. My peonies still grow in the same soil and the faith I shared with my family still is shared today. My son Emil and daughter Aina had to quit school in 8th grade to help our family survive. I never spoke English and I never cut my hair.
Aliina Elizabeth Onkalo
My name is Aliina Elizabeth Onkalo. Many people call me Lena. I was born November 4, 1881 in Finland. My family came to American when I was in my early teens. On Octobter 9, 1897 I married Jacob John Onkalo. In 1905 we moved our family from Boston Location and settled in an area between Painesdale, South Range and Chassell. My parents, Issac and Maria Laitila, and my brother Victor live about a mile from us on the road to South Range. Victor is my only sibling and he loves horses and has worked with the huge logging horses that Jacob hires for his logging company. One day while working with the horses Victor was kicked in the head. He survived but hasn't been quite the same sine so he will never be able to live on his own. The loggers that Jacob hires stay in the bunkhouse and only come into our home when it's time to eat. I do the cooking for them, but I won't let them into the house until they've had a nice hot sauna since many of them carry lice from working in the woods. Our home also has a summer kitchen to keep the rest of the house from getting hot while cooking in the summer. With our children, loggers, hired hands, cows, horses, chickens, dogs and other animals, our home is a place of constant activity. Besides logging, Jacob is involved in many organizations. He was an advisor to agriculturist, Leo M. Geismar and to the school director, John M. Doelle and is established in the Suomi Opisto. He's also on the board of directors of the South Range Bank, and the head of the Baltic-South range Suomi-Synod Church, which he and I have been with since 1905, and many others. We even leased a piece of our land to have a school built, so now our children go to the Suo School by just crossing the river. This area has been referred to as the "Suo District." Suo means swamp in Finnish. Our eldest daughter passed away from Scarlet Fever in 1929 so our son-in-law and their 5 children also live with us.
"My name is Ann Bowden. I was born in Camborne, Cornwall, England in 1829, a daughter of Henry Richards and Mary Ann (Marks) Richards. I married my first husband, a copper miner named Richard Luke, there in 1850. He was younger than me and not very mature. By 1861 he went abroad, leaving me to raise our four children by myself. Because the mines were closing at home and work was scarce, my children and I made the trip across the ocean to Hancock, Michigan, where copper mines were booming, and by 1870 I supported my family by taking in boarders. I married my second husband Richard Bowden, and moved to Red Jacket (now Calumet), Michigan. We were very happy, and had a son together. Although 13 years younger than me, my second husband Richard also preceded me in death, and I found myself without a husband once more. To survive I ran a grocery store and boarding house called "The Traveler's Home" on North Fifth Street in Red Jacket. My portrait reflects that I was a hard-working, independent woman, yet a saucy joke I supposedly told that has passed down over 100 years reveals that I retained my Cornish sense of humor. By 1900 I was living in my boarding house with two of my children, a son-in-law, four grandchildren, two servants, and ten boarders. I died the tenth of August that year due to senile gangrene, and was buried in Lakeview Cemetery in Calumet. Eric Munch, 3rd-great-grandson, Calumet, MI.
My grandmother was born in 1888 to German immigrant parents in Chicago, Illinois. By 1912 she had met and married my grandfather and was pregnant with my father. They were living in Billings, Montana. One day in 1912 he came home and told her she needed to return to her parents in Chicago because his girlfriend was pregnant and he wanted a divorce. She arrived in Chicago still pregnant only to have her father send her back to Montana to be where she belonged, which in his mind was with her husband. She returned to Montana alone, frightened and soon to be a single mother. After giving birth to my father she homesteaded in Wyoming scraping by on the little she could earn by taking in sewing from the local townspeople. Although she had had to drop out of school high school, she loved reading and she loved reading to my father. When he was 12 years old, she moved with him back to Chicago in order to provide him with a proper education. Upon his arrival, he was tested for placement by the Chicago public schools who immediately double promoted him. He graduated at age 16, as both president and Valedictorian of his class. My grandmother earned her G.E.D. the year I was born. Five years later, the son she read to and worked so hard to bring up was promoted to a major general in the U.S. Army. She read to her grandchildren and was wonderful part of our lives until she passed in the 1960s. Our father passed on to his children the love of learning his mother had passed on to him. Mary Jane Hatton, granddaughter Hancock, MI
Isle Royale Summers When I was a very young married girl, I had four boys in pretty quick order. Because my husband rented cottages during the school year for us to live in, we had to vacate each spring. Needing somewhere to live, I took my four little boys to Isle Royale, usually when there was still snow on the ground and we stayed until at least mid-September. On Isle Royale, we lived in a canvas tent put up on a wood platform. That lasted for way too long. One morning I opened the tent flaps to find a bull moose starring at me. That did it!!! The next year my husband built us a little cabin that even had a little gas stove. One day, as I rowed the boat up into Snug Harbor, one of the boys saw something in the water. I rowed over to see what it was. Fortunately, before the boys recognized it, I saw that it was the long hair of a woman who had drowned. I rowed away as fast as I could and got men to go out a retrieve her body. Chris Bryan, granddaughter Pelkie, MI
Annie (Mason) Neely
I am Annie (Mason) Neely. My father, Thomas Mayson, was born in Madison County Mississippi in 1854. He was eight years old when the American Civil War began in earnest. My mother, Cornelia Stokes, was born in Mississippi, June, 1864. In 1865, the 13th Amendment was adopted, abolishing slavery, releasing my father and other “colored” people from generations of slavery in the United States of America. My father married my mother, Saturday, June 13th 1885. I was born January 18th, 1886 in Madison County. While my father could read and write, my mother could not. I learned to read and write and do farm labor. After 1910 our family dropped the “y” in Mayson, accepting “Mason” as the proper spelling of our name. For work, I hired out as a farm laborer. I was married twice. My only child was born November 16th, 1907. During the 1930s, in the middle of the nation’s great economic Depression, my son (Willie) and his family followed other relatives leaving the racial and economic repression of the South. They traveled north to Chicago seeking jobs and a better life. They got settled there. I was about 54 years old when I joined them in Chicago. My sister, Mattie Mason Bradshaw, came to Chicago in the 1920s. She managed a barbeque restaurant—The Alabama Barbeque Pit. I and other relatives worked there when we first arrived in Chicago. We lived and worked in an area called the near Westside, not far from the newly opened Chicago Stadium (replaced by the United Center today). I departed this world in 1969, leaving great- grandchildren who called me “Grand Stanley.” Decades later several great-great grandchildren are living in the Chicago area. One great-great grandchild now lives in Australia, and I have two great great grandchildren who were born and raised right there in the Copper Country. I guess you call them “Yoopers.” I must say, it’s all quite distant from the Madison County Mississippi of my youth. Willie Melton III Great Grandson Houghton, Michigan
My name is Charles VanWormer and I was born in Harvey, Michigan on September 25, 1916. I was the third child born out of twelve and as a child, I worked very hard on the family farm in Sands. When I was twelve years old, my job was to drive a horse and wagon, loaded with potatoes from Sands to South Marquette, so I could earn money. When I was 16 years old, I joined the Civilian Conservation Corps so I could send money back home to help my parents support my brothers and sisters. I was at the Newberry Camp and worked hard as a logger. I married Ruth O'Donnell in February of 1941 and we had three children. When World War II broke out, I joined the Army and served in the 132nd Signal Corp in Austria. When I returned, I worked for LS&I on the ore docks until I retired. My descendants would say that I set a good example by my strong work ethic and willingness to help others.
Clara Mae (Thomas) Auston
I am Clara Mae (Thomas) Auston. I was born August 7, 1905 in Lumpkin County, Georgia. Georgia, as the rest of the South, had lots of laws and customs obliging racial separation and inequality from cradle to grave. With encouragement from W.E.B. Dubois, Joseph Winthrop Holley founded what became Georgia Normal and Agricultural College in 1903 in Albany Georgia. The institution provided elementary education and teacher training for “colored” people. I received my teacher training certificate from the college July 10th, 1924. President Holley signed my certificate. I worked with “troubled” children in a segregated rural Georgia school. My husband, Effie Auston, was four years younger than me and worked as a farm laborer. I was 23 years old when our first child, Effie Will, was born. In 1929 the nation’s great economic depression was just beginning. That year my family, like millions of other “colored” people, left the South seeking jobs and a better life in the North. We left Georgia traveling north to Chicago with our infant daughter. We lived with my husband’s relatives when we first arrived. I gave birth to two more children, a girl--Authurnetta, and a boy--Gene, within five years of arriving in Chicago. We eventually moved to a first-floor apartment on Wolcott Street, not far from the newly opened Chicago stadium (replaced by the United Center today). My husband worked factory jobs. I raised three children and also worked in factories. I worked the longest at the well-known Case-Moody’s pie factory until it shut down in the 1950s. I’m standing next to one of my grandchildren in the picture. The pie factory is one block down the street behind us on my left. I departed this world in 1963, leaving grandchildren, who called me “Big Mama.” I now have several great- and great-great grandchildren in the Chicago area. One great-great grandchild now lives in Australia, and I have two great-great grandchildren who were born and raised right there in the Copper Country. That makes them “Yoopers,” I guess.
Hilda Heikkinen Karinen
My name is Hilda Heikkinen Karinen. I was born in Finland December 18, 1882. I came to America in 1884 before I was 2 years old. On September 13, 1890 we left Point Mills in a boat with 5 other families, 19 people total, and head to Otter Lake where we homesteaded. I married William Heikkinen, who was born in Finland on September 2, 1918, on May 30, 1900. We had 6 children, 5 girls & 1 boy and I was pregnant for the 7th child when my husband was killed, possibly murdered, as he was carrying the payroll for the employees that had arrived on the train. I eventually moved the family to Hurontown & worked cleaning houses in the wealthy eastside of Houghton to support us. All four of my daughters obtained college degrees, 3 as teachers & 1 as a nurse. Judy Kinnunen, granddaughter, Pensacola, FL
Dono was born in Chassell in 1898. He became a cook's apprentice in his teens, cooking and baking for lumber camps in Canada, Baraga and Houghton counties. Two of his daughters, Myrtice and Marie assisted him in later years. The family still prepares several of his recipes to this day. Dono was also a chef on the dredges on the Great Lakes and later was the cook for the National Parks Service on Isle Royale. He owned his own restaurant in Hancock for a while, then moved his large family to Baraga County in 1940. He owned and operated several restaurants in Baraga County including one where Carla's in Keweenaw Bay stands today. Dono also ran the 'rootbeer stand' at the head of the bay, between L'Anse and Baraga, where he was famous for his pizza burgers! He was a hard worker and a good family man who accomplished a lot with only a third grade education. He is fondly remembered by his children and grandchildren who are now in the 50s, 60s, 80s and 90s! -Kay E. McIntyre, wife of Riley Mcintyre who is Dono's grandson.
Hilma Christina Mikkelsen Tuomin
HIlma Christina Mikkelsen Tuomin, my maternal grandmother, was born in Vadso, in far northern Norway, in 1876. After some years of serving as a maid and doing some cooking, she sailed to America in 1902, arriving in Hancock, Michigan, where she continued the same work. Within a few years, she was in Port Edwards, Wisconsin, working for the Lewis Alexander family that owned the Nekoosa-Edwards Paper Company. The opportunity to do more cooking came when the head cook took ill. "Let me try!" she pleaded. "Ah, but what do you know of fine cooking?" asked the lady of the house. Well, Hilma had studied French cooking with one of the Norwegian families who traveled abroad. Her trial meal was a success, and she was promoted to Head Cook at the Alexander family home. In 1912 she married Kustaa Wilhelm Tuomin, a Finnish immigrant from Mantyharju, in Milawaukee, Wisconsin. Two daughters were born to them, Ema Pauline (my mother) in 1913, and Dagmar Wilhelmina in 1916. Hilma and Kustaa farmed on several locations in the Milawaukee area, finally setting in West Allis in a house they built at 2229 South 91st Street.
Ida Nisonen Karttunen
Loneliness sits on one's heart like a cold chunk of butter, but it also melts with the warmth of love. I was born in Finland and lived on a small farm. Mother died when I was five, leaving Father to care for five children. Soon we lost that farm. The older girls got work in different households, but Brother and I were so young that nobody wanted us. I went to stay with Father's cousin. When his wife saw me each night crying by the window, she would give me bread with a pat of butter and say, "Go by the brick oven and spread the butter on the bread, and you won't be so lonesome." Often the pat fell in the oven, as it was hard to see with teary eyes. Russian Emperor Alexander III had a vacation palace nearby. I got work babysitting for the guard's children for room and board, but no pay. Of course, I was a child, too. I remember when the Czar visited our city. He rode a carriage pulled by black horses. Nineteen-year-old Nikolai II, the next emperor in line, rode in a second carriage. I climbed a gate to get a good view; otherwise, I wouldn't have seen much in that crowd, being so small yet. Over the years, work became my constant companion. I cared for children, cleaned school rooms and got a job at a spool factory. I met Antti at the factory when I was 19, and soon we married. After a few years, he built a farmhouse in Green, near Ontonagon. My cheeks always rosy from cooking at the wood stove, I raised seven children with Antti in that home. I savored the love of our expanding family, and those drops of loneliness sizzled away. -Heather Karttunen Hollands, Ida's Great-Granddaughter
Mary (Smetherhan) Vivian
My name is Mary (Smetherhan) Vivian and I was born in 1872. I married Samuel Fremont “Monte” Vivian in 1890 and we made our home in Lake Linden. Monte worked for C & H. We had 17 children together, but only 12 lived to adulthood. In 1914, shortly after the last child, Eleanor, was born, I lost Monte. He had a tooth extracted and died because of a related infection. I was left to raise the children on my own. My oldest son, Alton, worked to for the C & H railroad to help the family. To help us heat the house he would throw coal pieces off of the train for us to collect. I made money by cleaning and baking for others. I died in 1943. Sierra Bishop & Laurie McLeod, Descendants of Mary Vivian, Lake Linden MI
Margie Harkey Baucon
THE LEGACY OF LOVE Wow, what a life . . . a life of endurance, persistence, fortitude, unconditional love and yes, even teaching. I lived my life with thankfulness everyday and believe me, that was hard many days. I grew up in Paw Creek, North Carolina blessed with loving parents who never owned a home, but we spent our young lives “sharecropping” the farm with six siblings who adored one another. I knew and embraced hard work serving in a shell plant during the war, a cake cutter at Merita Bakery, hosiery work and nursing technician at the hospital in Charlotte, North Carolina until I could no longer work. As the years wore on I developed osteoporosis before they even had a name for the disease. After experiencing broken wrists and broken ribs in my early 40’s, then numerous hip surgeries, eventually both hips were replaced twice but even those were not successful with lack of good bone. I endured an auto accident with a head concussion and broken legs. My skeleton was caving in on itself resulting in breathing problems, surgery for blood clots to the heart and even doctor recommendation for dual leg amputations. Even after living through Hurricane Hugo I always knew that I came from strong stock and that you can survive anything that life throws at you. I knew physical and emotional pain well, but my Lord never abandoned me. He was with me through it all. My faith in my God was the true strength of my life and that same loving God stood with me to the very end when I could no longer stand on my own. God taught me how to love, how to be thankful, how to count my blessings even in the hard times. My family still endures with that same love that they carry in their hearts and even though my body is no longer with them, my spirit lives on and my legacy lives on today. What a true legacy it is in knowing who you are, what you believe in and where your true strength comes from. I can still hear the love and fortitude in the pitter patter of a two-year-olds little feet running around. They may look like little feet, but those feet are on solid ground because the Legacy Lives On. Judy Baucom Tyndell, daughter, Lake Worth, FL and Brooke Tyndell Ahrens, granddaughter, Delray Beach, FL
Julia Charlotte Huhta Johnson
Julia was born in 1882 in Calumet, one of 8 children born to Peter and Brita (Bajari) Huhta. Julia's parents immigrated to Calumet from Sweden and Finland in the late 1880s. Her father was a carpenter and worked for he Ulseth-Bajari Lumber Company. As a young girl, Julia needed to work in people's homes to earn extra money. Her family lived on a farm in Woodlands, outside of Calumet, so she had a long walk to town to go to work in the wealthy homes. Julia attended a few grades at the country school in Woodland but needed to work so did not complete her education. However, she loved learning and continued her informal education after she was married and her own children were in school. She would sit with them as they did their schoolwork at home, learning right along side them. Julia loved writing letters and would keep a special dictionary nearby at all times. Her children and grandchildren have cherished that dictionary over the years reminding them of their mother's and grandmother's love of writing. Julia was married, had a son and was then divorced. She married a second time to Jacob Mattson and had two more children. Being left a widow, Julia found the Depression years especially hard on her family, so she spent time working on a sewing project for the WPA at the YMCA building on 5th & Scott Streets in downtown Calumet. Julia's daughter, Myrtle Barrette, remembers working for the National Youth Administration (NYA) during those Depression years. Julia was also a midwife and delivered many babies while in Swedetown. Her family remembers mother and grandmother fonly as an outsanding cook and baker. She enjoyed life.
My name is Jennie Rapinoja, and I was born on September 9th, 1907 to Finnish immigrants, being fluent in both Finnish and English all my life. I grew up outside the small town of Embarrass, MN with my 5 sisters. Without any brothers, we all had to learn to work on the farm, even driving horses to plow the fields. During the winter, my father was a trapper and logger, to earn extra money. In high school, I began working as a maid for wealthy people. When I was in 10th grade, my father died, so without any money to go to school, we had to drop out. I then moved to Duluth to work as a maid and cook's helper. At 20, I began to nanny a young girl, and got to travel all the way to California with the family. I even got the chance to go to the 1933 Chicago World's Fair with some friends, one of which was the sister of my future husband. I went with her to visit her family in New York Mills, MN, where I met her brother, Aale Pesola. We were married inJune of 1935, and bought my family's homestead, and we worked with the WPA during the Great Depression. We then bought part of Aale's father's farm in New York Mills, where we lived for the rest of our lives. I learned to save everything I could while farming with my husband and raising our six children. While helping out in various ways on the farm, I also built furniture, sewed and advocated natural, healthy food, early only what we grew. I loved to grow flowers, listen to church services in Finnish on the radio and hunt for four-leaf clovers.
Viola Ann Johnston Schneck
My grandmother was born in Wisconsin, grew up and married my grandfather, who wasn't a miner, but was a logger. He owned his own logging business, Schneck and Sons, and moved around northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula to wherever the timber leases took hi,. So, my grandmother lived in several logging camps, far out of town, with a small community of relatives and employees, all tied together by the logging company. She raised three children, Floyd, Gordon and Audrey. My mom told me stories about life in the logging campus, the small houses they built when they formed a new base of operations, and what it was like to live at camp, away from their families for weeks and months at a time, armed with an arsenal of great recipes that served 30 or more people at a sitting. I also heard stories about a potato farm near the Antigo, Wisconsin logging camp and tales of my mother's adventures at Painsdale High School when the logging camp was in TriMountain, Michigan (near Houghton). I didn't hear these stories from my grandmother because she died way back in 1956 when I was a baby, but she sounds like an amazing woman.
William H. Cummings
I was born on September 5, 1890, in Iron River, Iron County, the second of two children born to George H. Cummings and Mary (Popaloose/Moore) Cummings. My parents divorced sometime before 1899, and my mother remarried, moving with her children to Menominee, Michigan. My stepfather harshly disciplined and beat me frequently, particularly if I was late in coming home. Sometimes I chose to sleep in the barn or under to porch to avoid my stepfather’s wrath. When in my late teens, I returned to Iron County, living with my mother’s sister and her husband in Crystal Falls, where I was kindly treated. I did not graduate from high school and could barely read. However, I was keenly interested in athletics, hunting and fishing. I played halfback on two semi-professional football teams, the Menominee-Marinette Lauerman Twins and the Stambaugh All-Stars, both teams including the Green Bay Packers in their schedule. I was also a skilled swimmer and diver, and pitched for baseball teams in both Crystal Falls and Stambaugh. In late 1910 or early 1911 I began courting Sophia Caroline Pfeiffer, and we were married in Crystal Falls on January 3, 1912. We had one son, Alvin William “Dutch” Cummings. Following my marriage, I first worked as a pump man at the Tobin Mine, then became a fireman for the Crystal Falls Fire Department, and then was a motorcycle policeman for Iron County. Noted for my driving ability, I was rehired by the City of Crystal Falls as a driver for the fire department, a salaried position. My driving skills were put to the test on April 12, 1923, when word was received that there was a terrible conflagration at the Carpenter Mine Location. Due to snow banks from late winter storms, the road to the Carpenter Mine was blocked, so I daringly decided to take the railroad tracks at the Odgers Mine Location to the Tobin Mine Location and then go by road to the Carpenter Mine. Fire Chief Clyde Henry, riding at my side, told me I was crazy to risk riding on the railroad tracks and got out of the fire truck. However, my arrival with the fire truck saved the Carpenter Mine Location from total destruction. My hunting and fishing prowess was renown, and I frequently guided hunters and fishermen from out of the area. The tedium of life in the fire hall resulted in my turning to alcohol, eventually costing me my job and my marriage. By 1930 I was a shadow of the man Sophia married. On January 6, 1930, I was returning to my job at a lumber camp near Balsam in Iron County after spending Sunday in Crystal Falls. One of my goals was to earn enough money to purchase a suit for my son, who was graduating from high school that spring. I was walking along the railroad track, hoping to get a ride part of the way on the train. As the St. Paul train approached, I stepped off to the side of the tracks, but I slipped, and Engineer Ike Sodegard saw me disappear under the cars, where I was killed instantly. Sophia made the Pfeiffer home available for my funeral, still remembering me as the man she loved and the father of her son. She buried me in the Evergreen Memorial Cemetery at Crystal Falls, and always made sure flowers decorated my grave during the summer months.
I was born in Escanaba, Michigan. My parents are Paul and Florence. My sister Cora and I lived with our parents and our uncle and aunt, Fred and Louise Bennett. In the 1930’s, I lived in Chicago with my parents for awhile. I had more brothers and sisters: Jeanette, Mary, Paul, and Fred. My aunt and uncle made the move too. I came back to Upper Michigan. I worked as a Chef on the dining car laid-over on the depot siding while the flyer went through to Calumet. I had attended two years of college and worked as a millwright. I know equations, downshaft speeds, and gear ratios. I love sports. I have sponsored ski tournaments on the hills north of the railroad tracks. No trees, then. I gave out prizes for the tournaments and treats for all the children in attendance. I worked hard getting the ski jump built. I worked on it as time permitted. I never missed a baseball game in the summer. As you can see, I am in my Michigamme Baseball Uniform. I played on the local team. I also organized teams for children. When I joined the army in 1942, I had no family of my own. I signed up for the duration of the war. ©Valerie Bradley-Holliday, Ph.D. Information from the book Northern Roots: African-Descended Pioneers in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
Maria (Pindral) Saari
My mother, Josephine Kowalski, was born on April 9, 1910 in the village of Majdany, a town of Golina, Poland. Her parents were very poor famers. My mother was left homeless and resided in Slesn, Poland, where she cleaned for three years before Hitler arrived. They were given 20 minutes to gather their things and were taken to labor camps, stripped of clothing and covered with delousing powder. They became forced labor on a beet farm in Steinburgrund, Germany, and worked from dawn to dusk. My mother met my father, Lewon Lisofski and I was born on April 21, 1941 in Steinburgrund, Kiirtrin, Germany. Life became very hard. I was left with a Germany baby sitter which created a language barrier. As a child I was able to speak German, Polish, Russian and Czech. The only language I read and wrote fluently was Polish. My parents had plans to marry but the Germans required papers to prove they were free of Jewish blood for two generations. My father had papers, but my mother's records were destroyed in a parish fire; marriage was denied. About two years later my mother and I were taken from the beet camp and she was forced to work as a domestic slave on a farm. Conditions for my mother were horrid. One time I put puppies in an outhouse and was beaten; my mother threatened to call the police and an SS officer came and severely beat my mother with a hose. My mother became depressed and lost her will to live. My step-father, Jozef Pindral was in the Polishs army before the war broke out. He was captured by the Germans and was in a prisoner camp for most of WWII. His camp was bombed and most of the prisoners were killed. He ran into the woods and later mixed with slave workers on a farm. Because he was a strong man able to do the work of many men, he was not turned in and he spent the rest of the war working as a slave laborer. Jozef became a member of the Voluntary World Service C.M.L.O., YCMA group British zone in Germany until we were sponsored to come to America. His friend, Piotr Wisniewski, was also a member of this army. I was four years old when my mother and Jozef were married. When the war ended we were advised to stay in Germany due to poor conditions in Poland. We also heard that my father had died of a massive heart attack at the age of 36. In 1950, my parents signed up to come to America. I was ten years old. We were sponsored by the Catholic Service to make a trip to Rice, Virginia. We were processed through Ellis Island, NY. My step dad worked on a farm to pay for our passage. We corresponded with a family in the Copper Country who were also immigrants Piotr Wisniewski, who told us there was work. We moved to the Copper Country and my step dad got a job at the Painesdale Mine. Jozef was then employed by Copper Range for the next 19 years until his retirement. My younger sister was the only one born in America. I became a US citizen on May 15, 1963. My oldest brother and my father became US citizens on July 20, 1984. I graduated from Jeffers High School and received an associate's degree from Suomi College. I am married and have five children. I still live in Painesdale, Michigan and have not experienced hunger sinceI was 10 years old. Life is good, I survived the Holocaust.
Martin Francis McNamara
I was born in 1916 in the McNamara family farmhouse in Kiva, Michigan on land that my parents, Lawrence and Sarah, had homesteaded upon arrival from Canada. The house was built from logs hewn as they cleared the land. My family was one of the only Irish families in a neighborhood mostly populated by Finns. My parents were very determined to make a better life for themselves and their children. I was the youngest boy in the family; my older brothers, Lawrence, Jim and Sherman all attended college in Marquette as did my sisters, Julia, Cecile and Agnes. My sisters Marie and Florence married young and raised wonderful families in the Kiva and Chatham areas. My baby sister Patricia married a man from the Keweenaw Peninsula. “Let’s see, I remember riding on a sleigh load of logs with my Dad and I would have been 7 years old probably...logs that he had sawed up and he was taking to Ladoga. He had the sleigh all loaded up to take to Ladoga the following morning. He didn’t know he had a passenger. When he pulled out I was hiding on the back of the logs and once he was gone a ways I crawled up over and said “surprise”. He cuddled me up beside him, bundled up to keep warm beside him.” My Dad died when I was 8 years old. When my Dad died in 1924 there were still 4 of us living at the farm and Mum ran the home until she died at home in 1930. After that I went to live with my oldest sister, Julia Biekkala, and her family. I graduated from L’Anse High School and soon after enlisted in the army. I was a staff sergeant – machinist and spent much of my time in the Kodiak Islands off Alaska, trying to keep the Japanese from moving forward there. When the atomic bombs were dropped, I was in California awaiting deployment with a group to invade Japan – luckily we never had to make that invasion. After the war, I met Evelyn Lancour, a friend of my cousin and it was an automatic match for both of us. Evelyn’s young husband had been killed in the war and she had a son, Gary, who never met his biological father. Evelyn and I soon married and moved to Eaton Rapids, Michigan where she gave birth to 16 more children whom we raised during the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and into the 1980s. Today I am 95 years old and still enjoy spending time with my family, golfing and kayaking – I even had the chance to ride in a kayak built by my son Gary. I am very thankful to God for all he has given me.