2016 Biographies


Gary V. Anderson grew up in Deep River.  He has performed at local and national Finnish Festivals for many years.  His project, The Sami Exhibit, was at the Naselle, WA Finn Fest 2014.  Gary’s poems have been published in Kippis!, a Literary Journal of the Finnish North American Literature Association, Curio Poetry, New York and Outpost 2015, Writings from The Zumwalt Prairie (Fishtrap).  He has been featured in performances on Lyle Haataja’s Scandinavian Hour radio show in Astoria.   He recently performed with world flute player Gary Stroutsos at Dayaalu Center on Bainbridge Island.  He has published two books, My Finnish Soul and Bunchgrass and Buttercups.



Presentations and discussions led by Wayne Beals of Puyallup, WA, about the Civil War in Finland and about the role Finland played during World War II will happen on Friday and Saturday.  He will also exhibit and discuss his collection of Finnish war memorabilia on those days.  Mr. Beals has been independently studying the history of Finland for 24 years.  He has traveled to Finland five times to pursue these studies and to interview Finnish war veterans and Finnish military historians.  He is currently developing a website: http://www.finnishmilitaryguns.com/.  When asked if he is Finnish, he replies, “No, I’m Scottish and my ancestors fought in skirts!”  Mr. Beals is a 37 year veteran police officer with the City of Tacoma. He has a background in U. S. Military Special Operations as well as being a retired U. S. Coast Guard Reserve Warrant Officer.  He conducts ongoing education in regards to Finnish military history.



Maila’s maternal grandparents immigrated from Finland and settled in Longview in 1907. Maila grew up in Portland, Astoria, Ridgefield where her father, Rev. Jaakko Rinta, also a Finnish immigrant , served the Finnish Congregational churches. She taught elementary grades for twenty-eight years in Knappa, Quincy and Clatskanie, Oregon. After retirement she and her husband, Jim, built their home on her grandparent’s property in Longview. Maila has served on several Boards, is a member of Finlandia Foundation International, United Finnish Kalevala Brothers and Sisters, Finnish –American Historical Society and Livakat Live Kantele Players. She enjoys traveling and has been to Finland many, many times. Her greatest joy is spending time with the four grandchildren.



Carolyn and Maila are first cousins. They will share the history of not only their own families, but others in the area who came from Finland at the turn of the last century. They will include family stories and information gathered through family records and historical documents. Carolyn has published a family history (Coming to America: a Finnish Family story) as well as a novel based on the lives of her Finnish grandparents (Passage to Love: an Ellis Island Story). These books will be available for sale as well as four volumes of poetry, one of which (In the Noiseless Night) is about being a child in the 50s, growing up with Finnish roots.



Frank is Founder of the Long Valley Preservation Society, Roseberry, Idaho, a historic townsite with 25 buildings.  Nine of these were constructed by the Finnish immigrants who homesteaded in the area around 1900.  Six are made of hand hewn logs.  Frank has been the coordinator for this project since he helped found it over forty years ago.
Frank has documented  log construction throughout the United States and Canada, focusing on the Finnish.  He was born and raised in a Finnish community in Idaho, where his father and maternal grandparents homesteaded. Upon graduation from Columbia University, New York, he became an educator in Pennsylvania and New Jersey before returning to Idaho. An avid historian and preservationist, Frank began his historical passion as a boy of 12, restoring an old family pump organ.  The year he graduated from college, he purchased the old Roseberry General Store building and helped establish the Museum.
Frank was a teacher, business owner, and county commissioner before retiring in 2010. He wrote Finnish Log Construction, The Art.
Frank is a lecturer and a 2009 recipient of Preservation Idaho’s Orchid Award, recognizing over forty years in preservation.
Frank’s recent research has focused on the New Sweden Colony area of Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey where the first Finns & Swedes arrived in 1638.  He recently designed a permanent exhibit on log construction for the Kalmar Nyckel Foundation’s new visitor center in Wilmington, Delaware.



I’m Robbie Johnson and though the name is Norwegian, it did not take much digging to find the real Finnish family name, Keskitalo or middle house. My only claim to fame might be that I have been around education a long time. First, there was my own formal education which lasted 18+ year  (Naselle High graduate) and then there are the 42 years where I have abused many in the name of education. Unfortunately, I probably got the most education in those first five years of barn yard education on the dairy.
I have been active in genealogy for about five years now so obviously I am no expert. I rate myself as a beginner on Ancestry.com and don’t plan on changing that. I always seem to run into people who know so much more than I do. I know a few words of Finnish, I won’t repeat here, and a few words of Swedish so I am no linguist either. My only claim to genealogical fame is I am the son of May …. May Saari, Johnson, Adair that is. Seems like everyone knows May or she knows them.  I do have a lot of fun with genealogy and hope to share that enjoyment with you.



Jim Kurtti , a native of the Copper Country,  studied at Suomi College (Finlandia University) in Hancock, Michigan and the University of Helsinki and is graduate of the University of Minnesota with degrees in Finnish studies and social work. Jim serves as honorary consul of Finland for the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and is the Director of the Finnish American Heritage Center and Historical Archive at Finlandia University, as well as the editor in chief of “The Finnish American Reporter,” the leading newspaper for Finns in North America. He was the chairman of the FinnFest USA 2013.
For those who are maintaining Finnish-American materials Jim would like to create a networked database so that these materials are findable for researchers all over the world.  He already has a list of over 200 places (USA and Finnish county museums, university archives, state archives, cultural centers, churches, private collections, etc.,) where Finnish American archival materials are held. To promote these concepts, Jim has been holding meetings where representatives from various Finnish organizations, congregations, clubs, historians meet to discuss these ideas and how they will leave a legacy. He’d like to have this discussion with folks in our region.



Bill’s first generation Finnish-American parents brought him to Finns from Baltimore to Maine, then to the midwest.  As a youngster he saw Finns organizing in social groups and societies, at the food co-ops, at the socialist halls and in churches.  And, over the years he’s wondered about the value of these experiences.  So every once in a while he puts together a recounting of the Finnish American story that he knows, and brings it to where Finns gather.  This time around he asks a question – “Has My Life as a Finnish American Been Any Good for Me as a Plain Old Human Being?”
Bill’s presented at Finnish hall and society programs, at Finnfunn weekends, and at Finnfests.  He’s also written articles for The New World Finn, and before that, The Finnish American Reporter.  His style is light-hearted, but usually there is a layer or two beneath the surface that resonates with people’s own awareness of the history, and themselves.



Irene Martin was born in England, raised in Canada, and has been a forty-year resident of the United States.  She is a writer, fisher, and Episcopal priest.  Her numerous books include Legacy and Testament:  The Story of Columbia River Gillnetters, The Beach of Heaven which is a history of Wahkiakum County, Lewis and Clark in the Land of the Wahkiakums, and Sea Fire, Tales of Jesus and Fishing.  Irene is also the author of the video, “Work is Our Joy:  A History of Columbia River Gillnetters,” produced by a Oregon Sea Grant.  Her History of the Columbia River Packers Association and the Bumble Bee Seafoods was published in 2011 by the Chinook Observer Publishing Company.
She is the recipient of several awards, including the James B. Castles award in 1998 and the Washington Governor’s Heritage Award in 2000. Irene lives in Skamokawa, WA, with her husband, Kent.



Bryan Penttila is a Naselle High School graduate and graduate of Eastern Washington University in 2001 where he earned a B.A. in History.   Bryan lives in Naselle and works in the woods in Oregon.  His first love is the outdoors:  working in the woods, photographing wildlife, and fishing.  He has had his works published in several historical quarterlies and written Columbia River:  The Astoria Odyssey, contributed to When Logging Was Logging published by the Appelo Archives Center, and collaborated with Peter Brix to write The Brix Logging Story, In the Woods of Washington and Oregon.



Haleigh graduated from Naselle High School in 2011.  She graduated from Washington State University in 2015 with a Bachelor’s degree in history. Summer 2015 Haleigh interned at the Nordic Heritage Museum in Ballard, WA, and worked on the “Oral Histories” project. She is currently working on a Master’s degree in Teaching Social Studies. She aims to be a high school history teacher. She is also a middle school volleyball, girls’ basketball coach, and substitute teacher. Haleigh is currently on the Finlandia Foundation Columbia Pacific Chapter Board of Directors.  When she is not working on her education, she loves to spend time with her family, hunt with her dad in the fall, and work out.  She also is a waitress in the summer, and when she is not working at the restaurant, she is on the tractor making hay or hauling hay bales.
Starting January 1, 2013, Haleigh studied abroad for 5 months at the University of Turku (Turun Yliopistio) in Finland. While in Finland Haleigh gained a true understanding of her Finnish heritage and it changed her life.  While she was there, she traveled the western portion of Finland, met relatives, visited her great grandmother’s homestead in Varila, Finland, visited Virkkala, and Kaustinen as well.  She went to Lapland and went dogsledding; saw the Northern lights, ice fished, cross-country skied, and took sauna like a real Finn.  She traveled to seven additional countries, including Russia and had the time of her life.  If you see Haleigh ask her about her trip- she loves to talk about it!



Born in Astoria and raised in the lower Columbia region, Victoria Pitkanen Stoppiello lived in Berkeley, Boulder and Portland before moving to the Northwest coast in 1985. Since 1996 she has been an essayist, news and feature writer for the Chinook Observer, the North Coast Citizen, Hipfish and the no longer publishing Upper Left Edge. Her collection of essays, “This Side of Sand Island: Reflections on Fish, Finns and Finding out about Family in the Lower Columbia,” has just been published. She currently lives near the North Fork of the Nehalem River.