Category Archives: Uncategorized

Home Start, Margaret Lewis 1970’s memories

Home Start:

Submitted on 2011/08/17 at 2:22 pm

I was honored to become a Home Start Visitor 1971-72? The Home Start office was at Alaskaland in one of the old log cabins. Niilo was the Director. One of my fondest memories was when we were invited to Niilo & Joans home for a meeting. We all had a wonderful time of snacks and great fellowship

I have to add one more delight…they had a horse in a barn that was attached to their kitchen. The half door allowed the horse to walk up to the kitchen and poke his head into the room. Fond memory!

Niilo thanks for the opportunity of me becoming one of the first Home Start Visitor.

Margaret Lewis
Kansas City, MO

Summer again

Sorry we have let so much time go by without any updates. Those checking will surely have assumed – correctly – that no news is good news.

Niilo’s life at Fairbanks Pioneers Home continues with visits from Dick, DeVonne, occasional other friends, and family. Dick brings lovely flowers.

Joan, on the other hand, traveled to New Mexico in May with Heather & Rob, meeting Sanni and Dane there. She got to see lots of desert, the Rio Grande, arts & crafts, roadrunners, egrets, horses, cows, goats, a small rodeo.

Joan also went to Manley Hot Springs for 2 days with Heather and Greenlandic visitor Ineqi. The springs were lovely, as usual, and we saw moose, owls, other birds, and beautiful scenery as usual.

Chena & Gary went on a trip to Ireland, taking part in the music scene of course!

At the homestead, the garden is doing well, with our combination of hot spells and torrential rains. Various projects keep folks busy.

We wish Neighbor/friend Skip a full recovery from his serious bout of pneumonia, and congratulate John on completing his book and other writing while in the neighborhood this summer.

Hoping the second half of this summer is good for everyone! Heather K.


Submitted on 2011/03/21 at 8:16 am from Mary Metcalf Hill:

Chena and Heather,

I have been thinking a lot about all of you of late, your dad and mom, especially; so I thought I would look you up on the web, and lo and behold, here you are. It’s nice to see that, even with Niilo’s declining health, that you are all still close. My mother passed away not long after we left Fairbanks and moved to Yakima, Washington. My dad joined her about 26 years later.

Do you still have horses? I have had one or two off and on all my life, except that I had to have my last one put down last summer and haven’t had the opportunity to get another yet.

I know that this is primarily a blog about your dad and his health, so I want to share a memory of him. I remember being up at your house for dinner one night and as we all sat around the table he was telling us about his parents. How they had met in Finland and moved to the US. How his mother had been born in the US of Finnish parents who then took her back to Finland. He said that she spoke Finnish with an American accent and English with a Finnish accent. I thought that was so funny.

I remember, too, how wonderful your house used to smell. I’ve wondered ever since what it was that your mom did to give it such a sweet-lemony scent. I’ve tried leaving cut lemons on the counter, but it doesn’t work. I alway felt very welcome in your home.

Niilo at 83

Some dozen family and friends joined Niilo for his 83rd birthday party on Sunday. Joan baked a delicious spice cake in the shape of a train (of course!) for the occasion.
Folks shared their stories of meeting Niilo and Joan and a good time was had by all…Niilo not very awake. We think they fed him too much birthday cake for lunch –He’s been more awake at other visits in the past 2 weeks.

Niilo an Alaska ACLU 40th Anniversary Liberty Awardee

In honor of his having been one of the founders of ACLU of Alaska 40 years ago, and for his “important contributions in guarding Alaskans’ individual liberty and civil rights,” Niilo was among 40 individual and group awardees at the 40th Anniversary Liberty Awards Gala, January 22, 2011 in Anchorage. While he wasn’t able to attend himself, friends and family attending the gala were reminded how much difference he and other champions of civil rights have made.

Of course, it is an ongoing effort. As Niilo used to say, “Onward!”


Dear Friends (writes Joan),

“So it’s January 2011.” The weather has been seasonal, down to -36 F downtown, often 14 degrees warmer at the homestead.

Joan has been “ enjoying hearing Alice’s Restaurant for the 100th time… enjoying eating also;
seeing wildlife out the window, like chickadees, grouse, woodpeckers, ravens, moose,
and recently tracks (maybe porcupine);
doing crossword puzzles,
jigsaw puzzles,
visiting Niilo at Pioneers Home,
going bowling,
playing cards,
singing and visiting on sauna nights.”

Niilo has declined in the past year, waking little, and rarely communicating. Alex & Heather go with Joan to visit him several times a week, Hospice volunteer DeVonne visits him weekly, and others visit him occasionally. He ceased being able to stand to transfer to a vehicle in the fall, so has not been able to visit the homestead or attend Quaker meeting, so Quakers join him at the Pioneers Home occasionally for meditation.

Chena spends time with Joan at the homestead 3 days a week; Alex continues bowling and movies with her 3 times a week; Heather in a room at the homestead spends time every day.

The homestead had major construction in summer 2010 with re-insulation of a large section of roof and other parts; Chena and Gary oversaw this.

50+ years ago…revisited

What a delightful visit from the gal next door. Actually, Wanda (nee Brown) lived next door for a few years before and after she was born, in the 1950s, before her family of 8 moved south in Alaska. The cabin next door is still called “the Browns’ House.” She and husband Bob have lived in Kodiak the past 22 years.

They visited the homestead with daughter Myra last night, looked at old photos reminiscing old times, and discovered various mutual friendships, including neighbor John, who joined Joan along with Chena, Heather, Alex, Gary, and Rob.
There was excitement and laughter, concluding with a visit to the cabin Wanda’s parents built and a tour of the Joan & Niilo’s.

It was unfortunate that Niilo couldn’t take part in the reminiscing; He has unfortunately been unable to transfer to a car for the past few months. Hearing this, some Quakers have started joining him to meet in silent worship some Monday evenings at 7:30 or 8 pm at the Pioneers Home.


“Life Is Good” by Joan K.

written by Joan in Sept, 2010:

I asked H, “Is this it? Are we going home?”
Heather: “No, the best is yet to come.”
A moment of thought, then J. said, “We’re getting ice cream?”
J: “Life is good.”

Ice cream, a game of cards, a compelling jigsaw puzzle with music on the stereo, knitting, sometimes reading a good book…Joan takes pleasure in simple things.

Niilo has often been less awake recently and unable to transfer to the car for trips, but was perkier last night, looking at us with interest and answering, “I don’t know,” when asked if done eating. Even if he didn’t say so, I’m sure he appreciates visits, including a recent visit by Cindy, up from Juneau, and weekly visits by Hospice volunteer DeVonne, whose custom-made quilt (trains and horses) adorns his bed.

So far a mild and late winter, with 2″ snow on the ground and temps into the 30s.
Weatherization work may be complete for the season, (Thanks Gary and Ken for work done) and Chena moved a mountain of model trains back to a room that had been worked on. With 58 and a half years of accumulated stuff, the organizing will go on for quite a while.


Trip to the Fair

Last weekend, on a beautiful Saturday, Niilo and Joan went to the Fair with Heather and Rob. Joan pushed Niilo’s wheelchair, and enjoyed the huge vegetables and many booths of colorful wares. Niilo got the most reward from the non-profit and political booths, where people such as Freda and LeeAnn were thrilled to see him out and about.

A few days later, a different outing was not quite so fun: to the dentist to fill a few cavities. But Niilo didn’t complain much.

Joan has been reading more books lately, gardening, knitting, cooking, a little piano, and does balance exercises because starting to feel a little wobbly is not so great.

There have been some weather extremes this summer: hail and torrential rain and wind storms, then record-high 91 degrees F on August 15.

Newmans visited with Max and Sanni and others on the East Coast; Dane left for college in New Mexico.

A few more weeks of summer turning to fall…


Niilo visits/ Construction!

Niilo came home for a several-hour visit Saturday evening, enjoying family and fish, garden greens, ice cream, and his traditional place at the dining table.

Though he was alert and communicated interest, yes, and no, he spoke only a few words, and was ready to be wheeled back up the ramps to the car and to the Pioneers Home by 8pm.

Other events at the Koponen homestead include replacing an original portion of roofing and insulating Joan’s bathroom. Both projects have grown and grown, as old wiring, failing plumbing, and other problems have been exposed and needed to be fixed along the way. Carpenter Ken, with direction from project manager Gary have been doing a great job.

It seems that over the course of 58 years most buildings need very major overhauls…

It has been a warm summer so far and with attention from Joan, Chena, and Heather, the flower beds and garden are doing well…