Surrounded by his loving family, Niilo died peacefully this afternoon Dec. 3, 2013 at Pioneer’s Home in Fairbanks.
There will be a memorial gathering to honor his life at Pioneer Park Civic Center starting at 2 pm Jan. 5, 2014.
Thanks to all who were able to visit and help support the family during his last years.
The Koponen Family
710 Chena Ridge Road
Fairbanks, AK 99712
As winter has finally arrived in interior Alaska, with snow staying just the past 2 weeks, Niilo and Joan continue in stable health.
To accommodate a new resident couple needing adjoining rooms at the Pioneers Home, Niilo moved yesterday to room 201, across from the Aurora wing entrance. His room has nice wallpaper and staff did a nice job hanging up all his pictures in and outside his room. Joan continues living at home on Chena Ridge.
In September, Joan rode the rails to Denali Park with Heather & Rob along for a day. She enjoyed the rich red, yellow, and green scenery, games, the museum, and delicious meals. Too bad Niilo couldn’t join us!
Also in September, prompted by the visit of Ben & Evelyn Zeller, former next-door neighbors, a potluck & singing party was held at Koponens, with old friends from the 1950s. Since only a portion of “songs To Be Sung In Case of Emergency” were sung, it must not have been a true emergency, but folks enjoyed catching up and remembering.
I’m writing this note in Finnish and hoping that the translation app will translate this correctly to English. If it does not work well we can also communicate in English.
I’ve been retired over 2 years from Finnair and my wife Anu retired in early June. We have had some health issues lately. I have arthritis on my left hip, which limits my movements a bit. Anu was diagnosed with lymph node cancer in December which had spread to her neck, right lung and liver. Over 6 months of hard chemo treatments, she is healthy again. Thanks for the modern medicine.
We were recuperating for 2 months in our cabin in Iitti in central Finland. Anu’s health has been steadily improved and she is getting stronger every day. Tomorrow we are heading to Naantali, my old home town in western Finland and then for the rest of the summer back to Iitti.
That’s what’s happening with us,
It was great to have Niilo & Joan’s eldest children on the homestead this summer for 3 weeks each, with one week during which all 5 ‘kids’ were here together. [Not to be confused with goat kids, of which N & J had way too many during a period of their younger days. Joan is glad to have no more of those kids around!]
In addition to doing many and fun things with Mom, Nonni and Sanni helped with projects, so there is now lots more fire wood and a section of 60-year-old roof that had been damaged by squirrels, weather, wear, etc, has been re-insulated. We read that many roofs need repair every 15-20 years, so for this to have survived this long is credit to its builders: Niilo, Joan, and toddler Nonni, as documented in the wonderful old photo albums.
After a very late cold May, with some piles of snow left into June, it has been a wonderfully warm, dry -perhaps too dry – summer. The garden and berry bushes provide much satisfaction.
Joan, Heather, and Rob take Niilo outdoors for strolls around the Pioneers Home, listening to the rustling trees, feeling the sun and breeze, smelling the roses and spruce and labrador tea.
Savor these pleasant moments…
What fun walking the trails, visiting over tea with honey and lemon as Joan has served it for more than half a century, and hearing stories events and everyday friendship from times stretching almost that far back….
Nat, who started the Equinox Marathon 50 years ago and got bicycle and pedestrian trails to be some of the best features of Anchorage, joined Chena, Gary, and Heather, and his own wife Caren in the below-zero-degree sunshine walking homestead trails, then visiting with Joan where she has hosted him over the decades. They shared stories and concerns and the hope for trails to remain part of the landscape into the future.
Turning 85 on March 6th, Niilo was feted by his fellow Fairbanks Pioneers Home residents and staff at lunchtime and again by family in the evening. He was alert all but a few moments of 3 evening hours; I think he truly knew what was going on and enjoyed the warmth, singing, musical slide show, and – of course – ice cream. He nodded yes to more ice cream and tried to speak a couple of times.
Joan also enjoyed the occasion, especially the musical slide show and ice cream. She seems eager to catch up to Niilo, too, feeling sure she is 83, not just about to turn 82 in April.
We had a fast-paced but fun visit from Max’s band Nor’easter the beginning of February, coming to Fairbanks for the Contra Borealis Dancer‘s Winter Dance Weekend. Got all the siblings out to dance (Alex wins the stamina award) and Joan also joined for a concert at the College Coffeehouse. The band and Brattleboro, VT caller Rebecca Lay returned to the Northeast just in time for a real Nor’easter. You can listen to the band’s interview and music podcast on our public radio station KUAC’s website. We took everyone dog mushing and on a trip to Chena Hot Springs for a surreal soak surrounded by snow and ice following the weekend. Max managed to fit in time to visit with Grandma and Grandpa and take in Sunday sauna. Max’s brother Ben, now living and working in Anchorage for the Alaska Dept. of Transportation, got to host them for a couple of evening prior as a special contradance was arranged for the band and caller in Anchorage. We heard they rocked the hall. An awesome time was had by all.
Who would have thought horses like mint?
That is the flavor of the treats Joan and Heather were provided to give neighbor horses of Cindie and Lauren – and the mule boarding with them.
It was a very brisk day, the kind that makes horses’ fur stand out with each hair frosted lightly at the ends, and breath billowing in the cold. So after brief petting and treats, the 2-legged company retreated to the heated tack room to discuss feed, water, tack, trails, rodent damage, and so forth. Nice to get to know some of the animals who leave their hoofprints on the local trails! And nice to get to know their people, our neighbors!
Happy New Year Family and Friends
Joan notes she is making a new dish from the Cooking For Two cookbook she was recently given, using apples, carrots, onion, and maple syrup: “Almost anything with maple syrup improves it!”
She is also knitting a scarf. Amongst the important things in life are watching birds at the feeder outside the window, seeing moose outside, being where she knows where things are, playing cards with family and “occasional other masochists,” reading, and galavanting off to movies or a friend’s house, to visit Niilo, or to a restaurant. Bowling regularly with Alex is a good excuse to get out – and she even beats him sometimes!
Niilo continues his deep or mysterious thinking at the Pioneers Home where they have the amenities that make life possible. He occasionally utters a word or two but it seems articulation is elusive.
Chena, Heather, and Alex enjoy time with Joan and with Niilo. Nonni and Sanni visited in spring & fall and spent much time tromping around the homestead. Grandkids Dane and Ben were ‘home’ for Christmas.
The staggering project of sorting 60 years accumulation of former and potential treasures goes on…and on…with the unearthing of amazing and sometimes delightful finds. No gold yet though…
Good to have heard from some of you!
We hope you have a wonderful 2013!
Joan and Heather
jk tomatoes Nov. 2012
Although the greenhouse got closed down long ago, Joan continues to enjoy fresh homegrown tomatoes, as well as garden potatoes, carrots, cabbages, and frozen produce.