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My great-grandmother, Anna Waara (Riihivaara), was born on March 23, 1898 in Kuusamo, Finland. Her parents were Gustav and Ida (Pelli) Waara (the family name was originally Granroth). Anna and her parents first came to America in 1902 when she was four because of the poor conditions in Finland. Her father promised his parents that he would return to Finland and he worked to get the money for the trip. In 1903, they went back to Finland for a year but they wanted to return to America for good. In 1904, they came back to America, never to return to Finland. The first time they came to America, they settled in Eagle River, Michigan (northern Upper Michigan). They later moved to Traprock Valley and lived on a farm with Henry Lassila's (Anna's uncle) family. Anna's uncles and cousins came to America with them and they settled in Mohawk, Fulton, and Traprock Valley (all in northern Upper Michigan). Some of the names of her uncles and aunt's are: Henry and Anna Lassila, Hilma Hakasaari, Antti Pelli, and Liisa Majava.
The first time that the Waaras came to America, Gustav ran a boarding house in Eagle River for miners. The boarding house had a sauna in it, which was the only means of bathing. When they came back to America the second time, they moved to the farm in Traprock Valley. Anna was an only child, and she led a lonely life. She attended the Mohawk School, but only went until the fourth grade. She lived with some of her cousins for a while, but she spent a lot of time alone or with adults. She always wanted to have a big family because she had had to spend a lot of time without younger people. Before she was married, she had a job as a tiskari (helping mothers with newborn babies around the house) for a while and worked in tuberculosis sanitarium.
In 1918 Anna married a miner named Waino Kauppila. They moved to Copper City, and ended up living in the same house for sixty years. Anna and Waino had a sauna that they heated every Wednesday and Saturday nights for people in Copper City who didn't have bathrooms or saunas. People paid twenty five cents to use the sauna. Anna got her wish of having a big family. She and Waino had twelve children - seven boys and five girls. A girl died as a baby and one of Anna's sons, Melvin, was killed sailing the Great Lakes. It was the last day his boat was docking for the winter, and the crew was winterizing it when the boiler exploded, killing Melvin. Anna took good care of her children and husband all of her life. Anna and Waino had a many dogs, but among them was Rusty. It was mainly Waino's dog, and Anna said that she didn't like it, but when Waino wasn't looking she snuck treats and cookies to Rusty! She was a very hard worker all of her life. She was a good baker and loved to bake kalakukkoa (fish bread) and nisua (coffee bread). She also baked donuts and pies. Anna also loved to pick blueberries and strawberries. Mostly they preserved the berries in bottles (that was the only fruit they had in the winter), but they also made jam out of the berries. One of her favorite pastimes, however, was to play scrabble with her grandchildren (my mom and her siblings). She said that the best times of her life were when all of her children were young and living at home. Anna and Waino and their family were bilingual. They spoke Finnish in their home, but they spoke fluent English also. Anna and Waino had been married for sixty two years when Waino died in 1980. After that, Anna lived in the Home for the Aged in Calumet. She lived the last four and a half years of her life in the Houghton County Medical Care Facility. She died on February 7, 1998, only about a month before her one-hundredth birthday.
© Matthew Frantti
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