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Hugo Verner Saarnio


IRONWOOD, Mich. — Hugo Verner Saarnio, born June 5, 1919, passed away on May 13, 2013, with his family at his side.

He was the son of Willamina and John Saarnio of Viipuri, Finland. Hugo was the brother to Antti, Annikki, Lyyli, Kalle, Eva and Martin, all of whom preceded him in death.

Hugo was a veteran of the Finnish Army. After the war in 1946, Hugo and his wife Aino, along with their daughter, Christine, and son, Andrew, left their beloved but war-torn homeland for a new life in America.

In 1949, a daughter, Rita, was born; in 1952, baby Paul was born; and a son, Leo, was born in 1953. The family started their new life in Oma Township, Wis.

Hugo was a logger, farmer and a miner, from which he became known to his fellow workmen as “Hukki.” He was also known for his “sisu,” or grit and determination. He took pride in his Finnish heritage.

Hugo was an active member and officer in the Knights of Kaleva, a life member of Little Finland, and later, a member of the Pine Lake Association. He was a devoted husband. As a caring father, he encouraged his children to work hard and embrace future challenges. He enjoyed telling stories of his youth and homeland to his grandchildren. His generosity to family and friends was always genuine and without question.

The farm in Oma was sold when the children were grown and married. Hugo and Aino then moved to Ironwood. For many years, he enjoyed gardening, watching the Packers, and spending time at the cabin on Pine Lake with friends and family, including family friend Steve “the Bear fan” Borstad. The cabin was the place where family, friends and the occasional fisherman could count on a cold beer. At the cabin, Hugo especially liked to challenge his grandchildren to sauna heat contests.

Hugo was preceded in death by his son, Paul, in 1952, and his wife, Aino, in 2001.

Surviving are children, Christine (Dennis) Zeimet, Andrew (Jean Ann), Rita (Paul) Volley and Leo (Joan); nephews, David (JoAnn), Martin, Keijo and Hank (Donna); grandchildren, John (Beth) Zeimet, Kevin (Jeni) Zeimet, Robbie Zeimet, Eric (Amy) Saarnio, Brian (Susan) Saarnio, Jennifer (Andy) Erickson, Brandon (Lindsey) Volley, Kristan (P.J.) Nielson, Shannon (Ben) Vlieger, Jason (Bernadette) Saarnio, Amy (Ken) Wyka and Jennifer (Tyler) Hardy. Hugo was blessed with 26 great-grandchildren. Also surviving is a niece, Marietta (Seppo) Hakamaa, along with her son, Mark, daughter, Lisa, and their grandchildren Gina, Stephani, Travis and Jeff.

The family would like to extend a special thank you to Marietta, her family, Hugo’s neighbors Tom, Colleen, Jim and Judy, for many years of care and companionship. Gratitude also goes to Dr. Hubbard, his staff, and special friend Judy Levra.

There will be a private family memorial service at a later date.


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