LINNEA MARIE WERNER
September 18, 1927 - November 16, 2022
Linnea Marie (Jylha) Werner (age 95) of Gwinn, passed away peacefully on November 16 at Teal Lake Assisted Living in Negaunee, Michigan under the care of her family, UP Home Health and Hospice and Teal Lake staff.
Linnea was born in Ishpeming, MI to Vieno Helmi (Ala-ranta) and Matt Jylha on September 18, 1927. She was the oldest of three children, with Leonard and Levi coming after her. She grew up on a small family farm during the Depression and recalled washing milk bottles at a very young age. When she was six years old, her brother Leonard succumbed to a ruptured appendix in part due to her family having no health insurance and a delay in going to the Hospital. This haunted her parents for life and shaped many of the later decisions for their children. She described a happy childhood with many friends, and a close Finnish Community. She attended National Mine School beginning in First Grade. (Only kids that could walk to school could go to Kindergarten and she was a bus student.) Even though she could only speak Finnish, she quickly caught up and graduated as the Valedictorian of a Class of 15 in 1945. Encouraged by the School Principal to take the Exam for the University of Michigan Alumni Scholarship with only three other students in Marquette County, she was awarded a full four year tuition scholarship of about $500! She wanted to attend Suomi Community College (Finlandia) but her mother insisted she must leave the Upper Peninsula and attend U of M, a decision shaping her life.
At Michigan she was very proud of earning most of her room and board costs by being a waitress in the Betsy Barbour Dormitory and was appointed head waitress in her sophomore year. She maintained friendships from Betsy Barbour through-out her life. She notes that she doesn't believe she ever missed a Michigan Football game while she was there, starting a family tradition of being Wolverine fans. She also found a close support network at the Lutheran Student Association in Ann Arbor, where she met her long-time friend, Ray Hirvonen.
Following graduation, she worked in several Lutheran organizations, ultimately ending up in Milwaukee, WI where she was an adoption worker for Lutheran Social Services. She told of agency policy delaying placement in permanent homes until infant eye color could be ascertained accurately and "match" them to a family with similar physical characteristics. She maintained relationships with the families she worked with through-out her life, receiving photos of the children as they grew. In Milwaukee, she met the love of her life, Holland (Dutch) Werner, a returning WWII Veteran, and they were married 5 months later (April 1951) due to fears he would be called up again to serve in Korea.
Following the birth of their first child, Susan in 1952, they moved to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where their second child, Paul was born in 1954. They greatly enjoyed life in the close community on County RD 480 in Negaunee with Linnea's parents, brother Levi and close friends the Jarvi's living close by. During this time, Linnea worked for the Michigan Department of Social Services in the Courthouse Building, where she remarked she casually ran into celebrities such as Jimmy Stewart, Lee Remick and Otto Preminger when the movie Anatomy of a Murder was being made. In the early 60's she pursued her Master's Degree in education at Northern Michigan University in order to have summers off with her children. She taught 7th and 8th grade at Gwinn Middle School for a short time.
In 1964, she had the opportunity to pursue her Master's Degree in Social Work (MSW) at the University of Michigan and the entire family moved into student housing apartments in Ann Arbor. This was a culturally mixed community with families of all ethnicities from all over the world, an eye opening experience for the family coming from the rural UP. Following graduation in December 1965 and a brief return to the UP, the family moved to Rockford, Michigan where Linnea was a Regional Supervisor for all Social Work services provided by the State in a Multi-County Region. By this time, Dutch had received a Teaching Degree and became a beloved elementary teacher in Rockford Schools. Not to settle into a routine life, the family was surprised by the birth of their youngest child, Sonja, in 1967 when Susan was 14 and Paul was 12. As you may surmise, this again changed the family dynamic.
Following her Master's Degree, Linnea also worked as a Day Care Licensing Consultant for the State of Michigan, helping to write the first Infant Day Care regulations when the need was to care for the infants of migrant workers in a safe environment. Many of these Day Care Licensing Rules are still in place today across the state. She completed her career as a Medical Social Work Consultant for the Medicaid Program, retiring in 1984.
Following Retirement, Linnea and Dutch moved to their cottage on W. Bass Lake in their beloved UP and spent their winters traveling until ultimately deciding Gulf Shores, Alabama would become their winter home. Following Dutch's death in 2004, Linnea enjoyed companionship with her lifelong friend Kenneth Waalima and later with her college friend, Ray Hirvonen, both of whom have pre-deceased her.
Linnea continued to live an active life traveling to Finland several times, participating with her church, Grace Lutheran in Gwinn, and pursuing her long-time passion of tracing family genealogy and preserving family history for her extended family. In January 2018, she made the decision to move to Teal Lake Assisted Living where she became the unofficial "greeter" to welcome each new resident, learn their family history and generally make them feel welcome. She loved to use her social work skills to "interview" the staff and get to know them personally. She ran a group for other residents to talk and share experiences from the "olden days" well into her 90's at Teal Lake.
Linnea lived her life as an example of her Christian values with unwavering spiritual beliefs. Her 95 years of life were a blessing to those that knew her, but especially to those that loved her. She will be missed by her children: Susan (William) deGroot of Gwinn, Paul (Patricia) Werner of Rowlett, TX, Sonja (Ted) Russell of Farmington Hills, MI: her grandchildren: Lisa (Brian) Horness of Ada, MI, Melissa (Brandon) Pugh of Rowlett, TX, Stephen (Michelle) deGroot of Rockford, MI, Angela (Joel) Sherman of The Colony, TX, Dr. Rebecca Russell of Grand Rapids, MI, Luke (Allison) Russell of Commerce Township, MI; Great-Grandchildren, Will and Lea deGroot of Rockford, MI, Kameron Buskirk of Ada, MI, Vance, Grant and Lena Horness. She will also be missed by many nieces, nephews, cousins and friends in Finland and across the US. She was pre-deceased by her husband of 52 years, Dutch, her parents, her brothers, an infant great-granddaughter, Brooke deGroot, and a special niece, LizAnne Huot, as well as many extended family.
The family wishes to especially thank Dr. Thomas Huffman for his skilled and compassionate care for nearly forty years (she said she was his very first patient), his nurse Marcy, and the staff of Teal Lake Assisted Living who made her life comfortable in a loving manner for the past five years.
Funeral Services will be held at Grace Lutheran Church in Gwinn, Michigan on Monday, November 21st at 1 p.m. with Pastors Jack Busche and Andrew Plocher officiating. Friends and family may greet the family beginning at 11 a.m. Monday until the time of the service in the church. A luncheon will follow in the Church Fellowship Hall. Spring burial will take place in the Gwinn Cemetery. Linnea's funeral service will be livestreamed at: my.gather.app/remember/linnea-marie-werner
Those wishing to make an expression of sympathy are kindly asked to consider Grace Lutheran Church, PO Box 1114, Gwinn, MI 49841.
This obituary was read and approved by Linnea.
Canale Gwinn Funeral Home and Cremation Services is assisting the Werner family where memories of Linnea may be shared at canalefuneral.com.
Eulogy Linnea Werner
Thank you all for coming to honor our mother, grandmother and great grandmother, Linnea Werner. Her obituary shares her life, we would like to concentrate in her eulogy on the stories that made her so special to all of us.
Sue DeGroot: When my mom was failing, just two days before her death, she was asleep in her favorite chair and I thought she was mostly unconscious. I went over to her to tell her I loved her, kiss her forehead and said: "Mom, I'm sorry for all the times I argued with you." At that time, she opened her eyes, looked at me and said: "Don't you think I ever argued with my mother?" This made my sister and daughter laugh. As we used to say, "sometimes there's just too much Werner estrogen in the room", which is our term for strong minded women. We were all raised to be strong and independent woman. My mother also never held grudges and once the argument was done, it was over. My mom told me she never missed a Michigan Football Game when she was a student in Ann Arbor, and never missed a game on TV, including this season. You will notice that her funeral was not planned for a Saturday, as she would never have wanted us to miss the Michigan-Ohio state game scheduled for this coming Saturday. Go Blue! I also want you to know that we never heard my mom swear, except when Michigan made a bad play or was behind during football game, when the expression was "Oh shit!".
Paul Werner: My mom loved to explore and take strange roads, literally, whether it was on a long trip or an afternoon picnic. I remember going on a picnic with our friends the Wassbergs. Cars were small and it meant we had to take two cars, a men's car and a women's car. While visiting Fayette, my mom steered the women's car on one of her explorations, getting separated from the men's car. I remember driving in circles in the men's car, frustrated that we couldn't find the ladies car. Finally, our Dads left my friend John and I out on the side of the road and told us to stay there, assuming that the women would come by, while they continued to look for them. Sure enough, we were all going in circles. That was always affectionately known in the family as "the lost picnic." The worst part was, the ladies had all the food and we were hungry.
Sonja Russell, daughter: At about age 84, my mom stopped going to Gulf Shores in the winter and would come to Farmington Hills to stay with my family. She always complained that there was no phone book, so I saved her an old phone book. She was having a problem with her hearing aids one day, and wanted to call an ENT doctor for an appointment to have the wax cleaned from her ears. She looked up the number in the yellow pages and proceeded to place the call. A very pleasant receptionist answered and asked if she could help her: Linnea: "I sure hope so. I can't hear out of my hearing aids and I'm wondering if maybe I need to have the wax cleaned out of my ears." The very pleasant receptionist interrupted and said: "I wish I could help, but we are a plumber."
One Christmas, I purchased tickets to "The Christmas Story"musical at the Fox Theater - her all time favorite movie. Prior to the play, we treated my family and mom to dinner in Detroit. We all were ordering drinks, wine, beer, etc. When they got to mom, she said: "I will have a Ghettoblaster". When I asked her if she know what that was, she said no - but it was cheap! She didn't drink it - Luke finished it for her.
Ted Russell, son in law: I met Sonja at Michigan Tech when we rode home to Rockford in a car pool. She was dating one of the other members of the car pool who Grandma didn't like. One trip, I got dropped off at Linnea and Dutch's house in Rockford where my parents came to pick me up. After we left, Linnea turned to Sonja and told her that she should date "that guy", (me). She always took credit for the beginning of our relationship and our 33 years of marriage.
Luke Russell: I would love when Grandma came to live with us in the winter. Grandma had to have her "afternoon coffee", which included pastries and sweets. I loved coming home from school and grandma would tell me I needed to have coffee with her, which meant I could eat pastries and have hot chocolate. But my favorite memory of Grandma was this August. I got married on the 20th and a week later, traveled to the UP with my wife so we could visit Grandma and take pictures in our wedding attire. Grandma had spent 10 hours in the hospital the day before having a blood transfusion and really didn't feel good, but she came out to the Island, posed with us, had a picnic lunch and visited with my new in laws making them feel like old friends.
I have many stories about my grandmother, Linnea. When I think back, many small pieces stick out in my mind. Her love of bread and butter, the winter evening we made Finnish prune tarts. Especially her laugh. As her hearing went, my brother and I enjoyed yelling "mittah!" which is Finnish for "what?"! to her many giggles. I remember her giving nature and easy ability to find connection with others. She had a knack for sitting next to a stranger and finding out their history, ancestry and of course, connection to the UP. If you had Yooper or Finn blood my grandmother could certainly find it. She was even able to connect to my friends as a teenager. She's the oldest human I know to be active on Facebook in her early 90's. My friends and family truly enjoyed her Facebook comments on our photos and my friends loved to say hi to her when they visited.
Most of all, I remember her love for us as a family. She spent many winters with my parents in her later years. Dinners were always at the kitchen table and breakfast was not complete without coffee and quality companionship. She taught me to have pride in my Finnish heritage enlightening me about the world she grew up in and her journey in life. She inspired me to have the "sisu" to continue my own passion and hard work. I will miss her greatly.
Bill DeGroot, son in law: After Dutch died, I stayed with Linnea at her home in the UP during the summer, helping her with "outdoor work" and would work on our home building project down the street in the daytime. By this time, Linnea already had difficulty lifting her arms due to her severe arthritis in her shoulders. One day, I was up on an extension ladder 20 feet in the air measuring for the window trim when I heard this intense beeping of a car horn with Linnea in the driveway. Thinking something was seriously wrong and Linnea had an emergency, I climbed all the way down the ladder and went outside to her car, breathing hard by the time I got there. When I arrived, Linnea handed me her hair pick and calmly asked, "Could you pick my hair?" (She couldn't reach to comb the back and was very proud of having taught both of her son in laws to do it for her.)
Angie Sherman, grand-daughter: (From Facebook) On November 18, 2017 I called Grandma.
Me- Hi Grandma, how are you doing?
Grandma: "Hello Angie, I have company and I'm watching the Michigan football game. Call me back after the game. And you can ask your father what time that is." Angie's comment, Only in my family!
There is not much I can say about my grandma that will not bring a smile to my face. The last time I visited her , I hadn't seen her in four years. The first words out of her mouth were to tell Sonja, "please give Angie money to buy new jeans," as I look down and see that I am wearing my jeans that had holes in them. She didn't understand that " holes" were the new " trend!" Every summer, I would come stay with grandma and grandpa, and she would always make me some Finnish pancakes and cake with fresh raspberries whip ( it was delicious).
I most importantly remember that she always tried to instill in me that Michigan is cheaper to live than in Dallas, ' as she wanted me to move closer to her. I do remember her calling me on my birthday one year, just to ask for my address. As I give it to her she says " OK Angie, I have it written down for next year! " letting me know she would send a gift next year as opposed to this year.
I will always miss my Grandma and her quick wit. I know that she is in Heaven with my grandpa cheering on her beloved " Big Blue!" Thank you, Grandma, thank you for being you!
Melissa Pugh, grand-daughter: My grandma was really funny, without even knowing it. One time she asked us if we liked coffee. When we said yes, she replied, "Well if you're making it, I'll take some too." She really didn't like her picture taken, but if she did, it had to be after her hair day and her walker couldn't be in it. My grandma and I didn't always get along when I was a teenager, mostly because she wanted to teach me "to be a lady". I really bonded with her about 10 years ago when I met her in Finland and we traveled together. She enjoyed introducing me to distant relatives and teaching me about my Finnish heritage.
I was fortunate enough when I was younger to take a trip around Lake Superior with Grandma and Grandpa. During the Canadian leg of the trip, Grandma tripped in a parking lot and banged up her face pretty bad, scratches, black eye. Grandma spent the rest of the trip telling everyone we met that she fell in a parking lot, and that Grandpa didn't beat her. We were toward the end of the trip when we met some fellow vacationers at a McDonald's. To Grandma's great delight, they were from Finland! Grandma was in her glory to be able to tell her story again, but this time in Finnish
From Several of Us Grandkids:
We all played Scrabble with Grandma, never all together, but realized during the planning of this eulogy that we all had similar experiences. Scrabble was a cutthroat game. And Grandma was no exception. She was notorious for not only finding words that didn't exist (we had to diligently check the Scrabble Bible), she would use slang, words in Finnish and was fond of saying "Well I knew it wasn't a word, but I wanted to see if YOU knew it wasn't a word." We all admired her cunning and winning spirit, but in our family, if you talked about playing Scrabble with Grandma, the next sentence was always "Grandma cheats." We love you Grandma.
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