Alfred Fritjof Heikkinen, as in Sinatra’s signature song “I’ll Do It My Way”, did it on his own terms, passing away peacefully in his home in the early hours of March 11, 2019, just as he had envisioned it.
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He is survived by his daughter Kathleen (Katie) Heikkinen, son-in-law Robert Cameron, grandson Andrew Cameron, brother-in-law Hank Ranta and nephews Gary and Lorne Ranta. He will also be missed by the McManus children, Tim (Christine), Danny (Michelle), Jennifer (Rob) and Mary Ann (Rob) for whom “uncle” Alf had a special place in his heart, as well as long-time friends and supporters Kenn (Sue) Coombes and Diane (Dave) Holmstrom.
Alf was predeceased by his beloved wife Aune (Ranta), his parents Antti (Andrew) and Mary Heikkinen, immigrants from Finland in the early 1900’s, brother Willie Haspik, close cousin Arnie Meittinen (Tynne), sister-in-law Rose Ranta and good friend Mabel Tuominen.
Family and friends were his primary interest and helping them with the construction and maintenance of their dwellings and possessions was his main hobby, especially in the later years. He spent countless hours in his basement workshop with his grandson Andrew, the apple of his eye, working with him and teaching him how to build everything from wooden Christmas ornaments to tree houses. Often, he would comment that one of the few downsides of reaching 94 is that you outlive all your long-time friends. That may have been so but Alf was surrounded by a group of younger friends who kept him energized and gave him the strength and support to fight hard to live out his life as he wished, independent and self-reliant.
He was a skilled carpenter, not by trade, but from the teachings of his father who was a boat builder and glass blower in Finland and by necessity, building two family homes and a shop for his business. He was very generous in applying those skills to help others in home renovations and the restoration of old buildings including log cottages at Loon Lake. He was a “doer”. If he identified something needed to be done, he quietly (most times) went about getting it done. His retirement years were filled by moving from project to project of which there was an endless supply created by word of mouth when people saw his dedication to task and the quality of his workmanship. He was the old-fashioned Finnish carpenter using his father’s tools to do mortice joints, built furniture, cupboards, tables and a bedroom suite (including a rolltop desk) for his grandson. At 92 he oversaw, as well as physically participated in, repair of the family camp at West Loon Lake.
Alf enjoyed the outdoors. While the summers were spent working on exterior renovation projects, the fall season was spent going to the woodlot to cut and split birch for his backyard sauna and for home heating. He cut and hauled the cedar for his sauna from his childhood summer camping area at Sturgeon Bay. Lake Superior brought back many childhood memories for him. Alf enjoyed many hours cruising the lake with Katie, Rob, Aune and Rob’s parents Len and Louise.
Alf loved to travel and he made several trips to California as well as journeys throughout Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Finland. He also made frequent getaways to Minnesota and often travelled to Maui and the Hawaiian Islands with his family.
He was a “man’s man”; he did not show feelings easily but rather would demonstrate his love for and appreciation of family and friends by his actions, especially through his second passion, cooking. He was well-known, and in high demand, for his tasty, “official” Finnish pancakes and even tastier Ropsua. His routine was to make one of these on Sunday mornings, the last time a week before his passing. His culinary skills also included cooking large dinners for family and friends, making Karelian Piirakkas and preparing and indulging in his favourite food, Suolakala (saltfish).
Above all, Alf had the Finnish Sisu. While he was born a Canadian in the City of Fort William, he could not escape his heritage nor did he want to. In short, he was all things Finnish and we loved him for it.
As Alf wished, cremation has taken place. A grave-side service along with a Celebration of his Life will be held at a later date this spring or summer.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Lung Association, the Wound Care Program, St. Joseph’s Care Group or a charity of your choice. Better yet, give a hug to the older adults in your life today and do so every day hereafter. Take time to remind them of their significance in your life and of the love you have for them.
On-line condolences may be made at www.sargentandson.com