Carl Pellonpaa dies

Was iconic television personality, Finnish culture champion

Carl Pellonpaa

ISHPEMING — Carl V. Pellonpaa, 87, the host for 53 years of WLUC-TV6’s “Finland Calling,” or “Suomi Kutsuu,” died Saturday at his home in Ishpeming under the care of his family and U.P. Home Health & Hospice.

The show was a Sunday morning staple on TV6 from 1962 to 2015.

“Carl had a keen sense of humor, was quick with a joke and liked to surprise colleagues at work,” the TV6 website read. “He had a long and storied career not just in television, but also in state and county government, the U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame, the Upper Peninsula Finnish community and the Ishpeming community.”

Pellonpaa was the son of Finnish immigrants, later graduating from Ishpeming High School.

His contributions to society went beyond “Finland Calling.”

Pellonpaa began his career as an announcer for WJPD Radio in Ishpeming, and later signed a minor league contract with the Boston Braves. However, he was injured in a hunting accident, ending his baseball aspirations.

He then worked for the Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Company before serving in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. He returned to CCI, but in 1961, became an announcer, marketing representative and program host at TV6 where he retired in 1995.

Pellonpaa, though, kept hosting “Finland Calling,” which was the only Finnish language television show in the United States and the longest-running television program in the world with the same host.

He also was involved in local government, having been elected to the Marquette County Board of Supervisors, now known as the Marquette County Board of Commissioners, for which he served nine years and chaired from 1971-72.

Former Gov. William Milliken appointed Pellonpaa to the Michigan State Highway Commission, now the Michigan Department of Transportation, in 1973, with Pellonpaa serving 13¢ years.

Pellonpaa was a member of the Suomi College Board of Trustees, Bethany Lutheran Church in Ishpeming and the Ishpeming Ski Club. He was a past exalted ruler and trustee of the Ishpeming Elks Lodge 447, belonged to the Vasa Lodge 164-Ishpeming and the U.P. Chapter of the League of Finnish-American Societies, and was past commander of American Legion Post 136.

Pellonpaa was the recipient of many honors and awards, including the Knight of the Order of the White Rose in 1988. He was honorary consul of Finland for two terms in 1970 and 1990.

In 1988, the Marquette Welcome Center in Harvey was named after Pellonpaa for his service on the Michigan State Transportation Board of Commissioners. He received the Gold Award from the Finnish Society at Finn Fest USA in 1994. Also, the Board of Directors of the Institute of Migration gave him the 2012 John Morton Award, an honor bestowed on a person engaged in research and documentation on Finnish migration or multiculturalism.

Pellonpaa was chairman of FinnFest 1996, which was held in Marquette, although he attended many FinnFest celebrations in his life.

He also was a frequent traveler to Finland, and had visited all the Scandinavian countries.

Visitation for Pellonpaa will take place from 4 to 7 p.m. Friday and from 10 to 11 a.m. Saturday at Bethany Lutheran Church, 715 Mather Ave., Ishpeming. Funeral services will begin at 11 a.m. Saturday at the church with Rev. Warren Geier officiating.

A luncheon will follow in the church fellowship hall.