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Working man: Busy life includes nearly 40 years with National Guard

January 5, 2012
By RENEE PRUSI - Journal Staff Writer ( , The Mining Journal

NEGAUNEE - Arnold Hintsala has worked all of his life.

In fact, this entire page - maybe even this entire newspaper - could be filled with the stories from his many different employment experiences, let alone his nearly 40 years as part of the Michigan National Guard.

But Ishpeming-born, Black River-raised Hintsala, now 87, has done a great job of documenting his personal history already. He has binders filled with information about his military career, his travels around the country and such.

Article Photos

Arnold Hintsala poses with some of the many awards he has received. (Journal photo by Renee Prusi)

He did, however, share some of the highlights of his busy, productive life.

The second child and first son born to Lizzie (Perna) and Erick Hintsala, Arnold came along in August 1924.

"I was a little thing. I only weighed 10 and a half pounds," he said with a smile.

The family was living on North Second Street in Ishpeming when Arnold was born, but moved to the Black River area near Republic. Eventually there were six siblings: Irene, Arnold, Helen, Reino, Jane and Shirley.

At age 9, Arnold was recruited to help his father in his grandfather's sawmill.

"I worked all my life," Hintsala said. "That started with the helping with the pulp logs when I was a kid. ... I don't remember ever having days I didn't work. I always had a job."

While helping in the family business was his start, Hintsala started his "real world" employment experiences early as well.

"I grew up in Black River but I was young when I left there. I was 16," he said. "I went to live with my aunt and uncle in Ishpeming. The WPA (Works Progress Administration) had an ad in the paper looking for a dump truck driver. I applied and they gave me the contract."

That was in 1940. Hintsala stayed with that job for two years, then changed professions at 18.

"I went to work at the Blueberry Mine in Clarksburg," he said. He was at that job when he met the love of his life, Adele Gravedoni.

"I met her in 1943 and we got married in 1944," he said. "We were together until she died on June 12, 1994. I still miss her every day."

Sitting in his Negaunee home, Hintsala pointed to the many family photos on the bookshelves and walls.

"Adele, she did this," he said. "She made us a family."

That family includes four children, Arnold "Fred" Hintsala, who lives in California and three who live in Negaunee, Christine Johnson, Glenn Hintsala and Christal Peterson; nine grandchildren; and 22 great-grandchildren.

That family was founded just as Hintsala went off to World War II.

"I was in the Army one month after we got married," he said. "I was in California in training when Fred was born."

Hintsala served in the European Theater, part of Gen. George Patton's 3rd Army, 4th Armored Division.

"I still remember getting to the Remagen Bridge and there was a sign that said 'Courtesy of the Michigan National Guard, 254th Engineer Battalion, which is what it was called then," he said. "I drove across the bridge at Remagen. That was something. I still think about it all these years later."

Hintsala was in Europe for about 18 months and was on his way from Marseilles, France, to Manila, The Philippines, when the war ended.

"At age 21, I was back home," he said. His first job after the military was at the Mather A Mine, an underground facility in Negaunee.

"They made a boss out of me. I was a midnight shift foreman for two years," he said. "But then one day I came up from underground and was called in to the boss's office. He told me I was being too friendly with my guys and told me I was only allowed to go to two particular taverns.

"I told him I just came back fighting a war for freedom and I was not about to be told where I could go," he said. "I quit right on the spot."

Immediately, Hintsala took a job with a local car dealer, but 80 days later, he was talked into going back to work at the mine, this time as an electrician.

Because he wanted something different, however, a few years later, Hintsala moved his family to Vulcan in the western Upper Peninsula to take a job as a route salesman. From there, they moved to Manistique for a job at a dealership that paid $100 a week.

"In 1955, that was big money," he said. After that stint, he was back in Marquette County, working for various auto dealers as a mechanic.

Then it was back to the mines for a number of years, but Hintsala was not impressed with the retirement potential so he answered an ad in the newspaper for Chicago Pneumatic Tool Co. and was hired right at his interview.

"That was a good job, but it was too much stress on me," he said. The family lived in Wisconsin while he worked for that company, then an offer came in 1970 for Hintsala to take a federal post attached to the state of Michigan's government, in Muskegon. That was the job he continued with until he retired in 1987.

"It was with the 1436th Engineering Company Combat Support Equipment unit," he said. "I had my hands full when I started having to train people in, but it was a great job."

Through it all, Hintsala stayed part of the Michigan National Guard.

"I joined the guard in 1948 and retired from it in 1986," he said. And he has a wall of commendations and a rack of medals to show just how well he served our nation as well as a binder filled with certificates from the various schools he attended.

"If I didn't know how to do something, I went to school for it," Hintsala said. "I always wanted to learn."

Upon retiring in 1987, Arnold and Adele Hintsala bought a home in Negaunee, which he renovated to his bride's preferences.

"Adele liked it once we got it fixed up," he said.

Hintsala keeps busy with his family and with activities at the Negaunee Senior Center.

"I am always the oldest, just about everywhere I go," he said. "There are not so many of us WWII vets anymore. There used to be some of us anywhere you went."

Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253.



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