Ontonagon County’s Pelkola dies

Longtime Ontonagon County Board Chairman John Edwin Pelkola died peacefully at his home recently.

Remembered for his devotion to his life’s endeavors, the 74-year-old Trout Creek resident passed away Feb. 23.

One of the founders of SONCO Ambulance, Pelkola taught at Ewen-Trout Creek High School for 30 years.

“Actually, I was a student of Mr. Pelkola when I was a student here,” said E-TC School District Superintendent Alan Tulppo. “I had him for both industrial arts and driver’s education. He enjoyed his job. He enjoyed working with kids. He knew how to get the best out of students. He could get along with every student. He cared about his students and he cared about the school.”

In addition to his career as an educator, Pelkola was an elected public official for more than 40 years, serving first as Interior Township treasurer and supervisor, before moving onto the Ontonagon County Board as a commissioner and longtime chairman. He also served on numerous county subcommittees.

“I believe John truly loved serving Ontonagon County, and we were lucky to have him as a county commissioner for 23 years,” said County Clerk and Register of Deeds Stacy Preiss, who worked closely with Pelkola on the board for the past few years. “Ontonagon County has lost a wealth of information, and John will be missed by many.”

Pelkola’s service with the county came to a halt at the end of 2016, after he lost his last bid for re-election by one vote.

“It’s meant to be, maybe,” Pelkola told The Gazette, following the loss that was confirmed by a recount.

Born in Trout Creek to George and Esther (Salonen) Pelkola on Aug. 25, 1942, John graduated from Trout Creek High School and earned a bachelor’s of science degree from Northern Michigan University.

He married Joan Manning on Aug. 17, 1968. She preceded him in death, along with his parents.

Pelkola is survived by his two children, Theresa (Darrin) Viitala of Marquette, and Chris (Linda) Pelkola of Champion; grandchildren Easton and Hunter Viitala, and Britney, Heidy and Natalie Pelkola; brothers George (Sharon) Pelkola of Marquette, and Ken (Melanie) Pelkola of Trout Creek; sister Carolyn (Bob) Hietamaki of Gwinn; and several nieces, nephews and great friends.

Funeral services will begin at 2 p.m. EST on Thursday at the Trinity Lutheran Church in Trout Creek, with visitation from noon until the time of services. Spring burial will be in the Trout Creek Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, people may donate to SONCO Ambulance, P.O. Box 191, Bruce Crossing, Michigan, 49912.

The Cane Funeral Home – Bruce Crossing Chapel is assisting the family.