Copper Country reflects on Tuoriniemi’s contributions

HOUGHTON — The Copper Country and beyond lost a man described as a “wonderful human being” on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023.

Family, friends, area residents and Michigan Tech faculty and students are mourning the loss of community pillar Joel Tuoriniemi, who died from injuries sustained in a vehicle accident in Mohawk.

“He was a relative and a friend,” said Glenn Patrick. “We coached and played hockey together, golfed together — he was much better than me, but he put up with me.”

Patrick and Tuoriniemi shared lake property and served on several boards together. Tuoriniemi had a unique gift of seeing through the clutter to understand the real problem or challenge of the issue at hand, Patrick said.

While the Michigan Tech professor was passionate about his students, his athletes and his community, Tuoriniemi was above all a family man, Patrick said.

“Obviously, his first and foremost passion was his wife Julieanne, his children – Wyatt, Hanna, and Hunter, and the rest of his family, immediate and extended,” Patrick said. “His love and passion extended to his students, young athletes and friends. He was a rock for his family and friends. Little children held a soft spot in his heart.”

While Tuoriniemi took a deep and personal interest in his students at Michigan Tech, he also took a deep personal interest in his community.

Laurel Maki, president of 31 Backpacks Inc., located in Hancock, said that Tuoriniemi was instrumental in the process of creating 31 Backpacks, an organization dedicated to its mission that no Copper Country children go hungry.

Tuoriniemi prepared and submitted all the paperwork for 31 Backpacks to become a 501(c)3 nonprofit. It was accepted the first time, which Maki was told rarely happens.

“He donated his time, talent and insights in obtaining our nonprofit charity status”, Maki said of the Fulton, Allouez Township, man. “This gesture of kindness affected the lives of hundreds of local kids. What a wonderful human being. He will be greatly missed by many.”

Tuoriniemi was born in Laurium on Nov. 8, 1972. A 1990 graduate of Calumet High School, Tuoriniemi received his bachelor’s degree in business, concentration in accounting, from Michigan Tech in 1994. He earned his juris doctorate from Michigan State University in 1997. He completed postdoctoral studies in accounting at the University of Florida.

Tuoriniemi subsequently practiced law for several years, for Bob Anderson in Marquette, then for Wisti in Hancock, before opening his own practice in Calumet. He also holds the Ed and Betty Robinson Faculty Fellow position in accounting.

In addition to his academic achievements, Tuoriniemi was also a Michigan Tech faculty athletics representative, a position to which he was appointed in 2020.

The faculty athletics representative plays a strategic role in ensuring the academic integrity of the intercollegiate athletics program and enhancing the student-athlete experience at Michigan Tech.

He also served on numerous community boards over the years, including Calumet Hockey Association and Keweenaw County Road Commission. He was also the driving force behind the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge’s expansion to include a conference center and winterization of the facility.

“We worked together to establish the C-L-K Youth Hockey Endowment Fund,” Patrick said. “Joel was especially helpful with the legal aspect.”

An open memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday Sept. 24, at the Hidden Pine Barn, next to Erickson-Crowley-Peterson Funeral Home on Pine Street in Calumet. The Tuoriniemi family welcomes all to attend the service, extending a special invitation to Tuoriniemi’s current and former students.

Honoring Joel’s passion for local hockey, his family requests that in lieu of flowers at his service, donations be made to the Calumet Youth Hockey Fund.

Following the memorial service at 2 p.m., there will be a gathering time of remembrance and refreshments following through the afternoon.

“Joel led a very full life. In his 50 years,” said Patrick. “Joel positively impacted so many lives in so many different ways, it’s as if he lived 150 years. He was an incredible guy.”


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