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Paul Suomala


Paul Alfred Suomala died peacefully at Eventide Nursing Home in Moorhead, Minnesota surrounded by his family on January 4, 2019.
Paul was born in Spruce Grove Township during the coldest recorded winter temperatures on February 1, 1936 to Arthur and Ilma (Aho) Suomala. He grew up on the family-owned dairy farm and graduated from Frazee High School in 1955 where he was active in FFA. Paul attended the University of MN, majoring in animal industry and economics. His first employment after college was with Cargill, Inc., where he served as a territory manager in the feed division.

He married Dorothy (Johnson) Suomala in Virginia, Minnesota on June 13, 1964. They made their first home on Wymer Lake near Frazee. Throughout their 54-year marriage, they lived in 11 homes throughout Minnesota.

Paul was the manager of Feed Producers Association, a poultry feed manufacturer in Perham, starting in 1963. After a fire destroyed the Feed Mill in 1968, Paul founded and became the General Manager of EMPRO, a regional distributor of construction materials and specialty coatings, first in Perham and then in the Twin Cities. (Since Paul envisioned uses in the food industry, EMPRO stands for Eggs Meat Protein Research Organization.) EMPRO Corporation pioneered the development of urethane foam for roofing, tanks, and storage vessels. Some projects included: the roof of the TWA Terminal in Houston, Texas, insulation tanks for fats and oils, barge flotation in New Orleans, Louisiana, Burlington Northern insulated refrigeration cars, and insulation and consultation on the IDS building foundation in Minneapolis.

When the family relocated from the Twin Cities to Moorhead, Paul became the Executive Director of The International Coalition, a land and water stewardship initiative serving the Upper Midwest and Manitoba, Canada. He also served as a member of the Mid America Consultants International, where he led over 40 delegations of agricultural professionals from developing countries, many in the former Soviet Republics, through the US Senate Cochran Program. Paul’s special interest in cereals brought him into contact with Joe Fox’s waxy hulless barley. He developed recipes for cookies, meatloaf, breads, soups, and many other delicious and heart healthy foods using barley.

Throughout his career, Paul was in Rotary International in Perham, Minnetonka-Plymouth, and Moorhead. He was active in the Finnish-American Historical Society, Red River Finns, the Finlandia Foundation, and did demonstrations of Finnish cooking at the Hjemkomst Scandinavian Festival for 18 years in a row. Chef Paul loved to cook and cater large events like fish fries and turkey feeds. He traveled to many countries, and most US states. He was a man of deep faith and was active in church, including years of service on the board at Plymouth Apostolic Lutheran Church as well as preparing Wednesday night community meals and working with the Helping Hands men’s group at Good Shepherd. His life was well-lived, and he is well-loved.

Paul is survived by his wife, Dr. Dorothy Suomala, of fifty-four years; his four children: Dr. Karla Suomala (Rev. Dr. David Vásquez-Levy) of Richmond, California, Jon Suomala (Sarah Coomber) of Vancouver, Washington, Lana Suomala (Mark Schutz) of Moorhead, and Rev. Mary Suomala Folkerds (Rev. Aaron) of Moorhead; six grandchildren: Jacob Suomala Mehlhoff, Stella Mehlhoff Suomala, Dawit Vásquez-Suomala, Meheret Vásquez-Suomala, Daniel Coomala, and Paul Folkerds. Also surviving are his sisters: Miriam (Elmer) Yliniemi, Marie (Mike) Watkins, Esther (Mike) Haapala, Pearl (Harold) Bekkala; and brother William (Patti) Suomala.

Paul was preceded in death by his parents and granddaughter Helena Folkerds.

Visitation will be on Tuesday, January 8 from 5 – 7 p.m. at Wright Funeral Home, Moorhead. Funeral services will be on Wednesday, January 9 at 11 a.m. at The Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in Moorhead. Interment will be at Pickerel Cemetery, rural Osage.

Memorials preferred to The Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd or Moorhead Rotary.

Arrangements are with Wright Funeral Home of Moorhead. Online guestbook at

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