1968 – 2022
Jonathan William Maaninga, age 53 of rural Menahga, Minnesota, passed over to be with his Savior Jesus Christ; and as the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ has been left with us, our separation is merely physical… and merely temporary. Jon’s soul departed his human vessel on Wednesday, March 9, 2022 following a blood clot caused by an injury from a snowmobile accident on Saturday, March 5.
Jonathan was born on April 2, 1968, to Judy Madelyn (Paurus) and Harlin Evert Maaninga in Park Rapids. He was Baptized and Confirmed at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Menahga. Jon spent his youth being dedicated to the family dairy farm, attending school at Menahga Public School, graduating in 1986.
Jon’s childhood was filled with memories of the love of his parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, neighbors and friends; riding his pedal bike to the beach; dirt biking, hunting, snowmobiling, ice fishing and enjoying life on the farm. He loved to just walk through the woods with his gun and enjoy nature, and he was blessed with an undeniable God-given talent to drive anything with a motor – especially dirt bikes!
The farm life taught him the value of hard work, family dependence and dedication, and a drive to repair, create and build anything that was needed to keep the farm going. This transferred over to nearly every aspect of his life, and is an invaluable trait he passed to his children.
After graduation, Jon worked a short time at a dairy farm before venturing off to the cities to learn the drywall finishing trade, going into business with his older brother Scott (Maaninga Brothers Drywall Services). Jon enjoyed not just working with his brother, but the guidance and support that Scott always shared.
It was also around this time that his oldest brother Greg urged Jon to take his “love for speed” on his motorcycle to the drag strip, where he would be “legal and safe.” Jon took that hobby up with a passion, and enjoyed weekends at the drag races for many years. He loved being with his brother and all the other “motorheads.” Greg and Jon also enjoyed snowmobile radar runs, which would become an adventurous family activity in the years to come.
In the autumn of 1992, while Jon was living in Anoka, he became acquainted with Rhonda Jean Hughes. He stole her heart when he humbly came to tell her that he caught his coat on a jar of salsa, causing it to fall and break in an aisle of the gas station where she worked. His unique sincerity, genuine kindness and soft heartedness instantly stole her heart. On New Year’s Eve 1992-93, after Rhonda experienced a strong Holy Spirit moment for her and her roommate Juanita Brown to go out that night, Jon and Rhonda came together at Blueberry Pines, and later that evening at the home of Kim Wuollet. Soulmates joined for life!
Jon and Rhonda’s intense connection caused a desire and determination to constantly be together. They moved to Elk River in May 1993 while Jon continued to work with Scott, and Rhonda attended technical college. Jon always desired to return to the “Up North country life” fearing he never could, but God had a miraculous plan to fulfill the desires of his heart. The week after her graduation in 1995, Rhonda gained employment at the Sebeka Menahga Review Messenger. Rhonda and her good friend Lisa Murphy searched for a place for Jon and Rhonda to rent, and found a mobile home in the country east of Menahga.
When Jon came to see the property, he was ecstatic to see that it adjoined acreage owned by his father that had been in the Maaninga name for some 100 years! Within a month, Jon felt completely blessed to return home to live on that property. After living in the cities for about nine years, he finally started his own business up north, Jonathan Maaninga Drywall Services, and continued successfully in that venture for over 26 years until his passing.
On January 20, 1996, Jonathan and Rhonda were joined together in Holy Matrimony at Redeemer Lutheran Church, followed by a honeymoon at Lutsen where they enjoyed their best downhill skiing together!
They rented for a year, and Jon was persistent about asking landlord Jeff Schindeldecker to consider selling the property to them. Jeff finally relented, and in 1999 Jonathan and Rhonda moved the mobile home out of the yard after building their first home together. That home, where they originally planned to remain for the rest of their lives, was built with tremendous guidance from local builder Jim Kangas and many other skilled subcontractors. It laid a foundation of experience for Rhonda’s floor-plan designing and Jon’s step-by-step building experience. Jon was never afraid to dive into a project, and housebuilding was no exception. He hired out the aspects that he felt were beyond his capabilities, and searched for ways to finish any and every other aspect himself.
Then came a determination to one day be debt-free, so Jonathan and Rhonda came up with a plan to sell that house, split the property, build another house, stay a few years, sell it, and finally build a home where their hearts truly ached to be – on a 40 acre field on the attached property, cleared by Jon’s dad Harlin in 1971, surrounded by woodlands and with a beautiful panoramic view of Jim Cook Lake.
Jon and Rhonda moved into their “stepping stone” second house with their two sons in 2006. Their plan to stay just a few years was delayed by a downturn in the economy and other life events. But God was good to them, and in 2016 they moved onto their dream property at Jim Cook Lake. That property was graciously gifted by Harlin and Judy Maaninga, and received with a wholehearted gratitude by Jonathan, Rhonda and their children. This was truly a priceless gift to them!
Their humble, perfect-for-them, dream home was finished in 2017, and they moved in with their youngest son and their daughter. This build was by far Jon’s most treasured, as he and his boys did a great majority of the work. Lumber was harvested from the property and cut on Jon’s second homemade sawmill for the inside trim work, and the bat and board siding. Also using resources from the property, Jon created beautiful rock fireplace surrounds at each of their last two homes. He undoubtedly left many of his fingerprints along the way with his amazing abilities. They will be a comfort and cherished.
From 2015 until 2021, it was a great joy for Jonathan and Rhonda that their oldest son Jorah, an adult at this time, lived just a short distance away, in the house where Harlin grew up. This had been Jon’s great-grandparents’ (Lars and Maria Pulju), home place, and also where his grandparents, Evert and Saima Maaninga, had homesteaded.
In the spring of 2021, Jon and Rhonda felt honored to pay-it-forward and continue the tradition by gifting a piece of the property to son Jorah and his fiancee. After the two were wed in late summer, they moved into their home just down the driveway from Jon and Rhonda in the fall of 2021.
As with so many things, Jon would get an idea, research and create. He loved to metal fab and work with lumber from the property. He made everything from trailers, sawmills, wood processors, sauna stoves, wood boiler stoves, picnic tables, saunas, fish houses, benches for bonfires, and too many others to say!
Among his craziest of ideas, Jon would refurbish old vehicles – cut the roof off, take the glass out, build a roll bar, and spray paint it. Whoever came to visit, no matter who they were, could rarely leave without a joy-filled tour through the property’s woods and trails in Jon’s unique open-air vehicle. Many vehicles came and went over the years, each with a fun nickname given by Jon, including the Sunbuggy, the Buksu, and the “Maaninga Stranger” (instead of the Polaris Ranger).
Jonathan had a perfect philosophy of working hard to get to the point of having the absolute most fun possible! When the work was done, the fun began, and he laughed loud and loved openly. He was always ready to provoke a smile, and to wear his heart on his sleeve and let everyone know how much he loved them! His greatest joy was spending time with family, and new and old friends, especially over a meal, at a bonfire, or giving tractor-pulled hayrides or bobsled rides. He loved the continuity and history of his “Maaninga” property, which adjoined the Jim Cook Cemetery where many of his ancestors were laid, and he loved hearing the stories of their lives from his dad.
Above all earthly blessings, without doubt, Jonathan loved his family! He did everything he could to make sure they were taken care of, shared his opinion of their best qualities, and told them every day, over and over, “I love you!” He treated his wife with continual gratitude, and lovingly and consistently had his hand on her or his arm around her, even during church services.
He taught his children to live in his ways: Take care of each other, express your appreciation and love, build the things you need if you can, give generously, work hard (but always take time out to chat!), seek the Lord, and always – always – do what you think is right.
Jonathan adored his son Jorah’s shared (and even-more-than-his) love for dirt bikes! This was a bond that brought them countless hours of enjoyment together, from riding at home, building tracks, teaching and learning riding styles, watching motocross and supercross, going to Jorah’s races, buying and selling bikes, ordering parts, and even breaking and repairing them! Jon was a great “race dad” for many years, and thoroughly embraced that role, and everyone at the track knew it! He loved his and Jorah’s similarities, yet he was quick to say how much more talented and creative Jorah was in his many accomplishments.
Every chance he had, Jon told of his son Jadon’s dedication, knowledge and abilities for hunting, trapping and fishing. From Jadon’s seventh through twelfth grade years, Jon was the pleased father of Jadon, who was often the top shooter on the trap shooting team. Jon was also impressed by Jadon’s ability to refurbish and repair boats and other vehicles, as well as build duck blinds and accessorize bow-fishing boats. He was beaming every time Jadon or his new wife would send him pictures of them with the fish they caught, and he loved to tell everyone about Jadon’s trip to Alaska with the Haataja family!
Jonathan found joy in his two sons’ natural ability for riding dirt bikes, four wheelers and snowmobiles, and was especially pleased with their love for our Lord and their love for their wives, always encouraging them to be as good to them as they could. Jonathan loved his two daughter-in-laws as much as his own! It was a tremendous blessing to all of us that he was here to attend both weddings within the past year.
Back when Jon and Rhonda’s two boys were getting older and the years began to pass, he confessed later that he was feeling a bit saddened at the idea that he may never get a baby girl. When his daughter Jyrni was born, he was filled with a joy that completed him, stating often how happy it made him to finally have her. And as she grew, she too gained a tighter and tighter grasp on his heart. He loved to chat with her about her knowledge of reptiles and amphibians, birds and chickens, etc, etc, etc! He lovingly called her “our walking encyclopedia.”
This past deer hunting season, Jon was prayfully determined to get Jyrni an opportunity to shoot a deer. That mission resulted in the truly blessed memory of her being with her dad when she shot her first deer! The light in Jon’s eyes when Jyrni did her baking and brought a treat to him could light up a room! He really knew her worth, and thoroughly enjoyed her presence. Thankfully, and just as Jon would have insisted, his two boys remain to carry on his love and be father figures for her.
In every turn of their lives, Jon and Rhonda were miraculously on the same page. In all their ventures of work or being stay-at-homes, having and raising children, moving and building houses, even when to give up alcohol, their motives were in alignment. They were opposite in little things in more ways than we could list, but each opposite perfectly balanced out each other. They often returned to the “traditional family” lifestyle, where Rhonda enjoyed nurturing Jon, receiving in return a beautiful life beyond her dreams. He always encouraged her to write and create, and offered to help her fill the desires of her heart. He was a kinder man than she could ever dream to have. He always – always – took care of her, and never, ever once made her feel unloved.
Jonathan was giddy every time his family or friends all got together, and his joy was infectious. There was never a quiet or uncomfortable moment when Jon was present, but mostly filled with eager-talking of fun stories with lots of joking around, yet he’d often mix in some good moral guidance. His body was wearing down from the years of diligent hard work, and his spirit was willing to accept the Lord’s call in His timing, as he had mentioned to many in the past several months. His days were numbered before he was born.
The time has come for us to cherish and honor our amazing earthly memories of Jonathan Maaninga and the delight that he was, and time to release him unto his Savior. His earthly absence will certainly leave us with a hole to fill larger than we can yet imagine, yet it’s also hard to imagine that by God’s amazing grace, that the great gift that Jon was to us, won’t overshadow our sorrow.
Jonathan was welcomed home by grandparents William and Hilda Paurus and Evert and Saima Maaninga, niece Rachael Huotari, nephew Cody Maaninga, and several of his and Rhonda’s aunts, uncles and cousins. Waiting to join him are his loving wife Rhonda Hughes Maaninga; children Jorah and Madison Maaninga, Jadon and Emma Maaninga, and Jyrni Maaninga; parents Judy and Harlin Maaninga; siblings Greg (Tammy) Maaninga, Scott Maaninga, Heidi (Michael) Huotari; parents-in-law Ronald (Tammy) Hughes and Ellen (Randy) Graves; sister-in-laws Sharon (Gary) Weber and Tina Heim; nieces and nephews Carly (Scott) Klicker, Sara Maaninga (Jesse Swartz), Matthew Maaninga, Zachary Maaninga, Maija Maaninga, Derek Huotari, Emily Huotari, Tyler Weber, and Jonathan, Ishariah, Damyon and Miah Heim; and many aunts, uncles, cousins and friends.
Per Jon’s comforting request, funeral arrangements are entrusted to Karvonen Funeral & Cremation Services (karvonenfuneralhome.com). Services will be held at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Menahga. Burial will be at Jim Cook Cemetery. Officiant is Pastor David Walsh. Organist will be Ruth Ann Kinnunen and Soloist will be Annette Haas.
Visitation will be held on Friday, March 18 from 4-7 p.m. with prayer service at 6 p.m. followed by a chance to speak and share memories. Visitation will continue on Saturday, March 19, from 10-11 a.m., with the Funeral Service at 11 a.m. Christian burial will follow the Service, with lunch after back at the church.
Pallbearers will be Bruce Kako, Scott Klicker, Jesse Swartz, Daric Kako, Zach Brosdahl and Kody Kocurek. Honorary Pallbearers are: Matthew Malin, Jeff Clark, Brandon Butler, Bill Alden, David Hanson, Justin Decker and Gordy Kussatz. The family requests memorial donations in lieu of flowers.
Arrangements were entrusted to Karvonen Funeral Home of Wadena. Online condolences may be left at www.karvonenfuneralhome.com.