Melvin Ernest Kinnunen, 85 of Menahga, was called to his eternal home with the Lord on Saturday, March 25, 2023. He passed peacefully after his Alzheimer’s Dementia progressed, surrounded by family under the care of the St. Joseph’s Hospice team and the amazing staff at Crystal Brook memory care.
Melvin was born on January 5, 1938 in Shell River Township, Menahga, Minnesota to Adam and Esther (Lake) Kinnunen. He was their third child and oldest son. Melvin attended the Sunnyside Country School until 7th grade where he learned English among other things as his first language was Finnish. He continued the rest of his education at Menahga High School, graduating with the class of 1956. Melvin was a very active athlete in high school and lettered in four sports; football, basketball, track, and baseball. He was even inducted into the Menahga Amateur League Baseball Hall of Fame. After High School, he attended Hanson Mechanical Trade School in Fargo, ND and later obtained an Associate’s Degree in Farm Business Management from Central Lakes College in Staples, MN.
Melvin worked in Fingal, North Dakota for a farmer, worked as a truck driver for the Calumet Mining Company in northern MN, and was an oiler as a Merchant Mariner on the Smith Thompson, Joseph B. Thompson, and Carle C. Conway ships in the United States Coast Guard – sailing the Great Lakes. Melvin also served in the MN National Guard, Wadena Unit from 1961 to 1966 when we was honorably discharged. He is a Member of the Sebeka American Legion.
Melvin began farming on October 11, 1961 – he purchased the farm from his parents and later multiple adjacent farms over the span of 35 years, making Kinnunen Farms into what it is today. Melvin spent most of his life as a Dairy Farmer which was in his blood as he often recalled that his grandmother in Lapland (Finland) had a herd of reindeer she milked. He also worked as a part time relief mail carrier for roughly 15 years. Melvin married Ruth Ann Niemi on June 6, 1970 and they had four children. Melvin and Ruth were named Wadena County Farm Family of the Year in 1991.
Melvin had a strong drive to serve civically and was a member of the following:
Farm Business Management program from Central Lakes College – Staples
Advisory Committee for Farm Business Management
Wadena Soil and Water Conservation Board –including Board Representative on the Expo Committee as well as Regional Representative
Wadena County Planning and Zoning Commission and Variance Board
Wadena County Water Plan Advisory Committee
Wadena County Jail Study Committee
Wadena County Ag Society – Wadena County Fair Board Member, Chairperson
Designed and developed the Pride Auction for 4-H livestock members
Minnesota Forest Products Cooperative – 1967 to 1984
Northern Cooperative Services (Leaf River Ag)
Northern Cooperative Scholarship Foundation
Menahga Co-op Sampo Board for 27 years
Menahga Public School Policy Committee
Shell River Township Board – 1962 to 2020
Fire Warden for Shell River Township over 50 years
Wadena County Extension Committee and Representative for Regional Level Extension Committee
Associate Chair and later Chair of the Wadena County DFL political party
Redeemer Lutheran Church – Menahga
Melvin had multiple other interests including hunting, fishing, snowmobiling, playing cards, reading the daily newspaper (never missing the comics), traveling, and bird watching. He was fortunate even as a busy dairy farmer to have traveled to 43 states. He was very proud of his Finnish heritage, enjoying saunas whenever he could and if it hadn’t required a flight, he would have traveled to Finland too. Melvin was an avid sports fan and would watch various college and national league sports. He really enjoyed the Olympics as well, proudly cheering for the American athletes, unless there were Finns competitors. He also played baseball after High School for the Menahga and Huntersville teams and later was a Team Manager for the Huntersville Horseflies.
Those who mourn Melvin’s passing are his devoted wife of 53 years, Ruth Ann; three children: Michael of Menahga, Jennifer (Chad) Schlauderaff of Detroit Lakes, and Kristine (Badger) Koepplin of New Salem, ND; four grandchildren: Cody and Garrett Koepplin, and Kiptin and Koralyn Schlauderaff; nieces, nephew, one sister-in-law: Helen Steiner, and many extended family and friends. He was preceded in death by: his parents, son John, in-laws Linda and William Niemi, two sisters: Hazel Sarkela and Arleen Matta, 1 brother: Ralph Kinnunen, and three brothers-in-law.
Visitation will be held from 5-7 p.m. Thursday, March 30, 2023 at Wevley Funeral Home, Sebeka, MN and continue one hour prior to the service at the church.
Funeral Services will be held at 11 a.m. on Friday, March 31, 2023 at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Menahga, MN. Interment will be at Meadow Cemetery rural Menahga.
Arrangements are entrusted Wevley Funeral Home of Sebeka. Online condolences can be left at www.wevleyfuneralhome.com.3-29c