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Alas, the world never placed David on its list of Famous Kaukonens — but for those of us who knew and loved him, he is right there at the top!
However, the world has recognized a couple of other Kaukonens, which I suppose makes them famous. They are even included in Wikipedia's list of notable Finnish Americans. While I have no knowledge that they are any direct relations to the Kaukonens in my family, perhaps the fact that we all share the same obscure Finnish family name is enough to make us family! I have also been informed about a famous Kaukonen from our very own branch of the family! Read on to discover all the fascinating details!
The first famous Kaukonen I would like to introduce you to is Dr. Amy Agnes Kaukonen. I found a few different sources which report on her life and accomplishments. Let's start with this one from Ohio History Central:
In 1920, a sufficient number of states ratified the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. This amendment granted women the right to vote. Immediately upon receiving this right, some women began to pursue elected office. One woman who attained quick success was Amy Kaukonen. In 1921, Kaukonen was elected mayor in Fairport Harbor, Ohio, a small community in the northeastern portion of the state. Kaukonen was the first woman elected mayor of a community in Ohio. She also was one of the first women elected mayor in the entire United States.
Next is an entry from the Finnish Heritage Museum "Hall of Fame", located right there in Fairport Harbor, Ohio:
Amy Kaukonen bustin' the bootleggers!
Dr. Amy Agnes Kaukonen Walsh is the first elected woman mayor in Ohio. Chosen in 1921, she won popular support and the election, transformed the village council, and continued regular civic work on building a community with paved streets, curbs, water service, electric service, trolley line, police and fire service, and schools. While serving as Mayor, she practiced medicine and delivered babies. Her most significant contribution however, is changing the culture of Fairport, returning it to honesty and civility and taking it out of the hands of bootleggers, prostitutes, and the criminal element which prior to her election "ran" the village. She was physically threatened many times, but remained steadfast in her convictions. She was nationally recognized for her work. Kaukonen abruptly resigned in 1923 and moved to Seattle, Washington, but her work had left an indelible impression on the village.For many more details about the life of this fascinating woman, don't miss the full article, American Finn Leaves Legacy, which, like the quote above, is found on the Finnish Heritage Museum Web site.
The second famous Kaukonen is still alive and kicking and making music (as of the time of this writing): Jorma Kaukonen. Let's take a look at an extract from the bio on his official Web site:
In a career that has already spanned a half-century, Jorma Kaukonen has been the leading practitioner and teacher of fingerstyle guitar, one of the most highly respected interpreters of American roots music, blues, and Americana, and at the forefront of popular rock-and-roll. He was a founding member of two legendary bands, The Jefferson Airplane and the still-touring Hot Tuna, a Grammy nominee, a member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the most in-demand instructor in the galaxy of stars who teach at the Fur Peace Ranch Guitar Camp that he and his wife operate in picturesque Southeastern Ohio.Besides the numerous albums he has been a part of through Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna, Jorma has also released 14 solo albums between 1974 and 2009. According to Wikipedia:
His 2002 album Blue Country Heart was widely acclaimed by critics as one of the definitive examples of "Depression Era" music and features Kaukonen backed by an all-star Nashville bluegrass band. The album was nominated for a Grammy award in 2003 for "Best Traditional Folk Album."At 70 years of age, Jorma is still a very busy guy! The latest CD from his band Hot Tuna entitled Steady As She Goes will be released next month, April 2011. He also has quite a few concert performances this year. Looks like you can't keep a good Kaukonen down! Way to go, Jorma, keep those Finnish vibes coming!
There is an interesting family story that brings these two Famous Kaukonens into David's Kaukonen family. Recently, David's younger sister, Ruth Heikkila (who turns 90 this coming May!) wrote the following recollections:
Ruth in 2001
We found out about Amy Kaukonen in a round about way — from Eldan Kaukonen (my nephew). Jorma Kaukonen's father worked for the government in some capacity on the West Coast and traveled a lot with his job. He always looked in the phone book whereever he went to see if there were other Kaukonens listed. He was near Eureka one time and saw Eldan's phone number in the book. Jorma's father made contact with Eldan to see if by chance he knew about Amy Kaukonen. Eldan didn't, therefore he sent the newspaper article about Amy to us. My father Isaac had no recollection of her name.Well, there you have it — the official story of how the father of one famous Kaukonen (Jorma) contacted the nephew of David Kaukonen to find out about another famous Kaukonen (Amy). You heard it here first! Thank you, Ruth, for the inside scoop!
This next famous Kaukonen is a new addition from New Year’s Day 2016. The previous week an Erik Kaukonen from Florida had e-mailed me to thank me for this Web site and to tell me a bit about his branch of the Kaukonen family.
In his e-mail, Erik mentioned a great-uncle, Everett Kaukonen, who had work with NASA during the Apollo Space Program. That right there would make Everett somewhat famous, at least for me who loves space and science fiction!
When searching for more information about him, I found this interesting article: When Clubmember Everett Kaukonen Integrated the Cape. It recounts how Everett confronted and overcame segregation in Florida on behalf of an African-American colleague. That makes him doubly famous in my book!
And now the moment we have all been waiting for: our very own famous Kaukonen! In 1987, Kalie Klaysmat (daughter of David's younger brother Leo) was named the first-ever Minnesota "State Firefighter of the Year"! To the right is a photo of Kalie, with her fire-chief husband John, receiving her award.
Even though articles ran in big-city newpapers like the Minneapolis Star Tribune and the St. Paul Pioneer Press, I would like to share with you the article which ran in the Daily Tribune, from Kalie's childhood hometown of Hibbing.
Hibbing native Kalie Klaysmat, a 12-year veteran of the Crane Lake Volunteer Fire Department, was named the first-ever "State Firefighter of the Year" at the Minnesota State Fire School and Exposition Friday [May 29, 1987].The St. Paul Pioneer Press (Dispatch) reports:
Klaysmat, 35, a 1970 graduate of Hibbing High School, was chosen for the award from among 20 finalists by the Minnesota State Board of Vocational Technical Education and the Fire Instructors Association of Minnesota.
Thousands of firefighters statewide were eligible for the honor — the first such award in the 51-year history of the fire school.
The award was presented on behalf of Gov. Rudy Perpich by Lani Kuwamura, the governor's director of state planning. About 750 firefighters from Minnesota, the Upper Midwest and Canada are attending the three-say event through Sunday.
Klaysmat, the daughter of Leo and Miriam Kaukonen of Hibbing, said she was amazed she was chosen for the award, adding she has learned a lot in her 12-year fire fighting career.
"The most important thing I've learned is that firefighting is much more than just squirting water," she said. "There are many contributions that people can make beyond fighting fires, like fundraising and medical areas of service."
Klaysmat said most, but not all, male firefighters she has dealt with in the state have accepted her.
"I did not join the fire service because I wanted to prove something," she said. "I joined because I could not live with myself if I watched a neighbor's home burn because I had not taken the time to learn to do something about it."
Klaysmat was nominated for the honor by her husband, John, who is the fire chief at Crane Lake. Criteria for the award included participation in the community, attendance at in-station and outstate training, contributions to the fire department and "dedication to duty," according to a fire school spokesman.
Klaysmat is a 12-year veteran and a charter member of the Crane Lake VFD. She is employed by the U.S. Immigration Service in Crane Lake and has invested 650 hours into firefighting activities over the years.
Klaysmat said she hoped the fact that a woman had received the award "would show people in the state that there is an important resource in females in the fire service, and departments less eager to have women join will think about it a little more."
Nominations for the award were drawn from the state's 825 fire departments and 902 townships and cities.
Kalie Klaysmat, a volunteer firefighter from the tiny community of Crane Lake, said she was overwhelmed when named the first "Minnesota Firefighter of the Year."The Minneapolis Star Tribune adds:
"I'm very honored," she said during an interview Friday. "But I really didn't expect it. The odds were against it."
Klaysmat, 35, believed that in a state where most firefighters are men, the first award from the Fire Instructors' Association of Minnesota would not go to a woman.
"I had the same stereotype — that all firefighters are 35-year-old men," she said. "I'm sure a lot of people were shocked."
Klaysmat beat out more than 40 other nominees for the award, presented during ceremonies Friday at the Radisson South in Bloomington, where The Great Minnesota Fire School and Exposition is being held through Sunday.
Bill Bruen, fire service specialist with the Minnesota State Board of Vocational Technical Education, which cooperated in the selection process for the award, said Klaysmat was named firefighter of the year for her contributions to the community and her attendance at fire calls and training sessions.
He said she also was selected for her contribution to the fire department as a whole, particularly for her attitude and her spirit of cooperation.
Bruen pointed out, for example, that Klaysmat has taken 650 hours of firefighting and emergency medical education.
"That's considerably above the 75 to 100 hours the average firefighter has," he said.
Klaysmat, whose husband John is chief of the Crane Lake Volunteer Fire Department, said she expected the award to go to a full-time firefighter from a big city like St. Paul or Minneapolis, not to a volunteer from an unincorporated community of 103 residents near the Canadian border.
"We're the only fire department in the state where you have to pay $5 to be a firefighter," she said with a laugh.
There hasn't been a structural fire in the community since November 1984 [a bit less than 3 years], for instance. So far this year , the 20 firefighters in the volunteer department have responded to only eight calls. Of those, seven were medically related and one was a forest fire.
But during the summer months, Crane Lake grows to more than 3,000 residents, and the fire department gets more calls about heart attacks and boating accidents. Last September, two boats collided at night and nine people were injured and taken to the hospital in Cook about 50 miles away. Klaysmat got the call shortly after midnight and was at the scene in five minutes.
"A lot of times we have to maintain life 40 to 45 minutes," said Klaysmat, who is also the department's chief medical officer.
Klaysmat recommends firefighting to other women. "I think they should go for it," she said. "If they feel they aren't strong enough to carry a 200-pound person out of a burning building, they shouldn't worry. I have never had an occasion to even try."
Klaysmat, one of an estimated 75 female firefighters in Minnesota, said she didn't think twice about going into an occupation traditionally dominated by men.... Other women have volunteered to help with firefighting in Crane Lake. "We didn't know that women normally don't join the department," Klaysmat said.Kalie reminisces:
I am the one wearing the white shirt on the back of the fireboat. When that shot was taken we were carrying 3 victims of a floatplane crash to the waiting ambulance. The shot is dramatic because we were just gaining speed and getting the boat up "on step" as we left the spot where the plane was upside down in the water. Our 100+ square-mile territory only had 8 miles of road, so I spent a lot of my time responding by boat and snowmobile. In fact, my team was so experienced at snowmobile rescue, I designed a training program for which the state gave me a grant to teach to other agencies in northern Minnesota. It was an interesting and exciting time in my life.You can keep up on Kalie and John's latest adventures in Alaska on their Web site.
Finally, there is one more famous Kaukonen I want to mention, which is a company as well as a person. If you Google "Kaukonen", one of the top ten results is Kaukonen.com, which appears to be the Web site of a company that deals in high-end yacht for the ultra-rich. The name of the company is Kaukonen & Kaukonen, and the principal partners are the brothers Jukka and Vesa Kaukonon. Their contact telephone numbers are in France, and their "visiting address" is in Monte Carlo, Monaco. They definitely seem like the highest-rolling Kaukonens I have come across — and I don't think any Kaukonens that I know could afford their yachts. Their current "featured boat" is going for a cool seven million Euros (about ten million dollars)! Gosh! If you are a Kaukonen descendant, then the next time you're in Monte Carlo you should just pop in and introduce yourself as a long-lost relative!
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