Toivola’s current oldest living resident Michael “Willie, Bill, Papa & Mike Sr.” Waltanen, 92 passed away Thursday, January 5th, 2023 at his home with his two sons Mike Jr., Steve Koski, daughter-in-law Tonya and his furry friend Mia girl, following lengthy battles with aspiration pneumonia.
He was born on September 29, 1930, in Brooklyn a suburb of Baltic, MI. He was the son of the late Henry and Breeta “Elizabeth” (Luukkonen) Waltanen. He attended range area schools until the age of 12 when his family moved to the farm in Toivola. At 15, his Father pulled him out of school to work as a general farmhand. Along with farming, he worked in the woods for Wiideman Logging before volunteering for the United States Army at the age of 20. He said, “Like hell, Ole Uncle Sams going to draft me.” That attitude must have kept him from peril as he fought on Heartbreak Ridge in the Korean War.
After serving his country he came home to work the White Pine copper mines but after losing a digit on his middle finger, he decided to change careers by sailing the great lakes on the mighty ore boats. After a couple of short years sailing he finally settled into a full-time position with the Houghton County Road Commission where he was a grader operator until his retirement in 1993.
Willie loved to fish the misery river as well as bob for lake trout out of Big Traverse with his fishing buddies and retired from hunting after bagging his last buck at the age 85. He also enjoyed going ‘casino’, was a member of Toivola Senior Citizens and member of the VFW Post 6165 of South Range.
He was proud to be part of the Mission 8 Honor Flight to Washington, DC. He enjoyed playing baseball and hockey in his younger years and was a Detroit Tigers and Red Wings fan. Willie was the type of man that would give the shirt off his back. He was always there for his son Michael and his family. He helped make wood, lend a hand and enjoyed house-sitting their furry pets Princess, Mia & Gemma (who he called sweeter pie, because he could never remember her name).
Preceding him in death are his parents, and five brothers Andrew, Steen “Stanley”, Mack, Henry “Cushie”, Felix “The Cat”, and four sisters Elmi, Ellen, Martha, Helmi and grandson Ronny Jarvela.
Survived by his immediate family son Michael Jr. (Tonya) Waltanen of Toivola, along with their daughters Shaylee (Brandon) and great-grandson Belami Ryker of Tacoma, WA, and Brogan (Max)Forsman of Marquette, MI. His stepchildren Steven and Wendy. Also, survived by children from his first marriage, Sharon, Susan, and Elaine. As well as 11 grandchildren, 5 great-grandchildren, numerous nieces, nephews and cousins.
There will be a memorial service at the Mountain View Mortuary of South Range, MI on January 13th at 5pm with visitation an hour before the service. A fellowship/dinner following at the Range Lounge. There will also be a summer burial with Military Honors in the Toivola cemetery in July.
To view Willie’s obituary or to send condolences to the family please visit www.memorialchapel.net.
The Memorial Chapel Funeral & Cremation Service – Mt. View Chapel of South Range has been assisting the family with the arrangements.