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Erik Sigurd Lärka

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He was born in Gottböle, Närpes, Finland on 31 Mar 1912 and died 19 Feb 2009 at the Lutheran Care Center in Poughkepsie, NY. He was the youngest of four sons born to Erik and Katharina Lärka.

Sigurd, as he was called in Närpes, went to elementary school in Gottböle, but did not want to be a farmer, so he went to Korsholm Slöjdskola (a handicraft school). Then he started his own business as a cabinet maker with his brother Lennart in Gottböle. He became skilled and well-liked in the carpentry field. But he wanted to try another type of work, so he began a transport firm with two trucks before the Winter War broke out.

He, as well as many other young men, was drafted and the transport business was shut down. He was wounded in the war, got a bullet in the thighbone, was rescued and taken behind the firing line. The bullet infected his leg and it had to be amputated. The doctors had difficulty controlling the infection, but he recovered and left the hospital. The war was over for him.

After the Continuation War, he started his transport business again and his trucks rolled until the 1950s. His milk truck took milk to the dairy from a large part of the area and with transporting wood and other business, he had plenty of work. Then he procured the freight truck rights for the line Vasa-Helsingfors-Vasa. He was also there when Närpes Trä Metall business started in 1950. He was the initiator and director of the firm. He was also the owner of Kaskö Träförädling (wood-working) that became a part of NTM, car body firm which today is one of the largest employers in Närpes.

As a young man he met his true love, Ingrid Cecilia Skinnars, from Finby, Närpes. She died in 2002. They had been married nearly 70 years. They had two sons: Sven-Erik and his wife Joan are both dead, but they left 4 children and 4 grandchildren. Son Rolf Kainer and his wife Britta Nylund, from Jomala, had 2 daughters: Terry-Ann and husband Jonathan Lussow. They have a 12-year-old son Tyler. The Lussow family lives in Hopewell Junction, NY. Their second daughter Ulla-Britt and husband David Froming live in Houston, TX where Ulla is a foot doctor.

Erik Sigurd was a violinist in his younger years. Some time ago he gave his violin to his great grandson Tyler who is musically gifted. He takes private lessons and plays in the school orchestra.

Sigurd, called Erik in America, had long held America in his thoughts. One summer when a relative came home from America and needed an automobile, he asked if Erik would lend the 1937 Chrysler that was in the garage. The relative borrowed the car during the summer in Finland, but as payment Erik wanted the relative to arrange for a passport for Erik to go to America. It was a wonderful day when he received his passport.

In 1950 he flew on PanAm from Helsingfors to Idlewild, NY (presently J.F. Kennedy Airport). He rented a room in the west side of Manhattan. Here he met some people from his homeland and he began to work as a carpenter because that was something that he knew. It was his great pleasure. He worked for various construction companies along with his countrymen.

In Närpes Erik had turned over to his wife Ingrid the responsibity for the transport firm and she managed it for three years. After 6 months his son Sven came over to NY and in 1953 his wife Ingrid and son Rolf Kainer arrived from Finland.

Erik struggled to learn English which he knew he had to speak in order to live in America. One day a man from a synagogue on the west side of Manhattan offered Erik a chance to learn English. His teacher was Rabbi Levinson who taught him five new words each day. Erik worked in the synagogue each evening, fixing the roof, seats, and did what needed to be done to tidy up the Temple. All went well and he worked at learning a new language which was not easy at his age. But he became better each day.

In 1958 the family decided to rent two blocks of flats on the west side of Manhattan. They later purchased the buildings which consisted of 60 flats, large and small, that were rented out. It was a lot of work but they managed alright. The family owned the flats for neary 45 years (1958-2001). First they sold half of the buildings and then sold the rest.

As a replacement they bought a piece of land owned by a Finnish Cooperative that was dissolved. It was the cottage area of Lomala in Hopewell Junction, NY. In 1969 Erik Sigurd and Rolf Lärka became the new owners when they renamed it Lomala Land Development Corp.

The old clubhouse in Lomala is still there, but the old Finnish driving force is no longer there. All of Sigurd’s family members live in Lomala with the water and beautiful nature.

When Erik was 93 years old he built a miniature fishing trawler, one of 15 various miniature boats he has built. Model boat building was one of his hobbies.

Erik Nix, Norden, 5 Mar 2009

English translation by June Pelo


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