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Niilo Koponen

Niilo Koponen

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July 16, 2018
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July 16, 2018
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January 04, 2014
Niilo was always such fun to discuss any topic of the day. Wonderful viewpoint, the Sunday saunas on Chena Ridge were gatherings where impeachment of presidents (Nixon) to brousing range of snowshoe hares were discussed. Thanks to the Koponen family for all the memories.
December 20, 2013
I never met this man but understand, after talking with him, that he attended school in New York City with my mother.
Family links for all of us are important and memories are special.
My thoughts and prayers are with his family.
December 17, 2013
Sorry we never knew you. We live near you. We have read about your life. You did lots of interesting parts in your life. Another Alaskan Pioneer is gone but not forgotten.
December 15, 2013
Condolences to the Koponen family on the passing of Niilo. I fondly remember the gatherings at the Chena Ridge homestead in the 60s. I greatly enjoyed working with Niilo in "Dial M'. Niilo committed an amazing amount of personal and political energy to the betterment of Alaska and the world around him. He will be remembered and missed.
December 12, 2013
Dear Niilo,
Thank you for your dedication to education, your love of family and friends and for your honorable service to our state.

You will be missed by many but a man such as you will never be forgotten. You were a man of many talents, an Alaskan pioneer, an educator, a scholar, a legistlator, father,
grandfather and husband.

Thank you for your kindness and smiles. Thank you for speaking with my students at Tanana Middle School. But most of all thank you for being you! A most wonderful and unique man. Rest well...

Most sincerely,
December 12, 2013
Niilo and I spent a number of years working together on the Alaska Humanities Forum board. I quickly learned how in addition to having an authentic sourdough appearance, he had a keen moral code and a natural and formally educated intellect. He always reflected thoughtfully and patiently on our work. Over time, I also learned how gently open, helpful, and forceful a member of the Society of Friends can be. He was always on the side of getting things done but never in a way that hurt anyone. I briefly saw Niilo at work in hearings in Juneau during his years in the Alaska Legislature. Once he was the only legislator from finance who showed up to hear our prepared testimony, and he listened to us for hours. Not long after I left the Forum, one day a package arrived from Niilo, a big book on "all kinds of interesting [Alaska] characters," he wrote. He also penned how he wished we could have done more good work. He closed with this: "I'm profoundly grateful for your chairmanship of the Forum--and very saddened to see you go -- Onward -- Niilo." I don't know what all of that meant, but the general sentiment meant a lot to me. We had both worked hard for the Forum. In 2002 when I closed out 29 years of a literary magazine I edited, Niilo wrote again to say he was "sorry to see it end. At least you are sending it out with a bang-up finale!" More generousness from Niilo. During the 1990s when I was regularly associated with Niilo, his commitment to his wife Joan was often voiced. I expect he continued that until he could no longer do so. Finally, Niilo also shared with me a six-page, single-spaced remembrance of how he became a Quaker. Here are a few sentences from the conclusion:

Certainly, growing up in the depression with my parents only sporadically employed, I was aware of the necessity of the social solidarity practiced but not preached by the social-democratic Finnish community of which we were a part. ... We grew up learning to seek and accept responsibility for one another. ... [That background] also led me [and Joan] to join the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) and form a "Meeting" in Fairbanks, become involved early in the Alaska Native Land Claims Movement, help start the Teachers Credit Union, become a union grievance man on my job in the gold mines, and, in general, become a contrarian politically and to organize needed social institutions from the Head Start program to the volunteer fire and rescue companies."

Gracious! When Niilo wrote "Onward," as he often did, he meant it. Niilo was more than a renaissance man. He was a renaissance Alaskan man of peace, friendship, morality, and action. He's one of many great people I've met and worked with in Alaska. Niilo, though, stands a little above the others.

With sympathy to his many friends and especially his family.
December 10, 2013
Niilo was my principal both at Barnette and U. Park schools. I was always impressed with his concern for the welfare and learning of all the students. He will always be a highlight in my professional memories. He was a kind and generous person. Alaska will miss him.
December 08, 2013
Jack & Nancy Williams
December 07, 2013
Milo. Thank you for all of your years of service and caring for the people of Alaska. You were truly one of our Alaskan treasures. Go in peace.

Stan & Gerry Leaphart
December 07, 2013
Niilo was one of the reasons I became a Quaker. I had known him from some of his election campaign that I had helped with and then had later attened a Meeting and there he was. I thought if this wonderful man was a Quaker there must be something to it.
I know how much he will be missed in Alaska.
Stan and Ann

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Niilo in "Dial M for Murder" - July 1969 at the Alaskaland Theater - Muse-Arts Production directed by Hap Ryder.

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