Finlandia Foundation Family Tree

Centennial Honor Gifts

Click here to learn about the Centennial Honor Gifts

Read the stories and appreciate the impressions, contributions, and legacies
of the loved ones remembered with a Centennial Honor Gift
in the 100th Anniversary year of FInland’s independence.

Reino and Ellen Lahti

Ellen Lahti

Maternal Grandparents 
of Kath Usitalo

“Tässä ole synynmaa mutta Suomi oli kotimaa,” said 99-year-old Ellen Lahti of the farming community of Rock, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. “This is my land of birth, but Finland is my homeland.” Ellen Maria Josefiina Huusko was born in the U.P. in 1907, but at nine months moved with her parents to Finland and grew up in rural Halsua. There she married Reino Oskari Lahti, and daughters Eva and Elma were born before they left Finland for the U.P., where daughter Elsie and son Ervin were born.

Like other Depression Era Finnish immigrants they moved to Detroit, where Reino found work at the Packard car plant. In 1937 Ellen and children returned to Finland, joined by Reino in 1938. They lived in Halsua until the Winter War prompted them to return to Detroit. The couple worked long hours—Reino in a tool and die shop and Ellen at her popular Ellen’s Finnish Restaurant.

In retirement the couple moved to Rock, which reminded them of Halsua. On their acreage with farmhouse, sauna and barn, they kept busy clearing the fields and gardening, with Reino woodworking and Ellen creating quilts and knitting and crocheting hats, mittens, slippers and afghans. Ellen survived Reino by 35 years, and continued to bake pulla and make strong coffee and delicious dinners. To the generations that follow in their footsteps they—but especially Ellen—probably because she was with us longer—remain an inspiration and model of industriousness, generous spirit, strength, resourcefulness, humor and Sisu.