Helen Aminda Kukkonen Bjork, 99, former Hancock and Marquette, Mich., and Gunnison, Colo., resident, entered eternal life Wednesday morning, April 29, at RidgeStone Village in Delavan, Wisc., where she had resided since 2013.
Born June 18, 1920 in Hancock, Helen was the daughter of Charles Arvid and Aminda Maria (Grekila) Kukkonen, and was raised in Hancock. As a young girl she and her mother worked in her father’s photography studio doing oil colorizations to the sepia photography of the time. During her high school years, Helen accompanied the school orchestra and soloists on the piano. She graduated from Hancock Central High School in 1938, and continued her education at Suomi College and Ohio University where she received her bachelors degree. While at Ohio U., Helen met her future husband, Clarence M. Bjork. After graduating she returned to Hancock in 1942, teaching shorthand and typing at Suomi College. On May 20, 1945, Helen and Clarence were married at St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church. The couple made their home in Hancock while Clarence taught at Michigan Tech. In 1947, Clarence joined the Northern Michigan College faculty in Marquette. While raising three children, Helen furthered her education and earned a masters degree in 1959 from the University of Michigan. In 1967, the family moved to Gunnison where Clarence worked at Western State College until his 1983 retirement.
Following Clarence’s death in 1989, Helen moved back to Marquette in 1992.
Helen spoke Finnish and was proud of her Finnish heritage. She enjoyed sewing and was a prolific letter writer to friends and family. She especially enjoyed winning at Scrabble and was well traveled through the U.S., Europe and Morocco. She was a lifelong learner and even taught herself to ride a bicycle the summer she turned 50 years old. She was an active member of Messiah Lutheran Church in Marquette, where she sang in the choir well into her 80s. She was also a member of the P.E.O. Sisterhood.
Helen is survived by her children, Cary Bjork of Marquette, Mich., Karen (Stephen) Cass of Delavan, Wisc., and Helen Bjork of Boston, Mass.; her grandchildren, Bryan (Mindy) Bjork, Adam Bjork, Jonathan (Meghan) Bjork, Jennifer (Tim) Lambert, Ryan (Danielle) Cass, and Diane (Brett) Heisler; greatgrandchildren, Gavin, Macy, Annika, Miles, Charley, Sara, Lucia, Edith, Nora, Chelsea, step great-granddaughter, Madison; sister-in-law, Myra Nagel; and numerous nieces and nephews. In addition to her parents, Helen was preceded in death by her husband, Clarence; daughter-inlaw, Sharon Bjork; brother and sister-in-law, Carl and Shirley Kukkonen and their son, Larry.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be directed to Messiah Lutheran Church, 305 W. Magnetic Street, Marquette, MI 49855; Peter White Public Library, 217 N. Front Street, Marquette, MI 49855; Finlandia University (Clarence M. Bjork Scholarship Fund), 601 Quincy Street, Hancock, MI 49930, or to the charity of your choice.
Services will be held at a later date and will be announced.
Fassbender Swanson Hansen Funeral and Cremation Services is serving the family, where condolences may be expressed online at fassbenderswansonhansen.com.