Timo Riipa

Date of Birth:
Date of Death: October 31, 1998


Timo Riippa was born July 4, 1944 in Helsinki, Finland and came to the United States with his parents in 1947 when he was three years old. He grew up surrounded by Finnish-American activities in Astoria, Oregon; New York Mills, Minnesota; and St. Paul, Minnesota. His father served as organist and choral director in Finnish-American communities and as editor of Finnish-American newspapers.

He attended Maplewood Academy in Hutchinson, Minnesota his senior year, having received his first three years from a correspondence institute. After graduating from Maplewood in 1963, Timo continued his education majoring in English and German at St. Cloud State University. His education and upbringing afforded him unique Finnish and English language skills, which laid the foundation for his future involvement in education and research.

He served four years with the Army Intelligence Corps. Then, for the next 23 years, he worked for the Immigration History Research Center at the University of Minnesota as teacher, translator, editor, researcher, and author of the Finnish-American Collection - the largest of its kind in the world. Not only had Riippa catalogued the collection, he convinced many Finnish people to donate materials to it and was constantly on call as a translator of Finnish history, poetry, technical writing and literature. It was he who helped graduate students and high school kids working on history projects wade through the past that, as a curatorial assistant, he tended and knew so well.

In 1978, he helped found Salolampi, the Finnish language village of Concordia Language Institute, and he co-authored it's textbooks said Marianne Wargelin, who is Finland’s honorary consul to the Twin Cities. Riippa wrote the chapters on Finnish immigrants for a 1981 book by the Minnesota Historical Society: "They Chose Minnesota". He also helped plan and organize four major international conferences on Finnish-American history. With the advent of e-mail, Riippa routinely fielded queries from scholars worldwide.

He devoted his life to the study of Finnish-American history and culture and to nurturing an appreciation of that in other people. He never married, so the Finnish community in the Twin Cities became his family. Riippa passed to his rest on October 31, 1998 in St. Paul, Minnesota at the age of 54.

Source: Received 10-01-13 MWA Class of 1963

Lessons of the past
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