American Veteran 04

Donald A. Byykkonen

April 11, 1931 ~ July 22, 2022 (age 91)


Donald Abel Byykkonen was born April 11, 1931, the son of Abel and Lillian (Moilanen) Pyykkonen in Huron, MI.  He was united in marriage to Verna Sandelin from Baraga, MI, on January 14, 1956.  He died in Sebeka, MN, at the age of 91 on July 22, 2022.

Don attended country school on Horoscope Road in Pelkie, MI, until eighth grade, at which time he went to work in the woods to help support his family. As a teenager, he worked on ore boats on the Great Lakes. Don enlisted in the National Guard and volunteered for service in the United States Army during the Korean War. During this time, Verna was living in a Tuberculosis sanitorium where they wrote to service men oversees. Since Don was from the same area, Verna was asked to write to him. In 1954, when he returned from war, Don met Verna at his brother’s (and her sister’s) high school graduation. When he asked her out, Verna refused.  A year later, when he called her again and invited her out for a hamburger, she replied, “I already had one.” Don was persistent, when he called again the next night, Verna agreed to ice-cream in Hancock. She received her diamond ring eight dates later and were married on January 14, 1956. Don and Verna were blessed with five children, and they made their home in Ishpeming, MI.  In 1973, Don returned to high school with his brother and earned his diploma.

Don worked for Cleveland Cliffs Iron Company as a welder until his retirement in 1987. He retired at age 54, after being disabled after two back surgeries. They traveled extensively in their retirement years to Finland and 13 countries in Europe, as well as throughout the United States. Don and Verna enjoyed 25 warm winters in Phoenix, AZ. During this time, Don liked woodworking and made many beautiful pieces of furniture, toys, bowls, and clocks.

In 2004, they moved from their home in Ishpeming to an apartment in Negaunee, MI, before making the Laestadian Manor in Brainerd, MN home in 2012.  Don was a member of the Laestadian Lutheran Church.  The couple has many lasting friendships in Michigan, Arizona, and Brainerd.

After a short illness in March of 2022, Don was discharged to a rehabilitation unit in Menahga.  He and Verna lived at Providence Villa in Sebeka until his passing.  Don was very content in life and especially enjoyed his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

He is survived by his wife, Verna, of 66 years; children, Roxanne (Michael) Johnson, of Cave Creek, AZ, Glen (Carolyn) Byykkonen, of Park Rapids, MN, Renita (Gene) Kurtti, of Menahga, MN, Gerald Byykkonen, of Hill City, MN, and Ronda Byykkonen, of Phoenix, AZ; brothers, Bruce (Katie) Pyykkonen, of Lake Linden, MI and David (Agnes) Pyykkonen, of Houghton, MI; 25 grandchildren; and 65 great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his parents, Abel and Lillian Pyykkonen; sisters, Gertrude Makela and Eva Kohtala; brothers, Robert Byykkonen and Roy Pyykkonen; grandsons, Bryce Johnson, Alexander Johnson, and Kyle Kurtti; and great-granddaughter, Heather Wisuri.

A Funeral Service will be held at 11:00 a.m., Friday, July 29, 2022, at the Laestadian Lutheran Church in Brainerd.  Family and friends are welcome to gather one hour prior to the service and stay for a luncheon to follow.  Interment will take place at Evergreen Memorial Gardens in Brainerd.


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