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Lillian Katherine Lehto

June 24, 1926 ~ August 1, 2021 (age 95)


Lillian Katherine Lehto of Birmingham passed away at age 95 on August 1, 2021. She was born on June 24, 1926 in Trimountain, Michigan, the oldest child of Michael and Hilda (Kiviranta) Heikkila of Nisula. She grew up in Nisula and learned Finnish as her first language. She graduated from Baraga High School in 1943.

She continued her education at the Lutheran Bible Institute, Suomi College (now Finlandia University), and St Olaf College. Later she received Bachelor's and Master's degrees, the latter in Linguistics, from Oakland University.  She also studied Library Science at the University of Michigan.

She met Paul N Lehto of Hancock while at Suomi and they were married in 1953. They raised six sons, Ken, Bruce (Barbara), Dave, Rick (Julie), Tim and Steve.

Lillian taught in Winona, Alston, Baptist Park School (Taylor) and finally served as the Librarian of the Oakland Christian School (Auburn Hills) until her retirement.

She was a long-time member of the Finnish Center Association of Farmington Hills where she served for many years as its Librarian.

Her interests included church work, teaching Sunday School, Vacation Bible School and women's Bible classes.  She was an accomplished dressmaker, an avid reader and loved solving Sudoku puzzles.

Lillian also loved to write. For several years she published a small magazine called the Fennophile ("by and for those who love Finland"). Her largest writing project was the publication of A Rascal's Craft, a collection of forty-seven folk poems composed by her grandfather Eelu Kiviranta that she translated from Finnish.

In 1976 she won a Mediterranean Bible Lands tour that then inspired the couple to travel widely not only in the USA and Canada but also in Mexico, Peru and several European countries that included Finland. Lillian also conducted seven Fennophile tour groups to Finland that she both planned and which she handled as the tour operator.

She is survived by her husband Paul, their six sons, six grandchildren and two great grandchildren. Also surviving are Lillian's sister Alice Kinnunen (Eldon) of Burnsville, Minnesota and numerous cousins in Finland, Sweden and the USA. She was predeceased by her parents, three brothers, and numerous cousins.

Lillian will be interred in the Lakeside Cemetery in Hancock, Michigan following a private memorial service respecting current Covid-19 restrictions.

Memorial contributions may be made to Wycliff Bible Translators or to the Finnish Heritage Center of Finlandia University

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