Donald E. Wanhala

TAPIOLA – Donald. E. Wanhala, 79, retired Associate Professor of Suomi College and Finlandia University, died unexpectedly on Friday, Mar. 15, 2013, at his home in Tapiola.

He was born in Hancock on Jan. 20, 1934, a son of the late Charles and Saimi (Kovala) Wanhala, and was a 1952 graduate of the John A. Doelle High School in Tapiola.

In 1953, Don entered into the U.S. Army Signal Corp. serving in Italy during the Korean War, and was honorably discharged in 1956.

Don attended Suomi College in Hancock where he received an Associate’s degree in 1959. He then attended Northern Michigan University receiving a Bachelor’s degree in 1961, and later a Master’s degree in 1965. He did his Post Graduate Study at Northern Michigan as well as taking courses at various universities and colleges throughout the country. He spent the summer of 1977 studying Tundra Ecology in Finland.

Don’s teaching career started at Suomi College in 1961, where he taught Physical Education, Biology and coached basketball until 1963. He then taught for a year as a Science Instructor in the Roseville Public Schools and also taught Anatomy and Biology part-time at Northern Michigan University. He returned to Suomi College in 1964, teaching Ecology, Biology and was Chairman of the Science Department.

Don always had an open door policy with his students. They looked up to him for advice and if they had a problem, he was always willing to make the time to help them out. He retired as Associate Professor in 2005. In 2006, he was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters in recognition of his service to Suomi College and Finlandia University and his commitment to serving students.

Don was married to the former Mary Ann Karjala. The couple had one son and later parted ways.

Don was a member of the American Institute of Biological Sciences and the Mid-West College Biology Instructor’s Association.

Locally, Don played baseball in the Twilight League and was known to be an outstanding pitcher and also played outfield. His talent as a player could have led to a professional career in baseball, but he turned it down to further pursue his education.

Don was also a member of the Otter Lake Sportsman’s Club. He loved the simple life and living in the Tapiola area.

Surviving are a son, Donald (Barbara) Wanhala, Jr., of Grand Rapids; four grandchildren, Scott, Shawn, Breanna and Hayden Wanhala; one sister, Lorraine (Brian) Bixley of Alston; one brother, David (Kathy) Wanhala of Hancock; numerous nieces and nephews; cousins; great-nieces and nephews; many dear friends; and his Springer Spaniel, Gunnar.

Besides his parents, Don was also preceded in death by three brothers, Charles, William and Edwin; and a sister, Shirley Pennanen.

Funeral services will be held at 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 23, 2013, in the Chapel of St. Matthew located on the Finlandia Campus in Hancock, with Soren Schmidt, L.L.M. to officiate. Visitation will be from 11 a.m. until the time of service on Saturday at the chapel. Spring burial with military rites will be in the Elo Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Finlandia University, 601 Quincy St., Hancock, MI 49930, in the name of Donald E. Wanhala.

Arrangements are being handled by the Mountain View Mortuary of South Range, Antila Funeral Service, Inc. Online condolences may be expressed to the family at