Jan. 8, 1920-Jan. 12, 2010
Following a stroke two days after his 90th birthday, Eddie R. Jokela passed away Jan. 12, 2010.
A wake service: will be held from 5-8 p.m. Monday, Jan. 25 at Jones-Pearson Funeral Home in Park Rapids.
Funeral service: at "High Noon" Tuesday, Jan. 26 at St. Johns Lutheran Church, Park Rapids.
A military burial with the 10th Mountain Division Honor Guard and flag presentation is planned for the same day at Green Valley Cemetery, west of Menahga.
Eddie was born on the original Jokela Homestead (dairy farm) between Wolf Lake and Park Rapids, Jan. 8, 1920, a fifth child to Henry and Hulda (Wirtanen) Jokela. Eddie's father passed away when he was only one year old. His mother relocated to Montana for work during the Great Depression; subsequently Eddie was raised by both sets of Finnish immigrant grandparents, then older siblings.
He attended a rural, one-room schoolhouse (built on his grandmother's donated property) through 8th grade where he learned the English language. From age 11 on, he and his 13-year-old brother Harvey lived alone on their mother's homestead, learning survival skills in the rural Minnesota wilderness. Together they farmed, raised livestock, hunted, fished, competed in all sports they could, and attended school when not distracted enroute.
Eddie believed in military service for the preservation of peace and democracy, and the USA's efforts to help abroad. At less than 21 years of age, he encouraged his mother to sign for him to join the National Guard. He then submitted his name for the prestigious 10th Mountain Division (U.S. Army) with hopes of being a military mountain skier (his only related experiences were a lot of ice skating and attaching boards to his boots in the Wolf Lake hills). His qualifying criteria were, tolerance of the cold, being able to ski and to fluently speak the Finnish language.
Finnish soldiers on skis had recently defeated the Russian Red Army's tank divisions in the Winter War of 1939. The 10th utilized many Finnish tactics, including the well-recognized white, camouflage uniforms.
Eventually a total of 20,000 men were recruited, but Eddie was one of the first 25 men chosen to the 10th. The earliest men enlisted are referred to as the "Founding Fathers" of the 10th Mountain Division and included the notable Walter Prager and several other famous Olympic skiing champions/qualifiers. Eddie was also one of 50 tapped as an instructor and was in three Paramount News Films about skiing.
Eddie's ski training began at Fort Lewis, Wash. (Mount Rainier), then moved to Camp Hale, Leadville, Co. where he learned a more western way of wrangling livestock as he and another cowboy were in charge of 500 head of mules and horses.
During his Army years, he competed in boxing, but was especially pleased to be one of only 19 chosen to play on the 10th Mountain Division's official baseball team. The team comprised many current major league baseball players including St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Famer Enos Slaughter.
Assigned to Company M of the original 87th Mountain Infantry Regiment, he earned the rank of 1st Sergeant (senior enlisted) due to his rugged upbringing and highly developed hunting skills. Taking charge of over 150 men, he was the youngest first sergeant in the entire division.
He served in the Aleutian Islands against the Japanese, the Germans in the Alps of Italy, Austria and the surrender in Yugoslavia. His troops were within minutes of capturing Mussolini on Lake Garda in Northern Italy. After his second tour of duty, he returned from a hospital in Italy decorated with various medals that included the Bronze Star Medal, EAMET Ribbon w/2 Bronze Service Stars, Asiatic Pacific Theater Ribbon w/Bronze Service Star, Combat Infantryman Badge, American Defense Ribbon, Good Conduct Medal and Purple Heart. Years later, at a 10th Mountain Division Reunion, troop veterans commented how they would not have survived some ordeals were it not for their "Sgt. Joe." Ten years after the war, General Hays offered Eddie full rank and a battlefield commission, but he turned it down.
A humble and self-made man, Eddie could bring out the best in everyone, regardless of their past. He believed in equal opportunity for all, and giving everyone a chance. A natural leader, Eddie was great at inspiring and instilling confidence in people under the most dire of circumstances, in his military, professional and personal life.
On military leaves, Eddie courted his future bride (his sister's babysitter in Butte, Montana). Eddie married Lorraine Alice Luoma of Red Lodge, Mont. June 15, 1947. They purchased land bordering the Jokela Homestead and ran a farming operation.
In 1949 he was encouraged by Lorraine to "use his 1st Sergeant voice" to become an auctioneer. Upon graduation from the Reisch School of Auctioneering in Mason City, Iowa, his mom was one of the first to place her faith in his ability and hire him for an auction.
Eddie took pride in getting his family involved in the auction business, and also helped many other novice auctioneers get their start in the industry. He and Lorraine also started a traveling dance band called "Swing n' Sway with M & J" (the M being Walter Martin of Menahga). This group became a hugely popular regional band from 1954-1966. Eddie was a self-taught accordion player and drummer for the band, while Lorraine performed vocals, piano and saxophone.
Eddie and Lorraine owned and operated the Jokela Sales Barn, Park Rapids, for several years. During a 35-year period, Eddie was also the featured auctioneer at livestock barns throughout Minnesota including Bemidji, Thief River Falls, Winger, Detroit Lakes, Perham, Mahnomen, and Park Rapids. From the 1950s through the 1970s, he conducted National Antique Automobile Auctions in Minnesota, North Dakota, Iowa and Wisconsin, selling vintage autos to the likes of Hubert H. Humphrey, Steve McQueen, Roy Rogers, Joe Frazier and Bill Harrah.
As the founder of the Eddie R. Jokela Auction Co., he conducted over 8,000 auctions in nine states during his career. In 1976, he conducted 33 auctions in one month and 268 auctions in that year, virtually unheard of in the auction industry. He was a member of the Minnesota State Auctioneer's Assoc. and the National Auctioneer's Association.
He conducted auctions for the Northern Cattleman's Association many county auctions, including 4-H, charity, benefits and fundraisers for Veterans of Foreign Wars, Ducks Unlimited, Humane Society and others. He was important in the origination of Jokela ProWest, which has gone on to produce over 200 performances of professional western sporting events including PRCA rodeos and PBR bull rides throughout Minnesota and North Dakota.
His hometown of Wolf Lake honored him many times, naming him as the first Commander of VFW Post 8510, nominating him in their Baseball Hall of Fame and asking him to lead the veterans in the D-Day Parade after World War II.
For a number of years, Eddie and Lorraine ran a daily cattle operation, conducted weekday and Saturday auctions, Saturday night band performances, and Sunday baseball games for the Wolf Lake team, or ski instruction at area ski resorts.
In addition to his active schedule, he and Lorraine raised six children. It was natural to him that his children began Alpine skiing at an early age, later becoming expert skiers and mountain resort instructors.
Preceding Eddie in death are his parents; his siblings, Marjorie Marshall, Alice Helisten and Albert Jokela; daughters, Roxanne Bishop Magnuson and Rhonda Annette.
Survivors include his wife Lorraine; siblings, Harvey (Gladene) Jokela, Park Rapids, Frances (Bud) Harris, Bend, Ore.; children, Randy (Denese) Jokela, Park Rapids and Jolene (David) Veo, Park Rapids, Jody (Nick) De Carlo, Red Lodge, Mont. and Peter (Deb) Jokela, Cold Spring; as well as 13 grandchildren, Greg, Brett (Rachel), Quinn and Talia Bishop, Loni Bishop Magnuson (Bill), Jay Annette, Mike and Colson De Carlo, Logan Veo, Peyton Jokela, Luke, Bridger and Drew Jokela; five great-grandchildren: Trinity and Gregory Bishop, Bode, Riggs and Tade Magnuson.
Eddie enjoyed the company of his many nieces, nephews and cousins from coast to coast. His time spent with them was full of adventure, humor-filled stories and many laughs.
Eddie was an excellent husband and father, a colorful man with a tremendous amount of Finnish "sisu" (tough-minded determination, courage and perseverance) a pillar of stability and strength of character to his family and friends. He will live forever in the hearts and memories of those he touched with his charismatic and compassionate character.
To defray expenses, all donations so designated will be forwarded to the 10th Mountain Division Honor Guard volunteers attending Eddie's services from across the United States.
To leave online condolences visit www.jonespearson.com.