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Elmer Pihlaja

April 20, 1927-July 19, 2010

Elmer Arthur Pihlaja, 83, of Snellman, joined his sons in heaven on Monday, July 19, 2010. He was a resident of Heritage Cottages in Park Rapids at the time of his passing.

Elmer Arthur Pihlaja, son of Arthur Peter and Impi Irene (Longfors) Pihlaja was born April 20, 1927 in Duluth. As a young child he lived in Duluth, Butte, Mont., and Snellman. In 1930 his parents purchased the home place, where he grew up and returned to retire in 1996.

He attended and graduated from District 82 Country School in Shell Lake Township. In 1944, Elmer moved to Seattle, Wash. He served with the Army Transport Services in the Aleutian Islands from 1945 to 1946.

On July 2, 1947 Elmer and Opal Rosemary Jellum were married at St. John's Lutheran Church in Height of Land. Following their marriage, they lived in Snellman, Chicago, Ill., Ponsford and then retired to his home place in August 1996.

Elmer worked for the Anaconda Cooper Mining Co. in Butte, Mont., from 1948 to 1949. In 1964, the family moved to the Ponsford Prairie, where they engaged in dairy and grain farming for the next 32 years.

Elmer was a member of the 49ers and worked as a cement finisher. He loved to hunt, fish, snowmobile and travel. He enjoyed the beauty of the mountains, family celebrations on the home place, 4th of July at the lake and boating at Isle O'Royale with his son and grandsons.

Truck driving was his passion; he drove for Holmer Trucking in Osage and Foltz Trucking in Detroit Lakes.

Elmer cherished his family and loved family gatherings on the home place with his children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, sister, brother and their families.

Elmer was a lifelong member of Gethsemane Lutheran Church in Snellman, where he served as an elder and on the church council for many years. Elmer helped build the current Gethsemane Lutheran Church, which was completed in 1976. His daughter Judy and her husband Russ were the first couple to be married in the church in June 1976.

Surviving Elmer are his wife, Opal, of Snellman; four daughters, Kathleen Lowe of Layton, Utah, Linda (Tony) Harris of Osage, Judy (Russ) Mattson of Osage and Sandra (Craig) Stilke of Detroit Lakes; daughter-in-law, Linda Pihlaja; 14 grandchildren; seven great grandchildren; brother, Clarence Pihlaja of Snellman; sister, Ruth Hanson of Frazee; two sisters-in-law, Virginia (Jeff) Swenson of Ponsford and Janice Latto of Osage; and many nieces, nephews and friends.

Preceding him in death were his parents; two sons, Roger and Lyle; grandson, Joshua Mattson; and granddaughter, Rachel Mattson.

Visitation will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, July 23, at the Jones-Pearson Funeral Home in Park Rapids, and for one hour prior to services at the church on Saturday.

Funeral services are set for 11 a.m. Saturday, July 24 at the Gethsemane Lutheran Church in Snellman, with Rev. W. F. Neumann officiating.

Casket bearers are his grandsons, Joseph Pihlaja, Jerold Pihlaja, Shawn Patson, Capt. Ryan Lowe of the U.S. Army, Ross Mattson, Rory Mattson, Sgt. Travis Mattson of the Minnesota National Guard, Tyler Stilke and Trevor Stilke.

Honorary casket bearers are his granddaughters, Jane Dolan, Tammy Patson, Stephanie Beaudoin, Tracie Koskela and Jessica Mattson.

Following the services a luncheon will be provided by Gethsemane Lutheran Church.

Interment will be in the Snellman Cemetery. Memorials are preferred to Hospice of the Red River Valley. To leave online condolences, visit