Vieno Niskanen was born, at home, near Sotkamo, Finland on March 29, 1923 to Matti and Hanna (Torvinen) Niskanen. She was the second child, of eleven children, born to her parents, two of whom died in infancy.
In her youth, Vieno spent her summers rowing boats and swimming in Finland's pristine lake country. During winters, the mode of transportation was cross country skiing. Even after many years had passed, she would proudly show her skiing awards and only spoke of Finland in glowing terms.
However, her early years were not always easy. She grew up in poverty and spoke of having to get a job at a local farm after graduating from the 8th grade. While skiing, she would carry matches to light quickly in order to scare away the wolves in winter. And while she didnt speak much about WWII, she talked about having to run across the snow covered yard with a white sheet over her head to hide from Russian planes that were dropping bombs nearby. She also spoke about how people would carry in soldiers who had died and place them in saunas to thaw so that they could be placed into caskets and sent home to their families.
Vieno met Onni Maatta (from neighboring Kuhmo) at a local dance and decided he was the man for her. They courted for several years and were married December 14, 1947. Onni had aspirations of a better life and began his quest of moving to the United States. They were required to get affidavits from her aunt and other people in ND stating they would have jobs waiting for them when they came to the US.
Vieno, Onni and their young daughter Marja Leena boarded a ship and sailed to the US in February 1954, disembarked in New York and boarded a train to Lakota, ND where they were met by the Finnish community of the area. They did not know a word of English when they arrived. With the help of the Finnish community, they set up a home near Pelto, ND. In 1960 they bought a house and moved to Brocket, ND. Her family grew with the addition of daughters Laila and Paula.
Vieno was a stay at home mom, but also cleaned, painted and did whatever needed to be done in order to earn extra money for her family. She worked as a nurses aide at the Gronna Home starting in 1974 until her retirement in 1991. At home, she had an enormous garden and canned many quarts of produce. She enjoyed sewing, quilting and knitting. Her hands were seldom idle.
Onni and Vieno made their first trip back to Finland in 1967 and again in 1976. They would not visit together again as Onni died suddenly in January 1980. After Onni's death Vieno made many trips back to her beloved Finland. She greatly treasured going back to visit her family and friends in Finland.
In her later years, Vieno continued to live in Brocket where she received visits from family and friends, gardened, quilted, was active with the community center and continued her tradition of never sitting still for much more than a cup of coffee. She continued to cross country ski until she required knee surgery when she was 80. In November 2011, she moved to an independent living apartment in Lakota to be nearer to friends. In August 2012, she moved to the Odd Fellows Home in Devils Lake and due to failing health, moved to Elim Care Center of Fargo in April 2013. At Elim she made new friends and was well taken care of by the kind and loving staff.
Vieno died peacefully at Elim on December 8, 2013 at the age of 90, with her daughter Laila by her side. She is greatly missed by her daughters Marja (Wayne) Nygaard, Laila (Ron) Strand and Paula (Jim) Lindvall. She is also survived by six grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. She was preceded in death by her husband Onni, her parents, and seven siblings. According to her wishes, Vieno was cremated and will be buried with her beloved Onni in Kuhmo, Finland on June 23, 2014 where there will be a graveside service.
Friends may sign the online register book and share memories of Vieno at www.gilbertsonfuneralhome.com