Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Ilkka ‘Ike’ Olavi Kola

Ike died at his home in Hailey with his family around him on Dec. 19, 2010, after a brave and private battle with cancer.

Ike said he had been a nomad for most of his life until he found his family and home in Hailey at the age of 42. His journey began in Heinola, Finland, on Dec. 8, 1941. He moved with his family to Worcester, Mass., and after the death of his beloved mother, moved to Enfield, N.H. After a four-year tour in the Marine Corps, Ike lived in Aspen, Alta and Taos. He became an avid skier and ski patrolled to support his love. Later, Ike moved to Missoula to fine-tune his kayaking skills on the rivers of Montana and Idaho. The Middle Fork of the Salmon was his heaven. When Ike came to the Wood River Valley, he decided to give up his youthful retirement and practice his craft as a finish carpenter. As with his commitment to skiing and kayaking, Ike pursued perfection in his carpentry.

That pursuit of excellence and his outstanding natural athletic ability were common threads throughout Ike's life. Upon arriving in Massachusetts, Ike began to play some baseball. Shortly thereafter, a newspaper headline read, "Finnish Lad Holds State Strikeout Record." He was 10 years old. While in high school, Ike was an all-star pitcher and was scouted by the Red Socks.

Ike was a man of integrity, loyalty and generosity who had a strange and wonderful sense of humor. He was a man of few words, but those words were always straightforward and generally peppered with his dry wit. He told his family recently that coming to live at Bullion Street was "the best move he had ever made—for the most part." Most recently, Ike worked for Wilson Construction and considered most of the crew good friends, and in that spirit gave them a hard time whenever possible.

Ike found strength and peace in beauty and wild places. He revered nature and all living things and had a special fondness for his dogs: Taj, Wally and Annabelle (who is missing him greatly).

Ike is survived by "the love of his life—most of the time," Martha "Beaver" Burke and her daughters, Sarah Burke and Laurie Burke Hire (Sean), and grandchildren, John and Collin Hire; sisters, Irmeli Smith (Frank), Irene Turkki (Tauno); brothers, Vaino Kola (Marcia), Lauri Kola (Susan) and Peter Kola; many nieces and nephews; and grandnieces and grandnephews. He was preceded in death by his parents, Olavi and Helmi Honkonen Kola.

Memorial gifts are suggested to Hospice of the Wood River Valley or to Emmanuel Church's stained-glass window restoration project.

The family invites you to join them at Ike's funeral service on Thursday, Dec. 30, at 3 p.m. at Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Hailey. You are also invited to join them at McClain's on Main Street in Hailey at about 4:30 p.m. to celebrate Ike's life. You are welcome at either or both; there are no rules.

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