LITTLE LAKE, Michigan - Lt. Col. Lauri Frederick Parssinen (USAF Retired), 82, of Little Lake, died Saturday morning, July 5, 2014, at Marquette General Hospital after a lengthy illness.
He was born December 8, 1931, in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Lauri Gunnar and Irja (Piri) Parssinen. An only child, he was raised in Detroit in an extended family that included many first and second generation Finnish-Americans, and graduated from Edwin Denby High School in 1950. His parents were long-time members of the Detroit Finnish Cooperative Summer Camp Association in Wixom, where Lauri learned to swim and developed further his lifetime love for the outdoors, and his community spirit. He attended the Michigan College of Mining and Technology (Michigan Tech) and graduated in 1953 with a bachelor's degree in forestry.
In 1954, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Air Force after completing officer's training in Texas. On December 28, 1954, he married Joanne L. Weidelman and they made their first home in Sacramento, California. Their Air Force career also took them to Lincoln, Nebraska and K.I. Sawyer AFB in Marquette County, where they retired. The bulk of his USAF career was served on Cold War bomber crews of the Strategic Air Command, first as a B-47 Navigator and later a B-52 Radar Navigator. He also served two tours of duty in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War.
After 25 years of active duty and over 6,600 total flying hours, Lt. Col. Parssinen retired from his post as operations division chief with the 410th Bombardment Wing at K.I. Sawyer. Upon his retirement, the Parssinen Trophy was established in the Wing in honor of him for inspiring "the pursuit of excellence in the Navigator profession throughout his long and devoted career."
In retirement, Lauri ran a small-engine repair business for many years, repairing snowmobiles and motorcycles, several of which he lovingly owned and rode over the years, sometimes on trips of great distances. For several years, he also enjoyed working as a civilian console operator at the B-52 simulator at K.I. Sawyer AFB.
He was an active member of local motorcycle and snowmobile clubs for many years, operating a trail groomer with other club members on county snowmobile trails. He also groomed a number of cross-country ski trails near his home, which many enjoyed. An accomplished swimmer and water skier, he owned a ski boat for several years which he captained on many Upper Peninsula waters, including Lakes Superior and Michigan. Long after the ski boat was sold, he still enjoyed paddling or sailing his canoe, often with two happy family dogs on board.
Survivors include his son and daughter-in-law, John and Terese, Mundelein, Illinois; his son and daughter-in-law, Robert and Karen, Roscoe, Illinois; his daughter, Carol, Rochester Hills, Michigan; four grandchildren, Matthew, Jamestown, North Dakota, Michelle, Cedar Rapids, Iowa; and Annika and Reid Parssinen, Roscoe, Illinois; one sister-in-law, Mary Ellen Williams, Wellington, Florida. He is also survived by the loving community of fellow Christians he found in recent years at the Little Lake Bible Chapel, including his close friend, Elizabeth Robbins.
He was preceded in death by his wife of 49 years, Joanne, and his parents.
The family would like to thank the dedicated home health aides of U.P. Private Duty Services, as well as his many local friends who helped Dad stay at home almost to the very end.
Memorials may be made to the U.P. Bible Camp in Little Lake, or the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association.
There was no visitation; a private service will be held.
The Canale-Gwinn Funeral Home is assisting the family where memories may be shared at canalefuneral.com.