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Rev. Leslie Niemi

February 25, 1931 — January 22, 2024

AuTrain

Rev. Leslie Niemi

REV. LESLIE E. NIEMI

Leslie Edward Niemi was born on February 25, 1931, in Munising, Michigan to Edward and Pearl Niemi. He passed away on January 22, 2024, in Lake Havasu City, Arizona.

Les always felt fortunate to have grown up in the Chatham-Eben area. He thought it was the most wonderful place to be. He graduated from Eben High School in 1949 where he played basketball and ran the high hurdles in track. We have all heard his accounts of these events.

In September of 1949, he enrolled at Suomi College (more recently known as Finlandia University) and continued his education at the Suomi Seminary. Les played basketball while at Suomi Collage and set several scoring records. He also studied at Northern Michigan University and at Northwestern in Evanston, Illinois.

Les took the oath of ordination into the Holy Ministry at Trinity Lutheran Church in Waukegan, Illinois on June 20, 1954. Following ordination, Les accepted a call to become pastor of the rural Trout Creek, Michigan parish. Here he had the task of turning a mostly Finnish-speaking church into a modern English program. He found the ministry to be both challenging and exciting. This parish encompassed not only Trout Creek but also Ewen, Paynesville and North Bruce.

In November of 1960, Les received a call to Bethany Lutheran Church in Republic and Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in Champion, Michigan (both charter churches of the Suomi Synod). He served there from 1961-1965.

In 1965 he received a call to become the pastor of Eden Lutheran Church in Munising. He would be there for 18 exciting years, which included the building of the beautiful Eden-on-the-Bay Lutheran Church. This church also installed the only church sauna in the nation. During this ministry, Les was asked to conduct services at the neighboring Presbyterian church. While at Eden, the adoption of the former Suomi Synod congregation of 25 members who had been served from Marquette occurred. He continued a Finnish language service under the Suomi Seura and preached in Finnish at Newberry, Michigan four times a year for 18 years and often at Bethel Lutheran Church in Ishpeming. Les also served on the Alger-Marquette Community Action Board (AMCAB), Action Housing Board, Alger-Marquette Community Mental Health Board, Michigan Clergy Council for Problem Pregnancies, Selective Service Board, Alger County Alcoholism Council, Alger County Historical Society and Rotary Club.

After retiring from the ministry, Les served as Director of Special and Planned Giving for Finlandia University from 1983-1994 and later volunteered his gifts as a member of Mount Olive Lutheran Planned Giving and Endowment Board. He also helped fund and build a Lutheran church in Russia.

In 1982 Les and Marcia (Belmas) Ericson were married at Eden Lutheran Church in Munising. They enjoyed traveling throughout North America, Europe, and the Holy Land and attending many church and Finlandia University events.

Home was Les’s beloved A-frame on AuTrain Lake. In1999 Les and Marcia purchased a home in Lake Havasu City, Arizona where they enjoyed 25 wonderful winter years. There they were members of Mount Olive Lutheran Church.

To “know” Les, one would know he was a Proud Finn who loved God and the Church, Suomi College/Finlandia University, and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. He also loved to watch Sparty basketball and the Green Bay Packers.

Les is survived by his wife Marcia; sons Daniel (Tanya) and Nathan (Laurel); half-brother Edward Niemi and stepbrother John Boucher; stepdaughters Kristin (John) Madigan and Gretchen Marks; daughter-in-law Patty Niemi; granddaughters: Amanda (Bill) Mosher, Kristen Niemi and Nicole (Joe) Lasak; grandsons: Jaden, Brandon, Jason, and Nathan Niemi; step-grandchildren: Kathleen (Leo) Isleib, Alexandra and John Marks; several great-grandchildren; and brother-in-law George Wieland. In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by his first wife Betty (Sjostrand) Niemi, his son Michael Niemi, his brother Bill Niemi, sister Betty Niemi and former daughter-in-law Sandy Niemi.

A memorial service was held at Mount Olive Lutheran Church on January 26 with Pr. Craig M. Corbin officiating. A final service will be held at Eden Lutheran Church in Munising on Monday, June 10, at 1:00 p.m. with Bishop Katherine Finegan and Rev. Paul Kelto officiating. The family will greet relatives and friends one hour prior to the service and at a social gathering following the service.

In lieu of flowers, memorials in Les’s name may be directed to the Finnish American Heritage Center, 435 Quincy Street, Hancock, Michigan 49930, or to an organization of one’s choice.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Rev. Leslie Niemi, please visit our flower store.

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