Walter “Elmer” Rantanen, age 87, of Munising, died Thursday, April 2, 2020 at Medilodge of Munising. He was born on October 16, 1932 in Forest Lake, Michigan to the late Walter N. and Martha (Maki) Rantanen. Elmer grew up in Forest Lake with an outhouse out back and a horse drawn cart that his father would use in winter to drive Elmer, his siblings and the local kids around in. In 1942, his father moved the family to Munising. He enjoyed playing basketball in high school and graduated from Wm. G. Mather High School in 1951. Elmer graduated on a Wednesday and left for the Navy that Friday. He honorably served in the U.S. Navy as an engine mechanic & flight crew member of a PV2 (or Lockheed P-2 Neptune). Elmer was stationed overseas as part of PV3 (or Patrol Squadron 3) at naval air bases in Iceland, Casablanca, French Morocco, Puerto Rico, and Jacksonville, FL and was honorably discharged as an AN in 1955. After returning home, he went back to hanging out with the old Mather gang especially his best friend Harold “stony” Stone with whom he had many great times. Intending to become a drafting teacher, he attended classes at Western Michigan University and then later on, Northern Michigan Teacher's College (now Northern Michigan University). At Northern, Elmer met the love of his life Nancy C. Stubrich and married her on June 11, 1960, and together they raised three children in Munising. Elmer left college when he became employed by Kimberly-Clark Paper Mill Munising in 1958 and retired in 1993 as Operator #17/#19 Coater after 35 years. But the real love of his life, after his wife and kids, was ski jumping. At age 3 in Forest Lake he began to ski jump and wouldn't stop (except for the navy hitch) for the next 57 years. He jumped with friends around the Midwest and taught ski jumping over the years to many local boys such as Walt Cherry and Rex Warner; and with Elmer Johnson and friend Kenny Warner he oversaw many tournaments at the Junior Ski Jump formerly at Mustang Stadium (formerly Mather Field). In 1967, he almost single-handedly (with some help) built an 80 meter ski jump in Browns Addition, and put on three annual tournaments there (with as many as 150 jumpers from around the country including himself) until the ski program imploded in the early 1970s. He would go on and continue to ski jump at the Junior Ski Jump, every winter packing and jumping it by himself, until he was 60 years old. One winter, jumping by himself, he fell and broke his ankle, and had to drag himself down the hill through the snow to the Alger County Jail for rescue. It didn't stop him. Over the years, Elmer had also enjoyed traveling, playing softball, hunting, camping, fixing his own car, spending time with his kids, visiting his parents for long weekends, and watching old movies (esp. WWII films).
Elmer is survived by his children – Heather Rantanen of Nashville, TN, Christina (Patrick) Farrell of LaCrescent, MN, and Mark (Tiffany) Rantanen of Marquette, MI; grandchildren – Liesel and Jason; several great-grandchildren; brother – Ron (Margo) Rantanen of Ishpeming(for whom Elmer served as best man and enjoyed visiting and spending time); numerous nieces and nephews, especially nephew Lenny Salminen with whom he would often visit on the farm. He was proceeded in death by his parents – Walter in 1988 and Martha in 1993; wife - Nancy Rantanen in 2004; cousin and friend Donald Maki; friend Kenny Warner; and sister – Viola Salminen (with whom Elmer would visit on weekends in retirement).
Elmer was a loving father and husband, as well as a friendly and warm presence to any person who met him, and he will be missed.
Visitation will take place at the Bowerman Funeral Home in Munising on Wednesday, April 8, 2020 from 3:00 until 5:00 p.m. Graveside services will be held at Maple Grove Cemetery in the spring where military honors will be conducted.