Obituaries

Kenneth Manninen
B: 1931-01-01
D: 2020-10-21
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Manninen, Kenneth
Donald Kilpela
B: 1953-10-21
D: 2020-10-15
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Kilpela, Donald
Clara Kivela
B: 1935-05-31
D: 2020-10-14
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Kivela, Clara
Bruce "Burpy" Murto
B: 1938-08-15
D: 2020-10-13
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Murto, Bruce "Burpy"
Marlene Lammi
D: 2020-10-12
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Lammi, Marlene
Robert Masnado
B: 1931-02-12
D: 2020-10-11
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Masnado, Robert
John Junttila
B: 1947-12-07
D: 2020-10-08
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Junttila, John
Cheryl Spry
B: 1959-02-12
D: 2020-10-08
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Spry, Cheryl
John Verbanac
B: 1972-03-19
D: 2020-10-08
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Verbanac, John
William Tolkkinen
B: 1928-02-15
D: 2020-10-07
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Tolkkinen, William
Peter Anttila
B: 1940-09-21
D: 2020-10-07
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Anttila, Peter
Virginia Newman
B: 1934-12-21
D: 2020-10-06
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Newman, Virginia
Nancy Nolen
B: 1936-01-26
D: 2020-10-01
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Nolen, Nancy
Elroy Antilla
B: 1929-11-20
D: 2020-09-30
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Antilla, Elroy
Carol Johnson
B: 1937-06-07
D: 2020-09-30
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Johnson, Carol
Lois Woodworth
B: 1928-05-02
D: 2020-09-21
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Woodworth, Lois
Andrea Lane
B: 1940-07-27
D: 2020-09-21
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Lane, Andrea
Uno Isaacson
B: 1925-06-14
D: 2020-09-19
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Isaacson, Uno
Jalmer Goodman
B: 1929-11-29
D: 2020-09-19
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Goodman, Jalmer
Robert Mac
B: 1973-04-10
D: 2020-09-17
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Mac, Robert
John Massi
B: 1934-05-01
D: 2020-09-08
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Massi, John

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26090 Pine Street
Calumet, MI 49913
Phone: (906) 337-4600
Fax: (906) 337-4699
Donald Kilpela

Donald R. Kilpela

Wednesday, October 21, 1953 - Thursday, October 15, 2020
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Obituary

Captain Donald Robert “Donny” Kilpela

COPPER HARBOR - Captain Donald Robert Kilpela, of Copper Harbor, MI, died on October 15, 2020 at the age of 66 at Marquette General Hospital from the complications of a stroke. Donny was born October 21, 1953 in Coronado, CA, and grew up in Detroit. He graduated from Bentley High School, in Livonia, where he later attended Schoolcraft Community College. After moving to the Upper Peninsula he attended Michigan Tech University.
Donny was a natural athlete who excelled in many sports. He was a varsity tennis player in high school, and his bullet-like Frisbee throw called a "thumber" made him an All-American Guts Frisbee player in 1973. He was an exceptional golfer specializing in deadly putting and getting out of the woods of the Keweenaw Mountain Golf Course. For 25 years he ran the Black Fly Golf Open during the most virulent black flies in late May each year.
Capt. Don began his career as a 17 year old deckhand on the passenger ferry Isle Royale Queen II in 1971 when his parents bought the ferry service from Copper Harbor to Isle Royale National Park. In 1975, he became a U.S. Merchant Marine Officer and served as a captain and partner in his parents' firm until his death. He sailed the open waters of Lake Superior in all 49 seasons that the Isle Royale Ferry Service operated. Though he was a fun-loving eccentric, Capt. Don was a skilled and courageous mariner. He safely brought tens of thousands of people to and from Isle Royale during his years of service on the greatest and most dangerous of the Great Lakes. He faced some of the most challenging conditions Lake Superior can present to the mariner. It is a great sadness that Capt. Don never retired to receive his deserved recognition as one of Lake Superior's greatest passenger ferry skippers.
During his off-seasons, Donny discovered his talent for and creativity in drawing and painting. He published a daily cartoon strip about his witty gang of ecologically-minded friends, the Earthlinks. He then started painting abstracts that have attracted wide admiration. He was also widely known across the Copper Country as a humorous storyteller, an enthusiastic promoter of Copper Harbor and Isle Royale, and later a passionate thimbleberry picker. In December, with Copper Harbor’s exceptional snows, Donny launched and worked tirelessly on Copper Harbor's annual tradition of a large display of Christmas lights across the village's community park.
Donny was single throughout his life. He is survived by his parents, Captain Donald and Elizabeth Kilpela of Copper Harbor, brothers Captain Ben (Marsha) of Mason and Copper Harbor, Captain John (Karma) of Calumet, sisters Susanne of Hancock, Jocelyn of Arvada, CO), and Lisa (Cormac) Ronan of Arvada, CO, his dear aunt Helen Wisuri of Livonia, uncles James Kilpela of Wareham. MA and Stefan Szyszkowski of Golden, CO, numerous beloved cousins, nieces, nephews, and his best friend and longtime companion Tammy Jo Cloutier of Copper Harbor.
Donny was also survived by the tens of Copper Harbor residents who loved him, fought with him, worked with him, and were in turn loved by him because it was where he just wanted to be.
If friends will wear a mask and try to keep some space, Betty and Don and their children would love to have you commiserate with them at an evening coffee social on Tuesday, October 27 at any time from 4 until 9 pm in the Siskiwit Reception Hall on Pine Street in Calumet.
There will be a memoriam in Copper Harbor in the summer of 2021.
Donations in Donny's memory may be made to the Copper Harbor Improvement Association to fund the Christmas Lights.
Online condolences for the family may be left at www.ericksoncrowleypeterson.com
The Erickson Crowley Peterson Funeral Home in Calumet is assisting the family with the arrangements.
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Curtis Tompkins

Posted at 03:11pm
We are saddened by Donnie’s passing and extend our condolences to Don, Betty and all members of the Kilpela family. We cherish many good memories of our time with you during 1991-2004. Curt and Kathy Tompkins.
T

Tony Anderson

Posted at 09:17am
What a great and funny guy. A group of us went to isle royale twice with him. Our water bottles were full and he made sure to tell everyone how we were taking water to an island where there is more water than any other national forest. He will be deeply missed on our next visit. Rest In Peace.

The silver sloths and young group.
JT

Joseph Tompkins

Posted at 02:36pm
My wife Kelly and I remember fondly our 10 trips to Isle Royale with Don as Captain. He was cheerful and humorous, and once let us even observe him at the controls as he skillfully guided the Queen into Copper Harbor. I think we might still have some Thimbleberry Liquor that he gave us (truth be told I’m a little scared to drink it!).
A great spirit. We will miss him.
Joe and Kelly Hall-Tompkins
BH

Brett Hamlin

Posted at 12:07pm
Captain Don, came up to us at sat at our table while crossing over to Isle Royale. He asked us where we were from, we answered "Houghton". "That's great, It is nice to see local people get out to the island, I never understand why so many locals haven't gone." It was a special treat for my ten year old to meet the captain.
S

Shayne

Posted at 11:35pm
We've been traveling to Copper Harbor for 20 years. Seeing "The Cap" always made us smile. He guided us safely to Isle Royale a few times. He had a warm smile and a "hello" if we saw him at The Pines, and he even beat us in a 4th of July egg toss once! He will always be a part of what makes Copper Harbor so special in our hearts. Prayers for your family and the community.
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