Waino Liuha receives an award from United Way of Marquette County
Campaign Co-Chair Walt Lindala, in 2006.
When you ask people in the community what they remember about Waino Liuha, they light up. Waino may have passed in 2013, but his spirit is still alive, continuing to inspire everyone who knew him.In his 87 years of living, Waino was many things: A miner, husband and father, veteran, union president, social worker, churchgoer, volunteer and raffle-ticket seller. In everything he did, Waino’s goodness was apparent to all.Virginia Paulson, a trustee with the Negaunee Historical Society and member of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Negaunee where Waino was also a member, remembered, “When I asked Waino to bring something for coffee time after church, he’d always ask, ‘What will Waino bring?’” You could say that was the question that guided his life.“Everybody knows Waino was a good guy,” said Dave Hallgren, a friend and fellow Lions Club member who met Waino at Immanuel. Hallgren continued, “Waino was always such a giving person. He was always ready to help people. That was his personality. He was visiting people, raising money, active at church, and involved with the Ishpeming Kiwanis and Negaunee Lions.”Born in Wakefield, Michigan in 1925 to Arvo and Lempi (Kangas) Liuha, Waino lived in Negaunee for most of his life. A U.S. Army veteran, he served in WWII from 1944-1946. He moved to Negaunee in 1951 and worked at the Tracy Mine from 1951-1964, serving as union president for eight of his 13 years as a miner. He was married in 1957 to Joanne, a teacher and volunteer. In 1961, their daughter Katherine was born.
Waino (standing, far left) with his mine shaft crew at Tracy Mine, in the 1950s.Photo: Negaunee Historical Society
Thanks to a program at the mine, Waino was able to work and go to college at the same time. He went to Northern Michigan University (NMU) and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in sociology in 1964. That same year, he began working with the VFW as an assistant department service officer. From 1966-1992, he worked for the Marquette County Department of Social Services, first with Child Welfare, and later, Adult Services. Waino earned a master’s degree in education at NMU in 1973.As a volunteer and board member, Waino was involved with many organizations, including the United Way of Marquette County, the Central UP Food Bank, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, Habitat for Humanity, Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), VFW Post 3165, D.J. Jacobetti Home for Veterans, the Community Fund of Negaunee, Thrivent, and many others. He devoted a great deal of his time to assisting disabled veterans, as well as helping local veterans enroll in assistance programs. No tribute to Waino would be complete without a mention of his legendary gift for selling raffle tickets. He was never without raffle tickets in his front pocket. Hallgren noted, “Waino was a great ticket seller. At our Lions Club, we have a big pancake breakfast every year, and Waino and I would always have a contest to see who could sell the most tickets. Waino always won.” It’s not surprising that Waino won many awards for his work and volunteerism. Funny thing was, Waino didn’t care about awards. He just wanted to do good things. Hallgren remembered one occasion where he was given an award for being an outstanding social worker in Marquette County. He recalled, “Waino was very humble. He accepted the award and said, ‘Thank you very much. I don’t deserve this. I have a bunch of tickets to sell, so that’s the end of my speech.’ That was Waino.” Waino’s sense of stewardship showed up in every part of his life, including each week at church when the offering plate was passed. Hallgren, one of the offering “counters” at Immanuel, remarked, “We noticed Waino was a very, very generous person with his finances. Nobody wanted to get Waino’s check – it usually had a list of about eight different things he wanted his money to go to.” In addition to everything else, Waino was intentional in his giving. In 2007, Waino established the Waino and Joanne Liuha Scholarship Fund at the Community Foundation of Marquette County, following the death of his wife, Joanne, in 2001. The primary purpose of the Fund is “to provide financial assistance to graduating seniors of Negaunee High School who will be pursuing certification or a degree at an institution of higher education and who have financial need.” Zosia Eppensteiner, CEO of the Community Foundation, said, “The story of Waino is a story of generosity and community. Waino valued education, and the establishment of the scholarship fund and the recent generous support through his estate are helping seniors from Negaunee High School continue their education. This fund will grow even more as a resource for students in need of financial assistance in the future. Waino’s legacy of giving continues.” Dave Hallgren summed up Waino’s life and legacy, by saying, “That was Waino’s mission in life – to be a servant. To help people. He set such a good example on how to live.” A special thanks to everyone who contributed photographs and information for this article: Dave Dompierre, Negaunee Historical Society; Dave and Judy Hallgren; Virginia Paulson, Negaunee Historical Society; Andrew Rickauer, United Way of Marquette County; Russell Ault; and Walt Lindala, Media Brew.