Roger Allan Pihlaja, 60 | Bemidji Pioneer
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Roger Allan Pihlaja, 60

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Roger Allan Pihlaja, 60, from Snellman and Ponsford, Minn., area, died Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2008 at his home.

The funeral will be held at 11 a.m. Monday at the Gethsemane Lutheran Church in Snellman with the Rev. Edward Behling officiating. Visitation will be held from 5-8 p.m. Sunday at the Jones-Pearson Funeral Home in Park Rapids. Military Honors will be provided by the Star of the North Marine Corps League and the Wolf Lake VFW Post. Burial will be in the Pihlaja family plot in the Snellman Cemetery.

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Jones-Pearson Funeral Home in Park Rapids assisted the family with arrangements.

Pallbearers will be Reino Hendrickson, Randy Hanson, Ray Gartner, Robert Gartner, Fred Ruzynski, Rick Myrum, Wyatt Jepson and Tim Clements.

Honorary pallbearers will be his grandchildren, brother-in-law, co-workers and friends.

He was born Feb. 26, 1948, to Elmer and Rose (Jellum) Pihlaja in Detroit Lakes, Minn. He attended the Shell Lake Country School near his home through the sixth grade. He attended high school through the 10th grade in Frazee, Minn. He completed his junior and senior year at the Park Rapids High School in 1966. During his school years, he enjoyed competing in wrestling on both the Frazee and Park Rapids teams. After high school, he gained employment working construction for John Racer and later for a construction company in the Twin Cities.

From 1968-970, he served his country in the U.S. Army. Following his honorable discharge, he returned home and resumed his career in construction. On July l, 1972, he married Linda Ruth Gartner at St. Peter's Catholic Church in Park Rapids. They had three children. He was a dedicated and talented employee and worked his way up the ladder to become a master carpenter and construction foreman. He spent many years building bridges and tunnels in the Duluth area. His final working years were spent with the Ames Construction Company until his illness kept him from returning to work this summer. He enjoyed flying and built his own Banty single-engine aircraft. After earning his private pilot's license in July 2007, he bought a Cessna 150 and later a 172. He enjoyed repairing and rebuilding all types of machinery and equipment. He built and operated his own sawmill for many years. He designed and built their home and outbuildings where he and his wife raised their family and have resided for more than 30 years. He was a lifetime member of Gethsemane Lutheran Church near his home. He enjoyed spending time with his wife, children and grandchildren.

He is survived by his wife; daughter, Jane Dolan of Illinois; sons, Joseph (Krista) Pihlaja of Pocatello, Idaho, and Jerry Pihlaja of Chaska, Minn.; three grandchildren; parents, Elmer and Rose Pihlaja of Osage, Minn.; sisters, Kathy Lowe of Layton, Utah, Linda (Tony) Harris of Osage, Judy (Russ) Mattson of Osage and Sandy (Craig) Stilke of Detroit Lakes.

He was preceded in death by his brother, Lyle, at age 11 and grandparents.

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