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Roger Pihlaja

Feb. 26, 1948-Dec. 24, 2008

Roger A. Pihlaja, 60, a lifetime Snellman-Ponsford area resident, passed away peacefully at his home near Snellman with his loved ones at his side. Roger died following a valiant battle against cancer on Wednesday, December 24, 2008.

Roger Allan Pihlaja was born to Elmer and Rose (Jellum) Pihlaja on Feb. 26, 1948 in Detroit Lakes. As a boy, he attended the Shell Lake Country School near his home, through the sixth grade. He went on to attend junior and senior high school in Frazee, through the tenth grade, and then finished his last two years of high school in Park Rapids, where he graduated in 1966.

During his school years, Roger enjoyed competing in wrestling on both the Frazee and Park Rapids teams. After high school, Roger gained employment in construction, working for John Racer and later for a construction company in the Twin Cities.

From 1968-70, Roger proudly served his country in the United States Army. Following his honorable discharge, he returned home and resumed his career in construction. On July l, 1972, Roger married Linda Ruth Gartner at St. Peters Catholic Church in Park Rapids. This union was blessed with three children: Jane, Joseph and Jerold.

Roger 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, Minn., area. His final working years were spent with the Ames Construction Company, until his illness kept him from returning to work this summer. Roger loved to fly and had built his own Banty single-engine aircraft. After earning his private pilot's license in July 2007, he bought his Cessna 150 and later, a 172. He loved the freedom and beauty of God's creation he experienced every time he flew.

Roger was very gifted in working with his hands and enjoyed repairing and rebuilding all types of machinery and equipment. He had built and operated his own sawmill for many years, and also designed and built his own home and outbuildings where he and Linda raised their family and resided together for over 30 years.

Roger was a lifetime member of Gethsemane Lutheran Church, near his home. Above all, Roger devoted his entire life to his loving wife, Linda. His love for his three children was celebrated in being proudly involved in their sports, recreational and other family activities. Roger also adored his three grandchildren, Kenny, Katie and Kristoffer.

Roger will be lovingly remembered by his wife of 36 years, Linda; his daughter, Jane Dolan of Illinois; his two sons, Joseph (Krista) Pihlaja of Pocatello, Idaho and Jerry Pihlaja of Chaska, Minn.; three grandchildren; his parents, Elmer and Rose Pihlaja of Osage; his four sisters. Kathy Lowe of Layton, Utah, Linda (Tony) Harris of Osage. Judy (Russ) Mattson of Osage and Sandy (Craig) Stilke of Detroit Lakes; as well as a host of nieces, nephews, other relatives and countless friends.

Preceding Roger in death were his brother, Lyle at age 11; nephew and niece, Joshua and Rachel Mattson; his mother-in-law, Helen Gartner; his grandparents and many aunts and uncles.

Visitation will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 28 at the Jones-Pearson Funeral Home in Park Rapids.

Funeral services are scheduled for 11 a.m. Monday, Dec. 29, at the Gethsemane Lutheran Church in Snellman, with the Rev. Edward Behling officiating.

Military Honors will be provided by the Star of the North Marine Corps League and the Wolf Lake VFW Post.

The active casket bearers will be: Reino Hendrickson, Randy Hanson, Ray Gartner, Robert Gartner, Fred Ruzynski, Rick Myrum, Wyatt Jepson, and Tim Clements. Honorary casket bearers will be Roger's grandchildren, his brother-in-law, co-workers and friends.

Interment will be made in the Pihlaja family plot at the Snellman Cemetery. Jones-Pearson Funeral Home in Park Rapids is providing arrangements.