Harley Karvonen, 96, of PerhamPublished 9:09am Thursday, June 13, 2013 Updated 11:21am Thursday, June 13, 2013
Harley was born on October 18, 1916 in Bovey, Minnesota to Yalmer A. Karvonen and Ina (Sillanpaa) Karvonen. The family moved to a farm in Otto Township when he was six weeks old. He was baptized in the Finnish language at the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church in Mills.
In 1923, the family moved into town where Harley participated in school athletics, graduating from high school in 1935. In March 1936, Harley began work as a substitute mail carrier on Route 3. In 1937 he attended Minneapolis Business College and then worked in Minneapolis for a year before returning to Mills.
In the 1936 to 1942 period, he played many games with the Flying Finns basketball team, enjoying the halftime treats of buttermilk and smoked fish. He served as a member of the Mills City Council for four years before resigning to enlist in the Navy in November 1942. He served for three years, most of it on a minesweeper, and was discharged as a Yeoman First Class. He participated in the landings in the Philippines and Okinawa and earned the Purple Heart, Good Conduct Medal, American Area Campaign, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, Navy Occupation Medal with Asia Clasp, Philippine Liberation Medal, and the Philippine Presidential Unit Citation.
After his return from the Navy, he was in partnership with his father in their furniture store in Mills. In 1952, he was appointed rural carrier for Route 2, retiring in 1973 after more than 34 years of service. During his career, he served the Minnesota Rural Carriers Association as Secretary for six years, Vice President for two years, and President for two years. He was General Chairman of the 1964 National Rural Carriers convention held in Minneapolis. He also served as President of the Provident Guild (the death benefit plan for carriers) for five years.
Harley refereed high school football and basketball for 20 years, holding the Minnesota State High School League certified rating for excellence in officiating in both sports. He also served as a Boy Scout leader for five years.
Harley was an active player for the New York Mills Millers baseball team for 20 years, serving as manager for several years. He helped organize the HI-10 Baseball League and was its first President, serving for five years. He served as Regional Commissioner for six years and was a member of the Board of Directors of the Minnesota Amateur Baseball Association for 15 years and was selected to its Hall of Fame in 1973.
He was on the Citizens Advisory Committee for the Perham Memorial Hospital when it was operated by the Franciscan Sisters. When they turned over the hospital to the Perham Hospital Association, Harley served on the Board of Directors for the next eight years.
In retirement, he took up the hobby of golf for several years and served as managing director and secretary-treasurer of the Perham Lakeside Golf Course for six years. He was Commander of both the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars in Perham and was selected as one of the ten All-State Commanders.
Harley was a public accountant for 40 years and obtained the State Licensed Public Accountant designation. He helped many clients, first in the Mills area and later in Perham, in income tax preparation, small business accounting, and assisting them in obtaining their correct social security benefits. His Finnish language skills were very helpful since that was the primary language of many of his clients.
He was a life member of the VFW, American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, Military Order of the Purple Heart, National Association of Retired Federal Employees, and Minnesota Finnish-American Society and a member of the Minnesota and National Rural Letter Carriers Associations, the Naval Mine Warfare Association, and the New York Mills Congregational Church.
From 1986 to 2006, Harley and his wife Velma spent seven months of each year in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas and the remaining five months in Perham. In 1997 they established two $50,000 permanent trust accounts at the United Community Bank in Perham. The first one designates $3500 per year to fund reading classes for students in early elementary school. The second trust helps the City of Perham fund summer recreation programs for Perham youth.
In 1999, Harley and Velma created another $50,000 trust to help fund the maintenance of the Prairie and Greenwood cemeteries in the Mills area. In 2004, they created a fourth $50,000 trust to fund reading classes in the New York Mills School District. Helping young people with reading difficulties was important to Harley because he struggled in elementary school with English since he grew up hearing and speaking only Finnish until he started first grade.
In addition to his parents, Harley was preceded in death by his first wife Phyllis; infant son Michael; sisters Hazel (Boedigheimer) and Helene (Jokela); brother Harold. He is survived by his wife Velma; son Tom; daughter-in-law Priscilla; granddaughters Meagan (and husband Marlowe) and Tracey; great-granddaughter Sadeia; stepdaughter Bonny Roney (and husband Keith); stepson Ralph Meyer (and wife Karen); and step-grandchildren Logan and Lindsay.
Memorials may be given to the First Congregational United Church of Christ in New York Mills.
Harley asked that no memorial service be held and that, in his passing, he wanted people to know he is on a long trip. He also requested cremation with arrangements being made by the Karvonen Funeral Home in New York Mills. Burial will be in the family plot in Greenwood cemetery in New York Mills.