Traverse City Record-Eagle

June 16, 2013

Big Louie statue honors Moilanen, Finns


Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — HANCOCK (AP) — A big man in Hancock history is being honored by the city.

A monument to “Big Louie” Moilanen in the form of a 3,500-pound block of black granite has been mounted on its base and will be unveiled during a ceremony at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, which is the first day of FinnFest, according to The Daily Mining Gazette of Houghton.

The monument stands 8-feet-3-inches tall. It is near the entrance to the Finnish American Heritage Center.

Moilanen was born in Finland and immigrated to the U.S. when he was 4 years old, said Dana Richter, who spearheaded efforts to raise money to build the monument. Moilanen died on Sept. 16, 1913. His gravestone in Lakeside Cemetery lists his height as 8-feet-3 and weight at 560 pounds.

Moilanen grew up on the family farm in Salo, Richter said. He worked as a farmer, miner, justice of the peace, saloon keeper, and circus “freak,” he said.

Mike Gemignani of Franklin also worked on the fundraising. He said his father knew Moilanen and would tell stories about “the Copper Country giant.”

About $6,700 was raised for the monument with the help of the Houghton County Historical Society.

“We probably got over 120 people who donated,” Richter told the newspaper. “Any time we had publicity (for the effort), donations would come in.”

The monument was carved by Norway Granite and Marble. It will also have a plaque with Moilanen’s likeness installed in time for the city’s commemoration of his death on Sept. 16.

“I think Big Louie represents all the everyday Finns, the Finns who made history without having their names on anything,” said Jim Kurtti, historical center director.

Richter said that during the fundraising effort he interacted with many people who said they had a connection to Moilanen.

“Some of those people are coming to FinnFest because of the monument,” he said.