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A Skier of the Old U.P.

Mon, Jan  23, 2006 - By Tim Greening

With the Noquemanon race upcoming this week in Marquette, I am reminded of a former skier from the old U.P..  I heard about this man while working on my new cottage in Autrain this summer.


Elmer Kumpu With Trophies and Medals in Finland

The skier’s name is Ilmari (Elmer) Kumpu.  Born on the outskirts of Helsinki Finland in 1888, Elmer was Finnish national champion in the 18 K race in 1912.  In late 1912 Elmer emigrated to the U.S. settling in Marquette.

After several years Elmer moved to the village of Traunik, 30 miles southeast of Marquette.  Spending the majority of his life in Traunik,  he and his wife raised a family of 3 girls and 3 boys.   Working as an auto mechanic,  he would regularly ski to work to the town of Eben, a round trip distance of twelve miles.  In the summer he would swim the two miles across Autrain Lake and back during family picnics on the lakeshore.  

Elmer was also locally famous for making skis for many people in the area from the forest hardwoods.  I personally had an opportunity to examine his handy work on  some old models from the nineteen twenties.

Into his forties Elmer was still able to beat all of the area young men in  pickup running races.  It is said that he had an uncanny sense of pacing.

Elmer spent his last years living in Christmas, just west of Munising.   Elmer passed away in 1967 at the age of 67 and is still fondly remembered by many of the mature citizens of Alger County.

Thanks to Rick and Irma Carr, Elmer Kumpu’s grandson and daughter for providing the information for this article.