by June Ilona Rantanen
his memorial at Saima Park is written
~ Journalist ~ Speaker
to describe him:
adventurer, a stubborn fighter for human rights, an able leader of men, a
skillful politician, a trustworthy statesman, a courageous journalist, and a
persuasive speaker. A man of wisdom, compassion, and not least, of courage.”
John I. Kolehmainen, PhD
dedication of Tokoi’s memorial May 21, 1989
fulfilling the wish of President Urho K. Kekkonen who, in his 1970 speech in
‘I would urge
you to build and maintain cultural bridges between the United States and
Finland, and, thereby, preserve the roots of Finnish tradition.”
Edwin E. Kaarela, Esq., Consul of Finland
reminded that this memorial to his achievements stands as a proud recognition
not only of Tokoi’s own life but as proof of the enthusiasm with which
Americans of Finnish descent have cherished and preserved their heritage in the
new homeland.” Spokesman for the
office of New York’s Finnish Consul General, Antti Lassila
Tokoi, Vice-president of the Imperial Senate of Finland that was Finland’s
first national government, was a significant national leader in those difficult
years prior to independence. He has
a permanent place in the political history of Finland, not only as one of the
founding fathers of the nation, but also as a great champion of the labor
In the United
States he has an outstanding record of achievement as a long-time editor of
Raivaaja, and a great champion for the cause of his fellow countrymen, both in
the new country during World War II also in the old country.”
Mauno Koivisto, President of the Republic of Finland
The Oskari Tokoi
Memorial that is outside of our function hall at the Finnish Center at Saima
Park was dedicated on May 21, 1989. The
program was the celebration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Finnish
Cultural Center at Fitchburg State College.
Aili Walsh, president of the FCC (now united with the Finnish Center at
Saima Park) presented welcoming remarks. Spokesmen’s
quotes are noted above.
Antti Oskari Tokoi
was born in Perho, near Kannus, Finland, on May 15, 1873.
education consisted of Grade School. In
1891 he traveled to the USA and toiled as a miner in the Midwest.
In 1900 he returned to Kannus, Finland, where he supported himself as a
farmer and as a merchant.
In 1905, he was
elected Kannuksen työväenyhdistyksen puheenjohtajaksi, the speaker for
the Kannus united workers.
1907, Tokoi was elected sosiaalidemokraattien edustajaksi eduskuntaan,
delegate to the parliament for the Social Democrats.
involvement in Finland included
Member of Finnish Parliament -- 1907 to 1918
Speaker of Finnish Parliament -- 1913
First Vice Speaker -- 1914
Prime Minister of Finland -- 1917
President of Finnish Federation of Labor -- 1910 to 1928
During the war in
1918, he served on the red side and was "kansanvaltuuskunnan
elintarvikekomissaarina," commissioner of foodstuffs for the people
of the democracy. He served as an
Officer -- British command "Finnish Legion" – from 1918 to 1920.
revolutionary war with Russia, which led to Finland’s independence, Oskari
Tokoi, being on the side of the Reds, had to flee to exile in Canada.
In 1921 he moved from Canada to the US, living first in Fitchburg MA.
He became a key member of the editorial staff of the Finnish Daily "Raivaaja"
in 1922, and maintained that position until 1950.
At the end of World
War II, he became an activist among Finnish-Americans in aiding Finland.
In 1944, Tokoi was pardoned by the Finnish government for his involvement
in the side of the Reds during the revolutionary years, when they admitted how
valuable his contributions were to the achievement of Finland’s independence
In 1949, as a guest
of the Finnish government in Finland, Tokoi was asked to address a full session
of Parliament. Tokoi was honored
with an Aaltonen sculpture, at the Social Democrat party head quarters in
Helsinki Finland. On the occasion
of the 100th anniversary of his birth, Oskari Tokoi was honored with
a memorial in Kannus Finland in 1973.
Tokoi lived much of
his life in West Townsend, MA. He
was a family friend and frequent sauna guest of Lyyli and Antti Linna, parents
of Sirkka Linna Hoglund, the creater of his monument at Saima Park.