Legendary Patron Saint of Finland
In defense of Sulo Havumaki as originator of the Saint Urho legend
William Reid wrote in December 2004 that he believes the Legend of St. Urho began in Bemidji with Sulo Havumaki, and reportedly has the evidence to back it up:
I hadn't heard the Mattson name [before visiting the Saint Urho web site], but note that there may be some argument about Sulo Havumaki's role. Here's the story I know, from our Bemidji, MN, family. It may help to explain some of the local popularity of St. Urho. If details are wrong, blame my memory. I was a teenager around the time of the events below, and didn't understand everything the grownups did.
My father and stepmother Howard and Marilouise (Merrilee) Reid, lived in Bemidji with their son, Jeff. I visited on holidays and during the summer. Dad was a psychiatrist, and both knew Sulo Havumaki. I remember Sulo largely because his daughter, Tana, was the prettiest teenage girl in town.
Sulo was a devout Catholic and, feeling left out because there weren't any Finnish saints, made one up with tongue in cheek: St. Urho (maybe he adopted Mattson's; the 1950s-1960s dates are close to the time I knew of him and Urho). The story was oft-told, and was part of Sulo's local identity.
My stepmom Merrilee's parents, the Eschens, were planning a trip to Scandinavia. Dad got some very old pieces of old human bone (easy for a doctor) and wood. He gave them to Hermann and Renata Eschen to take to Finland, along with a letter and the following instructions: (1) Find a recent obituary in a Finnish newspaper. (2) Have the letter translated into Finnish and insert the deceased's name. (3) Mail the letter to Sulo Havumaki by air. (4) Mail the bones and wood to Sulo by sea.
Sulo received the letter, which said something like "Dear Prof. Havumaki: I am the keeper of the last relics of St. Urho. News of your faith and dedication to St. Urho have reached me across the ocean. I am dying, and commend to you those last relics because I know you will protect and revere them, and pass them to the next custodian when the time is right. Relics to follow by sea mail."
Think about it: Sulo made this guy up (or, in the alternative, adopted Mattson's fable). Yet here was presumptive evidence that St. Urho had existed for centuries. It seems likely that Sulo would have had the bone and wood dated, and if he did, he found that they were hundreds of years old. If he checked up on the Finnish man, he found that he died soon after the date of the letter.
At some point, Sulo became ill with cancer. My Dad said he and Sulo were fishing one day, and Sulo asked if Dad had anything to do with the bones and letter. Not wanting Sulo to die believing in a false saint, Dad told him the truth. I'm not sure what happened after that, but Sulo may have knocked him out of the boat.
I believe the "relics" were placed in a display at Bemidji State University (then College). I'm not sure where they are now, but I'll bet someone knows.
Jeff Reid writes:
Others have taken credit, but the real story lies in Bemidji. People from "Da Rainch" (e.g., the Iron Range) have little cultural knowledge of St. Urho. In fact, our (North Carolilna) neighbors of Minnesota Finnish descent are very ignorant about St. Urho ---she in fact took articles (and a rare ribbon) about St. Urho that I provided her on her trip to Finland this past summer. Also the wife of a colleague who grew up on the range has no clue as to St. Urho. Most distressing is the lack of knowledge of St. Urho by the regional Finnish club. I have a rare box of St. Urho's Day ribbons from one of the Minnesota Finnish clubs and personally have been to the revered statue of St. Urho in Menagha, MN three years ago. A google search reveals a few pieces of information.
[Evidence to follow.]