President of Finland and Grand Master of the Order of the White Rose of Finland, Mr. Sauli Niinistö, awarded war veteran Viljo Virtanen with the First Class Medal of the White Rose of Finland in April 2017. On behalf of the Finnish President, Ambassador Vesa Lehtonen had the honor to present the medal to Virtanen in an award ceremony organized on the 16th of June 2017 in Finlandia Village, Sudbury.
Viljo Virtanen is one of the many awarded veterans living abroad. One of the centennial year’s themes was to reward this group of veterans. In Canada, 38 Finnish veterans of war were awarded this decoration which is known to be conferred upon citizens who have distinguished themselves in the service of Finland. A complete list of the veterans awarded on April 27, 2017, the National Veterans’ Day, is displayed at the Order of the White Rose of Finland's website.
Viljo Virtanen was born in 1925 and he’ll turn 92 in September. During the Lapland war he served in front line as a scout. Born 15th out of 17 children, Viljo Virtanen was ready to fight in the war not only for his country but for those he loved and to honor his brother that he lost in the war. He is a proud Finn with a lot of Sisu.
In 1950 Viljo Virtanen married the love of his life and together they came to Canada in 1952 because they already had some family here. Virtanen's family settled in Sudbury where he worked as a carpenter in the mines.
Viljo Virtanen has two sons, Timo who was born in Finland and Ray born in Canada. He also has 5 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren, many of whom were present at the small ceremony.
He was a talented carpenter in the Finnish community and he made his own camp by Trout Lake, one hour's drive south from Sudbury. The cottage has a unique look with logs vertical instead of horizontal. At the camp, Virtanen used to enjoy hunting and fishing.
In addition Viljo Virtanen was active with the Knights of Kaleva association, and he built many barrel saunas and the profits were donated to charity.
After immigrating to Canada, Viljo Virtanen has visited Finland a couple of times for family reunions.
Embassy of Finland in Ottawa will decorate the awarded Finnish veterans of war in Canada before the 100th Independence Day in December. The task is challenging because of the long distances between cities but we will do it, one way or another.