Elsie Stephenson (o.s. Laakso) Story

Laakso Family story by
Elsie Stephenson

Onni Matius Laakso was born a Rantakangas on September 22, 1906 in Itakyla, Finland. His father Juha Rantakangas changed the family name to Laakso because there were so many with the same first and last name, Rantakangas, that the bills were going to the wrong people. Matti immigrated to Canada to earn money to buy more land to farm in Finland. After landing in Quebec City on July 25, 1929 he journeyed by train to Sudbury, Ontario. Because of the Depression he worked part-time in the nickel mines.

Anna Lydia Karvonen was born on July 18, 1908 in Kuusamo, Finland. She immigrated because she wanted a better life. She landed in Halifax, Nova Scotia on January 20, 1929 and from there travelled by train to Sudbury, Ontario. Since her aunt had sent her the boat ticket she had to work a year on her aunt’s farm to pay for the ticket. After that year Lyyti worked in restaurants and as a maid.

Matti and Lyyti met in Sudbury and married in Kirkland Lake in 1931. After the birth of their daughter Anni on June 2, 1932, they moved back to the Sudbury area homesteading at the west end of Long Lake. When Matti got a job with INCO they moved to Creighton Mine. In 1935 they bought from INCO the property titled Lot 6, Concession 2 of Denison Township in the District of Sudbury. They moved into their log house on June 16, 1936 and the next day their twins Eila Maria and Olavi Erkki were born. Matti left INCO in 1937 to clear the property of trees and make fields for cultivation. They obtained a license in June 1941 to start selling milk. Their daughter Elsie Elizabeth was born on May 15, 1942.

In 1947 a new large barn and milk house were built. Registered Holstein cows were bought to further expand their dairy farm. A four can quota of milk was shipped by truck to Copper Cliff Dairy. Electricity came to the farm on June 28, 1950 resulting in the purchase of electrical appliances, water pump and milk cooler in the milk house. That summer a new kitchen with a basement underneath was added to the house. Matti was hired by INCO to work at Crean Hill mine on September 13th that year. During the 1950s new tractors, cars, trucks and farm implements were purchased. The dairy herd and milk quota were sold in 1957. Beef cattle were raised until 1968.

Matti and Lyyti were Lutherans and they had their children baptized and confirmed in that faith. They belonged to the Beaver Lake Chapel which was affiliated with St. Timothy’s Lutheran Church in Copper Cliff. Lyyti belonged to the Women’s Circle at the Chapel. Matti joined the Whitefish Lions’ Club in the late 1960s.

Matti retired from INCO in September 1971 at the age of 65. He suffered a stroke in April 1973 and died on January 27, 1975. Lyyti died on April 25, 1986 following a stroke four weeks earlier. They are buried in Park Lawn Cemetery in Sudbury. Their farm was sold in 1986.

Matti’s dream to own more land to farm in Finland did come true because he bought land there but gave it to his brother. Two Finnish immigrants with nothing more than determination built a better life for themselves in Canada.