Western Manitoulin mourns the passing of Pentti Palonen

Pentti and Penny Palonen

EVANSVILLE—Not only Burpee-Mills Township, but all of Manitoulin Island lost a good friend with the recent passing of Pentti Palonen.

“Pentti was an excellent councillor, a good neighbor and a good friend. He is going to be missed,” stated Ken Noland, reeve of Burpee-Mills township.

“Pentti was a dear friend,” said Wayne Bailey. “We worked together on a lot of projects and spent a lot of time together over the years.”

Pentti Palonen, who was in his 76th year, passed away peacefully at home on Saturday, May 20.

“Pentti gave so much of himself, he would try to help everyone,” said Mr. Bailey. “He would go out of his way to help people, including myself,” he said, noting the time his friend helped him put up a steel roof at his home. “I don’t like heights, but he was like a cat getting on the roof to get the work done on the roof.”

“Pentti was also concerned about other people, he would take the time to talk to people and was always interested in how they were doing,” said Mr. Bailey. 

Pentti was born in Toronto, but was raised on a farm near Copper Cliff. He attended Sheridan Technical School and then graduated with an Honours B.Sc. from Queen’s University in Kingston. He then went on to earn an M.Sc. and PhD at the University of Calgary. He worked as a geologist for the Ontario government, first in Sioux Lookout and later in London, where he became the Provincial Petroleum Supervisor. He retired in 1999 to a 200-acre farm on Manitoulin with a managed woodlot. He enjoyed dancing, gardening, hunting and working in his woodlot. Pentti was elected to the municipal council of Burpee and Mills in 2000, where he continued to serve as councillor and deputy reeve. He served on various boards of management and committees as part of his council duties. He was also elected to the Board of Directors of Espanola and District Credit Union and then served as a delegate for the Northern Credit Union.

“Waste management was one of Pentti’s many concerns, and finding ways to deal with plastic,” said Mr. Bailey. “He was also on the MMA (Manitoulin Municipal Association); he found this very interesting and liked that this group was to be working for the betterment of the entire Island. He cared very much for Burpee-Mills but always thought beyond its borders and what would be the best for the entire Island.”

“He felt that it was so important for all the municipalities to work together, for what would be good for the Island,” said Mr. Bailey. “He also served on the (Manitoulin Centennial) Manor board for a number of years. His biggest concern was to make sure all the nursing homes beds on Manitoulin were retained, and not moved, and that nursing homes needed to be funded properly.”

“His other big thrust was the community and he was involved in many, many areas of the township,” recalled Mr. Bailey. “I remember at one point he said we needed to have more opportunity for local residents to socialize. We organized the regular dancing lessons, and he was so helpful. He and Penny would provide instruction in swing dance, along with my wife Seija, myself and others. He spent years teaching swing dance. Now we have a lot of people out for swing dancing nights.”

“Pentti and Penny spent a lot of time in the forest on their lot working on their backlot,” said Mr. Bailey. “And in the spring, he would make gallons and gallons of maple syrup. And every month, as members of the Caruso Club Golden Age Club he would take gallons of maple syrup for other members. He and Penny really enjoyed making maple syrup every year,” said Mr. Bailey. 

“The other thing is that Pentti was a conservationist, he did his best to make sure our environment was clean, forests were allowed to grow, and the animals were being looked after,” continued Mr. Bailey. “Since his passing I find younger people are asking me what happened to my friend Pentti. You wouldn’t necessarily expect this. But he was always concerned other people and took the time to talk to everyone.” 

Mr. Bailey noted as well, “15 months ago when the doctors told Pentti at that time he had a month to live, he set up a bucket list: to reach his 50th wedding anniversary, celebrate his 75th birthday, finish his (previous) term on council and to reach the milestone of having been retired 20 years. He accomplished all of this.”

Pentti Arnold Palonen will be sadly missed by his beloved wife of 50 years, Penny (Schell). Pentti leaves behind son Mark (wife Marcia) and granddaughters Leah and Ariya of Bradford, daughter Senja (partner Rich Wheater) of Vancouver; and son Matti of Toronto. Pentti was predeceased by parents Eini (Heikkila) and Toivo Palonen. Sadly missed by sister Seija (husband Wayne Bailey) of Evansville, brother Albert (wife Lillian) of Sudbury and brother Roy (wife Teresa) of Courtice, sisters in law Barb Graham (husband Chris predeceased) of Pickering, Kathy Gadziola of Mississauga, and Pauli Schell of Owen Sound, and mother-in law, Phyllis Britton of Owen Sound. Pentti was born in Toronto, but was raised on a farm near Copper Cliff.

A celebration of life will be held at the Burpee Mills Complex on Saturday, June 8 at 11 am. Interment at Burpee Mills cemetery. Cremation has taken place.