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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Obituaries: September 15, 2023


James D. Keranen
James Donald “Jim” Keranen, 94, of Grand Rapids, passed away surrounded by family in the early morning hours of Sunday, Sept. 3, 2023, at Majestic Pines Senior Living in Grand Rapids. The family would like to thank St. Croix Hospice for all of their support during this time. Funeral services were held on Wednesday, Sept. 13 at Zion Lutheran Church in Grand Rapids with Pastor Ben B. Buchanan officiating. Full military honors were rendered. Arrangements were with Rowe Funeral Home and Cremation Services of Grand Rapids.
 James was born on March 18, 1929, in Soudan, to John and Saima (Branwall) Keranen. He graduated from Soudan High School, where he was part of the Tower-Soudan Golden Eagles basketball team that went to the state championship. He turned down a basketball scholarship to Syracuse, because his dad said it was too far away from home and family.
Jim continued his education at the University of Minnesota-Duluth where he received his BA in education. He continued his education, receiving his masters in Ed. Administration at the University of North Dakota.
Jim’s first teaching job was in Carrington, N.D., as a science teacher and basketball coach. During this teaching assignment, he met and married third-grade teacher Ruth Almeda Hauser, on June 18, 1957. Jim continued teaching high school science along with coaching basketball and football in Nashwauk, Minn. Jim’s first administration assignment was in Warroad, where he served as the high school principal. Jim continued assignments as principal in Big Fork and Grand Rapids. During his tenure at Grand Rapids High School, he implemented the first IB (International Baccalaureate) program in the state of Minnesota in 1983. One of his proudest accomplishments at Grand Rapids High School was the creation of a broad-based comprehensive program of vocational offerings which included machine shop, welding, auto mechanics, printing, business courses, home construction, and forestry to name a few. The program he started was the first of its kind in the state.
 James served in the United States Marie Corps from 1951-1953 as a Corporal in the Korean War. He was an avid outdoorsman. He was a Finn with sisu. His interests included hunting, fishing, and sports, primarily the Minnesota Twins. Lake Vermilion was a special place for James. His parents built a cabin on Lake Vermilion. James, with help from Almeda, worked to acquire land adjacent to theirs and built his own cabin, starting immediately after his honeymoon. The remote cabin was accessible by boat and provided a peaceful getaway that he and his family enjoyed for decades. Upon retirement, James and Almeda spent almost 30 years as residents at their property in Fort Myers Beach, Fla.
 James is survived by his wife of 66 years, Ruth Almeda Keranen of Grand Rapids; daughter, Lisa (Blake) Toms of Maple Grove; daughter, Amy Keranen of Cohasset; son, Jimmer (Brenda) Keranen of Pengilly; and two grandsons, Alex and Brent Keranen, in whom he instilled his love of the outdoors, as they too are avid hunters and fishermen.
He was preceded in death by his parents, John and Saima Keranen; brother, Edward Keranen; and sister, Dorothy Keranen Early.

Michael J. Skraba
Michael John “Mike” Skraba, 58, of Cook, passed away on Sunday, Sept. 10, 2023. A graveside committal will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 23 at St. Bridget’s Cemetery, followed by a luncheon at the VFW in Cook. Arrangements are with Mlaker Funeral Home of Cook.

Robert C. Oliva
Robert Charley “Basswood Bob” Oliva, 62, of Ely, originally of Kansas, tragically lost his life in an automobile accident near his home on Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023. Services will be held on Friday, Sept. 15 at Pohlman-Varner-Peeler Mortuary in Russell, Kansas. A celebration of life will be held in Ely at a later date.
He is survived by his adoptive mother, June Knackstedt of Russell, Kansas; eight siblings, Bud Knackstedt, Nancy (Wayne) Woodyard, James (Debra) Oliva, Barbara Volle, David Goza, Deborah (Don) Johnson and Alvin Goza, all of Kan., and Dennis (Beth) Knackstedt of Missouri; and many other family members, friends and neighbors.

Virgie L. Mull
Virgie Lee Mull, 102, of Carmel, Ind., passed away on Sunday, Sept. 10, 2023. Visitation will be held from 12 noon to 2 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 17 at Leppert Mortuaries Carmel Chapel followed by a funeral service at 2 p.m. Entombment in a mausoleum with her husband Woody Mull and her mother will occur on Monday, Sept. 18 at Graceland Cemetery in Valparaiso, Ind. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Marcy Smith Critical Care Nursing Scholarship at the Indiana University Foundation. Arrangements are with Leppert Mortuaries of Carmel.
Virgie was born to Charlie and Lily Burns on a farm west of Lubbock, Texas, on June 30, 1921. She also lived in Chesterton, Ind., Pelican Lake-Orr, Minn., Sun City, Ariz., and Carmel, Ind.
She is survived by her daughter, Linda Irene (Buchanan) Akin; grandchildren, Julie Lynne (John) Faas and Eric “Rick” Dewayne (Noelle) Akin; and great-grandchildren, Jonathan, Justin (Cammie) and Jamie Faas, Izabelle and Clark Akin.
She was preceded in death by her husbands, William Guy “Buster” Buchanan and Elwood James “Woody” Mull; grandparents, John Christopher Jerome and Emily Burns and William and Laura Stith; parents; sisters, Goldena Charlene (Ben) Pethe and Levena Clarissa (Jim) Chafey; and son-in-law, Dewayne Akin.

Loretta A. Johnson
Loretta Alma Johnson, 84, of Cook, passed away peacefully with her daughter by her side on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2023. There will be no services per her wishes. Arrangements are with Mlaker Funeral Home of Cook.

Leonard E. Levar Jr.
Leonard Edward Levar Jr., 75, of Babbitt, passed away peacefully at his Bear Island Lake home on Friday, Sept. 8, 2023, after a second battle with cancer. A Memorial Mass will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 30 at St. Pius X Catholic Church in Babbitt with Rev. Fr. Dennis Hoffman presiding. Family and friends may gather one hour prior to the service at the church. Family arrangements have been entrusted to Kerntz Funeral Home of Ely.
He is survived by his wife of 47 years, Marcelle; son, Nicholas (AnnMarie); grandson, Carter; granddog, Trigger; sister-in-law, Margy (Tom) Blauert; brothers-in-law, Jimmy (Patty) Medure, Phillip (Sue) Medure, David (Dianna) Medure, Jon (Sandy) Medure and Pat (Donna) Medure; special cousins, Steve, Tom, Frank and Andy Levar; and several nieces and nephews.