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Standing the test of time

Negaunee senior citizen recalls life with a smile

March 24, 2011
By RENEE PRUSI Journal Staff Writer

MARQUETTE - The house Betty Ahola Hakala grew up in still stands in Negaunee.

Her memories stand just as strong.

The house was constructed by her father, Jacob Ahola, one of a number of homes he built in Negaunee in the early part of the 20th century.

Article Photos

Betty and Oiva “Huck” Hakala have been married nearly 68 years. Betty Ahola Hakala was born in Negaunee, then taught school in that community as well as in Gwinn and other communities. She eventually became a school librarian. The retired couple now resides in Marquette. (Journal photo by Renee Prusi)

"Our house was on Teal Lake Avenue," said Betty, who's now 88. "He also built Dr. Mudge's house. He came from Finland, my father. He met and married my mother (Martha Heikkila) here in the U.S.

"We kids had to learn Finnish. My father said English gave him a headache," she recalled with a laugh. "My father was a person everyone loved. I wish I could have had his personality. My mother was more shy."

Betty Ahola had two sisters, Helen and Louise, and a brother, Jack.

"They are all gone now," she said. "I was the sickliest one growing up, but here I am."

The Ahola children went to school right across the street from the family home.

"My sisters and brother were A students," Betty said. "My mother told me she'd give me a quarter if I got on the honor roll. I did. And I got my quarter. But I thought the honor roll was too much bother."

Betty remembered playing hooky twice in her life.

"I played hooky in first grade and I played hooky as a senior," she said. "I got caught both times. The principal caught me the second time."

Her senior year, 1940, Betty organized a skip day.

"We hitchhiked to Marquette. It was before any of us had a car," she said. "When we got back, we got in trouble."

Growing up, Betty's family wasn't well to do.

"We were poor, I guess," she said. "Anything we got for Christmas was secondhand. But so many others were poor like us. We were all in the same boat. I never really thought about it, I guess.

"My parents didn't have a car, so we kids sometimes would walk to National Mine to see friends," Betty said. "That's a long ways."

After graduating from Negaunee High, Betty attended what is now Northern Michigan University, eventually earning a master's degree.

"I taught school and loved it," she said. "Then I became a librarian and loved that, too."

She was a teacher in several school districts and one assignment had a life-changing result.

"When I was teaching in Gwinn, I went skating," Betty said. "There was this good-looking guy skating. I don't think he would have asked me so I asked him out."

At age 20, Betty Ahola met that man and then married him: Oiva "Huck" Hakala was preparing to enter the military.

"It was during wartime," she said. "Huck went into the service and we got married in Kileen, Texas. My mother cried when I left. He went overseas and I was back in Negaunee five months after I got married, when the war was bad."

Huck was in the U.S. Army, serving in the European theater. After he returned stateside, the couple moved a bit north.

"Hank wanted to go to Houghton Tech (Michigan Tech) to get his degree," Betty said. "We lived on $90 a month."

The couple had their first child while living in the Copper Country.

"We had a little boy who died after five months," Betty said. "That was the worst time of my life. It was horrible. But I wanted to have another child."

The couple had five children, Beth, Jack, Jeffrey, Peter and Julie.

"They all live far away, all over the country," she said of her kids. When asked how many are in the next generation, she said: "Voi kauhea (my goodness)... I have lots of grandkids. I don't like that they live so far away but at least we get to visit."

The Hakalas - who will celebrate 68 years of marriage this year - lived in many places through the years.

"We lived out west, in Negaunee, in Houghton, in Gwinn," Betty said. "Variety is the spice of life."

The couple recently moved to Marquette.

"We live in Tourville Apartments now. It's very convenient and we like it a lot," she said. "We need something and it's right there."

Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253. Her e-mail address is



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