Some Famous Finnish-Americans

by , under Finnish

When I was preparing the post earlier today about FinnFest USA 2015 coming to Buffalo, NY (go to, I ran across the following List of Nine Finnish Americans: It was posted a year ago by Mark Tapio Kines, head of Cassava Films, an independent film production company.

In his introduction, Mark says,

“The Finns are kind of an obscure people. And I know, because I’m one of them. (My father hails from Norway, but the family name Tapio is definitely Finnish in origin: Tapio was the god of the forest in old Finnish folklore, and is a common first name in Finland today.) There are a few internationally known citizens of Finland, including composer Jean Sibelius, director Aki Kaurismäki, children’s book author Tove Jansson, glass designer Tapio Wirkkala, conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen, architect Alvar Aalto, Hollywood director Renny Harlin, and gay erotic artist Tom of Finland. And I’m betting you may have only heard of one or two of those names. But let’s shift the focus on an even lesser-discussed, but far better-known, group of people: Finnish Americans.”

His List of Nine Finnish Americans includes

Marissa Mayer (1975-). Current CEO of Yahoo.
Eero Saarinen (1910-1961). Architect
Jean M. Auel (1936-). Author
Linus Torvalds (1969-). Creater of the Linux computer operating system.
Jessica Lange (1949-). Actress
Christine Lahti (1950-). Actress
Jorma Kaukonen (1940-). Rock/blues guitarist.
Vampira (1922-2008). Actress
William Fredrick “Buffalo Bill” Cody (1846-1917). Wild West showman.

I thought I would add a few more names–in no particular order–of people born in America of Finnish descent, or Finns now living in Amerca:

Timothy L. Kopra (1963– ). Astronaut.
Gus Hall (1910–2000). Labor organizer, a founder of the United Steel Workers union.
Matthew Norman Niskanen (1986 -). Professional hockey player.
Dick Enberg (1935– ). Ssportscaster.
Kai Haaskivi (1955- ). Retired professional soccer player, now coaching (he played much of his career in Cleveland, my home town).

Actually, Wikipedia has a longer list of Finnish Americans at

Finally, I would like to add to Mark Tapio-Kines’ list of famous Finns:

I have long had an interest in professional auto racing, so I would like to offer up Kimi Raikkonen, Mika Hakkinen, Keke Rosberg, and Heikki Kovalainen, all drivers on the Formula One Grand Prix circuit now or earlier. One of the best known names in sports was Paavo Nurmi (1897–1973), long distance runner, and winner of nine Olympic gold medals. Then there is also Fredrik Idestam, industrialist and founder of Nokia. And Peter Vesterbacka, co-founder of Angry Birds, the computer game.  But the list is far longer than I care to post here, so go to Wikipedia at Each of the names listed there is clickable to a biography for that individuals.

Read — and be amazed! And if you are Finnish-American or Finn, be proud.

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