Cover photo for Gordon John Kuivanen's Obituary
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1930 Gordon 2014

Gordon John Kuivanen

May 27, 1930 — May 29, 2014

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Gordon John Kuivanen, beloved Husband, Father and Grandfather, age 84 of Baraga, MI, passed away May 29, 2014 in Chino Hills, California.

A second-generation Finnish-American, Gordon was born in Baraga, Michigan to John and Senia Kuivanen. Gordon attended Baraga High School, where he played football and basketball. He was the first in his family to attend college, after being raised in a small town where his father John worked for Ford Motor Co. and raised raspberries and strawberries for sale, and his mother Senia taught school in Copper Harbor, Michigan. Gordon married Betty Saaranen in 1951. Graduating from Michigan Tech University in Houghton, Michigan in 1952, his offer of employment at General Motors Research Laboratories in Detroit was interrupted by the Korean War, when he applied for and received a commission as an Air Electronics Officer.

When the war ended in 1953, he was discharged to reserve status and was accepted to the Masters Degree program at Wayne State University. With the assistance of a GM Research Fellowship, he completed his Master of Science Degree in Mechanical Engineering. Gordon returned to GM Research and progressed to Senior Research Engineer working on gas turbine engines, high-performance internal combustion engineers, and turbocharging programs. In 1961, Gordon accepted a position at Minneapolis Moline in Minneapolis, and moved his now growing family to Minnesota. There, he progressed to Chief Engineer of Minneapolis Moline’s Industrial Products, and later of the White Motor Corporation Industrial Division.

In 1970, the family moved to Denver, Colorado where Gordon was Vice President/General Manager and part-owner of Arrow Manufacturing. Company acquisitions during this period brought Gordon to Merrill, Iowa in the mid-1970’s where he assumed ownership and management of Digz-All Corporation, manufacturers of trenching and digging machines. This led to his final opportunity, co-ownership of Durnell Engineering in Emmetsburg, Iowa, manufacturing truck-mounted aerial bucket lifts.

After retiring from full-time work, Gordon began offering business guidance as a consultant for the Iowa State Small Business Development Centers, and later as a consultant for the Veterans Administration working with disabled veterans throughout the state. His work involved assisting veteran small business owners with preparation of a business plan, financial projections and follow-up consulting to help these entrepreneurs to succeed. He was awarded the State of Iowa and National U.S. Small Business Administration Veteran Small Business Advocate of the Year Award in 1996.

As much of his work was throughout Iowa and surrounding states, Gordon made use of his private pilot’s license traveling to many business locations. He originally received his license to fly at the grass-field Baraga airport in 1946 while still in High School, and accumulated 3,000 of flying time in the five airplanes he owned.

Moving back to their roots in Baraga, Gordon and Betty bought a lakefront home just outside of town, where he spent much of his time on projects around the house, always in the shop or the garage. During this time he volunteered to help manage the business affairs of the Henry Ford / Alberta Village Museum outside of L’Anse, Michigan which maintains the old sawmill and housing village in cooperation with Michigan Tech. Any other time was spent spoiling the various dogs and cats that showed up at the front door, knowing they would find a warm home inside. With children in California, Colorado and Texas, Gordon and Betty often made winter trips to visit family, although it was hard to get them away from the lakeshore. Recent years have been spent in assisted living in Chino Hills, California near their children.

Gordon is survived by Betty, his wife of 62 years; children and spouses David and Karim, Beth and Jon, John and Audra, and Amy and Mike; and grandchildren Jeremy, Katie and her new husband Tom, Daniel, Timothy, Lilly, Sophia and Alexa.

His funeral services will be held on Friday, June 6th at 11:00 am at Mission United Lutheran Church in Pelkie. Visitation will be for an hour prior to the service at the church. Rev. John Autio will officiate. Burial will be the Pelkie Cemetery. Baraga County Area Veterans will conduct military graveside services under the direction of the American Legion Post 444. A luncheon and fellowship will follow in the church hall. The Jacobson Funeral Home of L’Anse is assisting the family.

Friends may sign Gordon’s guest book or send condolences at

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