July 18, 2024

Russ Hepola

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Russ Hepola, age 89, passed away Monday, May 20, 2024.

Funeral Services were held on Tuesday, May 28, 2024, at 11:00 a.m. Visitation was from 9 – 10 a.m. prior to the service at Trinity Lutheran Church in New York Mills, MN with Pastor Kirk Douglas officiating. Russ will be laid to rest in Topelius Cemetery, New York Mills.

Russell Delano Hepola was born on January 16, 1935, in rural New York Mills, MN to Hugo and Lempi (Hietala) Hepola. He was baptized and later was confirmed in the Lutheran faith.

Russ attended grades 1-8 at country school and later attended and graduated from Greenway High School in Colraine, MN in 1952. He excelled in many sports, holding several records, even appearing in the Minneapolis Tribune in 1950 being recognized as one of the top ten running backs in Minnesota. Growing up in rural northern MN gave Russ many opportunities to participate in hunting and fishing, which he enjoyed very much from youth well into his older years, particularly at their cabin in Canada.

During the summer as a teenager, Russ would go to his birth town of New York Mills, MN and work on his uncle’s farm. One day, as Russ and his cousin went into town, he happened to notice a young lady with her friends at the local cafe, her name was Sarah Porkkonen. They occasionally saw each other during the next couple of years. During this time, Russ graduated from high school and went on to Itasca Community College, playing football there while he was waiting for his boot camp training in the US Marine Corps. After his graduation from the MCRD, Russ found himself stationed on the front lines of Korea with the 1st MarDiv, 7th Marine, 1st Battalion, Charlie company, Unit 171. He received many medals and awards during his service, including the Sharpshooter rifle badge, 7th Marine Regiment medal, Good Conduct purple, Blue and White Korean UN Nation defense combat and many others. Russ was always very proud of his service and the service of others, especially that of fellow Marines, Semper Fi.

While stationed in Korea, Russ was pleased to start receiving daily letters from Sarah, the letters kept his morale up and he was anxious to get back home. Shortly after his return to the states, he wasted no time and he and Sarah were engaged on April 1, 1955. They were united in marriage on July 9, 1955, at Grace Lutheran Church in Escondido, near Camp Pendleton where Russ was stationed until November of 1955.

Upon returning to MN in November, they moved to Colraine, MN where they set up their first home in a small apartment above the bank where Russ did janitorial work and learned the banking industry from the bottom up. There were many moves through the years as Russ advanced quickly in his banking career and by 1971, he bought the bank in Herman, MN. During their lives, their path took them to live in Grand Rapids, Nisswa, Brainerd, Herman, Mesa, AZ and Ontario Canada. Eventually, after retirement, they ended up almost full circle, to Perham, MN, just a few miles from where they were both born. After Sarah’s passing in 2017, Russ returned to Arizona until July of 2023 when he moved back to MN where he had an apartment at The Meadows in Wadena.

Russ and Sarah were blessed with 4 children: Paula, Annette, Lynn and Keith. Some of the most memorable times with their children, grandchildren and later even their great-grandchildren revolved around their many years at their summer log cabin home in Canada and their winter home in AZ. Although, they did not always stay in one place, as they also enjoyed traveling all over the US, usually in their motorhome. Russ and Keith, and sometimes other friends, also had a lot of fun on trips to Alaska and Northern Canada.

Russ is survived by his 4 children: Paula (John) Hepola Anderson, Annette (John) Blume, Lynn (Delbert) Fickes and Keith Hepola; 8 grandchildren: Joanna Anderson, Bryan (Mackenzie) Blume, Joshua (Kelsie) Blume, Maria Blume, Hannah (Mikael) VahnDijk, Christopher (Emily) Fickes, Angelene (John) Winges and Shane (Kristi) Fickes; 13 great-grandchildren: Alex, Haley, Brody and Maddux Blume, Conner Goodhart, Carter and Logan Fickes, Noah and Braiden Winges, Jacob and Anna Fickes, Reagan and Lucy VahnDijk; 3 sisters: Pat Meade, Carolyn (Wayne) Behrendt and Marilynn (Foster) Sechrist.

He was preceded in death by his parents, his wife Sarah, and two grandchildren, Nicole and Matthew Fickes.

Please visit <www.karvonenfuneralhome.com> to leave memorials and condolences on Russ’ Tribute Wall.

Arrangements provided by Karvonen Funeral & Cremation Service of New York Mills, MN.

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