Sirke Eronen: 2000 ASFLA Scandinavian of Year
Sirke Eronen was born in Rauma, Finland, a shipbuilding city on the eastern coast of Finland. At age 20, during Finland's struggle for independence, Sirke joined the famed "Lotta Svärd" a women's auxiliary group of the Finnish military, whose support of the war effort earned them the rank of national heroines. Sirke witnessed the worst while working as a nurse in the field hospital in Lappenranta. While completing her service, she was accepted to Helsinki University to study economics where she met her future husband, war veteran Erik Eronen.

In 1952 she and Erik visited the U.S. where Erik attended Columbia. Sirke returned to Finland to care for her mother. In the meantime, they had a daughter, Arja "Pat." After the death of Sirkeís mother, the couple permanently moved to the U.S. where Sirke became secretary to the Finnish Consul General to New York. The birth of their daughter Pat represented not only new joys, but new challenges for the Eronens. From birth Pat was considered retarded. Doctors said she was uneducatable. Unwilling to accept that, Sirke made Patís education her primary mission. Today at 50, Pat speaks fluent English, Finnish, and Swedish, and sings in all of those languages plus German and Italian. The two perform in nursing homes, churches, and in the Finnish community. Sirke has tutored children with special needs, taught calculus to the deaf, and championed the needs and rights of the handicapped and elderly. Through her daughterís life, Sirke has become an activist mother for the needs of the handicapped.

Sirke is a gifted musician. She became a fixture in the musical life of the Scandinavian community. In New York, she formed an association with Finnish National Opera baritone Kalle Ruusinen. The two performed together around New York and throughout the east coast. She has accompanied many visiting Finnish singers. In 1962, after the Eronens moved to Buena Park, Calif., Sirke continued accompanying singers and sharing her wealth of knowledge of Scandinavian song literature and composers with music students and professors alike.

For many, sheís been a mentor, tutor, teacher, consultant and language coach. Sheís helped artists prepare for concerts and students obtain scholarships. Singers from California and Scandinavia have benefited from her collaboration and extensive knowledge of the repertoire. Sheís helped translate program notes for many concerts and shared a wealth of information with local arts and educational institutions. Sheís a valuable resource for artists and educators in the areas of Scandinavian art, music, language, and culture.

Professionally, Sirke worked 27 years in the courtrooms of Los Angeles and Ventura Counties as a Finnish and Swedish translator. When anyone from the Finnish community needed documents translated, she did it gratis. She helped correct and translate sermons and newsletters for the late Rev. Donald Lehti of the Finnish Lutheran Church. She also was a lifelong friend of the late Rev. Ilmari Halme of the former Finnish Congregational Church of L.A. and was a community leader when Dr. Vaino Hoover founded the Finlandia Foundation.

Sirke has given tirelessly to Finnish, Scandinavian and American organizations. Itís been said that having a child with special needs has kept her a young mother into a mature age. At every age, however, she has remained keenly aware of the needs of artists, children, the elderly and the handicapped.

Sirke Eronen is a highly respected member of Finnish, Scandinavian and American communities. She was decorated by the President of Finland with the Order of the Finnish Lion in 1964 and, before that, with the highly revered veteran Lotta Svärd Medal.

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