Eila Male (circa 1970s) in a Finnish costume, including woven birch bark shoes, sat on front porch of a house. The pleated skirt had belonged to her grandmother and is a deep emerald green in colour. (Maple Ridge Museum & Archives/Special to The News)

LOOKING BACK: Eila Male was a historian for her ancestors

When museum needed translations or context about Maple Ridge’s Finnish community, they turned to Eila

by Val Patenaude/Special to The News

Through the years, the Maple Ridge Museum has attracted some extraordinary champions and Eila Rauma Male was definitely one of those.

Eila Male was the daughter of Ada and Walter Rauma, immigrants from Finland, who settled in Webster’s Corners. Eila was raised and schooled there and was a life-long resident of Maple Ridge.

Eila was a curious and intelligent woman who embodied the ideal of life-long learning and who pursued her cultural heritage with great enthusiasm.

RECENT LOOKING BACK: CEED Centre transforms with Maple Ridge

She was fluent enough in Finnish to read and write it, so she was able to purchase scholarly works on Finnish history from sources in Finland. She was particularly interested in the diaspora that brought her parents to this country.

For the museum, she was our expert on the Finnish language and all things Finnish.

She gave us correct spellings and pronounciations for all of the Finnish surnames in the district, and also translated documents for us.

She was a tireless booster for her community and worked hard to get the memorial stone for the Sampo Hall,which now sits in Webster’s Corners Park on the site of the original Finnish settlement in the region.

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She worked on Finnish reunions, including the one held alongside the 100th anniversary celebration for Webster’s Corners school. She contributed materials and background information for displays at the museum and out in the community at the public library and at our heritage tea.

When the Hill House was first moved down to 240th Street, the new owners contacted us about a board found behind the chimney. It had Finnish writing on it that they couldn’t decipher.

Eila came right to the museum and read the board, revealing that it was a message from two young men brought from Finland by builder Victor Rossi to help him build the house in 1912. Her contribution really filled out the story.

Eila’s scholarly research on the Finnish diaspora brought us a lot of needed background on where our Finnish immigrants had come from and why.

She introduced us to the legends of the Sampo and to the Kalevala – the Finnish epic play that was the first performance in the Sampo Hall when it opened.

Eila was generous with her family treasures and loaned them to us for displays, but we had only ever heard about the special costume that had belonged to her grandmother in Finland. All we had was the picture that accompanies this article of Eila modelling the skirt along with a pair of traditional woven birch bark shoes.

Eila had wanted the skirt to go to her granddaughter, but the lives of today’s young adults are so mobile that they travel very light.

There is little capacity to haul memorabilia around and there is the danger of potentially losing track of it.

We were very happy when Eila’s daughters chose to donate the skirt to the community museum so it will always be in a place where current and future family members can find it.

RELATED: Director of the Maple Ridge Museum retiring after 27 years

– Val Patenaude is director of the Maple Ridge Museum & Community Archives

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_______________________________

• If there is more to this issue, please let us know about it. Email us at editor@mapleridgenews.com. We look forward to hearing from you. In the meantime, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

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