Tour of Homes, concert highlight Finn event

<I>SUBMITTED photo</I><BR>Before and after pictures of the Matt Simukka home, which is now owned by Alan and Diane Bennett. The home will be showcased on the Tour of Homes.

NASELLE - With the busy holiday season now upon us, one may have to pick and choose what events to take in. One event, that is a "must-do" is the Naselle Finnish American Folk Festival Christmas Concert, Tour of Homes, and soup supper to be held on Sunday, Dec. 12.

The Christmas concert, beginning at 1 p.m., will precede the Tour of Homes beginning at 2 p.m. The tour will include six homes instead of the five homes mentioned in earlier information. The home of Philip and Linda Amaya, at 187 Eden Valley Road, Rosburg, will also be included in the tour.

The other homes include the homes of: Rocky and Darlene Ertzberger at 404 Barr Road, Grays River; and the Naselle homes of Cliff and Kay Weimer and Dave and Kristi Leeland at 22 Salmon Creek Naselle CTO Road; Bill and Jeanette Grimberg at 185 North Valley Road (this is a corrected address); Alan and Diane Bennett at 50 Whealdon Road; and Bill and Debbie Littlefield at 9 Koven Road.

The admission fee for the Tour of Homes is $5 per person. Tickets and maps will be available at Finn Ware, Astoria; Hair Villa, Naselle; and Radio Shack, Seaview. Maps and tickets will also be available at the Deep River Pioneer Lutheran Church, where the day's events will open with a Christmas concert at 1 p.m. Tickets will also be available at any of the homes featured on the tour. Proceeds of the tour will go toward meeting the expenses of FinnAm/Finn Fest USA 2006.

The Christmas Concert at the Deep River Pioneer Lutheran Church is free with concert attendees having the option of making a donation to the church restoration fund. While the program is not yet firmly established, one can expect a festive hour of entertainment from many local performers. The Saari family kantele players will be among the performers, as will pianist Barbara Bate and vocalists Diane Matthews, Lisa Bighill, and Cliff Weimer. Wilho Saari will lead the audience in singing some traditional Christmas carols.

The final event of the day, the soup supper by the Priscilla Circle of the Naselle Lutheran Church, is at the Naselle Lutheran Church, 308 Knappton Road, Naselle, from 4 to 7 p.m. Admission is by a donation to the Priscilla Circle. This event is not sponsored by FAFF, but held in conjunction with the concert and tour of homes.

The six homes on the tour, as these brief descriptions will indicate, include four homes that have been restored and two of newer construction.

One of the homes, the home of Cliff and Kaye Weimer and Dave and Kristi Leeland at 22 Salmon Creek Naselle CTO Road, Naselle, is actually two homes in one. The Cliff Weimers bought the Leikas farm in Salmon Creek in 1969 from Walt and Jean Leikas. Prior to 1983 Cliff remodeled the three-bedroom home twice. For Christmas 2002, Cliff and Kaye Weimer gifted five acres, which included the home and out buildings, to their daughter and son-in-law, David and Kristi Leeland and children.

The Leelands had the home completely remodeled by Brad Wilson Construction and included a new foundation, walls, roof, and an addition of a one-bedroom apartment for "the in-laws."

"The five-bedroom, three-bath home is now fondly referred to as 'the Leemer' home. This is your opportunity to come and see Naselle's rendition of 'communal living' and enjoy our new/old home in Salmon Creek," said Kaye Weimer.

The home of Alan and Diane Bennett at 50 Whealdon Road, Naselle, is the rebuilt home of Diane's grandparents, Matt and Ester Simukka. The Simukkas bought the farm in 1923, after the death of Joseph Whealdon, who originally settled the homestead. The old Whealdon house was torn down and the Simukkas built a new house in 1944. Charlie Johnson, a family relative and local logger, was able to obtain the lumber that would otherwise have been impossible to buy due to wartime rations. The house itself was built by two local builders, Victor Ylonen and Lahja Soilu.

The Simukka farm was a dairy operation until the death of Matt Simukka in 1959. His son, Arvin Simukka, continued to raise beef cattle. After Arvin passed away, Leo and Mary Saari, Diane's parents, continued to keep beef cattle. Her uncle and aunt, Alfred and Carolyn Simukka, who live next door, used the house as a utility building. It wasn't lived in for about 20 years.

In 2003, Alan and Diane decided to move to Naselle from Longview and thought it would be great to live on her grandparents' farm. They bought 35 acres of the farm from the remaining heirs and hired D.D. Clark to remodel and add on 1,260 square feet to the original structure. The house has some of the closet doors and wood from the Whealdon house, as well as most of the original Simukka house. They were able to have the upstairs fir floors refinished in the old part of the house.

They just completed a garage remodel by King Construction. A root cellar, which was built by Matt Saari in 1931, was completely rebuilt, from the brick side walls up, by Jacobson Construction. The original venting system was replicated and is functioning well, preserving this year's crop of Finn spuds. The house and outbuildings are a good example of preserving the past and integrating the new.

"Currently, we continue the tradition of raising beef cattle, enjoying sauna and raising our children in a place filled with memories and traditions," the Bennetts said.

The hillside home of Bill and Jeanette Grimberg at 185 North Valley Road (corrected address), Naselle, is the newest home on the tour. The Grimbergs moved into their 2,500 square feet three bedroom, three-bath home in February, 1999. The home was designed and built by Monte Givens Construction.

The Ertzberger home at 404 Barr Road, Grays River, was built by G.R. and Claira Durrah around 1904. The land, 100 acres, was purchased with $3,000 in gold. Darlene Ertzberger said, "We have been told that the lumber for the house was cut in Portland, shipped down the Columbia River, up the Grays River, and brought by buckboard up to the building site. The trees around the house are native to the East coast and were brought and planted by H.P. Ahlberg at the turn of the century."

The Ertzbergers purchased the home in 1999 from Don and Mary Gauntz who had started restoration of the home. The two-story house is situated on over three acres of land overlooking the Grays River valley.

The Victorian style home has been rewired, had the interior redone while keeping the remodeling with the original era, and painted inside and out. The inside staircase had been removed and the owners have rebuilt it. The home features five bedrooms, a formal dining room, a pantry and, what was in earlier times, a ballroom.

Mrs. Ertzberger said, "According to local longtime residents, the ballroom was a place where neighbors gathered to dance. We have not restored that room yet. The kitchen, which was in need of total restoration, was remodeled in a country style.

"At our first sight of the house, we felt it was worth saving and it has turned into a beautiful home to live in and enjoy," said Mrs. Ertzberger.

The home of Philip and Linda Amaya at 187 Eden Valley Road, Rosburg, is known as "Annie's Place" or "The House on the Hill" by old-timers of the area.

Linda Amaya said, "She is a good old girl, built for stout, despite being empty fifteen years before our purchase in 1955, she has managed to retain a semblance of nobility in her bones. We take pride and delight in having done all work other than carpeting and counter tops ourselves."

The house is of box, or plank, design rather than being stick built on the first level. Mrs. Amaya said, "Finns would say she has 'sisu' (Toughness). Interestingly, Ernie and Ed Wirkkalas' mother and aunt were born here in 1892 and 1894, respectively."

The home site features a perenially-landscaped, three-bedroom two-bath home, a guest cottage with bath, a three-stall garage, and an attached shed with power and room for a larger RV. The house and outbuildings have new roofs and siding, a new foundation for the house and porches, and an Eden Valley view.

Those people wishing to get an early look at the lights of the Christmas season need only drive up the North Valley Road in Naselle to see several home which, almost magically, received their Christmas lights over the Thanksgiving weekend. The homes of Dan and Kata Bohren at 47 North Valley Road, of Tom and Deanna Wilson at 107 North Valley Road, and of Bob Olmstead, at 168 North Valley Road, provide a quick view of the lights of Christmas. The Olmstead decorations feature several lighted trees and animals, in addition to the lighted home, and is several acres in size.

Continuing up the Upper Naselle Road, and taking the Salmon Creek Cross Over Road to the Salmon Creek Road puts one past the "Leemer home" which already has its outside decorations in place.

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