Born of Finnish ancestry, the son of Waino and Nellie (Penttila) Kilponen, he was born July 23, 1948, in Longview. He grew up on the family farm in Salmon Creek, attended Naselle Elementary School and graduated from Naselle High School where he was active on the debate squad.
Following high school he followed family tradition and worked in the woods. On May 22, 1968, he was drafted into the U.S. Army and for the ensuing two years served as a combat infantryman with the 11th Battalion of the 24th Infantry Division in Vietnam. He received several medals including a Purple Heart and Bronze Star. He was very proud of his service to his country and was a former member of Naselle post Veterans of Foreign Wars and Deep River post of American Legion.
Returning to Naselle after his military service he resumed working in the woods setting chokers, falling timber and operating heavy equipment for his father's business, Valley Eight Logging, and other companies as well. His days in the woods behind him, he became a security guard at the Naselle Youth Camp in June 1980. With his intimate knowledge of local forestry practices and area geography, he was offered a position as forest crew supervisor for the Department of Natural Resources at the camp in November 1981. He reluctantly retired in January of this year.
In past years Mr. Kilponen was a member of the Grays River Volunteer Fire Department. He was happiest when outdoors where he enjoyed many activities, including hunting, fishing, camping, horseback riding, trapping, clamming, berry picking, craw fishing and caring for his numerous animals. He was instrumental in developing and maintaining the Tunerville Horse Camp located on Upper Salmon Creek Road. This camp is currently operated by DNR in cooperation with the Willapa Chapter of the Back Country Horsemen. And there was another side to him - he enjoyed intellectually challenging conversations on a wide array of topics; he wrote poetry; he was an avid reader of history; and he dearly loved his family and was very proud of his daughters.
Mr. Kilponen was a confirmed member of Naselle Lutheran Church and that is where he and Joyce Anderson were married on Feb. 17, 1973. She survives residing at the family home in Salmon Creek. Also surviving are daughters Sheila Kilponen of Cannon Beach, Ore., and Karen Kilponen of Vancouver; a sister, Anita Raistakka of Naselle and other members of his extended family.
The funeral service will be held at 11 a.m., on Friday, Nov. 30, at Naselle Lutheran Church with graveside service following at Salmon Creek Cemetery. Those wishing may make memorials to the Grays River Fire or Ambulance Fund, P.O. Box 10, Grays River, WA 98621 or the Salmon Creek Cemetery in care of Paul Bjornsgard, 535 Salmon Creek Rd., Naselle, WA 98638. Sign the guest book or share a memory at www.penttilaschapel.com. Arrangements are by Penttila's Chapel by The Sea, Long Beach.