White Suit Pink Shirt

20110710A 063 memorialMarch 24, 2016, by Todd Neva

Kristin’s father, David Edward Siirtola, passed away a couple days ago. This photo epitomizes who he was, although he only wore that suit once for Ebonnie Conner’s wedding. Normally, he wore jeans and a button-up, long-sleeved, patterned, work shirt. He was a well driller. A born-and-raised Yooper. A Finn. That’s what he was, yet the picture of him in a white suit and pink shirt best describes who he was.

Dave loved kids. He went out of his way to give kids experiences they’d remember. Kristin brought mission kids to the UP, and Dave took them fishing. His niece would visit, and he’d let his great-nephews play with his ToolCat. He let Isaac operate his backhoe. He showed us how to make apple cider. He tapped Maple trees with Kristin and the kids. Swings for my kids. He plowed sledding hills for them. He’d give the shirt off his back to help people in need. The Mexico mission trips. My Quadriciser — he drove to Winnipeg, Manitoba, to purchase a used machine, and then rebuilt it so I could use it in my wheelchair. Over the last couple days, I’ve heard similar stories from others.

About twelve years ago, a girl who grew up in the inner-city of Milwaukee was struggling in school and had, in fact, dropped out. Kristin had seen that cycle of poverty play out before, and we wanted something better for Ebonnie. We asked if she’d be willing to move to Hancock to finish school. “You can live with my mom and dad,” Kristin told her, not ever doubting they’d take her in.

Dave loved Ebonnie, and he became to her a father figure. In her senior year, she wanted to go back to Milwaukee to attend prom. He chauffeured her and her friends around town, rolling out a red carpet — literally — wherever they stopped. Years later, she asked him to be in her wedding.

Of course he said yes.

He might not have known that he was to wear a white suit with a pink shirt. But he would’ve said yes anyway. That was Dave. That’s how he showed his love.

He was a great man. And I miss him already.