(1960 - 2007)
Beloved husband and father, esteemed professor of Mathematics, passed
away on October 30, 2007, after a courageous battle with kidney cancer.
Born July 23, 1960 in Toivakka, Finland, Juha cultivated his love of
people growing up in the village old age home where his mother Liisa
served as the sole staff member. His father Vilho was a lumberjack and
a well-respected socialist politician for the tiny town. Juha first
fell in love with Ann Arbor as a visiting graduate student in 1985. He
later returned in 1988 as a post-doctoral scholar, intending to stay
only a year or two. Plans changed, however, when he met his future
wife, math PhD student Karen Smith. Married in 1991, the young couple
lived in Ann Arbor, West Lafayette, Indiana and Boston before
eventually settling into professorships at the University of Michigan
math department in 1996. They welcomed their daughter Sanelma in 1998,
and their boy-girl twins, Tapio and Helena, in 2003.
A gifted athlete,
Juha is still revered as a local sports celebrity. Many Finns remember
his achievements in cross-county skiing, including Finland's 1976 gold
medal in the 5 km race in his class. More recently, he traveled around
Finland and North America to compete in orienteering, placing in nearly
every major US competition he entered. He is widely remembered in US
orienteering circles for winning both the US and the North American
gold medal in his class in the year 2000, but also for his outgoing and
upbeat personality that made competing with him a joy.
Juha was a
brilliant mathematician who made significant contributions to geometric
function theory. He was invited to address the 2002 International
Congress of Mathematicians, and was inducted into the Finnish Academy
of Arts and Sciences in 2004. Also an inspirational teacher and
generous collaborator, Juha was widely admired by the countless young
mathematicians he mentored.
Juha was a vibrant, balanced, satisfied
person. He loved the outdoors, particularly Michigan autumns and
Finnish winters. A devoted father, Juha read animatedly to his
children, taught them to bake authentic Finnish rye bread, and shared
his love of nature by taking them on hiking from the days he carried
them on his back. He also enjoyed the company of his children on
everyday errands, and was often spotted with a child on the AATA bus or
on his bike-seat. His Finnishness remained deeply important to him; he
taught his children, and his wife, to love Finland and to speak
Finnish. Each time he spoke of his family, the pride was evident
through the twinkle in his eye and his broad grin.
Juha was widely loved
for his positive attitude, sparkling sense of humor, and genuine
kindness towards others, traits that he maintained throughout the
difficult trials of his illness. He wanted everyone who knew him to
know that he died with out a single grudge against anyone; he loved us
all. He is deeply mourned by his wife and children, as well as his
mother Liisa Heinonen, sister Maritta Nukarinen, niece Marianne
A memorial service will be held Sunday, December 9, at 2
p.m. in the Michigan League Ballroom on the University of Michigan
campus. Arrangements with Muehlig Funeral Chapel Ann Arbor.
Published in the Ann Arbor News on MLive.com on 12/2/2007.