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Helge Emil Pukema

Helge Emil Pukema, 87 of Superior's Billings Park died Mon., Dec. 20, 2004. He was born in Hancock, Mich., on April 8, 1917 to John and Marie Pukema. Helge was preceded in death by his parents; his first wife, the former Eileen Erickson; and a brother, Heimi Pukema. He is survived by his wife, Norma (Dahl) Ruotsi Pukema; his children, Lee (Jackie) Ruotsi of Grand Island, N.Y., Bruce Pukema of Minneapolis, Richard (Kristie) Pukema of Superior, Heidi Erickson of St Paul, Minn., and Thomas Pukema of Osceola, Wis.; five grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren. Helge attended school in Duluth, Minn., where he was an outstanding athlete at Central High School. He went on to receive both his Bachelor's and Master's Degrees at the University of Minnesota. While at the U of M, Helge played on the 1940 and 41 National Championship Football teams. Helge was named an 'All American' and played in the All Star Game in 1942. Helge was drafted by the Green Bay Packers, but entered the service instead, serving in the United States Coast Guard for 3.5 years with wartime service in the South Pacific. Helge was a teacher and coach at Bessemer, Mich., the St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn., and in Ashland, Wis. In 1952 he became the Superintendent of the Douglas County Parkland Health Facility. In 1966 he was named as the Executive Director of the Superior Vocations Center and served in that capacity until his retirement in 1979. In 1959 Helge was appointed to the Wisconsin Mental Health Advisory Committee by Governor Gaylord Nelson and served until its dissolution. He was a former member of the Board of Directors of the Superior Chamber of Commerce and Superior Memorial Hospital. He served on numerous boards and committees for the betterment of the Disabled and Mentally Ill. One of Helge's proudest moments was being declared in 1979 (with tongue in cheek) the Patriarch of St. Urho, by the Governor of Wisconsin, Mayor of Superior and the Wisconsin Congressional Delegation. Helge was a member of the Superior Kiwanis Club, Superior Elks Lodge No. 403, AAD Temple of Shrine-Duluth and Acacia-Itasca Lodge No. 329 F&AM. VISITATION:5 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 22, in Downs Funeral Home, 1617 N. 19th St., Superior, Wis. until the 7 p.m. Masonic Funeral Service accorded by Officers and Members of Lodge No. 329 F&AM. Honorary pallbearers will be Ray Matushak, Cal Miller, Larry Kappes, David Miller, James Hutchinson and Toby Johnson. A private graveside service will be held for the family on Thursday morning at Greenwood Cemetery. At Helge's request, if desired, the family asks that in lieu of flowers or other expressions of sympathy, memorials in his name be made to the Shriner's Cripped Children's Hospital.