Anneli Antikainen Varon passed away in Port Charlotte, Florida on July 10, 2020, just weeks after her June 1st, 45th wedding anniversary and her June 5th, 73rd birthday. She expired while under the competent and considerate care of the Fawcett Memorial Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit’s doctors and nurses.
On behalf of myself, husband Barry, her American relatives and friends, and Anneli’s Finnish sisters and brothers, Raija, Eija, Usko, Eero and Olavi, I wish to express our deep dismay and sorrow of her departing this good Earth. In celebration of my dear Anneli’s life and to honor her extraordinary goodness, I write this tribute of loving and enduring devotion to her memory.
This world is greatly diminished without her loving kindness, caring and nurturing presence. Anneli’s consideration for other’s well-being and comfort always stood out to me as her most endearing quality. Anneli’s friendly outgoing personality, her infectious humor and laughter attracted people to gather around her in any social setting.
Anneli was born in North Eastern Finland; she was the second daughter of dairy farmer and Pentecostal speaker, Lauri Antikainen and his wife, Kerrtu. She skied to the nearby schoolhouse and enjoyed fishing and swimming in the lake in front of her family homestead and birthplace. At age 14, she went to live in the Northern City of Koupio with her Uncle Vaino and Aunt Silvie to assist them in the care of their three children. They embraced Anneli into the family, as if she was their natural born daughter.
At 17, to expand her horizons, she flew to Finland’s capital city, Helsinki. There, she worked as a retail jeweler’s sales assistant and later as a telephone operator for the Nokia Corporation. During this time, Anneli, with her joyous and full of life spirit, engaged in evening adult education studies, participated in ski competitions and traveled to Russia as a dancer in a Finnish Dance ensemble, Saraband.
Winning a city ski competition, she caught the attention of a renowned acrobatic skating performer, Victor Helpio; he invited her to become his flying partner, to fly by hands, neck-band and ankle, as they both spun rapidly round and round on roller skates. After two years of performances, Victor sustained a knee injury, which ended Anneli’s flying artist career.
She then traveled to England and improved her English language skills while working as an au pair for a dentist’s family in Leeds. After returning from England, she traveled to Switzerland, France, Germany, and Italy to assist families and learn about different cultures. Finally, in 1972, she realized her life-long dream to visit the United States. She arrived in Philadelphia and associated with a small group of Finnish nationals doing au pair and home caregiver services in the city. She took advanced skating lessons with a private coach. She wished to find another skating performance partner; unfortunately, that intention never came to fruition.
We met in King of Prussia one evening in May, 1972, just outside of Philadelphia. Celebrating the completion of my master’s degree in psychology at Temple University, I was at the Hilton Hotel Froggy’s Magic Twanger Lounge. On the dance floor was the cutest, liveliest girl, with long flowing strawberry blond hair. We met, danced and talked through the evening and had our first date the next day. It took us to visit the exhibition at the Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia.
She returned to Finland for a year while I relocated to Charlotte County, Florida to work at the G. Pierce Woods Psychiatric Hospital in Arcadia. She accepted my marriage proposal and returned in December 1974 to the USA. We rented a duplex one block from the Port Charlotte Cultural Center. The Cultural Center afforded Anneli writing classes, French classes and dance lessons; she also learned to drive.
She became an Avon Sales Representative and personally served a long list of local residents. However, her true expression of initiative and promotion of other’s well-being was her creating an exercise and fitness instruction program that she brought to the Cultural Center, Neil Armstrong Elementary Teachers, Port Charlotte Village and Maple Leaf Estates residents for thirty years. As is clearly apparent, Anneli lived an enterprising and diversified life.
She was my devoted, loving wife and my uplifting constant companion for forty-five years. During our lives together, we enjoyed weekly ballroom dancing, traveling together to Mexico, Cayman Islands, Bahama Islands, Costa Rica, Canada, Finland, Sweden, Australia and New Zealand. Anneli and I shared active and happy times – attending music concerts and conferences, taking daily bicycle rides, playing tennis and swimming at the beach. Every five years, she joined me for my Milton Hershey School Class Reunions, in Hershey, Pennsylvania.
Anneli often spoke of how blessed and happy she was for the life she enjoyed and frequently expressed her appreciation of all the wonderful places and people she had the pleasure to visit and get to know. Most importantly, she told me frequently of her love for me and her good fortune to have had me as her life partner.
Sad as I am in losing her daily companionship, I am certain that she is now in the gracious, direct care of The Divine Power. I have good reason to believe that she is being loved and welcomed by all her dear, departed friends and family, who preceded her to the spiritual realm.
Anneli wished to follow the special generosity of my mother, Rayla and my brother, Harvey. Anneli admired and was inspired by their example of donating their bodies to the Anatomical Society.
Following the return of her earthly cremated remains by the Anatomical Society, I will visit her beloved homeland of Finland where, with her loving relatives and friends, we will celebrate her precious life. From the peninsula boulder, where she sat and dreamed what her life might become, we will scatter her ashes onto the lake that fronts her early childhood home.
As the cofounder of The Knowledge Integration Services Foundation, Anneli’s life will be perpetually memorialized and honored on the Foundation’s website. Rest in Peace, my dearest darling companion, lover and wife. Amen… Barry
Friends may visit online at www.robersonfh.com to extend condolences to the family. Arrangements by Roberson Funeral Homes & Crematory, Port Charlotte Chapel.