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1924 Irja Pederson 2024

Irja Olga Pederson

May 3, 1924 — January 14, 2024

Two Harbors

Sadly we announce the passing of our sweet mom and grandma, Irja O. Kari Pederson, who left us peacefully in the early morning of January 14 at the age of 99. After enjoying Christmas, she failed fast. Even her legendary sisu was no match for congestive heart failure. Now she has her heart’s desire, to be home with Arne.

Irja Olga was born on May 3, 1924, the youngest of ten children born to Finnish immigrants Maija (Mary) and Antti (Andrew) Kari. She had a happy childhood on the family farm in Brimson with her blond bowl-cut hairdo, farm animals, many brothers and her best friend, Ruthie, who lived on the next farm. Having Finnish as her first language, she learned her English at Toimi School, which she attended through 8th grade. After that, she attended Two Harbors High School, graduated in 1942 and moved to Duluth for training as a stenographer at Duluth Business University. This began a happy decade of work in various offices, sharing apartments with girlfriends, affording nice clothes, much nicer hairstyles and occasional trips. 

She gave up this glamorous lifestyle on August 14, 1954, with her marriage to WW2 flyboy turned railroad man, Arnold Pederson of Knife River, who once referred to her as “the prettiest of all those Brimson girls.” She had observed the kind way he treated his mother and knew he was a catch. Within the next four years, three daughters were born and they were all settled into their cute bungalow on East Wadena Street in Duluth. Irja loved her house near the woods and was a skilled homemaker and devoted mother, if a little strict at times. She made a priority of reading to her girls, and they were quick to learn a love of books and school. Around 1970, she rejoined the workforce, this time at the Glass Block, a well known Duluth department store. She was determined to help finance her girls’ college educations. When this was accomplished, she happily retired and resumed her true calling as a homebody. Now living her best life, she would get up early to enjoy her coffee and daily crossword puzzle in the company of her dog or cat. 

Arne also retired young, and together they shared a good 40 years of retirement. They were lucky to have good health and plenty of energy for many years. They enjoyed yard work and created beautiful gardens. They were active volunteers at Concordia Lutheran Church and delivered Meals on Wheels together for 35 years. Irja especially loved her long years of membership in the Elizabeth Circle, serving food at wedding receptions and funerals and making lifelong friends. They took up cross country skiing and square dancing. They walked in their neighborhood and on the Lakewalk. They travelled as much as they could. As they grew older, they sat more often on their front porch and loved visits from their neighbors. 

They moved to Barross Cottage II in Two Harbors when Irja was 97 and Arne was 99. They hated to leave their home, but it was time. Irja grew to love her new room and the companionship of her housemates. She was a big fan of lunchtime desserts. She was content even as her memory became more clouded. She had trouble realizing that Arne was gone after he passed in December 2022. Many months later, she began to long to go home “where Arne is.” 

Those who went before her include her husband, Arne; parents; sisters Saima and Aileen (Sam) Sottile; brothers Wayne, Elmer (Evi), Toivo, George (Madge), Arnold (Lorraine), Eino and an earlier Eino who died in childhood; four nephews, in-laws and other extended family and friends. Left to remember her are her daughters: Mary (Al) Behrends of St. Peter, Sandra Pederson of St. Paul and Lori Pederson of Duluth; her granddaughter Kari Pederson Behrends (Matthew Kjellgren) of Redmond, Washington; her grandson Christian Hans Pedersen of St. Peter; nieces and nephews and their families; and many extended relatives in Finland.

Pretty girl, coffee enthusiast , animal lover, crossword pro, loving mom, strong Finn.

Now she rests with her dear Arne in God’s eternal love. 

Visitation will be from 10 a.m. until the 11 a.m. service on Monday, January 22, 2024 at Concordia Lutheran Church, 2501 Woodland Avenue, Duluth. Burial will be in Forest Hill Cemetery. Memorials to the church would be most welcome. 

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Irja Olga Pederson, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services

Visitation

Monday, January 22, 2024

10:00 - 11:00 am (Central time)

Concordia Lutheran Church

2501 Woodland Ave, Duluth, MN 55803

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Funeral Service

Monday, January 22, 2024

11:00am - 12:00 pm (Central time)

Concordia Lutheran Church

2501 Woodland Ave, Duluth, MN 55803

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