In Memory of




Obituary for Ilona Venilainen (Pihlaja)

The family announces with great sorrow the peaceful passing of Ilona Orvokki Venilainen on August 29, 2022 at the Extendicare in Timmins, at the age of 93. She was predeceased by her husband Aaro (2011), her father Ivari Pihlaja (1965) and her mother Sanni Pihlaja, nee Havunen (1995). She is survived by her children Miriam (Guy Frechette) and Raimo Venilainen, and her grandchildren Erik and Kristiina Frechette. She is also survived by many relatives in Finland and by Anne Kallio-Lister, Erkki Kallio and Kari Kallio. She also leaves behind her childhood friend, Viola Seppa, who was like a sister to her, as well as many other special friends, neighbours, and her Godchildren Marlene, Kristine, Cathy, Kari, and Peter.

Ilona was born in Kauhajoki, Finland and immigrated to Canada in 1933 with her mother Sanni. They joined her father Ivari who was working in the Porcupine Camp. She grew up in Schumacher where she attended school as well. She later moved to Timmins and worked in the offices of Consumers Co-op and Smith & Elston Plumbing & Heating. Ilona met Aaro, who had come from Finland in 1951 and they married in 1954. Mom and Dad shared a sense of humour that has continued on in the family.

Ilona had a great appreciation for music, learning piano at an early age. She played for the Northern Lights Gym group in the late 1940s and early 1950s. She was organist and choir director at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church and later provided music for the services at St. John’s Lutheran Church. The staff at Extendicare even brought her a piano to the lounge so she continued to play as long as she was able. While her health was declining, she continued to play Amazing Grace, numerous hymns, Finlandia, and other songs she so loved. She instilled a love of music in all of us. She was a wonderful supportive Mummu to Erik and Kristiina and attended their numerous musical and other activities. There were a lot of impromptu musical moments with Ilona.

Ilona was a deeply caring and generous lady who had wonderful lifelong friendships and the ability to talk on the phone for extended periods of time. She had a loving personality and heart. Her spirit shone through even in her last months and her sense of humour never waned. She will be missed dearly but we take comfort knowing that she is at peace now with our Heavenly Father.

We would like to thank her long-time physician Dr. Judy Gillies who was good to her and understood her well. More recently, we extend our thanks to the medical teams and support staff in ER, Medical A & C at T&DH. Mom moved to Extendicare to the Kamiskotia Wing. We thank Dr. Sonia DiTullio , the RNs, RPNS, PSWs and other staff who were so compassionate, kind and caring to Mom. We will forever be grateful. A heartfelt thank you (Kiitos) to The Rev. Patricia Dorland and her husband Clive for their visits to Mom, which were always so comforting. Lastly, we would like to thank all her friends who have been so supportive throughout. Erik and Kristiina were the last to tuck their Mummu in and that would have given her peace and comfort.

The family will receive friends on Friday September 9, 2022 from 7-9 PM and on Saturday September 10th from 9-10 AM at LESSARD-STEPHENS FUNERAL HOME, 21 Elm St. South, Timmins. A celebration of Ilona’s life will take place in the funeral home chapel on Saturday September 10, 2022 at 10 AM. Luncheon to follow in the Lessard-Stephens Reception Centre. Interment at the Timmins Memorial Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, donations to the Timmins and District Hospital Foundation, St. John’s Lutheran Church or the charity of your choice would be greatly appreciated. Online condolences and donations can be made at