Mr. Eero Tetri passed away on 9 January 2016. Eero was a great friend and supporter of Finnish Studies at the University of Washington. He established the Eero and Helli Tetri Endowment Fund for Finnish Studies, and also made a number of challenge grants to the Finnish community, which helped build the program’s endowment.
Eero arrived in Seattle from Finland with his family during the 1950s, later moving to Juneau Alaska, where he established a successful Volkswagen dealership, which grew and spread over the years. As the story went, Eero arrived from Finland with only change in his pocket and experience as a service manager for a Mercedes dealership. He couldn’t speak English, and became a Volkswagen mechanic. He later received the opportunity to open the dealership in Alaska. In his retirement, Eero and his wife Helli returned to the Puget Sound and built a house in Poulsbo. After Helli’s death, Eero divided his time between Poulsbo and Palm Springs, California, where he and his partner, Terttu Gluckmann, had a house.
Eero reminded many people of his namesake, the youngest of the seven brothers in Aleksis Kivi’s great novel Seitsemän veljestä (The Seven Brothers, 1871). The character is smart, attentive, funny, and a leader. He is the first of the brothers to learn to read, and ultimately becomes a head of the community. Eero shared his namesake’s cleverness, wit, and leadership. He was a poet himself, finding the Finnish words that captured the ideas and feelings of important occasions. He changed students’ lives by providing them scholarships that made possible study in Finland, getting a major in Finnish, and meeting and working with Finnish students and professors at the UW.
We mourn the loss of Eero Tetri, and remember him for the many lives he touched. His leadership and generosity advanced Finnish at the UW, in Washington State, and in the United States. We are pleased that Eero’s memory will be sustained through the Eero and Helli Tetri Endowment Fund for Finnish Studies.