Paul M. Riippa

Born: August 15, 1953

Hometown: Ashtabula, Ohio

Job aboard: Deck Hand

Long Lost Relative

Here is the story of a woman named Dana L. Wheeler (2002), telling how she finally learned that she was related to a man who went down with the Edmund Fitzgerald on November 10, 1975. His name was Paul M. Riippa.

Dear Tim,

Thank you so much for your response to my email. When I first heard of Paul being on the Edmund Fitzgerald was about 10 years ago [as of 2006] from my great Aunt. I had begun doing family history research, and as all good genealogists should do, you ask the older family members for information. She told me that my great-grandmothers' older brother, Carl Riippa, had lived in Ashtabula, Ohio; settling there about 1890 when he and his younger brother, Matt, came over from Finland. Paul is the grandson of Carl or Charles, descended from Carl's son Neil Riippa.

The only documented proof I have of his relationship is from my great Aunt as well as a letter from Paul's grandmother, Irene Riippa. She lived in Ashtabula as well. In the letter, she states:
"When Neil died he left 3 boys & 3 girls, 5 grandchildren. Neil Jr. which is the black sheep of the family lives someplace alone. Paul in Detroit, Mich., Lavonne, and 2 daughters & son and lives in Mississippi, Elaine lives with husband and 2 sons in Philadelphia, PA, Sandy and husband 1 son lives in Rhode Island....."

The remainder of it is where other family members went of what their lives were like at the time. I know it isn't much, but it is the only tangible proof I have. If Paul was in Detroit, he was no doubt working on board.

When Gordon Lightfoot's song first came out, I was 18 years old. The song gave me chills then, and whenever I hear it now, the feeling is the same. When I told my friend who was with me when the song first came out about my cousin being aboard, he was shocked.  I'm glad that you are working on this project.

Keep in touch,

Dana L. Wheeler