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Herb Lamppa made his mark in teaching, politics, and business

Marshall Helmberger
Posted 11/21/18

REGIONAL— One of Tower’s most prominent citizens has passed away.

Herb Lamppa, age 88, played many roles throughout his life and, in each, displayed humility, kindness, and an overwhelming …

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Herb Lamppa made his mark in teaching, politics, and business

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REGIONAL— One of Tower’s most prominent citizens has passed away.

Herb Lamppa, age 88, played many roles throughout his life and, in each, displayed humility, kindness, and an overwhelming desire to help others. Lamppa passed away on Wednesday, Nov. 14, at St. Michael’s Health and Rehabilitation Center in Virginia, where he had been recuperating following stroke.

Lamppa was most widely known through his lengthy political career. He got his start in politics on the Tower City Council and served two initial terms as mayor before running successfully for St. Louis County Commissioner, representing the Fourth District, a position he held for three terms before retiring. He later served two more terms as Tower’s mayor, before health issues forced him to give up the position. During his time at the city’s helm, Lamppa spearheaded the harbor project, obtained funding for the building that now houses the Vermilion Country School, and oversaw the Northstar Addition.

Longtime Tower City Clerk Tim Kotzian remembered that Lamppa had vision and the political connections that helped the city advance its goals. “He knew everybody, from here to St. Paul and back,” he said. “He was a helluva guy. Everybody felt that way.”

While he made a big mark in politics, for many who grew up in Tower, Lamppa was perhaps best-known as their favorite teacher. “I knew him first as my math teacher,” said Steve Abrahamson, himself a former Tower mayor who was recently re-elected to a new term on the city council. “He was very observant as a teacher and was one of those kind of guys who would reach out to help if he saw you struggle. He was always willing to give of his time.”

He mentored more than just students. Abrahamson, who served on the city council during Lamppa’s fourth and final term as mayor, said Herb taught him a lot and ultimately convinced him to run for mayor himself. “He said he liked that I didn’t come to the job with an agenda,” Abrahamson said.

When longtime county commissioner Steve Raukar retired two years ago, he publicly credited Lamppa with teaching him how to understand the county’s complex budgeting process.

“Herb was a math teacher and he really knew numbers and the budget. But he also made sure things were fair, right down the line,’’ Raukar told the Duluth News Tribune in late 2016.

Fairness was a hallmark of the man, according to those who knew him and worked with him.

“Herbie Lamppa was one of the most decent human beings I ever met,” said current St. Louis County Commissioner Tom Rukavina, who worked for Herb and his son Daryl at their stove works in Tower before launching his own political career. “He was humble, extremely intelligent, and he treated his workers like family,” recalls Rukavina, who notes that he actually suggested the name “Kuuma” (which means “hot” in Finn) for the line of stoves that have since become famous for their low emissions and efficiency. “Herb laughed that a Bohunk from Virginia would come up with a Finnish name like that,” said Rukavina.

Lamppa’s passing comes just months after the death of Edna Lamppa, his wife of 70 years. Rukavina said that wasn’t a surprise. “They go together because they were such a team,” he said.

A celebration of Lamppa’s life will be held at 11 a.m., on Thursday, Nov. 29, at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Tower, with Pastor Liz Cheney officiating. Friends and family are invited for visitation beginning at 10 a.m.

Herb Lamppa will be laid to rest in Lakeview Cemetery in Tower.

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Lee Peterson

Way back when I was taking Mr. Moline's 10th grade geometry class in Eveleth, Mr. Lamppa came on board as our practice teacher. These two guys were really good teachers. It was the only math class I ever looked forward to. Good memories of that class. Thanks to them.

Lee

Friday, November 23, 2018