Ava Anttila

Already February? Earlier this year, we made grand resolutions, started our paths for the year with goals to rise to our greatest good, to sustain our health, to be our best physically, to grow emotionally, and to do our best to help those around us in meaningful ways. For me, this annual catharsis always begins with channeling my inner ‘Greta Peck’; re-visiting her life and reflecting on her example. Before launching poetic about our former Famous Finn, I will detour to her movie world.

Greta and Gregory Peck

In Los Angeles, this is the ‘awards’ season. We just watched the ‘kickoff’ Golden Globe Awards spectacle with all its fashion, style, and glamour. Driving to the Finnish Consulate in Century City on Finnish election voting day two days before the event, neon warning signs flashed about upcoming traffic problems associated with the Golden Globes about to be held in the neighborhood. I took a turn from Wilshire though the former Robinson’s Store parking lot as a short cut to Santa Monica Boulevard. [Locals know this as the route the stars’ limousines take to enter the Beverly Hilton Hotel.] Trucks with rolls of ‘red carpet’ were lining up for laying the foyer that is the gauntlet soon to be traversed while millions watch on television around the world. The stage was being set for the Awards.

January has just passed. We lost a great Finn in January 4 years ago —Greta Peck). [And sadly, this January our dear, far too young, Finnish film talent Vivi Friedman left us for a greater stage.] While years have slipped by since Greta’s passing, virtually every day I remember her. She remains an inspiration, a role model, and a spiritual mentor in my life. Her goodness has left an eternal legacy for all of us in the Finnish community where she remains an icon. She was a treasure to those who knew her. Since one of my life’s greatest personal gifts is having been a close friend of Greta Peck, this will be the first of a number of columns introducing you to my dear friend.

Greta Peck

 Greta and I shared thoughts, ideas, secrets, and some really good times. Despite the age difference of over 30 years, we were almost as close as teenage ‘BFFs’—sometimes giggling as if we were! We had fun things in common: our love for Finland, the arts, music, entertaining, travel, and having raised great sons as single mothers in Los Angeles.

In this season of glitzy award programs, the world is reminded of the awesome physical beauty of the Hollywood women. While many are intimidated by Hollywood glamour events, Greta always smiled, looked great, put her best foot forward, and enjoyed every minute of any occasion. Not a spotlight seeker, she really enjoyed a good party, non-the-less!

The Finnish American Chamber of Commerce established the Greta Peck Award in her honor to recognize individuals who care enough to make a difference in the community and who reflect positively on Finland by their good work. Fitting.

Greta never had an unkind word that I ever heard. She inspired all who knew her. She was always up for anything, she kept her commitments, and she had a sense of fun and mischief.
Greta had incredible stories from her incredible life—some of which I will share later on.

Our local War Veterans (Veteraani Tuki) met at Suomi Kerho for their January gathering. Seppo Hurme led the meeting which was followed by a lunch of traditional ohraryynikeitto (barley soup). All enjoyed a movie from the 1930’s Nainen on Valttia written by Mika Waltari. The film featured actors from the Finnish National Theater: Ansa Ikonen, Uuno Laakso, Aku Korhonen and Unto Salminen. Veteran Ari Anttila reminisced about seeing these actors on the stage as a youngster in Helsinki when he attended the Finnish National Theater performances with his father Aarne Anttila. Aarne Anttila was Dean of Helsinki University, sat on the Board of the Finnish National Theatre, and had season tickets annually. It is interesting how a new year brings old memories.

The Los Angeles Finlandia Foundation held a January potluck luncheon meeting at the Gidding Room of the Pasadena Museum of History. Ava Anttila presented the work of the Nominating Committee and introduced the slate of Officers for the next term: Ellen Harju, President; Renato Della Rocca, Vice President; Christina Lin, Vice President; Al Jokela, Treasurer; and Valerie Jokela, Recording Secretary. The members enjoyed a wonderful documentary movie about Finnish education The Finland Phenomenon. An impressive number of teachers were in the audience. Current President Janet Santiestevan (a former teacher herself) led a lively discussion comparing and contrasting education trends in Finland and the US.