Cover photo for Roland Francis Pihlaja's Obituary
Roland Francis Pihlaja Profile Photo
1933 Roland 2020

Roland Francis Pihlaja

July 14, 1933 — January 10, 2020


July 14, 1933 – January 10, 2020


                Roland Francis Pihlaja, age 86, a lifelong Snellman, MN area resident, peacefully passed into the splendor of eternity on Friday afternoon, January 10, 2020 at the Oak Crossing Nursing Home in Detroit Lakes, MN.

                Roland was born on July 14, 1933 at the home farm in Shell Lake Township of Becker County, MN to Bill and Mary (Longfors) Pihlaja.  He attended the Shell Lake Country School near his home.  As a young man, Roland farmed and logged with his father and learned valuable lessons about working hard and honestly.  On May 29, 1954, Roland was united in marriage to Darlene Aho in an outdoor ceremony at Darlene’s parent’s farm in Toad Lake Township.  Their union was blessed with six children:  Jeff, Bobby, David, Barbara, Kevin, and Andy.  Roland and Darlene made their home in Shell Lake Township where they raised their family and have built a lifetime of wonderful memories.  Roland spent a number of years working construction building roads in the greater Chicago area.  Later, he worked throughout MN building bridges.  In May of 1966, at just 33 years of age, Roland was seriously injured building a bridge near Sauk Centre.  Following multiple surgeries, Roland was left unable to go back to work.   Roland helped to provide for his family by trapping.  For years he trapped beaver, mink, raccoons, and muskrat with the help of his wife and family.  He also loved to fish the area lakes and hunt.  Roland was a man of faith and devoted much time and skill to helping build the Gethsemane Lutheran Church at Snellman.  For many years he helped mow both the church and cemetery lawns.  He also served as a Supervisor of the Shell Lake Town Board for many years.  Roland enjoyed attending auctions and traveling.  He especially enjoyed taking trips to Germany and Finland and visiting many of the southern states.  Over the years, he and Darlene enjoyed spending several winters in Florida and Texas.  Roland was an avid Wolf Pack baseball fan and a Frazee wrestling fan.  Above all, Roland devoted his life to his precious wife, Darlene, his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

                He will be lovingly remembered by his wife for these past 65 years, Darlene of Snellman; his six children:  Jeff Pihlaja of Snellman, Bobby (Kay) Pihlaja of Nisswa, MN, David Pihlaja of Snellman, Barbara (Stephan) Calar of St. Petersburg, FL, Kevin (Tammy) Pihlaja of Snellman and Andy (Melanie) Pihlaja also of Snellman; 19 grandchildren and 25 great-grandchildren; his sister, Nora (Delbert) Saarinen of Detroit Lakes, MN as well as many nieces, nephews, other relatives, and many friends.

                Roland was preceded in death by his parents; a grandson, Shane Pihlaja who died in infancy; his brother, Harold and five sisters: Thelma, Verna, Mildred, Shirley, and Evelyn.

                Funeral services will be held 11 AM Saturday, January 18, 2020 at the Gethsemane Lutheran Church in Snellman with the Reverend Bruce Noennig officiating.  Becky Aho will be the organist.  Special music will be provided by Del King who will sing, “The Lord’s Prayer” and Gwen Noennig who will sing, “Precious Lord, Take My Hand”.  The casket bearers will be his five sons, Jeff, Bobby, David, Kevin, and Andy Pihlaja and his son-in-law, Stephan Calar.  Honorary casket bearers will be his fishing buddies, Kirk Arendes, Rick Weme, and Al Penttinen and his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Interment will be made in the Snellman Cemetery.  Visitation will be held from 5 to 7 PM on Friday January 17, 2020 at the Jones-Pearson Funeral Home and will continue at the church on Saturday beginning one hour prior to the service.  Following the service, a luncheon will be hosted by the Gethsemane Lutheran Church family for all. 

     In lieu of flowers, please donate to the Red River Valley Hospice or the Oak Crossing Nursing Home.


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Service Schedule

Past Services


Sunday, January 19, 2020

5:00 - 7:00 pm (Central time)

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Funeral Service

Monday, January 20, 2020

Starts at 11:00 am (Central time)

Gethsemane Lutheran Church

, Snellman, MN 56570

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