William “Bill” Kokko Jr., 84, Oconto Falls, died Thursday afternoon, June 15, 2023 at Meadowbrook Health Care Center. Proud of his heritage, he was born 100% Finnish to William and Wilma (Wertanen) Kokko Sr. on May 9, 1939 in Negaunee, MI. Lovingly called “Billy the Finn” by his close family, he lived his life in the Finnish spirit of “SISU” which is the embodiment of extraordinary endurance, being brave in the face of adversity, and doing “right” at any cost.
Bill grew up in the UP where he attended Negaunee High School where his SISU, grit and determination, allowed him to excel in basketball, bringing home the state championship with his class of 1957. Following graduation, he attended Northern MI University and sailed the Great Lakes on ore boats. Bill then served in the US Army and was stationed in Germany as a medic. Following his honorable discharge from the military, he returned to the UP where he worked as a lineman for the city of Negaunee. Bill and Peggy’s love story began when a high school aged Peggy got his autograph while he was an extra for the filming of a movie in her hometown. Little did they know that a few years later fate would have them working at the same hospital where they began their courtship.
On July 30, 1965 he married Peggy Hale in Marquette, MI. The couple lived in Negaunee until moving to Oconto Falls in 1969. Bill was employed by the City of Oconto Falls Water & Light Commission as utility superintendent for most of his working life. He attended the Oconto Falls United Methodist Church and volunteered on the Oconto Falls Fire Department and Ambulance for many years. His compassion for others was shown in his knowledge of the community and being able to assist people in need, always doing the right thing.
Bill enjoyed spending time with family and close friends. His love of fishing was instilled in his daughters and grandchildren, so much so that when they would have a good “catch”, they would share a photo with him. He enjoyed hanging out with all the brothers-in-law and nephews at camp and requested to have some of his ashes spread in the wild where he enjoyed the camaraderie. Many memories were made on the shore of Lake Michigamme with a large, loving extended family.
Sometimes referred to as “Bungee Bill”, there wasn’t much the Finlander didn’t try to fix with an assortment of colorful tape and bungee cords. He believed permanent markers to be his friends to help leave lasting advice on little notes he kept and distributed, or even on brand new cars. Bill’s indomitable spirit will survive within all of the lives he touched.
Bill’s SISU continued to push him through this past year with the help of the loving staff at Unity Hospice allowing him to live at home and eventually at Meadowbrook where he received compassionate and respectful care.
Survivors are his loving and devoted wife of 58 years, Peggy Kokko, Oconto Falls; their two daughters, Kelly (Lon) Ludemann, Oconto Falls; Karen (Gary) Scholie, Hancock, MI; six grandchildren, Jacob, Noah, Alec and Hannah Ludemann; Emilie and Sydnie Scholie; one sister, Diane Hine, Chicago, IL; many nieces, nephews and special cousins.
He was preceded in death by his parents and special brother-in-law, William Hatch.
Visitation with the urn present will take place after 9:00 AM Wednesday, June 28, 2023 at the Oconto Falls United Methodist Church until the time of service. Funeral services will be held 11:00 AM Wednesday at the church with his friend Pastor Jerry Cho officiating. Burial will take place on the family plot at a later date in Lakeview Cemetery in the UP.
In lieu of other expressions of sympathy, memorials may be made to the Oconto Falls Fire Department.