Sam Saari was a big, strong Finn who earned his living as a blacksmith and spoke with pride of his 17-inch biceps. Sam Saari (born Soloman Saarenpaa) was born in July of 1889 in Finland to Joho Viktor and Susan Sanasvuori Saarenpaa.
Aiti Leponiemi (born Sylvi Matilda, sister to Minda Katainen) was born in June of 1900 to Juho Maurits Leponiemi and Ida Marja Lind. Sam was 11 years older than Aiti when they married in January of 1925 and they lived in Vancouver for some time before moving to Webster’s Corners in 1926, when Sam took a job at Allco Camp. Later that same year, Sam bought the five acre parcel of land at 252nd and Dewdney, where he would later build his garage. Arvo Skytte’s brother built them a house and the growing family settled in.
Sam was much in demand as a blacksmith for the booming logging industry in and around Webster’s Corners. He was known for his ability to innovate and work without plans, which was of great benefit to those engaged in logging by rail who needed quick and clever solutions to new problems. However, his quick temper often got the better of him and he would throw down tools and stalk off the job, threatening to never return, and go work for a rival company.
In 1930, Sam was involved in what was perhaps the first case of “road rage” in Maple Ridge. He was rushing back from Haney with the municipal election results so that they could be announced after a play at the Sampo Hall. On Dewdney, near the Orange Hall (what is now the empty lot kitty corner to Tim Horton’s on 230th), Sam tried to pass a car that was riding up the middle of the road. But the driver wouldn’t give way and the cars bumped. When both cars halted, Sam jumped out and punched the driver, only to be shot by his passenger. The bullet passed through his lung and missed his heart by inches.
In 1935 times were hard, and Sam went to work in New Westminster. He wanted to sell the house and move out there, but his family did not share his enthusiasm. As he and his wife Aiti were joint owners of the house, he needed her to agree if they were to move.
Sam’s daughter, Taimi Saari Norberg, has written a delightful account of this strong-willed, aggressive and irreverent man. Taimi describes Sam as a chauvinist with very strong ideas about the proper roles for men and women. He certainly was not a modern father taking part in the care of household and children. This made it all the funnier when, during his wife’s occasional illness due to persistent heart trouble, he had to put on one of her house dresses to milk the cow, Daisy, without frightening it.
In 1958 for his 70th birthday, Sam returned to Finland for the first time in over 50 years.
Sam’s taste in wine was rumoured to be terrible. For his 80th birthday, he went out to purchase wine, and came back with 6 gallons of strawberry wine. It had to be doctored by adding dry, red wine and ginger ale. Apparently the little old ladies at the party just loved this punch!