Atlanta Finland Society, Inc. (AFS) - Atlanta, Georgia, USA

Atlanta Finland Society, Inc. (AFS)

PO Box 768231 Roswell, GA 30076






Atlanta Suomi Finland Society History

The Atlanta Suomi Finland Society was founded in early 1970 by three Finnish Ladies, Marja Barron, Irmeli Crider and another Marja (lastname unknown).


Society has grown up to 100 - 150 members since that time and today the ASFS is an active and fun social club for Finns and their American friends.

Margareta Martin, Marja Barron and Irmeli Cryder in the picture on December 4, 2010 celebrating the club's 40th anniversiry in Atlanta.


You can read more about ASFS history and what has happened during these years in Atlanta as follows:

How I started The Atlanta Suomi Finland Society by Marja Barron

Once, in 1969 when I had lived in Atlanta for two years, I called my mother in Finland. All of a sudden, a Finnish word escaped me! I could not forgive myself and decided to find some Finns with whom to practice Finnish. Irmeli Mörö (now Crider) was an au pair with a family near my house, and she found a Marja who was in Georgia with her husband and baby daughter.

Early in 1970, sitting over coffee, I said: “We are now three; we can start an association.”
We found more Finns and recorded our get-togethers in a little black book. The purpose of the meetings was to keep the Finnish language pure and keep the Finnish flag flying high. I was also concerned about Finns lonely so far from home and felt that we could offer mutual support to each other.

Finns who lived in the US spoke a mixed language called Finglish which I disliked. During our coffees, I fined anyone who happened to use an English word in a Finnish sentence five cents.

The membership grew after I placed an ad in the Atlanta paper: Jos osaat lukea taman, soita numeroon 255… The paper was very suspicious of a foreign language text but agreed to publish it. The phone rang off the hook with over 130 Americans wanting to know what it meant. My husband kept answering the phone and said some callers sounded like they were from the FBI.
We got two good contacts--Dr. Wayne (Väinö) Suojanen of Georgia State University who put me in touch with Margareta Martin, wife of another professor. Several of us divided the Atlanta phone book into sections and called everybody who had a Finnish-sounding name. Some Turkish fellows were delighted to get the call and wanted to come to our coffees but we declined. One day two of us were in a bank standing in line when a man spoke in halting Finnish. Erkki had not been in touch with the language for decades but improved after sitting in on our coffees.

After several years of doing everything for our “club,” I got tired and passed the baton on to Margareta Martin to whom I am eternally grateful. She led the group to higher and nobler goals of promoting Finnish culture in the US. For this I thank Margareta and all the other members of the ASFS who have worked so hard, achieved much, and kept alive the purpose of the association.

 What Happened Then - Margareta Martin

I took over the chairmanship of our “Finnish Club” never imagining that I would be in that job for some ten years, and again in 2005. Originally we called it the Atlanta Suomi Society but Americans thought we were from India, so we added Finland to the name: Atlanta Suomi Finland Society. With more Finnish Americans joining, our “business” started to be conducted in English.

In the mid 1970’s Finnish firms started opening offices in Atlanta. Nokia Cable and TVW (Tampella Valmet Wärtsilä) brought in dozens of engineers and their families. Membership rose to 125 families. Later slumps in the Finnish economy reduced this number as the companies recalled or dumped their personnel.

ASFS Ladies

ASFS Ladies: Margareta Martin, Maria Welti, Tuula Becker and Eva Ingman

We used to meet monthly, in people’s homes, always with a program. Christmas and Easter church services with a Finnish pastor and traditional food. Midsummer with a bonfire (when allowed). Other Finnish holidays or sauna nights. We hosted Bishop Kortekangas from Tampere. Tauri Aaltio and Martti Häikiö, chairs of Suomi Seura/Finland Society came many times. Finlandia Foundation Trust celebrated First of May (Vappu) with us one year. (The ASFS is now a “chapter of the Finlandia Foundation, and we even had a Trustee on the FFN Board—Bob Johnson.)

We participated in a lot of International Festivals and in the Scandinavian Festival.
We arranged bigger events with visiting singers (Päivi Paunu, Barbara Helsingius, Matti Tuloisela etc.) or musicians (organist Tauno Äikää, Helsinki City Orchestra with Jukka Pekka Saraste and Olli Mustonen, choirs, etc.) or other luminaries (Lasse Viren for the Peachtree Road Race and the “Last Meter” statue dedication, hockey star Rautakallio, Finnish Olympic and Paralympic athletes and functionaries, etc.)

We have been fortunate to have such devoted Honorary Consuls here—first Phil Nethercut and now John Saunders, both such great Friends of Finland. Twice, Phil Nethercut got the Governor of Georgia to declare March 16 “St. Urho’s Day in Georgia,” not realizing that St.Urho was invented in Minnesota as a competitor to St.Patrick.

John Saunders was instrumental in getting the Last Meter statue of Lasse Viren et al. back to Piedmont Park, convincing the sculptor Eino to do a “second edition” after the first one, dedicated for the 1996 Olympics, went to Polar Electro in Finland*.

Last Meter

The first edition of the "Last Meter" was commissioned by Polar Electro Oy of Finland for the Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia. The sculpture depicts the 5000-meter final from the 1976 Games in Montreal, where four men raced stride for stride to the finish line. Lasse Viren of Finland emerged the victor, gaining his fourth gold medal. A second edition of this work, sponsored by Asics Tiger Corporation and PoweBar Inc., is on permanent display in Piedmont Park, Atlanta. (Source: Eino´s website)

With Metro Atlanta spreading and distances to drive to meetings and events increasing; with young families trying to keep up with their children’s activities and older ones hesitating to drive at night; it looks like only Christmas can bring all the Atlanta Finns together at the same time.

Jouluateria Ruisleipa

Traditional Finnish Christmas food and Ryebread has always been the most favorate among Finns...

Still, the ASFS is trying to function as a tie between us and a source of support to new Finns in the area. I thank all those who have headed the Society in the past and who have worked so hard to pursue our goals. Now a new generation of leaders is needed and a new effort at bringing Finnish cultural offerings to the area. There is much we could do, as long as people are willing to volunteer their time.


Atlanta Suomi Finland Society Presidents


Marja Barron, Margareta Martin, Kirsi Cohen, Arja Hanninen (ASFS Presidents) and Katriina Naukkarinen (AFS President 2011) meet in December 2010 to celebrate club's 40th anniversiry.

ASFS and AFS Presidents:

Marja Barron April 1970 - December 1974
Margareta Martin January 1975 - August 1979
Kirsi Cohen September 1979 - November 1980
Margareta Martin December 1980 - December 1991
Eva Ingman 1992 -1994
Maria Welti 1995 - 1996
Anne Kohtala 1997
Camilla Sillman January - July 1998
Heidi Tuhkanen August - December 1998
Ritva Porter 1999 - 2000
Arja Hanninen 2001 - 2002
Tina Huoso 2003 - 2004
Margareta Martin 2005
Maria Welti 2006
Sanna Lattunen
2007 - 2008
Verna Bush
Katriina Naukkarinen
Leena Ringvall
2012 - 2013