Grammar lessons were anything but dry in teacher Bernhardt (Bernie) Millimaki's middle-school English classes in the Mound-Westonka School District. He brought his clever wit and friendly manner to class nearly every day for 40 years.
"One of his legacies is his sense of humor," said Mound-Westonka Superintendent Kevin Borg. "It takes a special heart to work with middle-school-age students, and he stuck with it. His students enjoyed his humor and they fondly remember their time in his class."
Millimaki was on his way to meet his buddies for coffee last Sunday morning when he suffered an aneurysm. He was taken to Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis, where he died last Monday, said his wife of 37 years, Anu. He was 66.
Millimaki was born in Ishpeming, Mich., and graduated from high school there. He enrolled at Northern Michigan University in the early 1960s, but took a year off to work on the railroads in St. Paul. He returned to Northern Michigan, where he earned a bachelor's degree in elementary education. He later earned a master's degree in elementary counseling from Minnesota State University, Mankato, said his daughter Annalisa.
Millimaki didn't care for the railroad, but he fell in love with the Twin Cities area "because there were a lot of girls around the lakes," he jokingly told his daughter.
He accepted a job with the Westonka School District in 1968 and taught English, reading and language arts courses at Grandview Middle School. He retired from full-time teaching in 2001, but continued to work in the district as a substitute teacher until recently. About 30,000 students had him as a teacher, his family said.
He served on curriculum adoption committees and was dedicated to public education. Earlier in his career he was remembered for organizing a faculty talent show, said Borg.
Millimaki was a dedicated family man who enjoyed spending time with his wife and children at their cabin in Wisconsin. He also liked fishing and getting together with his buddies for coffee, Anna-lisa said.
He had a passion for Michigan sports teams, including the Red Wings, Pistons and his beloved Tigers. He wore his Michigan State University Spartans hat when he took his daughter to the Metrodome earlier this month to watch the Tigers play the Twins, she said.
"He always had a smile on his face, could tell a good joke and was easygoing," Annalisa said. "He just enjoyed life."
In addition to his wife, Anu, and daughter Annalisa, he is survived by another daughter, Marissa of Mound, and two brothers, Richard and David, both of Ishpeming, Mich.
Services will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, 3745 Shoreline Dr., Navarre. Visitation will be held from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Tuesday at the church.