Kenneth Manninen
B: 1931-01-01
D: 2020-10-21
View Details
Manninen, Kenneth
Donald Kilpela
B: 1953-10-21
D: 2020-10-15
View Details
Kilpela, Donald
Clara Kivela
B: 1935-05-31
D: 2020-10-14
View Details
Kivela, Clara
Bruce "Burpy" Murto
B: 1938-08-15
D: 2020-10-13
View Details
Murto, Bruce "Burpy"
Marlene Lammi
D: 2020-10-12
View Details
Lammi, Marlene
Robert Masnado
B: 1931-02-12
D: 2020-10-11
View Details
Masnado, Robert
John Junttila
B: 1947-12-07
D: 2020-10-08
View Details
Junttila, John
Cheryl Spry
B: 1959-02-12
D: 2020-10-08
View Details
Spry, Cheryl
John Verbanac
B: 1972-03-19
D: 2020-10-08
View Details
Verbanac, John
William Tolkkinen
B: 1928-02-15
D: 2020-10-07
View Details
Tolkkinen, William
Peter Anttila
B: 1940-09-21
D: 2020-10-07
View Details
Anttila, Peter
Virginia Newman
B: 1934-12-21
D: 2020-10-06
View Details
Newman, Virginia
Nancy Nolen
B: 1936-01-26
D: 2020-10-01
View Details
Nolen, Nancy
Elroy Antilla
B: 1929-11-20
D: 2020-09-30
View Details
Antilla, Elroy
Carol Johnson
B: 1937-06-07
D: 2020-09-30
View Details
Johnson, Carol
Lois Woodworth
B: 1928-05-02
D: 2020-09-21
View Details
Woodworth, Lois
Andrea Lane
B: 1940-07-27
D: 2020-09-21
View Details
Lane, Andrea
Uno Isaacson
B: 1925-06-14
D: 2020-09-19
View Details
Isaacson, Uno
Jalmer Goodman
B: 1929-11-29
D: 2020-09-19
View Details
Goodman, Jalmer
Robert Mac
B: 1973-04-10
D: 2020-09-17
View Details
Mac, Robert
John Massi
B: 1934-05-01
D: 2020-09-08
View Details
Massi, John


Use the form above to find your loved one. You can search using the name of your loved one, or any family name for current or past services entrusted to our firm.

Click here to view all obituaries
Search Obituaries
26090 Pine Street
Calumet, MI 49913
Phone: (906) 337-4600
Fax: (906) 337-4699
Donald Kilpela

Donald R. Kilpela

Wednesday, October 21, 1953 - Thursday, October 15, 2020
Recommend this to your friends.
Share via:

Sign in to the Family Interactive Login

The Family Interactive feature enhances An Amazing Life. Authorized family members can securely access their loved one's memorial website settings at any time.

Share Book of Memories with a Friend

Please enter the name and email details so that we can send your friend a link to the online tribute. No names or addresses will be collected by using this service.

Email Sent

Your email has been sent.

To share your memory on the wall of Donald Kilpela, sign in using one of the following options:

Sign in with Facebook


Sign in with your email address

Your condolence has been submitted for approval. There may be a delay before posting.

Provide comfort for the family by sending flowers or planting a tree in memory of Donald Kilpela

No Thanks

Contact Funeral Home

Please enter your question or comment below:

Email Sent

Your email has been sent.

Donald's Tribute Fund

  •  Full Name
  •  Initials
  •  Anonymous
By continuing, you agree with the terms and privacy policy.

Donald's Tribute Fund

There may be a delay while processing. Please do not click the back button or refresh while a payment is processing.
Send Flowers
Guaranteed hand delivery by a local florist


Captain Donald Robert “Donny” Kilpela

COPPER HARBOR - Captain Donald Robert Kilpela, of Copper Harbor, MI, died on October 15, 2020 at the age of 66 at Marquette General Hospital from the complications of a stroke. Donny was born October 21, 1953 in Coronado, CA, and grew up in Detroit. He graduated from Bentley High School, in Livonia, where he later attended Schoolcraft Community College. After moving to the Upper Peninsula he attended Michigan Tech University.
Donny was a natural athlete who excelled in many sports. He was a varsity tennis player in high school, and his bullet-like Frisbee throw called a "thumber" made him an All-American Guts Frisbee player in 1973. He was an exceptional golfer specializing in deadly putting and getting out of the woods of the Keweenaw Mountain Golf Course. For 25 years he ran the Black Fly Golf Open during the most virulent black flies in late May each year.
Capt. Don began his career as a 17 year old deckhand on the passenger ferry Isle Royale Queen II in 1971 when his parents bought the ferry service from Copper Harbor to Isle Royale National Park. In 1975, he became a U.S. Merchant Marine Officer and served as a captain and partner in his parents' firm until his death. He sailed the open waters of Lake Superior in all 49 seasons that the Isle Royale Ferry Service operated. Though he was a fun-loving eccentric, Capt. Don was a skilled and courageous mariner. He safely brought tens of thousands of people to and from Isle Royale during his years of service on the greatest and most dangerous of the Great Lakes. He faced some of the most challenging conditions Lake Superior can present to the mariner. It is a great sadness that Capt. Don never retired to receive his deserved recognition as one of Lake Superior's greatest passenger ferry skippers.
During his off-seasons, Donny discovered his talent for and creativity in drawing and painting. He published a daily cartoon strip about his witty gang of ecologically-minded friends, the Earthlinks. He then started painting abstracts that have attracted wide admiration. He was also widely known across the Copper Country as a humorous storyteller, an enthusiastic promoter of Copper Harbor and Isle Royale, and later a passionate thimbleberry picker. In December, with Copper Harbor’s exceptional snows, Donny launched and worked tirelessly on Copper Harbor's annual tradition of a large display of Christmas lights across the village's community park.
Donny was single throughout his life. He is survived by his parents, Captain Donald and Elizabeth Kilpela of Copper Harbor, brothers Captain Ben (Marsha) of Mason and Copper Harbor, Captain John (Karma) of Calumet, sisters Susanne of Hancock, Jocelyn of Arvada, CO), and Lisa (Cormac) Ronan of Arvada, CO, his dear aunt Helen Wisuri of Livonia, uncles James Kilpela of Wareham. MA and Stefan Szyszkowski of Golden, CO, numerous beloved cousins, nieces, nephews, and his best friend and longtime companion Tammy Jo Cloutier of Copper Harbor.
Donny was also survived by the tens of Copper Harbor residents who loved him, fought with him, worked with him, and were in turn loved by him because it was where he just wanted to be.
If friends will wear a mask and try to keep some space, Betty and Don and their children would love to have you commiserate with them at an evening coffee social on Tuesday, October 27 at any time from 4 until 9 pm in the Siskiwit Reception Hall on Pine Street in Calumet.
There will be a memoriam in Copper Harbor in the summer of 2021.
Donations in Donny's memory may be made to the Copper Harbor Improvement Association to fund the Christmas Lights.
Online condolences for the family may be left at
The Erickson Crowley Peterson Funeral Home in Calumet is assisting the family with the arrangements.
Read Less

To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Donald R. Kilpela, please visit our Heartfelt Sympathies Store.

Service Details

There are no events scheduled. You can still show your support by sending flowers directly to the family, or planting a memorial tree in memory of Donald R. Kilpela.


We encourage you to share your most beloved memories of Donald here, so that the family and other loved ones can always see it. You can upload cherished photographs, or share your favorite stories, and can even comment on those shared by others.

No video recorded.

Private Condolence
Provide comfort for the family of Donald R. Kilpela by sending flowers.
Guaranteed hand delivery by a local florist

Copper Harbor Improvement Association

Posted at 04:50pm
Our sincere condolences to the family. We will miss Donny so very much. Copper Harbor will never be the same.
Tree Image
A memorial tree was planted in the memory of Donald Kilpela — Plant a Tree Now

Nancy Grabarczyk

Posted at 01:05pm
RIP Donnie. You always remembered us every year we came up, 32+ years. My kids loved your stories. If you see carol up there give her a hug.
Our condolences to the family.
Nancy and Carter Grabarczyk

James M. Garthe

Posted at 11:35am
Whenever I came to town I always sought him out.. Whether picking thimbleberries, a kayak ride with Sam, or just sharing a cold one at Zik's, it didn't really matter as long as I was able to find him and catch up for a bit.
Like the pines and the wind and the water of the Harbor, his light always refreshed me, and I was able to head to sea once more.
So the monday after Jill and Alex's wedding, Donny and Sam and I went to the island on the Queen's first run of the year, to deliver supplies to the rangers.
It was a beautiful 70 degree day with no wind, so we strapped the kayaks to the deck so we could paddle the harbor, and then we'd spend the night on the boat, since the regular ferry service had not yet begun.
But upon our arrival at the harbor, there were a few scientists waiting on the dock, hoping to return to the mainland that afternoon.
Donny, a Yooper of keen intellect, however, anticipated this predicament, and had brought extra steaks and beer to smooth things over with them!
So we ended up having a great day on the kayaks and spent the night entertaining our new friends on the Queen, before returning to Copper the next morn!
He always had a way of making things better, or putting a little cheer into everyone he met. Its that spark in him, I will never forget.
My return to Copper will be fun as always. But without that fullness in my heart, will find it lacking.

I love you Donny.
May God rest your soul.

Curtis Tompkins

Posted at 03:11pm
We are saddened by Donnie’s passing and extend our condolences to Don, Betty and all members of the Kilpela family. We cherish many good memories of our time with you during 1991-2004. Curt and Kathy Tompkins.

Tony Anderson

Posted at 09:17am
What a great and funny guy. A group of us went to isle royale twice with him. Our water bottles were full and he made sure to tell everyone how we were taking water to an island where there is more water than any other national forest. He will be deeply missed on our next visit. Rest In Peace.

The silver sloths and young group.

Photos & Videos

Photo Album

Upload up to 10 images at a time, max 8MB each