Judi Lampi grew up visiting her grandparents in Astoria almost every weekend and stayed with them during the summer months.
Although she was raised in Portland, she says Astoria has always felt like home.
After retiring as a health sciences teacher in 2004, she moved to Astoria full time.
“I joke that I am a fourth generation Astoria Finn-American,” Lampi said. “I have such a connection to this region. I came here my whole childhood and as an adult.”
Her great-grandparents immigrated to Astoria from Finland in the late 1890s.
She remembers spending weekends with the whole family.
They would eat dinner together and then watch “Hee Haw” and Lawrence Welk before everyone took their sauna. The next morning they would have breakfast and go to church.
Her fascination with science and history began to cultivate on her grandparent’s farm in Brownsmead.
Her grandfather was a logger, fisherman and dairy farmer. She learned about nature and the history of the area from him.
“He’d drive us all over in the woods and he’d take us on walks and he would share things about the indigenous people that lived in Brownsmead and he’d tell me about the plant’s names. So, I kind of got interested in the indigenous people and plants,” Lampi said.
In college, she took an anthropology class, where she read about shamans in the Amazon rainforest.
“It just sparked my curiosity, and I started learning about the first people from here, and how they used plants,” Lampi said. “They had a lot of plants that were remedies just like the shaman in the Amazon.”
Lampi earned a master’s degree in education and studied ethnobotany.
When she moved to Astoria, she worked as a park ranger for Lewis and Clark National Historical Park during the bicentennial — a dream come true for a Lewis and Clark fanatic.
Through her service on the board of the Astoria Scandinavian Heritage Association, she found an even deeper connection to Astoria and her heritage. Every year, they organize the Scandinavian Midsummer Festival and are in the process of developing the Astoria Nordic Heritage Park.
“This is where my heart is, but I’m also really deeply connected to my Finnish heritage,” Lampi said. “There’s so many people in this city that are so proud of their Nordic roots and that’s how I got involved in this Astoria Nordic Heritage Park.”
When she was asked to be the chairperson for the park, she was hesitant because she had never taken on a project like that before.
“It’s been challenging, but fulfilling,” Lampi said. “I just kind of like the sense of accomplishment on working on something I really don’t know that much about.”
The association has raised over $660,000 in a year and a half, most of which has come from individual donors.
“I love taking on a challenge seemingly beyond my capacity,” Lampi said.
She is inspired by “sisu” — a Finnish word for resilience, tenacity, perseverance, determination and will power.
She said cultivating her sisu has helped her lead a life of greater purpose and happiness. She believes sisu is a common characteristic for not just Finnish people, but all Nordic people.
“Everybody is so dedicated, and this project means so much to them because the Nordic people who immigrated here, they said their last goodbyes to their homeland, and many of them knowing they would never see their family again,” she said. “And then coming here to make a better life for them and their families. I mean, it’s every immigrant’s story. I just love working on this park because I’m preserving this heritage and how the Nordic people contributed to the fabric of our community.”
As the demographics in Astoria change, Lampi believes the park is important in remembering and honoring history.
“It gives you that sense of community and that’s really important,” she said.
“My heart is so much into this project because I’m going to be honoring my family, and the park will be there for a really long time even when I’m gone.”