DAYTON, Tenn. – Minnie Fagerlund’s life was tested by tragedy, the terror of war, and separation from her Finnish homeland. Now, her legacy will live at Nokian Tyres’ new factory in Dayton, Tennessee, thanks to a generous gift from a local benefactor.
Fagerlund’s grandson, Southeast Tennessee resident Pete Levelle, donated a portrait of her to the Finland-based tire company, which remains on schedule to begin producing tires at the Dayton factory in 2020.
“It is my distinct privilege to donate a piece of family art that represents the values of our past generations and our hope for the future generations in our country,” Levelle said during apresentation ceremony at the Dayton Welcome Center in late November.
Fagerlund brought her family to the United States at the turn of the 20th century, where her life was forever altered by a pair of New York landmarks. She entered the country through Ellis Island. And in 1909, her husband, John, died after falling from Brooklyn Bridge while participating in its construction.
Fagerlund returned to Finland after the tragedy and endured World War I before bringing her family back to the U.S., this time for good. She established a family tree that is proud to honor it’s roots through actions such as this generous donation.
“If Minnie were present with us today,” Levelle said, “she would rejoice knowing an image of character and strength was returning to the Finnish people and to Nokian Tyres.”
“We are humbled and deeply grateful to receive this priceless painting from our company’s home in Finland,” said Dayton Factory Operations Manager Peter Chia. “We are proud of our company’s Scandinavian heritage and eager to embrace our new home in Southeast Tennessee.”
Nokian Tyres’ new production factory in Dayton will produce four million tires per year once it reaches full capacity. The company plans to employ 400 workers and will begin its first phase of hiring in early 2019. It also opened a new headquarters office in Nashville earlier in 2018.
Nokian Tyres ambitiously aims to double its sales in North America by 2023. The Dayton factory, its third production facility worldwide, is a key element of that plan. Company officials say that even as they press forward toward a bright future, they will continue to honor the past.
“This generous donation reminds us that heritage matters,” said Chia. “We look forward tosharing our Scandinavian heritage with the people of Southeast Tennessee as we deepen ourroots in the United States.”