Finnish American Lawyers Association Celebrates Vappu in Shelter Island

On Saturday May 1, 2004, The Finnish American Lawyers Association (FALA) commenced gathering in the late afternoon at the Chequit Hotel on Shelter Island for cocktails and "networking" before dinner at The Ram's Head Inn, both owned by James Eklund, appropriately of Finnish descent. His Finnish father, Herb Eklund, attended the dinner. The planning of the event was inspired by Judge John Pessala's "re-acquaintance" with George Stankevich, whose mother is Finnish. George practices law in East Hampton, Long Island, NY. In January of 2004 he achieved some local notoriety by representing the Shinnecock Indians before the Shelter Island Town Board protesting the desecration of their ancient burial sites on the island. He attended the dinner with his daughter Peggy and his wife Margaret.

Shelter Island is only accessible by ferry from either the north or south forks of eastern Long Island, NY. In view of the proximity to Connecticut, it was unfortunate that our new member, Honorary Consulate General of Connecticut Carl Anderson Esq., was unable to attend due to short notice. Carl is of Finnish background, practices law in Norwich Ct., and is very well known among the extensive Finnish population in Voluntown Ct. We look forward to seeing him as well as his two sons, both also attorneys, come to our gatherings in the future.

The FALA is expanding as news gets out. Several new members drove all the way from New Jersey to attend. Pasi Mantyla Esq., who practices in international business and law in Millburn NJ, is currently working to set up a web site for the FALA. Lisa Maarit Lischak Esq., who came with her husband, practices law in Iselin NJ with the firm of Fragomen, DelRey, Bernsen & Loewy. Lisa has a law degree from England and is currently studying for her Masters Degree in Law at New York University Law School. She is very active with the Finland House project and the Finnish Church. The fact that her family comes from Pihtipudas in northern Finland came as an incredible surprise to Robert Saasto (President of FALA) and Ernest Saasto (both practicing law in New York) because the Saasto twins' grandfather, Onni Saastamoinen, was born and raised in Pihtipudas. Both Lisa and the twin lawyers have many relatives still in Pihtipudas and it is certain that they will be surprised when they hear that this connection was made in the USA. In addition, just prior to the dinner, Peter Pulkkinen, a Vice President of Deutsche Bank at 60 Wall Street NYC, saw Finnish bumper stickers on cars in the parking lot, and decided to come in out of curiosity. Not only did he encounter such a distinguished group of Finnish "compatriots", but he also came to know that he shared the same last name with Jenny Pulkkinen from Savonlinna, the grandmother of the Saasto twins who married Onni Saastamoinen from Pihtipudas. It is a small world!!

Judge John Pessala and his wife Elizabeth (Westbury Village Justice), brought several of their political friends and dignitaries to the affair, who attended with their wives. These included New York Second Department Appellate Division Judge Robert Schmidt; retired Nassau County Police Commissioner Donald Kane; retired Nassau County Commissioner of Commerce and Industry Steven Latham; Steve Frommer Esq.; and Steve Leventhal Esq.

Our Finnish dignitaries (with their wives) present were: Eric Star ( Master of Sibelius Lodge); Mauri Leppala ( in charge of Finnair at JFK Airport); and Richard Grippenberg (stockbroker). Also present was Zach Suominen, son of the renowned sculptor and artist Pauli Suominen.

The keynote address was given by Dominic Barbara, an attorney in Long Island NY who appears regularly on the Howard Stern radio show and who has handled many well publicized cases including Amy Fischer who shot Joey Buttafucco's wife. He delighted the audience with personal insights into that case.

A buffet dinner is being planned for Saturday evening, January 28, 2005 at the Estonian House at 243 East 34th Street, New York NY. Please reserve the date and call Robert Alan Saasto Esq. at 516 248 6288 for details. This would present an excellent opportunity for possible new members or friends to come who might not otherwise be able to because of distance considerations. Spend the weekend in New York City and have dinner with us Saturday night. The more the merrier.

Robert Alan Saasto

President FALA 

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