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2014-03-07 / Features

Rockin’ for scholarships with Robby Vee

By Marlene Kauppinen
HTF Contributor

John Kauppinen, in whose honor the law enforcement scholarships are awarded. Photo submitted. John Kauppinen, in whose honor the law enforcement scholarships are awarded. Photo submitted. Our fifth and final Rockin' for Scholarships Benefit will be held Saturday, April 6 at the Virginia Elks Club. The renowned Robby Vee and his Rock-n- Roll Caravan are returning to help raise funds for the John Kauppinen Law Enforcement Scholarship Fund. Robby Vee's talent and creativity as a singer, song writer, guitar player, and entertainer has captured the attention of audiences all over the world. Get ready to attend a night of fun, fantastic music, dancing, excitement and prizes!

Being able to bring fabulous singing talent to the Iron Range has been an experience of a lifetime for me. Who would ever guess these famous stars would so graciously accept our invitations to come here to Virginia for our scholarship fundraiser? Over the years Bobby Vee, Tommy Vee, and Jeff Vee, Fabian, Brian Hyland, the Chiffons, and Robby Vee have shared their talents in fantastic shows. The scholarships we award each year are not only important to us as a family, but also to these performing artists. They love what they do, and sing from their heart and soul.

Robby V and Marlene Kauppinen. Photo submitted. Robby V and Marlene Kauppinen. Photo submitted. History of the benefit

This whole turn of events started on the day I lost my husband of 40 years, John Kauppinen. It was that very morning when, through the tears of indescribable grief, I decided to start a scholarship fund for the law enforcement students at the Hibbing Community College Law Enforcement Academy where John was an instructorfor13 years. John loved being an instructor, and his influence on everyone was remarkable. What joy and pride we feel to see a part of John go with these new peace officers! John inspired them to be the best they could be, both academically and in personal growth, encouraging them to push their limits and become stronger individuals.

My daughters and I take pride in awarding scholarships each year to the graduating cadets from the Hibbing Community College Law Enforcement Academy. Since the foundation was formed in 2006, scholarships have been awarded to 14 graduates. These special up and coming peace officers are: Steven Krznarich, Jeremy Nutzhorn, Thomas Hanson, Zach Motyl, Peter Mollhoff, Rachael Shiek, Jaclyn Wright, Lyle Hammond, Ashley Moran, Zachary Libra, Elijah Allen, Emily McGregor, Joe Burns, and Harley Figgins.

My family and I want to continue John's legacy by supporting upcoming peace officers as they start their journey into the law enforcement profession. It takes a courageous, energetic, intelligent, strong-willed leading individual to persevere in the specialized law enforcement training expected of them. These young men and women deserve our greatest respect for choosing a profession that puts their life on the line each day, protecting and serving our communities.

For over 30 years, law enforcement was our life. Although it is not easy for the family of a police officer, my daughters and I are proud to have been part of the law enforcement family. It takes strength, patience, trust, and never-ending faith to conquer the quests presented to them on a daily basis. We become stronger individuals understanding what officers face on the job. The extreme stress of endless split-second decisions made in life and death situations, facing tragic accidents, handling domestic violence – down to helping a lost child find their mother, or crying with a family who has lost a loved one. We hold the greatest respect for peace officers, for they truly have a huge heart beneath the badge.

One year after John passed away, we experienced something of a miracle. It was decided that a tree would be planted in his memory at my cousin's cabin at a beautiful lake where John loved to spend his free time. Family and friends gathered together on this beautiful sunny day, reminiscing the good times, and listening to John's favorite songs softly playing in the background.

Meanwhile, I placed some of John's ashes in the ground where the tree was to be placed. All of a sudden the biggest, most beautiful blue dragonfly appeared and flew into the ashes. It ruffled its wings in the ashes, and then flew onto my oldest daughter, clinging to her leg. Then, it flew onto my chest, right over my heart, and clung to me so tightly. I stroked its body, and it stayed there the whole time Josh Groban was singing “You Raise Me Up” in the background. Before this blue dragonfly left my heart, it put its tail into John's wedding ring I was wearing on an angel pendant that day.

Then, the dragonfly flew onto my youngest daughter's forehead, where it clung there, digging its feet into her head. Every Sunday, my daughter would call our house, and John would always say, “Jen is calling to pick my brain.” Everyone stood in awe, unable to speak, feeling John's spirit among us. (When John was alive, he was a magnet for these beautiful creatures. They would line up all along his fishing rod, land on his forehead and chin, and be swirling around him all the time.)

Life without John was a challenge. Thank God for my faith, my family, and beautiful friends to help with the devastating grief process. My life was so empty, and I had lost my spirit.

Then my life changed one night at a rock and roll concert my daughter Shari and I attended at Fortune Bay. The famous Fabian, along with Bobby Vee, Brian Hyland, and the Chiffons were performing there. To my complete surprise, Fabian picked me out of hundreds of people to come up on the stage with him. He sang to me and talked with me, asking about my life. I told him I had lost my husband of 40 years. He said, “You must have gone through a lot.” I looked right into his blue eyes and said, “So have you.” He put the microphone down and a tear came to his eyes. Then he composed himself and said, “Well, at our age, we've all gone through a lot!” There was something happening on that stage that night. The energy with this star made my heart come alive, and brought my spirit back. I almost felt 16 again!

Looking back at this event, there is no doubt John's spirit was with us there that night. People in the audience felt it, too. The performers couldn't explain it.

I wrote a letter to Fabian, thanking him for changing my life, and for saving a lost soul in Minnesota. He and his wife answered my letter, thanking me for writing to him. I wrote again, explaining our scholarships, and asked if he and Bobby Vee would ever consider performing a benefit concert in Virginia. Three days later, Fabian's manager in Hollywood telephoned me. “When and where do you want the event?”

For a whole year, I worked every day putting all my strength and energy into this project to make it a special event in memory of John. Working with Fabian's manager and Jeff Vee was a wonderful experience. The stars picked the date, not knowing it was exactly three years to the day that John passed away. I found out Fabian's father was a police officer, and had a heart attack in his 20th year of service, just like John.

John knew his life was limited. He tried to tell me things. “When I'm gone, you need to know how to do this, and how to work that.” I brushed it off, thinking there was plenty of time to learn. Well, in this life, we need to be aware and do the best we can in a day, for tomorrow may not come. John really stressed the fact not to grieve for him. Go on and live your life. Be happy! He certainly has been around through the miracles happening in my life. It is amazing how true love for someone cannot be separated, even by death.

Don’t miss it!

MUSIC! It soothes the soul, and heals the heart! Mark your calendars for Saturday, April 26, 2014, and plan to attend our last scholarship benefit with the fabulous Robby Vee, at the Virginia Elks Club, from 7:30- 11:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 at the door. Sponsors for this event include Anderson Auto Service, the City of Mt. Iron, and the City of Hibbing. For more information, call 218-741-5646. n

Marlene Kauppinen lives in Virginia, MN.

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