In Memory of

Tanja

Sulkko

Obituary for Ms. Tanja Sulkko

TANJA SULKKO
September 27, 1963 – January 25, 2024

“If you’re seeing this, it means I’m dead.”

With a tinge of sarcasm and a smile on her face, that’s what Tanja dramatically exclaimed before taking this photo, and before every photo I forced her to take, knowing that one would eventually be for her obituary.

It is with great sadness that I announce the tragic and sudden passing of Tanja Sulkko on January 25, 2024. 

Tanja was an obituary aficionado. She had written a couple great ones herself, and I know she had a draft of her own in her head. If things were different, that would be the one published here, and it would have been one of the best ones you’ve ever read. She was an eloquent writer, sending vignettes to her friends over the years, and having several letters to the editor published and stories read on the radio, and I sincerely hope I did her justice with this one. 

Tanja was born, much to her chagrin, in Atikokan. Despite her gripes about her hometown, she fondly remembered camping at French Lake in the tent trailer, spending time at the Pederson’s cabin on Crystal Lake, and being surrounded by the cast of characters that formed her parents’ social group. 

Immediately after completing Grade 12, she left The Choke and headed West. Tanja spent years in Edmonton working at flower shops, where she learned to create beautiful arrangements, before she moved to Vancouver in 1986. 

Tanja was skilled at collecting eccentric, diverse, and interesting friends, and her time in Vancouver is filled with good examples of that. She was known to host weekly gatherings for friends to watch the newest installment of Star Trek in her small apartment. She and her crew would always end up at their local, the Jolly Alderman, to exchange stories, solve the world’s problems, and share many laughs. Tanja would not have described herself as a social person, but she loved nothing more than when someone would laugh at her jokes, and she’ll be remembered by many for fun times in pubs, at the kitchen table, or around the campfire. 

In 1993 Tanja made the shift to become a survey technologist. This career provided her with many adventures and opportunities to meet more interesting people in places like Whitehorse, Northern BC, Yukon, and eventually in Camrose, Alberta. This is where she had her daughter Robyn in 1999. 

In 2000, Tanja made the brave decision to pack up her houseplants and baby to drive across the country to start a new life as a single mother in Thunder Bay. 

Tanja prided herself in her Sisu, or “Finn guts” as she put it. This Sisu defined her; she was harsh at times, but incredibly resourceful and fiercely independent. Life presented her with countless challenges, but she always made it work, with Robyn’s best interest at heart. She found a house to call a home, and started a small business to make ends meet. 

In the spirit of always making it work, she was able to travel with Robyn on many road trips, including to Missouri to the home of Mark Twain and to Minnesota to the home of Judy Garland. The most creative and adventurous example is the 2013 trip to Chiang Mai, Thailand, where she and Robyn spent a month so she could receive extensive dental care. 

Two of the things Tanja enjoyed most were watching tennis and Coronation Street. She journeyed to the US Open twice, where her joy could only be described as uncharacteristically childlike. We dreamed about traveling to Manchester to have a pint in the Rovers and partake in Betty’s famous hot pot.

Between road trips and tennis in the summer, Tanja could reliably be found outside blasting CBC radio and puttering in her garden. With a front yard filled with trees, and back yard filled with veggies, she succeeded at creating her own oasis in the city. 

Tanja will be remembered by some for her generosity. She was insistent on offering anyone a place to stay, even if it meant sleeping on the floor. Tanja was also known to show up unannounced with houseplants or tomato seedlings for friends and neighbours. Perhaps in the ultimate act of generosity, she took her mother in and made her last months some of the best we could remember.

Tanja was a great friend, and an even better mother, and she will always be missed and deeply loved. 

Tanja was predeceased by father Ray Sulkko (1985), uncle Jake Van Nus (1987), and mother Luise Sulkko (2018). She was also predeceased by friends Marlene, Tilly, Jack, Betty, and Garth. She leaves behind her “Daughter Laughing Water '' Robyn, brother Rob (Anita), and of course her beloved Houndi the Hound Dog. She will be missed by friends Jenn, Brenda, Linda, Chuck, Peter, Margy, Sherry, Tara, and many more from coast to coast. 

Flowers will be gladly accepted, but donations can also be made to the Lakehead Region Conservation Authority in Tanja’s name. 

Funeral services for Tanja Sulkko will be held on Saturday, April 27, 2024 at 11:00am in Gathering Table Church, 228 Pearl Street, officiated by Rev. Ann Camber. A reception will follow at the Current River Community Center, 450 Dewe Ave (accessed from Arundel St.).

Arrangements have been entrusted to the WESTFORT CHAPEL, 420 West Gore Street at James.