Pellonpaa, Turner inducted into Michigan Broadcasting Hall of Fame

Carl Pellonpaa, of ‘Finland Calling’ fame, and Bruce Turner, of WNMU at Northern Michigan University, were each inducted for 2021.
Published: Jul. 13, 2021 at 1:05 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 17, 2021 at 1:24 PM EDT
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MARQUETTE, Mich. (WLUC) - Two late Upper Michigan broadcasting legends have been inducted into the Michigan Broadcasting Hall of Fame for 2021.

Carl Pellonpaa, of Finland Calling fame, and Bruce Turner, of WNMU at Northern Michigan University, were each named, along with Carolyn Clifford, of WXYZ-TV in Detroit, and Dave Maurer, of Alpha Media in Saginaw. Learn more about Pellonpaa’s and Turner’s lifetime of work below.

Carl Pellonpaa

Carl Pellonpaa is best known for his pioneering work in the broadcast industry in Upper Michigan. He started in broadcasting in 1948 as an announcer on WJPD radio in Ishpeming while still in high school. He served in Korea in the U.S. Army and upon his return went to work alongside his father at Cleveland Cliffs, but only lasted a couple of years. He would briefly return to WJPD radio in 1959 before moving onto television.

In 1961,Pellonpaa joined the staff at TV6 as an announcer and was part of a core group who pioneered television in Upper Michigan. With few examples to guide them, Pellonpaa and the TV6 staff created “local television” on the fly. Everything was live, including the commercials.

In 1962, Pellonpaa was asked to help create a new program targeting the large Finnish American population in the U.P.

Finland Calling, or Suomi Kutsuu, hit the air on March 25, 1962, with all content originally being presented in just the Finnish Language. Pellonpaa would organize local Finn dances and host travel groups to Finland to gather material for his show. That was the beginning of a 53-year run with Pellonpaa producing 2,650 Finland Calling programs.

Pellonpaa retired from fulltime employment at TV6 in 1995, but continued to produce Finland Calling through 2015. During his tenure at TV6, Pellonpaa worked as weather and sports announcers, news producer and anchor, and creative services producer.

Pellonpaa was very active in the community throughout his life. He served on the Marquette County Board of Supervisors, was appointed to the State Highway Commission, served on the Suomi College (Finlandia University) Board of Trustees, and was also a member of numerous civic groups and clubs serving in leadership roles for many of these organization.

Pellonpaa received many distinguished honors throughout his lifetime but one that stands out is The Knight of the Order of the White Rose from the Finnish Government for his ongoing support of the Finnish culture. Which is something he did with a passion throughout his life and one reason he was named Chairman of Finnfest USA held in Marquette in 1996.

Pellonpaa died in Sept. 2018 at the age of 87. TV6 remembered his legacy at that time, as well.

Since then, TV6 has honored his lifetime of work in broadcast and the community, by annually awarding the Carl V. Pellonpaa Lifetime Achievement Award. Winners since the 2019 inception have been TV6′s Don Ryan, host of The Ryan Report, and Dr. Daniel S. Mazzuchi, who was instrumental in developing the U.P. community campus for the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, among many other accolades.

Bruce Turner

Bruce Turner was born and was raised in Sturgis, Mich. His long career in broadcasting began in Sturgis where he served as a D.J. with WSTR following an initial interview. His career continued in Marinette, Wis., with WMAM as an announcer.

He relocated to Marquette in 1959 and joined the staff of the newly formed WDMJ-TV which signed in on April 28, 1956, the Upper Peninsula’s first television station, which later became WLUC-TV6. The new station had limited space, personnel, and everyone did whatever was needed. Bruce, for his part, was blessed with a rich, mellow voice which registered with his listeners.

As announcer at TV6, he performed news, weather, sports, and advertising assignments and became one of the most well-known voices in early local television. Intending to pursue a career in radio, he and TV6 friend, Carl Pellonpaa, were looking to purchase a radio station.

Following an interview with Northern Michigan University president, Edgar L. Harden, Turner’s career took a dramatic and historical change. He accepted the position of station manager at Public TV 13, helping found the public broadcasting station in the 1960′s. Under his leadership, the station became the largest closed-circuit television system in the U.S. for a while. In 1972 it made the switch to over the air broadcast and became WNMU.

Turner was responsible for helping to create a host of locally produced programs including WNMU’s student run Public Eye News where NMU students take over WNMU’s broadcast studio and production facilities Monday through Friday to produce a daily newscast. Media Meet a weekly 30-min news interview program well respected by journalists in the Upper Peninsula for bringing news media and news makers together for long-format, unedited news interviews. The program runs on both WNMU radio and television.

Ask The Experts A live call-in program series featuring doctors, dentists, lawyers and Michigan Department of Natural Resources representatives answering viewer questions live on the air.

Turner also created WNMU-TV’s long running series High School Bowl. The show enters its 43rd season this fall and provides the only competitive arena for academically talented students in the region. With 40 high schools across Michigan’s Upper Peninsula participating each year, High School Bowl is still WNMU-TV’s most popular series.

Turner was the regional coordinator for Project Literacy US (Project PLUS) aimed at combating adult illiteracy. Over more than 10 years, WNMU-TV produced and aired multiple PSAs for the literacy campaign.

Turner was Chair of Michigan Association of Public Broadcasters TV Programmers group for 30+ years. Also, he had 56+ years as Station Manager, Program Director, and primary fundraiser for WNMU-TV.

Under Turner’s guidance, WNMU-TV 13 raised nearly $11 million dollars from its viewers over the years in support of the PBS programming it airs.

Throughout the years, growth continued with new innovations, but Turner’s main philosophy was to maintain “the family relationship” between the station and its viewers. He was a devoted broadcaster and one of the most recognizable faces and voices in local television.

When he retired in June 2019, following 56 years with NMU, he, in his characteristically humble way, gave much of the credit to “the excellent people who managed me.” He never forgot where he came from and with his ever present smile and positive attitude, was always thankful for the career he thoroughly enjoyed.

In retirement, he continued working at home on his yard and serving his local congregation. Turner was a member of the Marquette Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses and faithfully served as an elder in the Kingdom Hall.

Turner passed away in January 2021 at the age of 82. He is survived by by his wife, Mary F. Turner, 5 children, 9 grandchildren, 3 great-grandchildren, 2 brothers, and several nieces, nephews, and cousins.

On Tuesday’s TV6 Early News, TV6′s Nick Friend will have more on Pellonpaa’s legacy for WLUC-TV6 and Upper Michigan.

Click here to learn more about all of the honorees for 2021.

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