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Obituary: Ricard Reino Puumala

Ricard Reino Puumala, 88, died peacefully Aug. 19, 2023, at Inter-Faith Care Center in Carlton. He was born July 23, 1935, in Chicago to Reino and Marie Bepko Puumala, both doctors. Growing up in Cloquet, he was active in debate, thespians, band (trombone) and orchestra (violin), and Boy Scouts, achieving the rank of Eagle Scout.

He graduated from Cloquet High School in 1952 as a National Merit Scholar, then went on to the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis for his undergraduate and medical doctor degrees, including election to Phi Beta Kappa.

He married his medical school classmate Barbara Meyer on Sept. 20, 1958, in Nerstrand, Minnesota in the fall of their senior year. After graduation, he and his wife joined his parents practicing general medicine at the Puumala Clinic in Cloquet. He took two years off from 1962 to 1964 to be a medical captain in the U.S. Army at Fort Sheridan in Illinois.

Ricard loved medicine, from attending high school games as a team physician, pushing for the Cloquet hospital to be built, participating in Duluth and state medical societies, collaborating with the members of the Fond du Lac reservation medical community, and being Carlton County coroner for 40 years.

He enjoyed most the time he spent with his patients, talking with them and caring for them.

He was an associate professor at the University of Minnesota Duluth Medical School and taught many medical students, including some third-year students who spent an entire year with him.

His love of and commitment to medicine was recognized with many awards. Together with his family, he won the Harold S. Diehl award from the University of Minnesota in 1972. In 1996, the Minnesota Academy of Family Practice named him Physician of the Year. The Lake Superior Medical Society named him Duluth Physician of the Year. He left his legacy proudly in his students and his communities. He was an active member of the American Academy of Family Practice and the Minnesota Academy of Family Practice.

Ricard loved the outdoors, avidly fishing “locally,” as he said when asked about his favorite spots and at his beloved Lake Aerobus in Ontario, hunting his family’s land, watching birds, and capturing much of it with his camera. If a man was in someone’s backyard, picking their mushrooms, they knew that “it’s Doc Puumala.” He was a member of Ducks Unlimited, the Ruffed Grouse Society, and the National Rifle Association.

He loved classical music, art, and reading.

Ricard was preceded in death by his parents; his wife of 58 years, Barbara; sister Kathleen Gawboy; brothers Mark and Dale; and nephew Galen Gawboy.

Ricard is survived by his sisters, Nancy Luomala, Dierre Puumala; his children, Victoria (Timothy) Heren, Michael (Jennifer) Puumala, Laura (Timothy) Berdahl, Matthew (Susan) Puumala; grandchildren Sanna and Karin Berdahl, Thomas Heren, Eric and Daniel Puumala, Soren and Helen Puumala; and cousins, nieces and nephews.

Visitation: 5-8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 25 at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, 615 12th St., Cloquet. A funeral service will begin at 11 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 26, at the church. Burial will be at Hillcrest Cemetery at a later date.

Ric’s family asks that any charitable donations in his honor be directed to Cloquet Education Foundation’s Ricard and Barbara Puumala Family Fund or the UMD Medical School Rural Physicians Associate Program. To sign a guest book and leave an online tribute, visit http://www.atkinsnorthlandfuneralhome.com.