Clifford William ‘Cliff’ Pulkas, 73, ‘proudest achievement was being a grandfather’

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Clifford William Pulkas
Clifford William Pulkas

Clifford William ‘Cliff’ Pulkas, 73, of Leland, died Saturday, April 30, 2016, at New Hanover Regional Medical Center. Cliff was born December 22, 1942, in Ontonagon, Mich., the last surviving son of 11 siblings of the late Arthur and Clara Besonen Pulkas.

Cliff was raised in the town of Trout Creek, Mich., and graduated from Trout Creek High School, Class of 1961. Cliff was an avid Detroit Lions and Tigers fan. He loved to play sports; he enjoyed softball, basketball and golf. Upon graduation from high school, he lived in Detroit for several years, returning to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to work in the White Pine Copper Mine and the lumber industry.

In 1987, he married his high school sweetheart, Mary Makinen of Mass City, Mich. Twenty-seven years after their first date, they reunited and married in Wausau, Wis., where they settled. They were married for 29 years. While in Wausau, Cliff was one of the founding owners of Metro Fire Protection. He retired in 2002, and he and Mary moved to Florida. With the arrival of their first grandchild, Sam, they moved to Durham to be close to family. They subsequently lived in Pittsburgh, Pa., Charlotte, N.C., and ultimately, Wilmington to be able to spend time with their grandchildren, Sam and Lauren.

Cliff and Mary shared a strong link to their Finnish heritage. Traveling to Finland in 2011, they enjoyed visiting their family homesteads and speaking the language of their heritage while visiting family in Finland.

Cliff had a great sense of humor, always ready to put a smile on your face. He was a very caring and kind person and maintained wonderful friendships with those who knew him. Over the last 10 years of his life, his greatest joy and proudest achievement was being a grandfather. Sam and Lauren called him ‘Papa,’ and he cherished every moment he spent with them.

He is survived by his wife, Mary Makinen Pulkas; daughter, Heidi Johnson (Andrew) of Wilmington; grandson, Sam Johnson; granddaughter, Lauren Johnson; sister-in-law, Hazel Lannett (Walter); brother-in-law, Bill Hill; and several nieces and nephews.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday, May 7, at Lutheran Church of Reconciliation with the Rev. Bill Milholland officiating. Prior to the service at the church, the family will receive friends from 1 to 2 p.m. prior to the service.

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