Life Story / Obituary
Clifford Arvo Niskala Jr. was born on February 17th, 1944 in the town of Newberry, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. He was a lifelong patriot and proud Finnish American. He was the keystone of a large, loving family spanning the entirety of the United States, as well as Finland. He is truly missed by the love of his life Kathy, with whom he has spent the last 23 years with. Cliff and Kathy were known by all as a strong, inseparable team that all young married family members aspired to be.
Raised in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, his childhood was filled with hunting, fishing, and working with his Father, Clifford Sr, and his Grandfather, John Niskala. His toughness growing up led to his success as an amateur boxer in the service. It was during this time that he honed his skills as a carpenter and mechanic with the oversight of his Grandfather John, whom he lovingly referred to as “Pa.” He is known for building an entire 1967 Plymouth Fury from scratch, and riding everywhere on his motorcycle.
After leaving home, he began his lifelong service to this nation by enlisting into the Regular Army. After completing his initial training, he was stationed at Fort Bragg in North Carolina as a vehicle mechanic. He served with distinction for four years, earning an Honorable Discharge.
He soon began a career in the biomedical equipment repair field, specializing in ophthalmic equipment repair. This profession saw him move around a significant portion of the United States while raising his young family.
Clifford entered service with the Air Force as a leader in the Services section later in life. His larger than life personality and fierce work ethic were cherished by all that he worked with. When Master Sergeant Niskala was assigned as a leader, the task at hand would be accomplished to his distinct, high standard. He was hand selected to serve overseas immediately following the 9/11 attacks in 2001. He retired from his career in the Air Force in 2004, receiving countless awards and decorations throughout his time in service.
Following his formal service to the nation, Clifford began volunteering with the Michigan Volunteer Defense Force (VDF). As a senior leader, he took his role very seriously as he mentored and taught the younger volunteers. He taught survival, emergency medical intervention, and basic Soldier tasks. All members of the VDF were inspired by his competence and resilience. He also attended a specialized course with the American Red Cross to aide in disaster relief.
Whether it was a pedestrian stranded on the road, a young Soldier or Airman, a family member or friend, Clifford seized every opportunity to serve. He was equally passionate helping strangers, as he was helping his family.
Cliff and Kathy enjoyed spending quality time with each other the most. They enjoyed camping, gardening, playing skip-bo, canning, outdoor activities, and visiting family members as a couple. They traveled across the United States as a team, strengthening their bond along the way. He achieved a lifelong goal of traveling to Finland and meeting his extended family, it was a dream come true for him. He cherished this time as a once in a lifetime moment. Clifford was widely regarded as a master craftsman and could fix or build anything. His woodworking projects have found their place in the homes of every family member. He especially enjoyed building wooden toys for his grandchildren and watching everyone enjoy his world-famous pancakes. Keeping with his Finnish roots, he enjoyed taking a sauna with his family. This was a tradition that was taught to him by his Grandfather, Pa that he enjoyed with his father and eventually building his own sauna for his family to enjoy.
He was preceded in death by his Father Clifford Niskala Sr. and his Mother Leona Belle Niskala. He is survived by his beloved Wife, Kathy Niskala; his six children: Cherie Niskala, Robert Taggett (Angeline), Debbie O’Connell (Thomas), Reagan Taggett (Rick Moody), Kevin Niskala (Dianna), and Richard Taggett (KarenAnne) and his 21 Grandchildren; Jesse, Brianna, Keegan, Garan, Ashlie, Alicia, Erica, Darian, Trisha, Thomas, Christopher, Rishawn, Travis, Vincent, Anthony, Marissa, Brandon, Noah, Parker, Grayson, Sullivan and his three great grandchildren; Kaylie, Addisyn, Aaliyah. He is also survived by his siblings; Elaine (Gary), DeLoryce, John, and Linda, and numerous nieces and nephews.