Raymond Kark

Raymond Kark. (Image: Duluth Public Library)

Raymond Kark was born Reijo Emil Karkkainen on November 3, 1937, in Duluth. His parents were Emil Karkkainen and Ina (Niemi) Karkkainen. Emil was born in Finland and came to the U.S. about 1913, along with his wife Matilda, who was then 21 years old. They settled in DeKalb, Illinois, with his brother David, and soon Matilda gave birth to a son, Elmer. At some point, Matilda and Elmer went back to Finland. About 1925, Emil moved to Duluth. He found work in foundries, and later worked for many years at the Morgan Park Steel Plant. Matilda and Elmer came back to the U.S., and joined Emil in Duluth, in 1927. Then, around 1933, something happened to Matilda, and in the 1935 Duluth City Directory Emil is married to Ina. Ina Niemi was born in Finland on July 13, 1902, and at about four years of age moved with her family to Cedar Valley Township, in St. Louis County on the Floodwood River. Ina gave birth to Raymond in 1937, when they were living at 515 North Lake Avenue.

Raymond attended Nettleton Elementary School, Washington Junior High School, and Duluth Central High School. He graduated from Central in 1957. In high school, he was active in numerous plays, track and cross-country running, the school newspaper, and the yearbook. Sadly, Ina died on December 28, 1955, at the age of 53, and Emil died on May 22, 1961, at the age of 67. Raymond attended the University of Minnesota Duluth and graduated in 1962 with a degree in speech. During high school and college, he worked as an office boy at the Duluth News Tribune.

After college, Raymond joined the Army. After his discharge, he headed for Hollywood with the idea of becoming a television actor. He shortened his last name to Kark. His first significant role was as Lowell the tree trimmer in an episode of The Andy Griffith Show entitled “Aunt Bee Learns to Drive.” Other small roles in sitcoms quickly followed, including parts in Green Acres, The Doris Day Show, The Red Skelton Show, Here Come the Brides, and Mayberry RFD. Next he landed a role in the 1971 movie Cold Turkey, with Dick Van Dyke, Bob Newhart, Bob and Ray, and Tom Poston. Raymond played the bumbling police chief in a town where everyone has pledged to stop smoking. In the 1970s, Raymond played roles in the television series Cannon and Barnaby Jones, and in the movies Ruby (1977) and Skateboard (1978). For the next eight years, he acted mostly in television commercials and wrote and illustrated children’s books. He died in Santa Barbara, California, on July 28, 1986. He is buried next to his mother in the Cedar Valley Cemetery.

Story by David Ouse. Originally published on Zenith City Online (2012–2017). Click here for more stories by David Ouse.