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Ross's Story

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Ross Monson "Skip" Kolhonen, died at Massachusetts General Hospital on December 1 from complications of heart disease. Ross, the second child and only son of the late Frances (Monson) and Edwin Kolhonen, was born in Salem on March 1, 1946, and grew up in Peabody. He is survived by his partner of 45 years, Lorraine Benoit, and his two sisters, Joanne Howland of Wenham and Faye Kolhonen (Kurnick) and her husband, Dan Johnson of Winchester. He is also survived by his adoring nieces and nephews, Amanda Howland of South Portland, Maine, Jon Howland of Boulder, Colo., Matthew Kurnick and his wife, Leslie of San Francisco, Calif., and Annika Kurnick of Los Angeles, Calif. Other survivors include his aunt, Elly Monson of Peabody; three great-nieces, Alexandra, Lauren and Annabel Huber; and many cousins.
After a truly enjoyable four years at Colby College, Ross taught high school on North Haven Island in Maine for three years and put the island on the map by making it the home of the infamous Gin and Tonic Golf Tournament, which will soon celebrate its 50th year. This was followed by The Great Adventure: making his way by bus, boat and 3rd class train tickets across Europe and the Middle East to India and returning a year later with a lifetime of stories, most not fit for his parents' ears. After this, settling down and studying for a Masters in Education at Boston University was tame stuff indeed.
One of Ross' main passions were his store, The Record Exchange, in Salem, Mass., which he opened in 1974 and which has become a destination store for vinyl lovers in the New England area. Golf, which he learned when caddying at Salem Country Club as a boy and, rumor has it, sneaking into the club grounds with a teenage friend to harvest balls from the pond on the 9th hole, was both a discipline and obsession since those early days. As an adult who actually purchased golf balls, he played first at Ferncroft Country Club and then later at Salem Country Club. Skip organized many intense family tournaments around New England where the rules of play would never be recognizable by the PGA. His family was amazed that everyone won something no matter how bad their play, as daily the categories for winning changed. He was a marathoner, running in the Centennial Boston Marathon, and the Washington, D.C., marathon among others, and he was part of a group of adventurous runners who ran half marathons on different continents, including Antarctica and Africa, which combined two of his passions; travel was a huge part of his life and he enjoyed it solo as well as with family or friends. A list of places Ross traveled would be shorter by only noting those he had not yet seen. Traveling through Afghanistan, playing golf in Egypt, attending a wedding in India, and teaching English in Mexico City for six months were experiences that added richness and nuance to his world view and great stories for his friends.
A thorough reading of the New York Times with his morning coffee ensured that he was a well-informed dinner companion who felt strongly about social justice and those in power who were obstructing it. Skip had a gift for forging strong and loving friendships even with those who did not share his New York Times editorial views a gift that is sadly lacking in today's discourse. Ross was an avid fan of the Boston Celtics and a 40-year season ticket holder. The Celtics honored him last Thursday night by wishing him well via the jumbotron.
Ross had the rare ability to make everyone feel that they were the most important person in the room and he will be deeply missed by his legions of friends dating from his Peabody elementary school days to those he just met last week. If there is a Rock and Roll heaven, you probably will find Ross in the vinyl section telling a new friend about how he was a charter member in the Buddy Holly Fan Club.
His family will receive relatives and friends on Sunday, December 10, from 3 to 7 p.m. at the Conway, Cahill-Brodeur Funeral Home at 82 Lynn St., Peabody. His celebration of life service will be held in the funeral home on Monday, December 11, at 11:30 a.m. In lieu of flowers, please send donations in Ross' memory to Massachusetts General Hospital, MGH Development Office, 125 Nashua St., Suite 540, Boston, MA 02114; or to Oxfam, www.oxfamamerica.org, 226 Causeway St., 5th Floor, Boston, MA 02114. Burial in Oak Grove Cemetery, Peabody. Please visit www.ccbfuneral.com for directions, online obituary and memorial guest book.
Published on December 5, 2017
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