Journal columnist Ben Mukkala dies

MARQUETTE – Ben Mukkala left this earth Wednesday on his own terms.

He died just the way he wanted, said his beloved wife, Dorothy.

“Ben died quietly,” Dorothy said. “It was a very peaceful passing.”

Mukkala, 83, had announced in early August that he had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and had the option of extending his life, for a matter of months or years, through treatment. He said no.

“There were no painful treatments,” Dorothy said. “He found out (the cancer) was terminal and that was it. He accepted it. We received many cards and letters and emails from people who understood his decision.”

Dorothy said Ben’s health declined rapidly.

“Once he found out he had the cancer, he went downhill real fast,” she said. “He finished up things and got everything in order for me. Toward the end, he wasn’t able to visit with people or even eat.

“But he went out the way he wanted to.”

Born in 1929 in Marquette, Mukkala was a graduate of Graveraet High School in Marquette and Ball State University in Muncie, Ind.

Mukkala was a proud U.S. Air Force veteran of both the Korean and Vietnam wars, working up the ranks from private during the Korean War, eventually training as a pilot. According to his website, Mukkala served a combat tour in Southeast Asia flying F-4 “Phantom II” fighter bombers in Vietnam. He retired in 1970 with the rank of major.

After the war, Mukkala continued to fly, including for pleasure and for hire, and also loved to sail. He had written some for Air Force publications during his service and decided to try his hand at writing.

Eventually he became a freelance writer, his work appearing in outdoor magazines, among other publications. Then he became a regular columnist for The Mining Journal.

Ben and Dorothy, who both had been married prior to meeting one another and wedding in 1987, have 10 kids and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

“Ben and I received so many cards and emails after that last column ran. We were so grateful,” Dorothy said. “People showed they cared.”

In addition to a long-running weekly column in The Mining Journal, Ben was the author of six books. For more information on Ben Mukkala and his work, visit his website at

Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253.