Simo Sarkanen Profile Photo

Simo Sarkanen

d. May 25, 2022

New Brighton, Minnesota

Simo Sarkanen, of New Brighton, passed away peacefully on May 25, 2022, following a cardiac arrest.

Born in Helsinki, Finland, and raised in Birmingham, England, Simo embodied the essences of both cultures.

He received his undergraduate degree in Chemistry from King’s College, Cambridge University in England. He earned his PhD in Bio-organic Chemistry from the University of Washington in Seattle. In 1981, he joined the faculty at the University of Minnesota where he embarked on solving the “Lignin Problems.” He sought to understand how lignins, the second most abundant biopolymers on Earth, are made and degraded in nature. His primary professional goal was to turn lignins into biodegradable plastics for the betterment of the environment. This decades-long goal was nearing success when he was called to the Lord.

Simo was a man of strong convictions. He was truly a Renaissance man, finding deep enjoyment in art and literature. But classical music was his true passion, which he shared with his family and friends. He especially loved to dissect music performances of composers from Bach and Beethoven to Alfred Schnittke with his exquisite mind and sharp sense of humor. In recent months, his son, Matias, became his much appreciated classical music companion.

Simo was an active member of Christ Church Lutheran in Minneapolis. He also loved the outdoors and traveling, an interest he shared with his wife and son. A world traveler, the Cascades, the Canadian Rockies, Lapland (Finland), the Lake District (England), Chicago, Vancouver, London, and Paris were among his favorite places. Yet, well-traveled as he was, it was everyday family life that brought Simo deepest joy.

Preceded in death by parents, Antti and Hely Sarkanen, Simo is survived by his devoted wife, Yi-ru, beloved son, Matias, and brother, John (Hazel). He will be deeply missed by his family, friends, and colleagues.

Memorials are preferred over flowers and may be made in Simo’s memory to Christ Church Lutheran ( or toward a fund for Matias’ future educational needs.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Simo Sarkanen, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services

Memorial Service

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Starts at 2:00 pm (Central time)

Christ Church Lutheran - Minneapolis

3244 34th Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55406

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.


Visits: 90

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the
Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Service map data © OpenStreetMap contributors

Send Flowers

Send Flowers

Plant A Tree

Plant A Tree