Dolores Niskanen

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Dolores Niskanen, 2007

Dolores Melba May Niskanen (nee Vuori) (born circa 1937) is a Canadian of Finnish descent from St. Catherine's, Ontario who was a professional dancer and dance instructor. She ran a dance studio in Thunder Bay for about 30 years from about 1975 to 2005. Since then she has lived in London, Ontario.

Early life

Dolores was born circa 1937 to Irene (maiden name unknown) and Hannes Antinpoika Vuori (1892 - 1962), a carpenter and general contractor. Her parents may have been immigrants from Finland, or their parents were. At the time of her birth her parents were likely living in St. Catherine's, Ontario.

Her father Hannes had previously been married, to Amelia Hermanson, so when she was born she already had a half-brother based in Thunder Bay:

Her father Hannes died in 1962 at age 70 in Saint Catharines. After Hannes' death, Dolores' mother Irene remarried to a man named Onni Kuisma.


It is not clear if as a young girl Dolores grew up in Thunder Bay or St Catherine's. She was already performing in Thunder Bay by the early 1950s, however.

[In about 1951] as a little girl I was mesmerized by her dancing at the "Little Finn Hall" [1] at [316] Bay Street. She was my dance inspiration in person instead of just these 1950s exotic mideastern dances in the movies. Fast forward to the latter 1980s when I was writing for Lakehead Living and Lakehead Seniors: I was delighted to connect with her for a feature story and to let her know of my childhood enchantment.

— Rita Peterson, in Thunder Bay Memories Facebook Group, 9 July 2019 [2]

Professional Dancer

"Beautiful and Pleasant was the colorful and swift "ink jet race" of the Toronto daughters, which they presented at Sunday's Sunday afternoon party in Sudbury on Alerts' ground; The picture was taken in the field right after the presentation. Dolores Niskanen from St. Catharines performed the fine solo dance" - Vapaus, 8 August 1957, page 1

On 8 August 1957 Dolores performed a solo as part of a dance by her dance troupe in Toronto. She was reported as being from St. Catherine's.

On 19 June 1960, CBC's anthology television program General Motors Theatre, which broadcast theatrical works live, broadcast an episode "The Virtuous Island" in which Dolores apparently played a supporting role. The episode starred Canadian actor John Colicos, who later went on to great fame on Star Trek as the first Klingon, Kor, in 1967.

In the early 1960s, Dolores was the instructor for the Yritys athletic club, part of the Toronto Yritys and Finnish Organization. They performed a "mass gym by the girls, a hoop gym by the girls and a folk dance (a Finnish polka)", on Sunday 9 July 1961.

On Sunday 4 August 1963, at 20:00, at 300 Bathurst Street, Toronto, at a Finnish dancing event, a dance troupe led by Dolores was set to perform the piece "Finlandia in abstract" as the closing number of the performance. [19]

31 July - 2 August 1970, Vapaus newspaper advertised a "suurjuhla" or "High Feast" event. Dolores performed an "erikoistanssia" - finnish for "special dance" - at the "Anniversary Concert" segment, which was held at St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts, Toronto. [20]

Move to Thunder Bay and Teaching Career

After moving to Thunder Bay with her teenage son Keven in about 1972, she continued her career as a dancer and teacher.

Sometime on or before 1981 she started calling her classes a "School of Dance", which she taught out of the Big Finn Hall above the Hoito on Bay Street, as well as the St. Joseph's Heritage. She taught yoga, aerobics, ballroom dance, and possibly other styles.

Dolores Niskanen donated a gift certificate for her School of Dance to the first "Wymmyn's [sic] Social", held on 14 November 1981 in Thunder Bay.

Condolence From: Bev Wakefield

Condolence: Remembering all the good coffee times we had years ago in the cafeteria at St Joe's Heritage after our exercise class with Delores [sic] Niskanen. Whenever I met [Danica Brovak] she always had a minute to stop and chat.

Wednesday January 06, 2010

— Bev Wakefield, in memory of Danica Mary Brovak, 6 January 2010 [3]

As of 1999 she had moved to a dedicated facility at 16 Court Street South, in the historic Ruttan Block, (named for the former mayor of Port Arthur, Mayor James Ruttan) in downtown Port Arthur, Thunder Bay. The studio's phone number was (807) 344-1300. It was called the Dolores Niskanen Studio Of Fitness & Dance.

Michael Currie took classes weekly for 8 months with Tanya Elise Watson (nee Oja) in the fall 1999 and winter 2000 semesters.

One of her most dedicated students during this time was a man called Wayne.

Her business shut down sometime prior to 2009, since Google Street View shows the studio as derelict as of 2009, and occupied by a lingerie store as of 2012.

Dolores Niskanen, right, 2007

In 2007, she was living in London, Ontario, likely to be with her second husband Dr. Paivio. In 2007 she organized a fundraiser for Breast Cancer Research at Cherryhill Village Mall.

Snowflakes of Hope. To raise money for Breast Cancer research, Smart Woman of Cherryhill Village Mall hosted dinner, a fashion show and a silent auction at Aroma restaurant downtown. Kim Ariesen (Fashion Coordinator) and Dolores Niskanen (Event Coordinator) put on an impressive show with the models from Elegance School of Modeling. With all the fashions stating class, and dinner being unparalleled, there is little reason to doubt that next year's show will be anything less than impressive.

— snapd London, 2007 (written possibly by photographer Jason Wells)

She was listed as one of about 70 members of the "volunteer committee" of Orchestra London (Ontario) in their annual report 2011/2012. [4] As of 2020 this is the last reference to her available online.

Personal life

First Marriage

Some time between 1953 and 1956, Dolores married her first husband, Wally Niskanen. It is possible that Wally was related to famous Finnish ballet dancer Toivo Niskanen (1887 - 1961). [11] [12] [13]. Wally and Dolores had a son, Keven, in 1958.

Dolores had been separated from Wally since at least Christmas 1970, when she, her mother, and her 12-year-old son listed themselves in a "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year" page of the Vapaus Finnish-language newspaper. [5]. Her ex-husband Wally remained in St Catherines. Wally eventually remarried, to a woman who died in St Catherines in 2003. Wally moved to Red Deer sometime between 2003 and 2014.

Keven Niskanen

With Wally she had a son, Keven Richard Vuori Niskanen (1958 - 2 March 2014), born in St. Catherines.

In the early 1970s, Dolores moved with her son Keven to Thunder Bay.

According to his obituary, Keven spent his teen years in Thunder Bay, attending Westgate High School before moving to Victoria, BC. So it's likely that Dolores had moved to Thunder Bay by about 1972, and then in about 1976 her son moved away from home to Victoria, BC.

Keven was "a licensed finishing carpenter and had a great interest in architecture, design, and colour. He loved animals and was a fan of the Rolling Stones." From his obituary it does not appear that Keven married or had issue. This means Dolores has no surviving biological descendants since 2014.

Second Marriage

Her second husband was Dr. Allan Paivio (1925 - 2016), a former bodybuilder and Mr. Canada 1948 who was born in Thunder Bay and was later Professor of psychology at the University of Western Ontario. She married him sometime after his first wife Kathleen Laura Blanche "Kay" Austin died after 50 years of marriage (circa 1945 - 1995). [7]

Coincidentally, in 1928 her second husband's father worked briefly on a paper called Vapaus (Finnish for "freedom"). This same paper reported on Dolores' dance performances and teaching, from 1952 to at least 1970, in at least six articles; this would have been 30 years before she would have met her second husband.

He dedicated his 2007 book, Mind and Its Evolution to her.

I am especially grateful to my wife Dolores Niskanen for her patience during the many years when she thought I was glued to my computer. But then, she understands passion for a calling from her own long career in dance and choreography.

— Dr. Allan Paivio, second husband of Dolores, in the acknowledgements to his book, Mind and Its Evolution, 2007

With Dr. Allan she became stepmother to the five adult children from his previous 50-year marriage to Kay: Sandra, Anna Lee, Heather, Eric, Karina.


In 2013 her son Keven moved to London from Ottawa, likely to be closer to his mother so she could take care of him as he suffered from a terminal illness. At 14:00 on Sunday 2 March 2014, Dolores watched her only child Keven "take his final breath" at the University Hospital, London. A month later, Dolores' husband had to endure a death of one of his children, Heather Kathleen Gérard, age 63.

Two years later, on 19 June 2016, Dolores' second husband Allan died.

In 2018, Dolores appears as one of dozens of donors who donated between $100 and $249 to the charity, Bereaved Families of Ontario - Southwest Region. She would qualify for the charity's grief support category 1 of 4, "Parents who have lost a child of any age", since she lost her son in 2014. [21]

Dr. Irving Taylor murder

In 1975, in Texas, Eva Spero, mother of Dr. Irving Taylor, Saul Taylor, and Lillian Taylor, died. Irving lived in Thunder Bay while his siblings in Texas were supposed to take care of their mother. But Irving sued his siblings for mismanaging her assets. On 8 October 1982 in a Houston law office, Saul shot and killed Irving while he was on a visit to Texas as part of the case.

Houston Chronicle article from 1982 giving details of Dr. Taylor's murder

On 8 October 1982, "Delores [sic] Niskanen" was the named life insurance and pension beneficiary and received about CAD 175,000 when 57-year-old Lakehead University professor Dr. Irving Abraham Taylor (1925 - 1982) was shot dead in Houston, Texas by Irving's brother Houston Police Officer Saul Taylor (1918 - 1999) in a dispute over a family inheritance. It is not clear what Dolores' connection was to Irving, especially since the Irving Taylor estate's executrix was a woman named "C. Dianne Taylor", of Thunder Bay, which would appear to make Diane likely to be Irving's wife. However, Irving was married five times and fits the type of man who would have interested Dolores, as he was a professor of psychology, so it is possible she was previously married to him. He lived in Thunder Bay from 1975 to 1982. The case became subject to a lawsuit in American Court since Irving was an American citizen and so his estate was subject to American taxes. [14] [15] [16] [17]


1. Mind and Its Evolution: A Dual Coding Theoretical Approach By Allan Paivio. Google Books





6. 13 July 1961. Vapaus (Sudbury).

7. Northern Women Journal, 1981.

8. UWO remembers Dr. Al Paivio

9. Tanya Oja, Considering Childlessness. 2008.

10. Dolores' Geni entry









GERRARD, Heather Kathleen (nee Paivio) - Peacefully at Victoria Hospital on Tuesday April 15, 2014 in her 63rd year. Beloved wife of Zorin Gerrard of London. Loving mother of Aaron Gerrard of London. Cherished daughter of Allan Paivio (Dolores Niskanen) of London. Sister of Sandra Paivio of Windsor, Anna Lee Dietsche (Robert) of London, Eric Paivio (Laura) of St. Thomas, Karina Macfarlane (John) of St. Thomas. Fondly remembered by several nieces and nephews and great nieces and nephew. Predeceased by her mother Kathleen Paivio. Cremation has taken place.

19. Vapaus, 23 July 1963. Page 9.

20. Vapaus, 21 July 1970. Page 9.

21. BFO Annual Report 2018, May 2018 [6]