Monday, June 12, 2017

Best of Friends

Dear George,
My parents were part of such a great circle of friends in Menominee.  I’ve never seen anything quite like it elsewhere.  These were business and professional people who maintained close friendships for half a century or more.  They had regular parties and get-togethers of all sorts – community theater, Great Books discussion groups, poetry and art parties, jazz gatherings, oil painting outings, hunting camp get-togethers, boat trips, golfing, picnics on the Bay, Fourth of July celebrations, Xmas visits, etc.  Part of it was probably due to living in a small town.  People were in close proximity, and there weren’t a lot of big city-like events (e.g., symphony concerts, pro sports) so people relied much more on socializing with one another.  One of my childhood friends told me recently that my father had explained to her that their generation had come of age in the midst of the Great Depression, and, lacking money and job opportunities elsewhere, all of them had remained in their hometown near their families.  Recently, browsing through my father’s photographs, I found a set that he’d taken before an annual New Year’s Eve party at Riverside Country Club.  Here are some of the couples who made up this wonderful social group.

Jackie and Marty Burke

The Burkes lived at Pine Beach in Marinette with their three kids, Skipper (Martin Jr.), Ann, and Robbie.  Skipper was one of my best childhood friends. When we visited, we’d go swimming in Green Bay. 

Florence and Bill Caley

The Caley family, with kids Bill, Tom, and Bruce, lived at Northwood Cove on the Green Bay shore, just north of the city limits.  The Caleys hosted a big Fourth of July beach party each year, and fathers and sons would go to Peshtigo to buy the fireworks.  

Nan and Jes Jacobsen

The Jacobsens had three girls, Nancy, Jeanne, and Mary Nell.  Jes used to get Green Bay Packer tickets for our family, and we stayed at their Green Bay shore cottage during family reunions.  

Vic and Ruth Mars

The Mars, with their kids Mary and Charley, also lived at Northwood Cove.  Vic was a painter; Ruth a gardener.  They hosted a Christmas Eve Party where we children hid behind chairs and sofas and watched Santa’s visit.  (He actually was there.) 

Mike and Jean O’Hara

The O’Hara’s, with their four kids, Terry, Michael Dennis, Kiera, and Sean, lived on the Green Bay shore, and we spent a lot of time together as families, the kids swimming in the Bay or the river.  A Menominee lawyer, Mike served on the Michigan Supreme Court and was a devout Green Bay Packer and Notre Dame fan.   

John and Ruth Sargent

The Sargents, with their son John (and maybe other siblings), were the third family at Northwood Cove.  John was a junior fellow golfer at Riverside Country Club.  When our family first moved to our house on the river and had no electricity, John Sargent would periodically come and start up the gas-powered electricity generator in our garage.  

Dick and Muriel Sawyer  

Dick Sawyer was my dad’s law partner.  The Sawyers, with Susan, Barb, and Chip, lived in a grand house on State Street.  Dick had a hunting camp in the county, and my dad and I joined him for a duck hunting outing. 

Martina and Pat Steffke  

Because of his army assignment in Austria at the end of World War II, Pat met and married Martina, an opera singer.  We ten year old boys thought she was the most beautiful woman we’d ever seen.  The Steffkes, with son Sammy, lived on the Green Bay shore. 

Jean and Margaret Worth

The Worths lived on State Street with their three daughters, Dooley, Ann, and Jeanie.  Jean was the editor of the Menominee Herald-Leader and a prominent U.P. historian.  The Worths owned a hunting camp at Cedar River where we and many other families enjoyed frequent happy outings.  


  1. What different lives your family and mine lived in this "small town." My parents' friends were mostly disabled and/or members of our church... no professionals or world travelers. Before my father got multiple sclerosis, we lived on the corner of North Shore Drive and the road that leads to Northwood Cove. How I envied the strangers who lived in those houses. Later, we moved north of 38th Ave. into a small house my uncle built for us. In high school I felt the sting of exclusion for being poor. I have to admit that some of the girls were nice to me, including your sister Vicky, but I was still an outsider. I have had a successful life, no complaints, except for remembering the invisible barriers in our small but divided town. It's weird now, as an adult, to be Facebook friends with a classmate who was the son of the superintendent of schools. All differences are irrelevant now, I suppose. Reading your blog posts is often bittersweet, but I do appreciate your honesty and your outlook.

  2. As the daughter of Mike and Jean O'Hara , one of the couples in that amazing group of friends, I am grateful for Mary McKenny's comment. In retrospect we were privileged although at the time it just felt like being part of a remarkable group of friends and family. I agree with Dave that in my subsequent 75 plus years I have never again experienced anything quite like it. I cannot read or see these reminisces without tears in my eyes. Dave: the other two Sargent boys were Bob and Jim. John, "Sarge" was the youngest. I believe that they are all deceased.