Citation for Long and Valued Service to the Assembly, 2016



JULY 10, 2016

Kay's family first arrived at the CSA on July 1st, 1957, coming from their new home in Iowa City, and were instant converts to the Assembly. This was true even though the cottage they rented that first summer had squirrels scampering around the kitchen at night knocking pans off the shelves.

After two years of renting they bought a lot from the Assembly and built their beloved log cottage, "Red Chimney". Kay fondly remembers walking home in the dark as her husband Harry led them in singing the old hymn "Let the Lower Lights be Burning" while they felt their way along the edge of the pavement until the faint glow of the porch light finally showed them the path to the Red Chimney.

In those years, the Assembly was very much matriarchal - fewer women worked outside the home so mothers and children would spend the summers here while the fathers were home. Kay spent the summers watching their four children on the beach during lessons, urging them on during tennis tournaments, and helping with operettas and dances. 

She quickly became actively involved in the volunteer life that is the heartbeat of the CSA, serving as a Trustee, as a member of the Women's Association Board and Committee and was part of the Citation Committee during its early years. 

But committees and board memberships come and go. If you want to know the essence of Kay Fischer, you are encouraged to go to the lounge in the Assembly Building and study the Centennial quilt, put together in 2001, hanging on the wall. The large central block, the focal point of the piece, is the visual representation of the Assembly's "then" and "now". There in front of the Meeting House are the transparent ghostly figures of the Assembly's past coexisting with the brightly dressed figures of "now" accompanied by the words "They led the way - we follow still." This was the creation of Kay Fischer - the design for it grew out of her great love and appreciation for the Assembly; the beauty of it grew out of her willingness to share her talent.



Citation for Long and Valued Service to the Assembly, 2015

Frank and Barbara Somers


JULY 19, 2015

Every summer we come to the Assembly hoping and expecting that things will be as wonderful as in each year before – believing that whether we need re-creation or recreation, chances to teach or to be taught, days to make decisions or to go with the flow – all these things will be here for us.  That they are here is because of the many people who volunteer their time and their ideas to the Assembly.  Some of our wonderful volunteers represent clans of many generations, some have “married in,” and some have more recently come and become irreplaceable members of the Assembly extended family.  But all have in common a love of the CSA and a desire to help it flourish.  Each year the Citations Committee has the good fortune to recognize exceptional volunteers and to remind all of us that the reason the Assembly is the place we love is because of the support given by many over the years.

This year we are pleased to present the Citation for Long and Valued Service to the Assembly to a couple – Barbara and Frank Somers.  Let me tell you a bit about them.

R.J. Bennett first came to the Assembly in 1905 from the Northside of Chicago where he had been active in the Congregational Church and the YMCA.  A wholesale grocer who had been burned out in the Chicago fire, his creditors had offered to accept reduced payment, but he demonstrated the combination of rigorous ethics and entrepreneurship that would later benefit the Assembly and he rebuilt his business with such success that he paid back all his creditors with interest.  Involved with the CSA here in Pilgrim from its beginning, when there was a need for more permanent structures than tents he provided the major funding both for the Dining Hall and for the auditorium named the Bennett Auditorium, that preceded this Meeting House.  
His great-granddaughter, Barbara Brownell, grew up in Kalamazoo.  She would spend two weeks each summer with her grandparents, Bessie and Will Bennett, in the cottage built by R.J. Bennett in 1915 - on Standish Road at the S. Shore Road.  Those years of the late 1930’s and early 1940’s were quieter years at the Assembly with no phones, few cars, and lots of family time.  In recent years when they were remodeling the old cottage the family almost didn’t put in a dishwasher because, Barbara recalled, “That’s when I talked with my grandmother – doing the dishes.” (Note: they put it in anyway.)

Barbara enrolled at Northwestern University where she was an English major, a member of Tri Delta sorority, and a fan of the football team that went to the Rose Bowl in her senior year!  After graduation she lived with three sorority sisters in Chicago and worked in advertising – in the early “Mad Men” years!

Meanwhile, Frank Somers was growing up on a farm in Illinois.  After his freshman year at the University of Illinois he joined the army and spent 3 years with a mortar battalion in Europe during WWII, returning a decorated veteran in 1945.  He went back to the University of Illinois on the GI Bill.  During the summer of 1947 he visited Kalamazoo with his roommate and, in the wonderful way of serendipity, his roommate had a friend who knew a girl named Barbara Brownell.  At the end of summer, back in school, Frank would hitchhike from Champaign to Chicago on the weekends – he says that wearing a buddy’s glamorous Air Corps jacket seemed to get him rides faster than wearing his own jacket.  When he graduated he went to Kalamazoo and got a job with The Sutherland Paper Company – staying with them through several changes of ownership for 40 years.

Frank and Barbara were married in 1951 and spent much of their married life being sent from place to place by the company as Frank advanced in management.  They lived in Pittsburgh, Omaha, Des Moines, Kansas City, Saratoga (CA) – and each of their 4 children was born in a different place.  Finally they were able to move back to Michigan and at last could spend more time in the place that for them, as for so many of us, was more home than any other place.

With a big porch looking over the lake it was inevitable that over time their garage would fill with things that float – paddleboards, kayaks, motorboats – and they loved swimming and the beach.

Barbara’s service to the Assembly has always been the quiet kind that can be overlooked – unless you are working with her.  That’s when you realize how much she cares about the Assembly, how much time she’s given, and how much she has contributed.  She was a long time volunteer with the Women’s Association, helping with all the many services it has provided through the years, as well as serving on its board, and she has spent many many years on the Membership Committee – meeting every week of every summer, offering an open, welcoming, and thoughtful perspective from her long experience.  
Frank brought his energy and his business experience to this Assembly that he had come to see as a welcoming home.  He was on the Property Management committee for years as member and chair, served on the Board of Trustees as vice-president and a member of the Executive Committee; he was a member of the Long Range Planning committee for several years and for 16 years was on Bud Strong’s famous Septic System Review committee.

We always make the point that there are many ways in which individuals provide dedicated service to the Assembly – through committees, through highly visible activities, and through being mindfully present, helping when help is needed and contributing thoughtful critiques and ideas as new ways of doing things are proposed.  Frank and Barbara Somers represent all those things while contributing greatly to the level of civil discourse that will help the CSA continue to be the place called ”home” by future generations.  Those who have shared time with them over the years have long noted and appreciated the quiet but significant ways in which they have enriched the lives of all of us.

Barbara and Frank – we’re delighted to recognize your contributions to the Congregational Summer Assembly with this Citation.  Your names have been placed on the plaque at the back of the Meeting House and members of the congregation can greet you outside after the service.

Citation for Long and Valued Service to the Assembly, 2014

On Sunday, August 3rd we gave Anne Wilson Dupre the 2014 Citation for Long and Valued Service to the Assembly. Thank you Anne for exemplifying the spirit upon which the CSA was founded!

In 1913 Edgar and Lola Armstrong drove north from their home in Fenton, Michigan, because he had decided a cherry orchard would be a good thing to invest in. After several days they discovered the very young Congregational Summer Assembly, said “Let’s forget the cherry orchard!’’, and bought property here at what is now the corner of Edwards Avenue and Fairchild. Soon they built their cottage and named it “Woodway.” Succeeding generations of the Armstrong family, including Maurice and Daphne in the 5th generation, have summered in that cottage and from the beginning there were usually three generations living together. (Anne’s cousin, Nancy Clapp Martinez, recalls sleeping in the attic with Anne, listening to the adults as they sat around the fire below.) Anne’s mother, Margaret Starr Willson Leutheuser, is 101 now and was here every summer of her life until traveling became too arduous.
Anne grew up in Philadelphia and during her teens took part in a program developed by the Quakers that helped young people learn how to volunteer effectively. As we will see, in Anne’s case this program was extraordinarily effective.
After earning her Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science at Brown she went to Harvard where she was administrative head of the honors program for government and economics. The head tutor for government was the close friend of a brilliant young Canadian with a Ph.D. in government and economics named Stefan Dupre. The friend called Steve and said “Wait till you meet Miss Willson - you’re really going to like her!" He did. During their 50+ years of marriage they lived in Toronto and she devoted her intelligence, energy, and knowledge of how to volunteer effectively to community initiatives that seek to improve the quality of life of children, especially with regard to mental health concerns. In pursuit of those goals she has chaired countless major boards and committees in Toronto and Ontario, often as the first woman in that capacity, and she has a long history of association with important mental health projects. For twenty years she has been a strong voice for ethics in medical agencies, hospitals, and mental health centers. The range and the depth of her volunteer activities in Toronto is quite extraordinary and she has been recognized with the Ontario Volunteer Award, the Junior League of Toronto Award of Excellence, and the Frederick G. Gardiner Award, Metropolitan Toronto Citizen of the Year.
Anne has always worked very hard during the year and would arrive at Woodway with the feeling that many of us have: "At last! Let me just sit - take a long walk - see my friends.” But she also recalled the wonderful days of her childhood here when she and her friends were free to wander the woods and beaches and felt nurtured by the community. Because she values this community she has always volunteered her knowledge and her time to support the CSA and help maintain that sense of safe freedom she experienced growing up here. She has served as a Trustee and on the Nominations Committee to find new Trustees; she was first a member and then chair of the Research and Resources Committee and a member of the Budget Committee. For thirteen years Anne was on the Membership Committee, for 3 years as its chair, and during that time she was also on an ad hoc Voting Rights Committee established by the board. She was on the Long Range Planning Committee and - as the CSA started its slow move into the 21st century - she served on the Computer Committee. For the last several years Anne has been on the By-Laws Committee where her broad and deep knowledge always helps to clarify the issues. She clearly knows more about the things under discussion than most committee members but always manages to make you feel that, of course, you knew that all along. Somehow things seem to go on more smoothly after her input. She may have wanted to just sit and relax - and she is quick to say that she does do that - but she has continued to stay actively involved. And she has pulled her share of garlic mustard! As we have passed the halfway point in the summer season of 2014 and can see the signs that our Brigadoon will be disappearing into the mists again we are thankful for the insights and sense of order imparted by Anne over the years that give us confidence that next year, when we are ready, the doors of the CSA will open for us. Thank you, Anne, for your service to the Congregational Summer Assembly. Your name has been engraved on the plaque at the back of the Meeting House. Everyone is invited to greet Anne and thank her in person at the end of the service.