Stories

Citation for Long and Valued Service to the Assembly, 2011

MARILYN STIMSON WINTER

AUGUST 7, 2011

Each year the Citations Committee reflects on the generous sharing of time and talent by members of our community and introduces one of those individuals to you.  Sometimes we learn of contributions that are quiet and behind the scenes – sometimes they are out where everyone is aware of them.  In the process we discover many things about what makes the Congregational Summer Assembly such a special place for all of us – and one of these things is how the concept of service to the community is a family value that is carried out from generation to generation.

The person we recognize this morning spends so many hours of each summer here in the Meeting House that a lot of people think she’s part of the paid staff.  And she is so closely identified with music that many people have no idea how much she does and has done here that has been totally unconnected to music. So I look forward to telling you more about her – MARILYN STIMSON WINTER.

It’s impossible to tell the story of Marilyn’s involvement in the Assembly without acknowledging her parents, Dr Edward Stimson and Emily Maclean Stimson.  They were larger than life in more than height and and are rightly seen as the role models for their three daughters – Kay, Marjorie, and Marilyn -  in representing what the Assembly is all about.

Marilyn was born the youngest of the three in Cincinnati, OH.  As her father accepted the call from Presbyterian churches in new cities the family moved to Galesburg, IL; Sioux City, IA; back to Cincinnati; and, finally, when Marilyn was 10, to Omaha, NB, where they remained.  A cheerleader in high school, Marilyn went on to Northwestern University where she was on the Pep Squad.  Anyone watching her get scores of children engaged during operetta practices can see that as a natural progression.  Who hasn’t heard this:  clap clapclap clap clap – clap clap? At the beginning of her junior year Marilyn transferred to Occidental College in Los Angeles where she went into music, stayed for a Masters in Voice with a Minor in Theater, and met Brian Winter.  Together they continued their education in music at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana.  Marilyn taught 4th grade while also earning her second Master’s Degree, in Vocal Performance, at Illinois.  Then followed Enid, Oklahoma, and several years of traveling in a kind of educational triangle:  Illinois, the University of Arizona, and Alma, MI – with both of them teaching and continuing work on their Doctor of Musical Arts in Voice programs.  Brian completed his in 1981 and Marilyn in 1982.  In 1983 they moved to Austin, Texas, where he was Director of music at the Methodist Church. Marilyn conducted 5 choirs at the Presbyterian Church and taught grades 1-6 plus  K – 12 vocal music.  In 1999 they moved to Severna Park, MD, where they have lived ever since.

That was a lot of activity out in the “real world.”  What about the Congregational Summer Assembly – our real world?  In the mid-40’s Dr. Stimson and Dr. John Lukens were both Presbyterian ministers in Cincinnati and were friends.  The Stimsons had vacationed in the Charlevoix area but were looking for a summer location more suited to the children.  Dr. Lukens had told Dr. Stimson many times how great the CSA was.  As Ruthie Lukens tells it, one summer morning in 1946 she and her parents were sitting at the table in the cottage, when all of a sudden they heard loud steps clumping across the porch, and a huge booming voice saying, “We’re here!”  Needless to say, her parents were panic stricken, especially her mother, thinking he meant “We’re here – to stay – with you”– in their small cottage!  Actually the Stimsons had rented a cottage – and beautiful Crystal Lake plus the atmosphere at the Assembly immediately captured them.  The next year they rented one of the Steele cottages and were “July people” for several summers before buying the last lot available on the east side of M-22.  In following summers they sort of camped out in the very basic structure that was erected while Dr. Stimson completed much of the work himself.

That began the real involvement in CSA activities – in operettas, Stunt Nights, and plays: “Cinderella,” “Ojibway Legend,” “Smokey Mountain,” “The Night of January 16th.”  Marilyn worked as a waitress in the Dining Hall and, after it closed, at the Crystal View when it served sit-down meals.  She also worked as Mr. Pope’s assistant in the Post Office.

During her college years she helped Emilie Williams with “Hiawatha,” teaching the children the music; and with the Monday night children’s dancing – subbing for Emilie at the piano on occasion.  She started singing in the CSA Choir at age 11 and sang many offertory solos and duets over the years.  After her marriage she and Brian also did recitals for the Assembly community as their daughters were to do later.  She worked on children’s operetta costumes for several years, then took on the Music Director’s role with Pandora in 1986.   For many years she either sang a major role, did the conducting or was the musical director of the adult operettas: “The Gondoliers,” “ Brigadoon,” “Flower Drum Song,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” “ Oliver” (in which, as the undertaker’s wife, she fell into the coffin!).  Marilyn has always been one to take her work very seriously and herself very lightly which is a wonderful pairing of qualities – so no one who saw “Road to Dunsinane” can ever forget her “heroic soprano” presentation of Lady MacBeth in gold breastplate and horned helmet.  Recently, in what she calls her “post ingénue period,” she played the wonderfully comic role of Sister Mary Regina, the Mother Superior, in both presentations of “Nunsense.”

While she has been the Music Director of many adult operettas, her first love has been being Music Director of the children’s operettas which she has continued to do since 1986.  For the last 25 years you have been able to find her every day during the 2 weeks before the show, working not only with the whole cast but with individuals and small groups – giving the equivalent of hundreds of mini private voice lessons – encouraging the timid, calming the anxious,  developing the abilities and the self esteem of the novices.  It has been a wonderful gift to all of us and to all of our children.  What the casual observer might describe as a form of masochism Marilyn describes as “just fun.”  In her words “It’s just fun to help people do things they never thought they could do.” And in recent years she has also started writing new songs to add to the shows.

But Marilyn has always had a deep feeling of responsibility for the non-musical side of the Assembly – those tasks that keep things running and that both reflect and direct the way our values and mission are carried out day by day as a community.  She was on the Youth Committee for several years and was instrumental in first providing a Staff Dinner in thanks and appreciation for their work.  During the years of the big teen dances she sacrificed her hearing to act as a chaperone.  Marilyn served on the Board of Trustees and was Vice President of the Board.  She has been a member of the By-Laws Committee for many years.  And she provides a long institutional memory for the Membership Committee having served as a committee member, as the committee chairman, and now again as a member.  Even when she is in the midst of rehearsals she comes to the weekly meetings and is never at a loss for words.

So, Marilyn, your parents represented for you what the Assembly is about – but over the years you have represented for hundreds of young people what it means to serve the community you are part of with joy.  Your name has been engraved on the plaque at the back of the Meeting House and everyone can thank you personally after the service.

Citation for Long and Valued Service to the Assembly, 2010

All congregations rely on those who share their time and talents for the benefit of the community as a whole. Each summer we on the Citations Committee get to recognize the extraordinary volunteer service of one among the many who make the Congregational Summer Assembly the place that it is. Every year most of us leave the grounds at the end of our time here paying attention only to closing our own cottages. When we return in the spring or summer one often-heard expression is “It looks as if the waterfront and beach just got rolled up like a huge carpet at the end of August and unrolled again for the start of a new season.” Everything is just where it was last year and the year before and the year before that – and you probably don’t spend a lot of time thinking about how this happens – except perhaps this July when people asked “Where’s the slide?”. Our common areas are preserved and improved by the tireless efforts and skills of individuals whose work is so often done far from center stage that their contributions can be overlooked or taken for granted. Today we recognize with the Citation for Long and Valued Service to the Assembly someone who fits that description completely – Peter “Pete” Weir.

Pete’s grandmother, Mabel Penfield Wilson, first came here in 1906 and the family has been a mainstay of Wildwood since the mid-40’s. As it was for many other families from St. Louis, Pilgrim was a cool and inviting destination during the hot summer months. Pete, his sister Joan and brother Tom were here all summer as children and, like so many of us, Pete found jobs during high school and college summers so he could be here and not ‘there.” He started by delivering phone messages and telegrams for the CSA office during those years before individual cottages had telephones (let alone cell phones and internet service), he worked at Bill Olsen’s Assembly gas station, and he worked at the canning factory in town – with no car, that meant bicycling in and back every day. Pete went to college at Cornell and the University of Missouri, graduating with a degree in mechanical engineering. Unbeknownst to him, Nancy Kinter, who grew up on the adjoining property to the Weirs in St. Louis, came to the CSA with her family from the ages of 10 to14, staying in the Lodge. After college Pete discovered “the girl next door” and, while they were dating, he talked about having her visit this “funky” little place where his family had a cottage. I don’t need to tell you the rest of that story.

Pete’s work as a refrigeration engineer took them to Minneapolis to live and he was able to develop and indulge his passion for sailing and all things connected with water. A championship sailor, he also loved to restore old boats – on Lake Minnetonka in Minneapolis he was part of a group that rebuilt boats that had sunk in the lake and he took a leading role in the restoration of a 1906 steam boat, the Minnehaha, that had been sunk in 1926. Joel Buzzell says “Give him a weatherbeaten board and he’ll build a boat around it!” Family and friends think of him as the original “McGyver” – he can solve everything mechanical and probably has more tools than McGyver ever had on the TV show. But there are those in his family who say the least he could do is raise something useful from the bottom of Crystal Lake and restore it!

He was always a good problem solver, taking things apart and putting them back together to see how they worked. After one project undertaken in high school we can be glad he decided to get some professional education in the field before he got his hands on CSA facilities. He and some friends decided to build a swimming pool at the house in St. Louis. They put up wooden forms and when it came time to pour the concrete the forms fell into the bottom of the pool. It took a pick axe to break up the concrete and the bottom of the pool always had idiosyncracies.

Two years before he retired, Pete and Nancy tested out what it would be like to spend more than a two week’s vacation here so he worked from the cottage and started his volunteer activities here in earnest by becoming involved with the Waterfront and Buildings and Grounds committees. One reason the waterfront looks as it should every year is that Pete takes out the boat moorings each fall and puts them back in place in the spring. He waits until the last fall swimmers call it a season, then takes in the lifeline, carefully coiling it and organizing it for storage in the doghouse. In the spring, after McDonald puts in the boat dock Pete checks it out and he has repaired it with new hardware.

When Pilgrim Place was nearly destroyed in that devastating fire last year the many volunteers who helped with the clean up and restoration have told me that it was Pete who took the lead on the project, calling on his many areas of expertise and giving hours and hours of labor. He says he likes to see things done right and through his time and talents that project was done right.

Likewise – if you look at the bell tower here on the Meeting House you wouldn’t notice anything different about it. But last fall they discovered it was rotting away so it was taken down and put in the Buzzells’ back yard. It was Pete who figured out how to rebuild it so that the finished bell tower looks the same to us but is actually far better than new.

When all creative and urban-legend-driven efforts to keep seagulls away from the rafts and lifeguard stands failed, Pete designed the ungainly but totally effective pole-and-fishing line apparatus that has made the rafts a desirable swimming destination again.

The “Yield to Uphillers” sign at the Michigan end of Alden-Edwards Avenue? A Pete Weir creation. And he has devoted hours of volunteer time to the Point Betsie restoration project as well.

I am told that he can build anything and that he can fix anything – but here is fair warning – don’t ask him to do anything with a computer! He not only can’t fix them – he seemingly can’t help disabling them!

So, Pete, we won’t ask you to fix the office computer – but we are happy to be able to “bring your light out from under the bushel” and let everyone know how much of what we take for granted is the result of your quiet efforts. I’m delighted to present this Citation to you. Your name has been engraved on the Citation Plaque at the back of the Meeting House and I know that everyone looks forward to thanking you personally after the service.

Citation for Long and Valued Service to the Assembly, 2009

Jim and Tamara Transue Royle, August 2, 2009

There is an amazing amount of volunteer activity that turns the Congregational Summer Assembly from simply a beautiful summer vacation spot into the strong, supporting community we all love. Each year we recognize a person or couple whose contributions over the years have been extraordinary and I get to tell you about them. Several years ago in the Sunday comic section of the newspaper there was a large picture of a forest. From within and all around the forest bars of symphonic music rose and swirled in joyous profusion as one small figure stood in front waving a baton. In the corner one man said to another: “It’s always in there – it just takes someone special to bring it out.” Among the things that are “always in there” here at the Assembly are our love of music and our love of our shared history. So it is especially fitting that we present the 2009 Citation for Long and Valued Service to the Assembly to two people who are specially gifted at bringing those things out for all of us to enjoy – Jim and Tamara (always Tammy to us) Transue Royle.

I’ve known them for years and thought I knew them – but here is some of what I have learned.

The Transue family first came to Crystal Lake from Flint in the late 1940’s at the invitation of friends and they stayed at the Northway Hotel in Beulah. Realizing that this was an ideal place to bring a family during those years when polio epidemics kept children away from city parks and pools they bought the cottage at the west end of Crystal Lake called “The Hermitage.” They returned every year and until their teens Tammy and her sister Andrea’s attentions were focused on the Junior Fleet at the Yacht Club. But at age 15 Tammy was invited by her friend Mary Alice Clarke to sing with her in the CSA Choir and that was the beginning of an enduring involvement with the Assembly. So music introduced Tammy to the Assembly.

Music also introduced Tammy to Jim – on their second day on campus as freshmen at Albion College when they were both auditioning for the college choir. A 4 year college romance ensued followed by a wedding a few weeks after graduation. That first summer Jim was a counselor at a camp on a small lake down state. He was invited to visit the Transues over a weekend and was overcome by the size, color and clarity of Crystal Lake – and he joined Tammy in the choir. In the 50 years since they have been regular members of the choir and often sang duets for the offertory. In 1992 they were delighted to move into their own cottage just up the hill from the Meeting House which they named Ritornello, a musical term meaning “a little return.”

Much of what they have done for the Assembly has been as a couple but each of them has established a unique role as an individual. Tammy was an elementary school teacher in the 60’s but turned to volunteer work early and enthusiastically while raising Tim, Mike and Megan. She directed the Primary Choir of the First Congregational Church in Saginaw for 22 years, served on the Albion College Alumni Association Board of Directors, and was named a Saginawian of the Year in 1993.

At the Assembly the choir was only a starting place for her. She was on the Women’s Association Board, serving as President in the 80’s, and has co-chaired the Artists and Artisans event where she and Marjorie Butler have regularly played piano duets as background music. She is well known for the letters and notes she writes (by hand – on paper – with a pen!) to acknowledge, thank, encourage, support – and she even presented an Adult Workshop on the Joys of Letter Writing. She has helped with children’s operettas both as a producer and as a director and was one of the founders of the classic CSA singing group “The Naughty Nine.” Tammy was on the committees planning the 75th and 100th Anniversary celebrations and spearheaded the Assembly cottage histories project.

After serving as Assistant Archivist for 7 years, in 1998 she was appointed official Assembly Archivist by the Board. During her tenure there have been many wonderful developments – especially the evolution of the former Manager’s Cottage into Pilgrim Place – the home of the archives and a little CSA museum, and a wonderful meeting place. We all know of the fire that damaged and could have destroyed Pilgrim Place in May of this year. While other volunteers have been cleaning and painting, Tammy has gone ahead undaunted with her plans for this year’s History Night – promotional note: it will be this Friday night, August 7. Her sense of humor that becomes evident in the Archivist’s reports at the Annual Meeting always causes the committee chair who follows her to call her “a tough act to follow.”

But Tammy will say without reservation that the best thing she ever did for the Congregational Summer Assembly was to marry Jim Royle. A clinical child psychologist, he served as director of the Saginaw Valley Child Guidance Clinic, then for 20 years was director of a regional educational facility for students with special needs. He now holds a full-time professorship in special education teacher preparation at Saginaw Valley State University.

He has been an integral part of CSA musical productions for over 30 years playing, among other roles, a memorable Jud Fry in “Oklahoma,” Wilfred Shadbolt in “Yeoman of the Guard,” Mr. Bumble in “Oliver,” and Teyve in “Fiddler on the Roof.” Some of his favorite moments include singing a duet with Ken Cox in “Pinafore,” trying to upstage Steve Elrick in numerous comedy roles, and partnering many times with Linda Schopp. He continues to be involved as a stage director in the operettas year after year.

But there is another side to Jim’s volunteer commitment to the CSA. After serving on several committees over the years including the Nominating and Personnel Committees, he became a Trustee and then President of the Board of Trustees in the 1980’s. After his term ended he became a trustee of the Pilgrim Fund which he currently chairs.

If Tammy’s humor is that of the historian, Jim’s is that of the stage performer – larger than life in every way – as anyone who saw him playing doubles with Steve Elrick will attest to: Steve in his buffalo horn helmet and Jim wearing his orange dress from “Finian’s Rainbow” with a shiny blonde wig.

As with so many of our CSA volunteers, the months away from Pilgrim are equally filled with service and last fall Tammy and Jim became the first alumni couple to be jointly inducted as distinguished alumni at Albion College.

So if you find that memories of music stir with the leaves of the trees, you can be sure that much of that music was created by and the memories of it are safely stored by the Royles. Tammy and Jim, we thank you for all you have given us. Your names are engraved on the plaque at the back of the Meeting House and your friends can greet you after the service to thank you in person.