Stories

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.

Citation for Long and Valued Service to the Assembly, 2008

Linda Williams Schopp, August 3, 2008

We on the Citations Committee have the annual good fortune to recognize the extraordinary volunteer service of one among the many who make the Congregational Summer Assembly the place that it is. How many of you – who love where you live during what we think of as the “off season” – find yourselves saying at one time or another “But this is really home” – as you enjoy an activity that brings back powerful memories from the past or walk the paths and beaches and are grateful that they are as wonderful as you remembered. One reason we can all enjoy these things is that others who also feel this is “home” have volunteered their time and talent to maintain our shared Assembly home and its traditions. And for some people you could say that giving back to the Assembly is truly “in their blood.” I think you’ll agree with me that this is true of the 2008 recipient of the Citation for Long and Valued Service – Linda Williams Schopp.

It can’t be easy being the eldest child of a legend. And being the eldest child of two legends must have been even more challenging. Both of her parents, Tom and Emilie Williams, received the Citation in separate years to honor their individual contributions. From the day Tom Williams came to the CSA in 1946 as Recreation and Music Director the spotlight was on the four Williams children. Linda was always expected to do better, to do more, and to behave herself. Well, I can speak from a life time of observation, that she did do better – at swimming, tennis, singing, for example – and she did do more, because her involvement was always simply a given. Let’s not speak of adventures like walking across the wet clay courts after a rain or trying to swim in from a becalmed sailboat in mid-lake (definitely not proper procedure). Shall we just say that “good behavior” is in the eye of the beholder.

It was well known that Tom and Emilie had what could be described as an “anti-nepotism” policy, which basically meant that family members really had to prove themselves to get jobs or roles in shows if Tom and Emilie were in a position to do the selecting. So when Linda was in high school and was hired to teach swimming and to be a lifeguard it was the Board of Trustees who had to hire her – Tom wouldn’t do it because he didn’t think it would “look right.” She has powerful memories of those years – especially of being required to go to the beach on bad days and having to clean the beach if there were no lessons or lifeguarding duties, even if no one else had to be there. During college her voice teacher told her not to teach swimming because she’d ruin her voice – Linda had learned to teach using the powerful “Williams yell.” So she went to Interlochen to work for two summers, and ended up teaching tennis – not quietly.

Linda grew up in Galesburg, Illinois, and went to Illinois Wesleyan where she majored in music education. She met Tom Schopp there and they were married in December of 1961 by Jesse Peirce – another long time Assembly connection. Her ability to be flexible and her total honesty about herself are captured in a story of her early teaching years. She was going to be teaching vocal music 4 days a week in Atlanta, Illinois, which was near Lincoln where her husband Tom was teaching. To fill the 5th day she interviewed in New Holland, IL, where they wanted her to teach ½ day of vocal music and ½ day of band. She said “I don’t do band.” They said “We need to have you do band.” Linda said, “You’d have to be desperate to hire me to do band.” They said “We are.” She taught band.

After a number of moves Linda and Tom ended up in Saginaw, MI, partly because she wanted to be closer to the lake. She taught K-12 vocal music and was known for her work with small singing groups. Also, during some years of budget cuts, she taught math, phys ed and did library work in the schools – and she did them all well – even when she was just a day ahead of the math class! When she got her Masters in the mid 80’s she decided not to go to the commencement but had a “graduation ceremony” here on the CSA ballfield. Her mother played the old portable pump organ, her many friends raided the costume room, and everyone around came and sat in the bleachers. It was memorable.

So you would not be surprised that music at the CSA has formed a major part of her life here – from her first big role as “Jillie” in “Out of the Sea,” she has been involved in nearly every operetta and musical we have put on. She has played lead roles and specialty roles (Katisha in The Mikado, tipsy Arabella in Smoky Mountain, Iolanthe herself in Iolanthe, Mrs. Bumble in Oliver). Two years ago she was one of the 5 who produced and performed in Nunsense. (Note: In 2009 they will put on a sequel – not to be missed!) She has been music director of countless shows and she has helped with anything else that needed to be done for them. Always, every year, she has sung in the choir and she is responsible for maintaining the music library – putting out the music each week for rehearsal and church and collecting and filing it away after the service each Sunday.

So you would take her involvement in our music activities as a given – using her talents for our benefit. What you may not know about her is how very much of her time she has given to the Assembly over the years in ways that are totally unrelated to music. I keep track of these things, and even Linda was surprised with the quantity and variety. Her belief is “If you’re up here and not active it’s not as much fun.” If that’s true, then she must have been having a lot of fun! She has been on the Women’s Association Board and served as Secretary in two separate terms 20 years apart; she has been a Trustee and also served as Secretary to the Assembly for 6 years; she chaired the Nominating Committee for several years and was on the Athletic Committee (which became the Tennis Committee). She was on the Citations Committee for many years, is on the By-Laws Committee and currently chairs the Calendar Committee. And she is a mainstay of the Membership Committee, even making a special trip to Frankfort this past January to help with the Associate Membership mailings.

It has always been Linda’s willingness to use her time here in ways that benefit all of us that give her service special meaning. Her contributions would have been extraordinary if they had never ventured beyond using her musical gifts. But the same person who told the New Holland schools “I don’t do band,” and then went ahead to “do band” said to me “How could I have been Secretary so much? I don’t even write letters.” But a Secretary was needed so she went ahead and did it. She will do just about anything the Assembly asks of her – as long as it doesn’t interfere with tennis.

Linda, 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.