Locals – December 2008


 Making Marquette more beautiful
by Larry Alexander

In 1976, some elementary school kids planted a seed. They told grownups, “make Marquette more beautiful.” The adults listened. Today Marquette still is reaping the benefits through the work of the Marquette Beautification and Restoration Committee (MBRC).
The MBRC was established in 1978 as a nonprofit, volunteer organization composed of members enthusiastic about enhancing Marquette’s appearance and restoring its historic landmarks.
The following spring, the committee held its first city-wide spring cleanup.
“I’m particularly proud of the annual spring cleanup,” said Emily Lewis, MBRC president. “It’s a very important service to the community.”
Lewis said she has a passion for the committee and its work.
“They are a great group and help in many ways throughout the year,” Lewis said.
In addition to her work with the MBRC, Lewis works with several other organizations, including local, state and international groups. She is a Marquette General Hospital volunteer board member and fundraiser. MGH volunteers participate in more than twenty-five programs at the hospital.
Lewis is a member of the Marquette-Alger County Medical Society Alliance, which consists of local physicians’ spouses who are part of the State Medical Alliance. Members work toward improving their communities, families and medicine. They work with physicians who make up the Marquette-Alger Medical Society, a professional association founded in 1902 comprised of area physicians working to improve health care.
Lewis is a member of P.E.O. (Philanthropic Educational Organization), a group dedicated to promoting educational opportunities for women. The P.E.O. was founded in 1869 and has almost a quarter of a million members in chapters in the United States and Canada.
She also is a member of two committees at St. Michael Church in Marquette.
At thirty, the MBRC still is committed, as its mission statement says, “…to improve the appearance of Marquette. Our purpose is to encourage each individual citizen to maintain and beautify his property. By suggestion, example, instruction and awards, we encourage each business, organization and individual citizen to cooperate in beautifying the city of Marquette. The committee encourages the maintenance of and appropriate restoration of historic buildings and landmarks.”
To accomplish this mission, the committee coordinates the annual Marquette spring cleanup. They host an annual awards luncheon in the spring to present awards to area businesses and individuals who have improved and/or affected the city in a positive way.
Over the years, the committee has made many improvements to Marquette’s appearance. They planted trees in Lower Harbor Park; started the adopt-a-park program, keeping the parks clean and planting flowers; and planted the flowers on South Front Street and at the west end of the US-41 bypass.
For more about the MBRC’s work or information on how you can help, visit www.mqtbeautification.org
For a brief history of the organization and some key contributors, see “Planting the seeds of hometown pride” in the April 2003 issue of the Marquette Monthly at www.mmnow.com
The MBRC may be best known for its Petunia Pandemonium project. The flowers are planted and maintained for the summer in the South Front Street corridor. The committee also sponsors a Garden Tour every summer.
Barb Kelly is MBRC vice president and has been a driving force behind Petunia Pandemonium for the past twenty years. She is a founding member and credits committee members with the success and longevity of the MBRC.
Kelly is known as “the Petunia Lady” for her leadership in planting petunias on South Front Street, a project that has been growing strong since 1988.
The most recent Petunia Pandemonium was held May 31.
Lewis called the flowers on the south end of Front Street Marquette’s “welcome mat” and is very happy about the flowers recently planted at the west end of the bypass.
“We now have flowers welcoming people on the west end, also. I think it draws people to our city. I think it also draws people into the downtown area,” Lewis said.
Lewis credited the positive reinforcement from the community as a major driver of what the MBRC does.
“All our members are very grateful to the City of Marquette,” she said. “The city has been very supportive of the committee, providing both cooperation and funds for our projects. There is a strong sense of community pride and the feeling of really being part of something among the members.”
Kelly said none of this could have been done without the dedication and hard work of committee members and volunteers.
Lewis said the MBRC appeals to many members because they can see the results of their work.
“I’m a very visual person,” Kelly said. “I’m greatly affected by my surroundings. I have always responded to places with a sense of character and an appealing ambiance.”
Jeanette Hauver, the committee’s fifth president, is very passionate about flowers and gardening. Hauver maintains all the public gardens in the cemetery.
“Jeanette has been dedicated to the committee for a long time and her efforts are greatly appreciated,” Kelly said.
Lewis said it is a diverse group in age and backgrounds, but everyone is very motivated. “We don’t have the negative politics you see with some committees, just everyone enjoying the fun and challenges of the projects,” she said.
Shirley Eppinga was the MBRC’s eighth president. She came to Marquette in 1991 and was impressed with the work the committee was doing. She joined the committee believing the group “represented a sign of community excellence,” which she fully expected to see reflected in schools.
Florence Barrington, the committee’s seventh president, was drawn to the MBRC by her passion for flowers and gardening.
And Nancy Lutey, the MBRC’s sixth president, has been a driving force behind raising money for Petunia Pandemonium, one of the group’s most visible activities.
Kelly continues to be the chairperson of the Petunia Pandemonium project. She is the only member who has been with the MBRC for all thirty years. Kelly is very passionate about the work the committee does, and about preserving area history.
She credits historian and author Fred Rydholm with getting her and her husband excited about the area’s history. Rydholm’s passion for the value of history became the spark that inspired Kelly to work to preserve Marquette’s history.
Kelly said she moved to town right after Northern Michigan University’s Kaye Hall was torn down.
“There were groups forming to try to save some of the other older buildings,” she said.
Kelly saw trying to save and recondition older structures as a sort of stewardship and said saving and renovating the structures helps create a sense of community.
“Marquette had all the ingredients of a scenic destination, but no one was valuing that in 1973 when I came to Marquette,” Kelly said. “There was lots of decline at that time. But you could see potential everywhere you looked. The buildings downtown are incredible.”
The committee also relies on corporate funds, revenues from their garden tour, See’s candy sale, Yonkers spring and fall charity events, a fall bulb sale and donations from individuals.
The MBRC meets on the second and the fourth Thursday of each month at noon at the Landmark Inn in the Sky Room. All interested individuals are welcome to attend, no reservations are needed and membership is not required to attend regularly scheduled meetings. Buffet lunch is available for $7.75, all inclusive.
The committee will celebrate its thirtieth anniversary at the Landmark Inn in the Harbor Room on December 11. The public is welcome; reservations are required.
For details, visit www.mqtbeautification.org or call Emily Lewis at 226-9618 or Barb Kelly at 225-5077.
—Larry Alexander

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