I was born in Wyoming, but when I was three months old, my father took a job teaching in Ann Arbor. We eventually settled in Pittsfield Township, which was in the Ann Arbor public schools district. So I’ve been a Washtenaw County girl my whole life.
Like my father, I’m a teacher. I have seven siblings, and four of the eight are connected with school systems. I loved school—even junior high! I had such a good experience that I thought it would be a great career to pass that joy on to students. It’s a little different when you actually start teaching, but I still loved it.
My first teaching job was in a private pre-school and kindergarten. I actually purchased the school and ran it for 12 years before selling it. When my kids were a little older, I was hired in the Lincoln public school system.
Shortly after Mike and I got married, we moved out to Dexter to get waterfront property we could afford. In many ways it’s been a great move. But I do miss some of the diversity we grew up with in Pittsfield Township and Ann Arbor. I struggled with that in raising my children, making sure they grew up in an environment engaged with economic and other kinds of diversity. As one of eight children, my siblings and extended family are relatively diverse, and this has helped the kids experience a little more of the world.
I just retired this spring. My dad is 90 and lives in his own home, and we are committed to keeping him there as long as we can. My siblings and I have been sharing the care, but one of my sisters does most of it. Now I can free her up, take my dad to appointments, spend entire days with him. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know my parents as adults and becoming a caregiver for them. The trust involved in that is really remarkable. In such a large family, I never had a lot of alone time with my parents, and in the last few years it’s been mostly alone time with them.
I’ve been a member of Saint James for about 30 years. My parents were at Saint Clare’s in Ann Arbor for years, but we wanted to stay closer to Dexter and not drive so far for church. My kids always sat in the pew with me for the 8am service, and the congregation was always really glad to have them.
Part of what I love about Saint James is its commitment to social justice and charitable giving. I’ve helped collect and distribute Christmas gifts for children of inmates, assembling Bags of Grace for schoolchildren in need, supporting Faith in Action here in Dexter, and many other initiatives. I love working behind the scenes to serve people, most of whom I’ve never seen again since that one interaction.
As a woman, I feel particularly uplifted and free to serve in the Episcopal church. As a lay eucharistic minister for many years, I have been able to assist in worship and even to lead worship. It is wonderful to serve the congregation in this way.
I’ve been leading and organizing the Chicken Barbecue for about ten years. I see the event as central to our outreach and our presence in the community. We are serving people, connecting with people, and continuing to steward what’s become a really solid tradition in Dexter. People expect the barbecue to happen on Saturday of Dexter Daze and look to us for it.
The barbecue has been going for over 40 years, and it really hasn’t changed much. The biggest change in the meal itself was switching from watermelon to cookies in order to stay compliant with health code. In my memory, the weather has always been good, but I know we’ve been rained out occasionally in the past.
My greatest memory from the barbecue was when we were picking up our chicken order and discovered they’d ordered only half of what we needed. A few us spent hours on the phone calling every grocery store in the area. So now I go the other way—I call our supplier every other week leading up to Dexter Daze to confirm the order. They get tired of my calls, but we get our chickens!
I’ve always felt an affinity for this congregation because of our size and familiarity. It feels like a family, and as we grow, we’ll have to work harder to continue feeling connected to one another. Even my kids, who haven’t been here in years, think of themselves as part of this community and have sought out similar communities in their own church searches. I hope the children at Saint James will know how important they are and will see this congregation as part of their family long after they’ve left Dexter.