Never Say Never

February 8, 2019

Sometimes you just never know what the day will bring. I had a message from my old friend Eileen DeVries Erfourth the other day. She sent along an interesting bit of information for the Never Say Never file.

Julie Traynor Postcards from the Pine Columnist

Julie Traynor Postcards from the Pine Columnist

Last fall when Eileen and I had lunch at the Dream Diner she told me of an older woman she’d met in her current hometown of Munising, in the Upper Peninsula’s Alger County. The little woman she runs errands for and visits weekly is a native Yooper and has spent her entire life there.
As the give and take of small talk goes, eventually the subject of where Eileen called home came up. She of course, said Marion, and flipped up her personal map of the state and pointed out where Marion is on the Mitten. Her friend replied that she indeed knew where Marion is. She knew someone from Marion, Michigan when she was a little girl.

Her tale was short but sweet. It seems that when she was a very little girl, too small to yet attend school, her cousin decided to take her along anyway. She would be his ‘item’ for Show and Tell, and off to the country school they went.

In making what was probably a much longer story short, her visit was a success, and her cousin did not get into trouble with the teacher. He was not upset at her visit and welcomed her to the school. She also recalled that he made rings for the kids from coins. This was in 1939 and she still fondly remembered the teacher; Mr. Berry from Marion.

That would be the teacher, Mr. Frank Berry from Marion, Michigan, who with his wife Fern and son Jerry, spent from 1938 through 1943 teaching for the Munising school system in the small schools of Shingleton, Melstrand and VanMeer.

Frank Berry, the redheaded teacher, Osceola Co., 1928.

Frank Berry, the redheaded teacher, Osceola Co., 1928.

During the school year the Berry’s lived in the small community of Melstrand in a house next to the school and across from the general store. In the dead of winter the snow, wind and shoveling were constants and chains on car tires were standard equipment. My grandmother wrote of the frost on the windows and found beauty in their growth, even though it meant extreme cold. She immortalized Jack Frost’s work in poetical print more than once.

It has warmed my heart to know that someone from so far off remembers my grandfather, the school teacher, and his many kindnesses to children and students.

Frank Berry amid the snows of Melstrand in Alger Co., 1942. Behind him on the left is the school, on the right their home.

Frank Berry amid the snows of Melstrand in Alger Co., 1942. Behind him on the left is the school, on the right their home.

A number of years ago I mentioned my grandpa, the teacher, in a Postcard. A few evenings later my phone rang and it was the late Ernie Vanderhoef. He had a wonderful story to tell of Mr. Berry, his teacher. I appreciated it greatly and told him so each time I saw him. Cousin Mildred Beebe Mitchell, the late Marion Press writer and author was his student in the 1920’s at the Beebe School, Highland Dist. #4. She, too, had good stories of “Uncle Frank” as she tried hard not to call him in the classroom.

My grandfather, by all accounts, was a wonderful teacher. He was dedicated to his students to a fault. Frank Berry spent most of his teaching career in small, country schools. He received his Life Teaching Certificate from CMU in 1940 and was teaching in the Reese High School when he died on February 12, 1949. He was 59 years old. Frank Berry died before I was born and enough time has passed that the odds of hearing of his name, other than perhaps locally, are great. This is truly one for the Never Say Never files.

AND I MUST acknowledge Marion’s own life-long resident Emily Smith Crozier, who, as a small child attended, I believe the Walsh School, south of Marion, when Frank Berry taught there. I’m sure she will tell me the next time I see her.

And thank you Eileen for the message and the story. Amazing. We need to do lunch again soon.

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