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The John Cumming Isabella County Historical Preservation Award

Named in honor of John Cumming, the Clarke Library’s director from 1961 until his retirement in 1982, the Cumming Award was created as part of the 2009 Isabella County Sesquicentennial Celebration. It celebrates and honors individuals who have contributed to preserving the history of Isabella County.
Appropriately the first person to receive the award was Mr. Cumming. Other awardees in 2009 included:

  • HUDSON KEENAN, recognizing a lifetime body of work
  • JOYCE MCCLAIN, recognizing her long devotion to documenting Northwestern Isabella County Brinton/Sherman City​/Weidman and the development of  a large historic photo collection.
  • WAYNE BARRETT, recognizing the restoration of Winn Masonic Temple and the creation in that structure of the Country Store Museum.
  • MARVIN LETTS, recognizing his instrumental work in documenting Isabella County’s Old Settlers Association.
  • BONNIE EKDAHL, recognizing her many labors in behalf of documenting the heritage of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe and her pioneering efforts as the first director of the Ziibiwing Cultural Center.
  • ROSE COHOON, recognizing her work leading to the restoration and preservation of Little Red Schoolhouse and Shepherd Light and Power Building.
  • BEN WEBER, recognizing his work creating the Beal City Area Photo Collection and mini-museum.
  • MARILYN FORSBURG, for I Used to Go There for Dances, her historical review of Brinton from founding to fading and for her work in helping organize the Old Settlers Association.
  • DONNA HOFF-GRAMBAU, recognizing her long commitment to genealogical research and her work in bringing Isabella County family history to the internet.

Subsequent winners of the award include:


MARY ​ ELLEN BRANDELL, recognizing her lifetime of work documenting Isabella County and her service during the Isabella County Sesquicentennial celebration.


JACK WESTBROOK was recognized for his many publications documenting both Mt. Pleasant and Isabella County. Mr. Westbrook, the retired editor of the Michigan Oil and Gas News, has published eight books about the county, including,
·         Anointed with Oil  by C. John Miller; as told to Jack R. Westbrook
·         The Big Picture Book of Mt. Pleasant Michigan: Yesteryears to 2010
·         Central Michigan University 
·         Isabella County, 1859 – 2009
·         Michigan Oil and Gas (2006)
·         Michigan Oil & Gas News 60th Anniversary Photo Review : A Pictorial Chronicle of Michigan Petroleum Exploration and Production History from Beginnings to 1993
·         Mount Pleasant: Then and Now
·         Mount Pleasant; Yesterday's School Kids of Isabella County: a Photographic History of Rural One-Room Schools in Isabella County, Michigan (co-authored with Sherry Sponseller).

MARY SUE SAZIMA, better known as Sue Sazima, was recognized posthumously for her pioneering work with the Shepherd Area Historical Society. For many years the Coe Township librarian, Ms. Sazima helped organize and served as the first president of the Shepherd Area Historical Society.  Ms. Sazima tirelessly worked to promote, advance, and assist the Society.  Her death in 2009 was deeply felt within the historical society and the community it serves.   


CHAD AVERY has unselfishly devoted vast amounts of time and energy into documenting the many families that compose the Saginaw Chippewa tribe. His careful and well documented genealogical research creates an important benchmark through which others can learn about their past or draw from a solid foundation through which to conduct additional research.  Chad has shared his research unselfishly, both through personal advice and through contributions of material to the Ziibiwing Center of Anishinabe Culture & Lifeways Research Center..

SHERRY SPONSELLER has been active for many years helping preserve, document, and disseminate the history of Isabella County.  She has served d as president of both the Mt. Pleasant Area Historical and the county Genealogical Society. She has organized many cemetery walks and helped make possible the county sesquicentennial celebration. Through her efforts reprint editions have been made available of Isaac Fancher’s remarks made on the Isabella County Courthouse steps celebrating America’s centennial in 1876 as well as the diary of Elizabeth Hursh, wife of Mt. Pleasant’s first settler, John Hursh. In addition she has co-authored with Jack Westbrook Yesterday’s School Kids of Isabella County, a pictorial history of the children who attended the county’s one room schools.


LORETTA KOESTER was a charter member of the Shepherd Area Historical Society in 1978. Over the past thirty-five years she has given of her time unstintingly and helped the Society in many ways. She is perhaps best known for the time she spent each year during the Shepherd Maple Syrup Festival at the Little Red Schoolhouse Museum, where, dressed in period costume and her lovely bonnet, she hosts tours and identifies artifacts on display.

Out of the limelight Loretta has worked tirelessly as the chair of the Schoolhouse Museum, obtaining volunteers, maintaining the facility, and making sure the building is clean and presentable. She has also served as treasurer of the Shepherd Area Historical Society, and spent many hours there logging and labeling artifacts for display as well as filing historical documents for future use.

Her knowledge and wisdom have helped make the Shepherd Area Historical Society Museum and the Little Red School House Museum a success.

VALERIE WOLTERS has spent a lifetime in public education, including serving for twenty-three years as a first grade teacher at Mt. Pleasant’s Ganiard Elementary School. A simple question put to Val by a student, “Who was Mrs. Ganiard?” has led to an exemplary documentary project regarding the school and its history, beginning with a simple answer, “It was Mr. Ganiard.”

Val Wolters began the Ganiard History Project began with another simple question – “Did you attend Ganiard School?”  and Val’s knack for getting people to answer it in thoughtful and interesting ways. The Ganiard 75thAnniversary celebration, which Val spearheaded, an innovative program in which “alums” of Ganiard return to tell their stories to the school’s current students, and a scholarship fund at the Mt. Pleasant Area Community Foundation for the benefit of children who have attended Ganiard have all grown out of that innocent question about “Mrs. Ganiard.”

Although the 75th Anniversary Committee has completed its work, Mrs. Wolters is continuing her personal project, spending time learning about Ganiard and the other west side schools in Mt. Pleasant from published works, the internet, and more fruitful conversations with “new old friends.”


TAMMY PROUT is a lifelong resident of Isabella County who has devoted much of her adult time and considerable organizational talents to preserving memories of  our area's rich heritage by organizing a historical village at the Isabella County Fairgrounds, maintaining and scheduling rotating historical exhibits in the lobby of the Isabella County Building, working with Jack Anson  to co-produce a video named "Isabella  County: 150 years in the making" during the County's Sesquicentennial, organizing a vintage Fashion Show during that 150th celebration. Further, she was active in establishing the County's First Family Award program and helped reproduce Isaac A. Fancher's U.S. Centennial speech in booklet form. She has been active in the Genealogical Society of Isabella County, the Friends of the Faith Johnson Library at Rosebush and the Mt. Pleasant Area Historical Society.


LARRY AND JOYCE NOYES both grew up in Shepherd. Over many years they have actively pursued local genealogy as well as serving as officers in the Shepherd Area Historical Society. As genealogists Larry and Joyce are known both for their own work, and for their generosity in assisting others doing research. Within the Shepherd Area Historical Society, Larry served for many years as the organization’s president, while Joyce has offered equally long service as it’s secretary. Both have been deeply involved in the activities the historical society organizes to accompany the annual Shepherd Maple Syrup Festival. Larry has served as a key player in the village’s Powerhouse Museum. His tours of the facility are legendary. Joyce played a similar key role in the Little Red Schoolhouse Museum, where she has organized many tours as well as many classroom visits by school children. In connection with their work at the school house museum, Joyce and Larry were instrumental in the relocation of the historical marker noting the location of Isabella County’s first one room school to more accurately represent the true location of the facility. The two have also been instrumental in organizing and conducting tours of the Salt River Cemetery in Coe Township.


LOREN ANDERSON has devoted many hours over many years to preserve and promote the history of Isabella County.  He served chairman of the Isabella County 150th Anniversary Celebration, held on February 11, 2009. Since then he has maintained the Mt. Pleasant Area Historical Society changeable local historical display in the lobby of the Isabella County Court House (300 North Main Street, Mt. Pleasant).

For many years, Mr. Anderson has evaluated local historical items from printed materials.  Mr. Anderson is a retired teacher who taught printing at Mt. Pleasant High School.

JUDY PAMP (aka Waabanoqua) has been the Assistant Director of the Ziibiwing Center from 2005 to present. She oversees its educational curriculum alignment, public and youth programs, assists with maintaining and sharing the Anishinabemowin language, and the sharing of Anishinabe history, language, and cultural knowledge with students of all ages.

She also serves on many local and state diversity, educational, and humanities committees to build a stronger awareness and knowledge of the Anishinabe of the Great Lakes and the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan.

For many years Ms. Pamp has volunteered to judge student projects for Michigan History Day including the state finals. Michigan History Day is an educational program of the Historical Society of Michigan and is an affiliate of National History Day.

Ms. Pamp is a member of the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe of Michigan and from the Turtle Clan.


MARIE GREEN is a lifetime member of the Shepherd Area Historical Society.  Marie has served as a Trustee and Vice President. Recently, she has been a vital part in helping with the restoration of the Little Red School House Museum. The former one room school houses many artifacts and displays what school life was like for our ancestors. Marie worked relentlessly in acquiring estimates and bids used in obtaining grants. She also prepared the necessary inventory of what was needed.

Since Marie became a member, the Museum has been repainted on the outside and the windows and roof have been replaced. Many frames have been built and installed to properly house the many former class pictures. Countless other pictures have been framed for display. Marie kept all of the volunteers on course.
Her guidance working with the many other dedicated, hard-working volunteers have made The Little Red School House Museum, or as it was formerly known The Landon School, more effectively preserved for the future. Indeed, The Museum will continue to be preserved, enjoyed and be an asset for our community for many years to come.
Marie is a supporter of The John H. Goodrow Fund, which supports those in need who live in Isabella County. She is also involved with the Mt. Pleasant Community Foundation where there is an endowed Emerson W. Green Jr. Memorial Scholarship Fund.
Throughout her years living in Shepherd she has worked and supported the Shepherd Maple Syrup Festival, the Shepherd Jaycees, and the Shepherd Women’s Club. This year she was instrumental in organizing The Shepherd Women’s Club 100th Anniversary party. She made sure that every member past and present was honored.  She has also been honored by the Shepherd Lion’s Club as The Citizen of the Year.

WILLIAM "WILLIE" JOHNSON is a descendant of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan.  He serves the Ziibiwing Center of Anishinabe Culture and Lifeways as the Curator and Team Leader for Cultural Resource Management Team. He has worked for the Ziibiwing Center since 1998.
He has 19 years of experience dealing with Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) issues; including the coordination of ancestral reburials for the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe as a NAGPRA designee.   He is also the Chairman for the Michigan Anishinabek Cultural Preservation & Repatriation Alliance (MACPRA) and helps coordinate NAGPRA efforts for all the federally recognized tribes of state historic tribes of Michigan.  He serves as the interim tribal historic preservation officer.

Through his efforts, the center’s excellence in exhibits and events has earned it numerous awards, including the 2006 Museum Award from the Michigan Cultural Alliance, the 2008 Harvard University’s “Honoring Nations” Award, and a Gold Muse Award from the American Association of Museum’s Media and Technology Committee.
In 2011, Johnson became the chairman of the Michigan Anishinaabek Cultural Preservation and Repatriation Alliance. He worked as a coordinator of Flint’s Stone Street Ancestral Recovery and Reburial Project, helping oversee the proper burial of more than 108 ancestral remains and their associated funerary objects that were inadvertently discovered during a construction project. He has also worked with many Michigan museums and colleges to accrue and respectfully inter Native American remains that had been removed from their resting places.
Johnson serves on the Mt. Pleasant Indian Industrial Boarding School Committee. The Boarding School, which operated from 1893 until 1934, sought to educate Native American children but also had the darker purpose of “taking the Indian out of the child.” The committee is charged with preserving and transforming this site to become a place of awareness, education, and healing for our state.
In 2012, Mr. Johnson has also been recognized by the Historical Society of Michigan with an award for Distinguished Professional Service.


SAM STAPLES, a businessman and philanthropist for almost 40 years, has worked to preserve local Isabella County history.  He was an early member of the Mt. Pleasant Historical Society and has long supported historic preservation efforts in the area.  His most significant contribution was the preservation of the historic Transport Truck Company manufacturing facility (1918-1924), starting when he acquired the structure in 1985.  His use of the building has maintained the historical elements of the structure.  His forethought in the 1991 acquisition, restoration, and operation of a 1920 stake-bed Transport Truck and the documentation associated with the company that built it is a singular achievement.  In 2017 he donated the truck to the CMU Museum of Cultural and Natural History so that this history will be preserved indefinitely and that the truck will continue to foster educational opportunities for students in the CMU Museum Studies Program, Cultural Resource Management Program, and the Mt. Pleasant Area Community Schools for decades to come.

JUDY WELSH has a long connection with Isabella County history.  Born and raised in Mt. Pleasant, her family has been connected to the Mt. Pleasant Fire Department for generations.  She is a 1962 graduate of Central Michigan University and was a special education teacher for 30 years in the Mt. Pleasant Public Schools. Her interest in the Transport Truck Company is personal, her grandfather having purchased stock in the company in 1919.  Between her connection to both the Transport Truck Company and the Mt. Pleasant Fire Department, she began to accumulate the documentary history of the company and the multiple restorations of the 1921 Transport Truck fire truck now on display in front of the Mt. Pleasant Fire Department.  During retirement she researched, collected, and developed a detailed history of the Transport Truck Company, which she recently donated to the CMU Museum of Cultural and Natural History.


WAYNE AND RUTH BARRETT are recognized for their long interest in local history, including their historic general store in Winn, MI as well as their continued community involvement with the Fremont Township Museum.