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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.