May 2022 Ontonagon

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May/June 2022


COUNTRY LINES Ontonagon County Rural Electrification Association


Attend The Annual Meeting Sat., June 18

Three Director Seats Up For Election Last Man Standing: Ontonagon County’s Last Remaining WWII Veteran

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Not seeing is believing.

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Clifford Orton Refrig & Htg (989) 761-7691

Bad Axe/Ubly Cutting Edge Htg & Clg (989) 551-0986

Hart Adams Htg & Clg (231) 873-2665 adamsheating

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The Reliable Renewable is a trademark of WaterFurnace International, Inc.

Mancelona Top Notch Htg, Clg, & Geothermal (231) 350-8052 Michigan Center Comfort 1/Air Serv of Southern Michigan (517) 764-1500 Mt Pleasant Walton Htg & Clg (989) 772-4822 Muskegon Adams Htg & Clg (231) 873-2665

Portland ESI Htg & Clg (517) 647-6906 Sunfield Mark Woodman Plmb & Htg (517) 886-1138 Traverse City D&W Mechanical (231) 941-1251 Geofurnace Htg & Clg (231) 943-1000



May 2022 Vol. 42, No. 5



Michigan’s Electric Cooperatives

EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Casey Clark EDITOR: Christine Dorr


RECIPE EDITOR: Christin McKamey COPY EDITOR: Yvette Pecha CONTRIBUTING EDITOR: Emily Haines Lloyd

PUBLISHER: Michigan Electric Cooperative Association Michigan Country Lines, USPS-591-710, is published monthly, except August and December, with periodicals postage paid at Lansing, Mich., and additional offices. It is the official publication of the Michigan Electric Cooperative Association, 201 Townsend St., Suite 900, Lansing, MI 48933. Subscriptions are authorized for members of Alger Delta, Cherryland, Great Lakes, HomeWorks Tri-County, Midwest Energy & Communications, Ontonagon, Presque Isle, and Thumb electric cooperatives by their boards of directors.

6 ADVENTURE AHEAD AT DEER TRACKS JUNCTION In addition to being a safe haven for its animals, Deer Tracks Junction soothes the souls of its human visitors as well. 10 MI CO-OP KITCHEN On The Grill: Fire it up for dinner tonight.

CONTACT US/LETTERS TO EDITOR: Michigan Country Lines 201 Townsend St., Suite 900 Lansing, MI 48933 248-534-7358


notify your electric cooperative. See page 4 for contact information.

The appearance of advertising does not constitute an endorsement of the products or services advertised.


Head over hooves about the weather warming up #spring @dds_photo (Danielle Sullivan)

18 GUEST COLUMN Floating Michigan Rivers: For one GLE member, time spent frolicking on the river is a source of enjoyment and daily life lessons.

Postmaster: Send all UAA to CFS. Association Officers: Robert Kran, Great Lakes Energy, chairman; Tony Anderson, Cherryland Electric Cooperative, vice chairman; Eric Baker, Wolverine Power Cooperative, secretary-treasurer; Craig Borr, president and CEO.

14 NICK BAUMGARTNER: MY NEW FAVORITE COLOR IS GOLD Persistence and determination helped an Iron River native capture gold at the Beijing Olympics ... providing the perfect culmination of his 30-year snowboarding career.

Be featured!

Use #micoopcommunity for a chance to be featured here and on our Instagram account.

MI CO-OP COMMUNITY To enter contests, submit reader content & more, visit

RECIPE CONTEST Win a $50 bill credit!

Up Next: Pasta Salads, due July 1 Submit your recipe at, or send it via email (include your full name and co-op) to

GUEST COLUMN Win $150 for stories published!

Submit your fondest memories and stories at

MYSTERY PHOTO Win a $50 bill credit!

Enter a drawing to identify the correct location of the photo. See page 18.



Reflect and Honor:

May is Military Appreciation Month

Debbie Miles, General Manager


500 J.K. Paul Street Ontonagon, MI 49953 906-884-4151 800-562-7128 After hours: 866-639-6098


hile enjoying various Memorial Day festivities this month, I hope you will join me in pausing to reflect on the sacrifices of our country’s veterans and their families. I am especially thankful for those who gave the ultimate sacrifice so that we can enjoy the freedoms their service affords us in this great country of ours.


May is Military Appreciation Month, and in the words of John F. Kennedy, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”

William Hodges, Vice President Lake Linden District 906-934-3743 •

At Ontonagon REA, we are grateful to have veterans within our ranks, and we are proud to serve veterans and their families within our local community. In addition to providing safe, reliable, and affordable energy, we care for the veteran community and show our appreciation through our actions and ongoing commitment to them and their families.

Calvin Koski, President Aura District 906-524-6988 •

Mildred Ann Gasperich, Secretary Boston District 906-337-5079 • Randy Myhren, Treasurer Green/Firesteel/Toivola District 906-884-4092

Wayne Heikkinen, Director Pelkie/Herman/Aura District 906-353-6496 • Michael Urbis, Director Ewen/Trout Creek/Lake Mine District 906-988-2344 •

George Rajala, Director Chassell/Keweenaw Bay District 906-370-0416 • PERSONNEL

Debbie Miles, General Manager Fay Hauswirth, Billing Clerk Mark Urbis, Line Superintendent

We are not alone in our efforts to honor and serve veterans. Ontonagon REA is part of a network of more than 900 electric cooperatives across the country that support and honor our nation’s veterans of all generations. As part of our national association of electric cooperatives, spanning 48 states and serving 13% of U.S. consumers, there are countless programs that our family of electric co-ops has initiated. At the national level, we support the Vets Power Us program, which is aimed at employing and honoring veterans, active military, and their spouses. This effort helps veterans understand potential career paths with electric co-ops and, in turn, provides co-ops with best practices in attracting, onboarding, and retaining veterans. The Department of Defense is one of the largest energy consumers worldwide, and the single largest energy consumer in the U.S. Electric co-ops across the country work closely with military installations, providing electricity and partnering on various projects.


Not only do we pause on Memorial Day to remember the sacrifice and service of those who gave all, but the month also holds several other military anniversaries and events, including Military Spouse Appreciation Day on May 6 and Armed Forces Day on May 21.

Ontonagon County REA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

Ontonagon REA is proud to be a part of the electric cooperative network that honors and supports veterans of all ages, ranks, and branches of the military. We are especially pleased to include in this issue an article on Ontonagon resident and former REA employee Alfred Smith, a veteran who proudly served his country in both WWII and the Korean War. Please join us in taking a moment to show your appreciation to veterans like Mr. Smith—not just this month, but every month.

Date of Incorporation: Sept. 30, 1937 Fiscal year-end: Dec. 31

“ Ontonagon REA is proud to be a part of the electric cooperative network that honors and supports veterans of all ages, ranks, and branches of the military.” 4 MAY 2022

Ontonagon County REA/Dec. 31, 2021, & Dec. 31, 2020 Financial Statement Balance Sheets Assets UTILITY PLANT: Electric plant in service Construction work in progress Less—Accumulated depreciation Net utility plant INVESTMENTS & OTHER ASSETS: Investments Total investments and other assets CURRENT ASSETS: Cash and cash equivalents Accounts receivable (less accumulated provision for uncollectibles of $40,000 in 2021) Accounts receivable—other Renewable Energy Credits Materials and supplies Prepayments Total current assets Deferred charges TOTAL ASSETS



$32,475,722 1,387,291 33,863,013 (11,493,016) 22,369,997

$31,417,830 739,169 32,156,999 (10,780,029) 21,376,970

4,204,196 4,204,196

3,447,222 3,447,222

460,654 566,445

978,876 395,127

43,847 48,000 254,779 37,968 1,411,693 95,543

94,717 251,217 23,568 1,743,505 152,783



Members’ Equities and Liabilities EQUITIES: Memberships Patronage capital Other equities Total equities

$22,745 7,899,803 32,497 7,955,045

LONG-TERM LIABILITIES: Rural Utilities Service (RUS) mortgage notes FFB National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation (NRUCFC) supplemental mortgage notes CoBank, ACB mortgage note Less current portion Post-retirement benefit obligation Total long-term liabilities

$22,755 6,782,919 32,497 6,838,171


22,287 6,616,852



10,951,181 $18,430,352

11,746,775 $18,385,914

$18,430,352 127,796 $18,558,148

$18,385,914 115,797 $18,501,711

Members’ Equities and Liabilities (continued) CURRENT LIABILITIES: Current maturities of long-term liabilities Line of credit notes payable Accounts payable Customer deposits Other current liabilities Total current liabilities Deferred credits TOTAL EQUITIES AND LIABILITIES



733,459 267,240 13,800 472,834

640,000 263,074 14,850 392,943







Statement of Revenue and Expenses Ending Dec. 31, 2021, & Dec. 31, 2020 OPERATING REVENUES



2,099,223 355,938 811,438 274,978 114,996 551,124 849,456 310,302 20,484

2,162,866 325,079 929,393 216,701 121,849 539,396 854,590 308,388 20,235





OPERATING EXPENSES: Cost of purchased power Distribution—Operations Distribution—Maintenance Consumer accounts Customer service and informational Sales expense Administrative and general Depreciation Taxes Other deductions Total operating expenses Operating margins before interest expense Interest expense Operating margins (loss) after interest expense NONOPERATING MARGINS: Interest and investment income Other nonoperating income (expense) Capital credits NET (LOSS) MARGINS





68,263 (121) $68,142 104,784

69,245 21,223 $90,468 100,793



Consumer Cooperative Act Disclosure Name



Title and District


Debbie Miles

500 James K. Paul St., Ontonagon, MI 49953

General Manager

Calvin Koski

18338 Aura Road, L’anse, MI 49946

Director—President Aura


William Hodges

5166 S. Big Traverse Bay Road, Lake Linden, MI 49945

Director—Vice President Lake Linden District


Mildred Ann Gasperich

58807 Lakeshore Drive, Calumet, MI 49913

Director—Secretary Boston


Randy Myhren

35401 Woodspur Road, Ontonagon, MI 49953

Director—Treasurer Green/Firesteel/Toivola


Wayne Heikkinen

16593 Grist Mill Road, Baraga, MI 49908

Director Pelke/Herman/Aura


Michael Urbis

21346 Hwy. M-28, Ewen, MI 49925

Director Ewen/Trout Creek/Lake Mine


George Rajala

P.O. Box 415, Chassell, MI 49916

Director Chassell/Keweenaw Bay


*All terms expire in June. Board members are compensated $325 per board meeting (president $350). General manager is compensated $100,000 annually.



Adventure Ahead At Deer Tracks Junction By Emily Haines Lloyd


hile Deer Tracks Junction Adventure Park and Site 57 Safari isn’t an animal rescue, it might be hard to convince any of the hundreds of animals who call it “home” that it’s not. Deer Tracks Junction was started as a family-owned breeding stock facility by Hilary and Kelly Powell, raising whitetail deer and elk for sale. Ultimately, selling the animals became less and less inspiring, and sharing the animals became the family’s true passion. The Powells initially brought animals onto their 80 acres to ensure that their son, Tyler, had the experience of farm chores just like his dad had growing up. Once Kelly retired from his construction business, the animal adventure really got started. “People would inquire about our animals and ask for tours,” said Hilary. “Little by little, bit by bit—the idea of the park came into focus. And with blood, sweat, tears, and prayer—it became real and keeps evolving.” The park offers two entirely different experiences. The first—the Adventure Park—can include a fully immersive experience of petting pigs, feeding camels, snuggling rabbits, and bottlefeeding baby goats. Then there’s the Safari, which opened in 2020 on the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic, offering a “trail” to wander the open terrain in your own vehicle. It provides an opportunity to feed animals like alpaca and bison from your car window. You’ll also drive through the black bear paddock and get about as close as you’d dare to these magnificent creatures. The bears actually were rescues who had only ever lived on cement. “They were so nervous at first,” remembers Hilary. “They’d never felt grass under their paws. They went from six years on cement to a really beautiful natural enclosure with a huge play structure that they can forage through. It’s so heartwarming to see them go from hesitant to happy.”


MAY 2022

The Powells’ goal is to take that hesitation out of their visitors as well, by offering opportunities to interact with the animals and see them up close. While bear feedings aren’t on the itinerary, climbing around on structures is something visitors can also enjoy. Handmade jungle gyms designed by Kelly and built with the help of Tyler, now in his mid-20s, are another joyful adventure for those who visit. Deer Tracks Junction is a family affair all around, with three generations all contributing to creating a one-ofa-kind experience—right up to the homemade churned ice cream served on-site in freshly made waffle cones.

It’s likely the close family ties and connections are the very reason visitors feel welcome and at home. The Powells have hosted family outings, date nights, and even wedding proposals. It’s a relationship as beautiful as those experienced between the guests and the animals themselves. “It’s not just about the adventure of seeing and experiencing the animals,” said Hilary. “It’s such a blessing that people choose to make family memories with us. We couldn’t be more thankful to be a part of people’s lives in that way.”

“It’s such a blessing that people choose to make family memories with us. We couldn’t be more thankful to be a part of people’s lives in that way.”

Deer Tracks Junction Adventure Park opens Memorial weekend and closes in September, depending on weather conditions. To find out more, visit 7850 14 Mile Road, NE Cedar Springs, MI 49319 616-863-3337






Michigan electric cooperatives believe there should be “No Barriers” for veterans with disabilities. That’s the name and idea behind CoBank’s No Barriers initiative. Michigan cooperatives are looking for qualified veterans* from our local community to participate. No Barriers is a five-day, allexpenses-paid expedition in Colorado, designed to help veterans with disabilities transform their lives through curriculumbased experiences in challenging environments (climbing, rafting, and hiking). If you are a disabled veteran, or you know of a disabled veteran in our community who would like to participate in the No Barriers program, please complete the form on our website: nobarriers

*Must have VA disability rating to be eligible.

Digging into an Outdoor Project?

Before you dig, dial 811 or visit to protect underground utilities. Careless digging poses a threat to people, pipelines, and underground facilities. Contact 811 first and help keep our community safe.


Antique Rides 1. Skanee Stage and Mail Line. This is the photographer’s rendition of the Skanee Stage that traveled between Skanee and L’Anse in the early 1900s. The original driver seat and passenger seat is in the Arvon Township museum in Skanee. George Portice 2. My grandpa Chester Ylitalo’s younger siblings in his first car. Laura Narhi 3. An oldie but goodie. Steve Laux 4. Riding high! Cheryl Meszaros 5. My late father’s pride and joy! Tricia Crampton



3 Enter to win a


energy bill credit!




Submit A Photo & Win A Bill Credit!

Ontonagon REA members whose photos we print in Michigan Country Lines will be entered in a drawing. Four lucky members will win a credit of $50 on their December 2022 energy bills!

Upcoming Topics and Deadlines:

Ice Cream, due May 20 (July/Aug. issue) Farms & Harvest, due July 20 (Sept./Oct. issue) Christmas Trees, due Sept. 20 (Nov./Dec. issue) To submit photos, and for details and instructions, go to We look forward to seeing your best photos! MICHIGAN COUNTRY LINES


MI CO-OP Recipes

Photos by Robert Bruce Photography || Recipes Submitted by MCL Readers and Tested by Recipe Editor Christin McKamey

ON THE GRILL Fire it up for dinner tonight


Marinade: ¹⁄ ³ cup brown sugar ¹⁄ ³ cup teriyaki sauce ¹⁄ ³ cup soy sauce ¼ cup water ¼ cup oil 2 cloves garlic, minced • lemon juice, to taste Salmon: 2-pound salmon filet(s) • salt and pepper, to taste Pineapple: 1 ripe pineapple, peeled, cored, and cut into spears or slices ¾" thick ½ cup brown sugar ½ cup melted butter ½ to 1 teaspoon cinnamon (plus small amount for dusting)



energy bill credit!

10 MAY 2022

Pasta Salads due July 1

Submit your favorite recipe for a chance to win a $50 bill credit and have your recipe featured in Country Lines with a photo and a video. Submit your recipe at, or send it via email (include your full name and co-op) to

Mix marinade ingredients and pour into a 1-gallon plastic bag with zip-lock seal. Season salmon filet with salt and pepper. Add seasoned salmon to plastic bag, seal, and refrigerate for at least two hours (overnight is best). Grill salmon until it flakes; time depends on thickness of filet. Can put salmon directly on grill (wiped or sprayed with oil) or use a grill pan. For pineapple, spray grill with oil or use a grill pan. Lay pineapple on pan in single layer. Dust with cinnamon. Mix the brown sugar, melted butter, and cinnamon to make a glaze. If the glaze is thick, microwave it for a few seconds until pourable. Pour over pineapple. Grill in single layer for 2–3 minutes per side or until golden and just tender. Great with a tossed green salad, asparagus, and crusty bread. Watch a video of this month’s winning recipe at

JALAPEÑO CRUNCH BURGER Joseph Brewer, HomeWorks Tri-County

5 jalapeños, diced (w/ seeds to make it spicier/hotter, no seeds for a milder taste) 1 green bell pepper, finely diced 2 large yellow onions, finely diced 2 tablespoons butter, for sautéing 3 pounds ground beef (room temperature) 3 eggs 3 teaspoons black pepper 3 teaspoons salt 3 teaspoons red pepper (cayenne pepper) 3 teaspoons paprika 3 teaspoons cumin • queso dip or pepper jack cheese • Fritos or French’s Crispy Fried Onions (for the crunch)

Dice up your vegetables (jalapeños, green peppers, and onions), and sauté them in butter until tender/caramelized. You can sauté them together or separately. Once the vegetables are sautéed to your liking, set aside and allow to cool. In a large bowl, add in the meat, eggs, seasonings, and cooled sautéed veggies. Mix thoroughly, making sure to try and spread the seasonings and sautéed veggies as evenly as possible. Form your patties, and grill to desired temperature (if you are using pepper jack cheese, add it to your burger while it’s still grilling). Top burger with desired crunch (Fritos or French’s Crispy Fried Onions) and queso dip (or can have with pepper jack cheese). Serve on a sesame seed bun and enjoy!

TEQUILA LIME CHICKEN Mary Card, Great Lakes Energy

6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves—trimmed, rinsed, and patted dry; set aside on platter ½ cup freshly squeezed lime juice ¼ cup tequila (gold) ¼ cup fresh orange juice 1½ teaspoons chili powder 1½ teaspoons minced garlic cloves 1 jalapeño, seeded and minced, optional 1 teaspoon kosher salt ½ teaspoon ground black pepper In a large bowl, prop up a large, open zipper-top bag and add the lime juice, tequila, orange juice, chili powder,

garlic cloves, jalapeño, salt, and pepper. Add chicken to bag and zip the top. Massage chicken in bag to combine and place bowl in refrigerator for at least 6 hours or overnight, turning bag every few hours, or at least twice. Prep grill for medium heat (charcoal or gas). Drain marinade off chicken and place chicken on grill rack. Cook chicken 5 minutes, then turn and grill another 5–8 minutes or until juices run clear when chicken is pierced, or internal temperature is 160 F. Move chicken to clean platter and let rest, covered with foil, about 5 minutes, to allow juices to set. Garnish with lime wedges for squeezing over chicken. Serves 6.

DUCK ON THE GRILL Margie Guyot, Great Lakes Energy 1 1 1 1 1 1 2

duck (5–6 pounds), defrosted tablespoon salt teaspoon black pepper teaspoon smoked paprika orange, cut into quarters head garlic, top trimmed celery stalks, cut into 2-inch pieces

Set up your grill for indirect grilling. For a gas grill, put a large drip pan in the center. Preheat the grill on high, then reduce the temperature to medium/low when the duck is placed on the grill. For a charcoal grill, arrange charcoal pieces around the side of a drip pan and let them burn until medium/hot (coals mostly covered in ash). Rinse the duck inside out with cool, running water. Pat dry. Use a large sharp fork and prick the skin all over, but be careful not to pierce the meat (or the meat will be dry). Mix the salt, pepper, and paprika. Rub the duck inside and out with the spice mixture.

Stuff the cavity of the duck with the orange quarters, whole head of garlic, and celery pieces. Fold the neck skin under to cover the cavity. Close with a skewer. Set the duck, breast side up, on a rack over the drip pan. Cover the grill and cook for about 1½ hours. If you’re using a charcoal grill, add 10–12 briquettes every half hour or so to keep the temperature up. After 1½ hours, drain the juices and fat from the drip pan and flip the duck, breast side down. Continue cooking for another 30–60 minutes until the meat is tender. Flip the duck back to breast side up for the last 10 minutes to crisp the skin. The internal temperature should be 175 F at the thickest part of the thigh. Allow the duck to rest on a cutting board for 15 minutes. Remove oranges and celery from the duck’s cavity and throw away (ideally on your compost pile). The roasted head of garlic can be used as a spread on bread. Carve duck and serve. MICHIGAN COUNTRY LINES


Fuel Mix Report The fuel mix characteristics of Ontonagon REA as required by Public Act 141 of 2000 for the 12-month period ending 12/31/21.

Comparison Of Fuel Sources Used Fuel source

Your co-op’s fuel mix

Regional average fuel mix
















Renewable Fuels












Solid Waste Incineration









NOTE: Biomass excludes wood; solid waste incineration includes landfill gas.

Notice Of 2022 Annual Meeting Of Members Of Ontonagon County Rural Electrification Association Date of Notice: May 17, 2022 Please be advised that, pursuant to Article II, Section 3, and Article XIV of the Ontonagon County Rural Electrification Association’s bylaws, the Annual Meeting of the members of the Ontonagon County Rural Electrification Association is hereby called by the secretary of the association. The purpose of the Annual Meeting is to seat the new directors, pass reports covering the previous fiscal year, and transact any other business as may properly come before the meeting. The Annual Meeting of the members of the Ontonagon County Rural Electrification Association shall occur at Chassell High School, 41585 U.S. Highway 41, Chassell, Michigan 49916, promptly at 10 a.m. on Saturday, June 18, 2022. Ontonagon County Rural Electrification Association Mildred Gasperich, secretary

Access To Rules And Rates Please be advised that the following information is available to Ontonagon County REA members: 1. Complete rate schedules; 2. Clear and concise explanation of all rates that the member may be eligible to receive; 3. Assistance from the cooperative in determining the most appropriate rate for a member when the member is eligible to receive service under more than one rate;

Your Co-op’s Fuel Mix

4. Clear and concise explanation of the member’s actual energy use for each billing period during the last 12 months. The information can be obtained by contacting Ontonagon County REA at 906-884-4151. Regional Average Fuel Mix



MEMORIAL DAY & INDEPENDENCE DAY Emissions And Waste Comparison lbs/MWh

Type of emission/waste

Your co-op

Regional average*

Sulfur Dioxide



Carbon Dioxide



Oxides of Nitrogen High-level Nuclear Waste





*Regional average information was obtained from the MPSC website and is for the 12-month period ending 12/31/21. Figures for Ontonagon County REA are based on those of its power supplier, Wolverine Power Supply Cooperative, Inc., which provided this fuel mix and environmental data.

12 MAY 2022

Cooperative offices will be closed on Monday, May 30, in observance of the Memorial Day holiday and Monday, July 4, for Independence Day. Payments may be made at the drop box and will be posted on the next open business day. From our family to yours, enjoy the holidays!

Copper Harbor

Three Director Seats Up For Election The Ontonagon County Rural Electrification Association is comprised of seven districts, with directors elected for three-year terms. This year, the terms will expire for District 1: Green/Firesteel/Toivola, District 3: Pelkie/Herman/Aura, and District 5: Chassell/Keweenaw Bay. These three director seats are up for election this June and ballots for those elections will be mailed after May 2, 2022, the due date of the nominating petitions. The ballots are due to our office no later than Monday, June 13, 2022, at 500 J.K. Paul St., Ontonagon, MI 49953. Please call our office if you have any questions.

Ontonagon REA 2022

Summer Office Hours Effective May 2 to Sept. 2, the summer office hours are Monday–Thursday, 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.


Lake Linden

Houghton Toivola


Ontonagon Firesteel



Keweenaw Bay



Lake Mine

Bruce Crossing Ewen


Trout Creek

Voting Districts District 1: Green/Firesteel/Toivola. . . . . . . . . . . . 617 District 2: Ewen/Trout Creek/Lake Mine . . . . . . . 741 District 3: Pelkie/Herman/Aura . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 694 District 4: Aura. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 655 District 5: Chassell/Keweenaw Bay. . . . . . . . . . . 691 District 6: Boston. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 764 District 7: Lake Linden . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 832


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By Yvonne Whitman || Photography by Keven Zini

It’s not every day that an Olympic gold medal finds itself in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. But that’s what happened after Nick Baumgartner of Iron River captured first place with teammate Lindsey Jacobellis while competing in the mixed team snowboard cross event at the 2022 Beijing Olympics. This event, which made its debut in this year’s games, features a male and female rider from the same country paired and placed into a multi-team bracket. Competitors tear down a course with turns, jumps, rollers, and drops designed to push them to their limits. Competitive snowboarding is not for the faint of heart. “Snowboard cross is chaos in every sense of the word,” Baumgartner said. “We are doing something that is so unpredictable. We go down the course at highway speeds of 50–60 mph on a five-foot-long board with metal edges that are sharp as a sword, with

14 MAY 2022

nothing to protect us except for the helmet on our head.” At 40, Baumgartner was the oldest medalist in Olympic snowboarding history—but he started riding early. “When I was 10 years old, I got this funny-looking plastic snowboard for Christmas, and I took it to the sledding hill behind my house,” Baumgartner said. “Fast-forward 30 years, and that plastic snowboard and my persistence turned into an Olympic gold medal at age 40. To think that 18 years after I started on this team, here I am still going, I would never have

imagined it. You’re never too late to take what you want from life.” When reflecting on receiving his gold medal, Baumgartner said, “I’ve always been a huge fan of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner.’ It hits a little bit different when you’re standing there on the podium and listening to it being played because of something you did. It was a proud moment and very emotional for me.” That emotional celebration followed him back to the U.P. A born and bred Yooper, Baumgartner wasn’t surprised when crowds of local people welcomed him home from Beijing. “I know the people of the U.P., and I know Yoopers, and it didn’t surprise me at all that the celebration started so far away with people standing out on the side of the road hooting and hollering in the freezing cold weather, holding signs that they had made,” Baumgartner said. And when he says, “so far away,” he means it: His supporters began lining the route 60 miles from his hometown, where a community parade awaited him.

But even a 60-mile celebration couldn’t hold a candle to the welcome home from his 17-year-old son Landon. “Getting a gold medal is wonderful, but Landon is my greatest accomplishment. It has meant so much to me to be able to share this journey with him and to have him be proud of me,” Baumgartner said, his voice brimming with emotion. “That’s what really matters to me. I’ve been trying to show him through my whole career what it takes to be a champion, how you don’t give up on your dreams, and that you can accomplish anything. I think he learned those lessons along the way, but winning the gold medal definitely cemented those ideas for him.” Nick Baumgartner is a model of commitment and determination. Entering the elite atmosphere of gold medal athletes did not come easy. It took considerable work, endless training, and competing at countless events for many years, but he made it to the top. Michigan is not just proud to be the home of an Olympic gold medal winner, but incredibly proud to be the home of Nick Baumgartner.


• This was his fourth time in the Olympics. He also competed in 2010, 2014, and 2018 (where he placed 4th). • He is an assistant coach on son Landon’s track team and will be the commencement speaker at Landon’s graduation ceremony. • When training, Nick lives out of a van four days a week with his dog Oakley to stay closer to his gym, which is 90 minutes from his home. • He played football at Northern Michigan University. • Nick built his own house. He is a union concrete worker. • No stranger to medals, Nick has also procured gold and silver in Snowboard Cross at the X Games. • He next plans to compete in the Snowboarding World Championships in 2023.



Ontonagon County’s Last Remaining WWII Veteran


lfred “Al” Smith was born and raised on his family’s dairy farm on Greenland Road in Ontonagon. In August of 1944, at the age of 17, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy. “I was tired of farm life and wanted to see the world,” he says. After basic training in Chicago, he was sent to California and reported to his ship, the USS Burleigh, a Bayfield-class attack transport that carried troops and landing craft to the Pacific combat zone. “We were the flagship of the 18th Amphibious Squadron,” Al says with pride. The Burleigh made numerous trips across the Pacific to carry troops and equipment, and Al realized his dream of seeing the world, as ports of call for the ship included Hawaii, Guam, Saipan, and the Marianas Islands.

LAST MAN STANDING By Yvonne Whitman & Bruce Johanson Information courtesy of The Ontonagon Herald

Officially designated by Congress in 1999, Military Appreciation Month takes place during the entire month of May. Each year, the president issues a proclamation reminding Americans to celebrate this patriotic month that pays tribute to those who have sacrificed so much for our freedom. Ontonagon resident Alfred Smith is one of those who deserve our gratitude.

16 MAY 2022

Shortly after being assigned to the Burleigh, Al noticed some shipmates working in a compartment of the ship. He was curious and soon learned that the men were operating radar equipment. Radar was quite new to the U.S. Navy, with only 20 radar units installed on select ships at that time. Al inquired and was invited to transfer to the department. “I was a 10th-grade dropout, so I didn’t think my transfer would be approved, but it was,” he says. After some rigorous training, Al became a radar specialist and eventually was placed in charge of the ship’s radar. Quite an achievement for the farm boy from rural Upper Michigan. During his years of service in the Navy, Al experienced several memorable events. He became emotional when recalling one in particular. “We were there when the USS Indianapolis delivered the atomic bomb that was to be dropped on Japan,” Al says. “That ship disappeared on its way home, and nobody knew where it was. It turned out that it was sunk by a Japanese submarine.” The loss of

the Indianapolis was especially shocking, as reportedly, up to 150 of the crew members were attacked and eaten by sharks as they struggled in the water. “Only a few survivors were found. We had passed within 50 miles of where the Indianapolis was hit,” Al sadly recalls.

was approaching from the stern, without brakes, making for a potentially dangerous landing. We had the USS Hobson, a destroyer, with us doing a possible rescue pickup of the pilot,” Al says. A tragic miscalculation took place, and the Hobson was struck amidships by the Wasp. The collision cut the Hobson in half, and she sank in less than five minutes. Sadly, 176 of her crew were lost at sea, many asleep in their berthing compartments. “We did manage to save about 61,” Al quietly states.

Another memorable occurrence took place when he and a Navy friend were walking down the street while at port in New York City. A “I hope that when our black limousine pulled up to them, and leaders are contemplating a woman popped her head out of the window. “Would you like to go to the sending our soldiers to opera?” she inquired. Al and his friend war, they visit this sacred said “Yes!” and they hopped in her site and try to really car without hesitation. Only later did they find out the woman was a wealthy consider the impact of the socialite, Marguerite Guggenheim.

Al got out of the Navy for good in 1954 and married his sweetheart, Signe. They had been married for 61 years when she passed away. He continued to work as a lineman until his retirement in 1989. In 2013, Al participated in the U.P. Honor Flight to Washington D.C. and he was losses represented here overcome with emotion while visiting before they send them.” Arlington National Cemetery. Upon Al was honorably discharged in 1948. “I had been gone from home for three years seeing all the graves of the brave service without a leave,” he says. When he returned home, he went members who gave their lives for our freedoms, he said, “I to work as a lineman for Ontonagon REA, but his time home hope that when our leaders are contemplating sending our was short-lived. The Korean conflict began, and after only a soldiers to war, they visit this sacred site and try to really year and a half, he was back on a ship. “I had signed up for consider the impact of the losses represented here before inactive reserve, and I was called back in 1950, as there was a they send them.” shortage of Naval personnel,” he says. Al was then assigned to the USS Wasp, an Essex-class aircraft carrier. Today, at age 94, he still lives in the house where he and Signe raised their seven children. The grandfather of 18 On the Wasp, Al experienced one of those incidents that grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren, Al has led an makes for an unforgettable episode at sea. On April 26, extraordinary life and leaves a rich legacy. He is one among 1952, the Wasp had two aircraft out. One of the planes, a the many armed service personnel who proudly served twin-engine jet, lost the engine that provided power to the his country, and in turn, deserves our gratitude, not only brakes. “We were moving at flank speed, and the aircraft during Military Appreciation Month, but every day.

Al used his G.I money to learn how to fly. He was an accomplished pilot and would fly his plane up to the Huron Mountains, land on a frozen lake and ice fish.

Alfred and Signe Smith on their wedding day, October 23, 1954. They were married for over 61 years.

Al working as a lineman in 1970. This photo was taken by his daughter, Linda, who developed the film and printed it in her high school darkroom.


Guest Column

Floating Michigan Rivers By Julie Kate O’Brien, a Great Lakes Energy Cooperative member


he rivers of Michigan have danced through my soul since an early age. Bank fishing, trolling, and canoeing was where I learned much about family love and respecting the Good Lord’s grace in nature. The joy of big brothers upstream and the upland bird dogs romping and resting on the river’s edge taught the daily practices of contentment, gratitude, faith, and joy, as well as praying and dancing with the Great Spirit. The AuSable and Manistee Rivers are home. There is nothing better than watching a dog weave the river’s edge, flushing birds for hours, and then inflating our tube, floating back home, and dropping a line. Many lessons of life can be learned by watching anglers, rivers, and dogs, as well as those big brothers upstream. From age 7 to now age 70, big brothers have always been upstream watching over. Life’s successes and failures gain understanding because of family members just being on the river together. There appear to be three types of anglers on the rivers. The newbies, the locals, and the “don’t get it” crew, and on some rivers, we may fall into each category. The newbies are fun and often kindly referred to as “trunk slammers,” as they return to their vehicles frequently. They often have the newest fishing gear and are still learning about the concept of effortless movement. The locals may live anywhere but have fished the same area for generations. They move gracefully and effortlessly and understand going with the flow and the concept of catch and release on the river, as well as with life’s issues. The “don’t get it” crew is trying so hard that they don’t succeed much. They often share their frustration with others. Their movement reflects impatience. Setting healthy boundaries in life and respecting other people’s differences are two lessons learned on a river. So float, fish, canoe, grow old with your big brothers upstream, or just watch the rivers of Michigan ... experience the beauty of any season of life on the river banks and find the peace that nature brings.

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Photo is from south M-72 bridge on the Manistee

Julie is retired from Otsego Memorial Hospital. She enjoys hiking and watching sports on TV (Go Green! Go White!). She loves shooting pool and having grilled ham and cheese at Tony Deckers in Oscoda.

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Share your fondest memories and stories. Win $150 for stories published. Visit to submit.

Where In Michigan Is This? Identify the correct location of the photo to the left by May 20 and be entered into a drawing to win a $50 electric bill credit. Enter your guess at March 2022 Winner! Our Mystery Photo winner is Lisa Brodeur, a Cherryland Electric Cooperative member, who correctly identified the photo as The Tridge in downtown Midland. Winners are announced in the following issues of Country Lines: January, March, May, July/August, September, and November/ December.

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Join us on June 18

Attend Your Co-op’s

ANNUAL MEETING Saturday, June 18, 10 a.m. / Chassell High School 41585 U.S. Hwy. 41, Chassell, MI 49916

The board of directors and employees of your electric co-op invite you to join them at the 2022 Annual Meeting. This is a chance to visit with your neighbors and friends from throughout our four-county service area and participate in your co-op’s affairs. There will be drawings for cash prizes and a lunch will be served.

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