blue water living--dec 18 2015

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lue <strong>water</strong><br />

winter <strong>2015</strong><br />

the gift of light<br />

sherman woods holiday orbs<br />


port huron’s historic<br />

sherman woods neighborhood<br />

ablaze with holiday lights.<br />

from the editor<br />

In September 2014 when my husband and I announced to friends that we had<br />

purchased a home in Port Huron’s historic Sherman Woods neighborhood, the very<br />

first question they asked was: “So will you have Christmas balls?”<br />

Now in its fifth year, the very unofficially-official Sherman Woods Christmas Ball<br />

Light Display is surely a highlight for anyone in the Blue Water Area looking for<br />

fantastical Christmas light displays.<br />

And yes, Virginia, we do participate with lighted Christmas balls.<br />

content<br />

places<br />

Sherman Woods 4<br />

Fort Gratiot Lighthouse 6<br />

Sunrise Gardens 8<br />

cover photo<br />

Christmas lights wrapped around a chicken<br />

wire orb and placed in a porch pot<br />

brighten up a Sherman Woods<br />

neighborhood doorstep.<br />

Photo by Patti Samar<br />

Our home, with its twinkling white-lighted spheres in pots (we have no trees out<br />

front) and on bushes, is very conservative in comparison to the yards of my neighbors.<br />

And, as a witness to all five years of this lighted display, I can assure you that there are<br />

more lights this year than ever before.<br />

The nightly parade of cars through our neighborhood -- and it is a parade -- begins<br />

Thanksgiving weekend. Those who came to see the lights that weekend must return<br />

because I’ve watched neighbors add lights every day well into December.<br />

Since the Sherman Woods holiday light display began, I’ve seen lighted balls hanging<br />

from trees in other neighborhoods in Port Huron and the surrounding areas. One of<br />

my girlfriends just purchased a home in a small township neighborhood and wants<br />

to encourage her neighbors to make lighted spheres, as well. She thinks it would be a<br />

cool way to unite the neighborhood and spread holiday cheer.<br />

While I know that our light display is the Sherman Woods association gift to all who<br />

visit the neighborhood during the holiday season, the real gift comes when a simple,<br />

festive gesture unifies a community in a positive way. It is a gift that keeps on giving.<br />

I know this is a stretch in terms of suggesting that spheres of light are bringing peace<br />

on earth and goodwill to all, but anything that inspires people to do something for the<br />

pure joy of others is not a bad thing. In fact, it is the thing we need more of in our very<br />

troubled world today. So I encourage you to create lighted orbs...or let someone else<br />

have the coveted parking space in the crowded parking lot...or shovel your neighbor’s<br />

sidewalk. Whatever you do, do it with joy in your heart knowing it will bring joy to<br />

others.<br />

Peace,<br />

volume 1, number 3 winter <strong>2015</strong><br />

Blue Water Living is published quarterly by The Write Company,<br />

511 La Salle Blvd., Port Huron, MI 48060. Circulation 7,500.<br />

Editor & Publisher: Patti Samar, owner, The Write Company<br />

Advertising: Patti Samar at 810-987-1256 or pjsamar@aol.com<br />

News releases can be emailed to pjsamar@aol.com<br />

Questions or comments?<br />

Call Blue Water Living at 810-987-1256<br />

Mission: Blue Water Living is the premiere publication<br />

for people <strong>living</strong>, working and playing<br />

in the Blue Water Area of Michigan.<br />

Its stories and features are written and designed<br />

to be informational and inspirational.<br />

www.BlueWaterLiving.net<br />

© Blue Water Living is the property<br />

of Patti Samar of The Write Company and is a publication<br />

of Blue Water Publishing LLC.<br />

The Write Company is a writing, graphic design and marketing<br />

consultation firm. View our online portfolio at:<br />

www.TheWriteCompany.net<br />

Patti Samar<br />

Editor & Publisher<br />

Blue Water Living

Visit our website for more information<br />

and call our office today to schedule a consultation.<br />

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winter <strong>2015</strong> BlueWaterLiving.net 3

places<br />

sherman mcmorran woods, tower, port huron<br />

Holiday nights<br />

full of lights<br />

by Patti Samar<br />

Five years ago when Larry Nelson<br />

made 12 spheres out of Christmas<br />

lights and chicken wire, he was afraid<br />

his neighbors in Port Huron’s historic<br />

Sherman Woods neighborhood would<br />

not be happy with his festive display.<br />

“Well, you know, (Sherman Woods)<br />

can be kind of conservative,” he said<br />

with a chuckle. But Nelson pressed on,<br />

encouraged by his daughter, Teri, who<br />

grew up in the neighborhood but now<br />

resides in Greensboro, North Carolina<br />

where lighted holiday orbs are a longtime<br />

tradition. Teri was convinced<br />

the spheres would be a hit in Sherman<br />

Woods.<br />

“They’ve got thousands of them up in<br />

old, old oak trees in Greensboro,” said<br />

Nelson. “It’s just amazing.”<br />

No sooner had Nelson hung his<br />

orbs than neighbors started asking for<br />

instructions on how to make them.<br />

“I started with 12 balls and I’m up<br />

4 winter <strong>2015</strong> BlueWaterLiving.net

to 105 now,” Nelson said of his own<br />

display.<br />

It is safe to say that the neighborhood<br />

light display in Sherman Woods<br />

now has thousands of orbs, as well.<br />

Neighbors begin stringing balls<br />

and holiday lights the week before<br />

Thanksgiving and continue enhancing<br />

their personal displays well into<br />

December. Every resident in Sherman<br />

Woods is responsible for <strong>dec</strong>orating his<br />

or her own property.<br />

Nelson noted that visiting the<br />

neighborhood has become a holiday<br />

tradition for many in the Blue Water<br />

Area. “Nursing homes send their buses<br />

through, and the police department calls<br />

every year because people begin calling<br />

them and they want to know when the<br />

balls are going up.<br />

“It’s crazy. People really do like it. It’s<br />

beautiful and it’s just fascinating.”<br />

sherman woods holiday orbs<br />

• Location: North end<br />

of Port Huron; east of<br />

Gratiot Avenue, just<br />

south of Lakeside<br />

Beach. Enter on La Salle<br />

Blvd. or Edison Blvd.<br />

• Approximate cost per<br />

orb: $7<br />

• Lights go on: Usually<br />

lights start appearing<br />

the weekend prior to<br />

Thanksgiving and are<br />

shut off the week after<br />

New Years.<br />

winter <strong>2015</strong> BlueWaterLiving.net 5

M<br />

people<br />

mike popelka, site manager, fort gratiot light station<br />

mike popelka on the grounds<br />

of the fort gratiot light station<br />

6 winter <strong>2015</strong> BlueWaterLiving.net

Keeping the light station<br />

ship-shape<br />

by Patti Samar<br />

Mike Popelka likes to keep things ship-shape.<br />

As a Coast Guard retiree, Popelka knows a thing or<br />

two about ship life and he’s using his knowledge of all<br />

things nautical as the Port Huron Museum site manager<br />

for the Fort Gratiot Light Station.<br />

“I’m the first one there in the mornings,” he said.<br />

“This time of year, I make sure the heat is turned up<br />

and that everything is cleaned and dusted. I make the<br />

cookies and the hot chocolate, too.”<br />

Cookies and hot chocolate are easy-peasy for Popelka,<br />

who served as a cook in the Coast Guard on both land<br />

and sea. He was shipboard on the USCG Icebreaker<br />

Mackinaw of Cheboygan and, in his final tour of duty,<br />

on the USCG Bramble, which was docked in Port<br />

Huron.<br />

A native of Wisconsin, Popelka spent 20 years in the<br />

Coast Guard. His active duty career took him twice to<br />

Texas, and on the second tour there he met his wife. He<br />

was also stationed in Connecticut, Puerto Rico, Sault<br />

Ste. Marie, Cheboygan and finally Port Huron. He<br />

retired as a First Class Petty Officer.<br />

Popelka noted that he especially enjoyed his time on<br />

the Mackinaw, as it was during the 1970s when the<br />

shipping season went year round, so there was never a<br />

downtime.<br />

Upon his retirement from the Coast Guard, Popelka<br />

worked in security for the Acheson Colloids company<br />

in Port Huron for almost 20 years. It was after his<br />

retirement from Acheson that he first began working<br />

with the Port Huron Museum as site manager for the<br />

USCG Bramble when the museum owned and took care<br />

of that vessel. Upon the sale of the Bramble to a private<br />

owner, Popelka became site manager at the Fort Gratiot<br />

Light Station.<br />

The St. Clair County Parks and Recreation<br />

Department cares for the property at the light station so<br />

Popelka’s duties are administrative and include cleaning<br />

duties and making sure the 50 volunteers are kept<br />

abreast of events and activities scheduled for each day.<br />

The light station is open to the public for tours from<br />

early May through December, with special holiday hours<br />

and nighttime candlelight tours of the lighthouse in<br />

December each year. The buildings on site are available<br />

for rent year round to groups holding special events.<br />

Overnight stays are available on site at the light station,<br />

as well.<br />

“The holiday candlelight tours are an attraction to the<br />

local people,” said Popelka, who noted that many locals<br />

have climbed the lighthouse during the daylight hours,<br />

but are interested in seeing the nighttime view. “Seeing<br />

it at night is a unique opportunity.”<br />

Popelka’s favorite part of his job? “I think meeting the<br />

people who come to see the lighthouse,” he said. “There<br />

are not too many jobs in the world where you work with<br />

the public and it’s fun.”<br />

winter <strong>2015</strong> BlueWaterLiving.net 7

places<br />

sunrise gardens, port huron<br />

Digging in<br />

by Patti Samar<br />

Jim Eldridge knows how to make stuff grow.<br />

Eldridge, of Wadhams, is owner of Sunrise Gardens, 3605<br />

Lapeer Road in Port Huron. A lifelong third generation farmer,<br />

he began bunching asparagus for his grandparents on their<br />

working farm when he was just six years old.<br />

“They had 50 acres of just asparagus and we used to bunch it<br />

for Kroger’s,” he said. He grew up helping his father, Richard<br />

Eldridge, on the family farm and Jim has made his <strong>living</strong><br />

working in farming and produce most of his life.<br />

Eldridge said he really began working regularly on his father’s<br />

farm when he was 10 years old but his father wouldn’t allow<br />

him or his siblings to drive a tractor until they were 16. “It’s too<br />

dangerous,” he said.<br />

His brother now operates the original family farm in Capac<br />

and Eldridge also farms on the land there. “We are the only<br />

potato farmers left in St. Clair County,” he said of his family<br />

operation.<br />

Sunrise Gardens offers three seasons worth of primarily locally<br />

grown or locally sourced plants, produce and holiday greenery.<br />

From April until June, he offers spring plantings at his retail<br />

location including flower baskets, flats, Mother’s Day baskets<br />

and Memorial Day grave pots, among other items. He reopens<br />

8 winter <strong>2015</strong> BlueWaterLiving.net<br />

the shop on Labor Day weekend each year and begins selling<br />

potatoes, squash, pumpkins, tomatoes, peppers and corn<br />

stalks, along with mums and fall plantings. After Halloween,<br />

he transitions to holiday home greenery that he creates himself,<br />

along with a selection of locally grown Christmas trees.<br />

Eldridge spends his summer months working the land for his<br />

fall crops. He looks forward to the fall when he opens Sunrise<br />

Gardens and his customers return.<br />

“I’m a people person,” he said. “I like helping people.” He<br />

notes that his customers return, year after year, because they<br />

understand the quality they will receive. “With the produce, if I<br />

wouldn’t buy it, then it shouldn’t be there. I take care of it like<br />

that.”<br />

And because farming is a gamble, Eldridge and many in his<br />

family have, along the way, also worked other jobs to fill in<br />

during slow times. He has worked in produce departments at<br />

grocery stores, for landscaping companies and in factories along<br />

the way.<br />

But the root of his livelihood has always involved working the<br />

land.<br />

“I like being my own boss and meeting people,” he said. “But<br />

you’ve gotta like farming to do it. It’s a lot of work. It’s a gamble.<br />

It’s a lot of hands-on and a lot of labor.”

jim eldridge with some of the holiday greenery he<br />

creates for customers. During the holiday season, he<br />

offers fresh wreaths, roping, porch pots, kissing balls,<br />

Christmas trees and grave blankets.<br />

winter <strong>2015</strong> BlueWaterLiving.net 9

places<br />

marketing plan?<br />

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call your one-stop shop for marketing consultation.<br />

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public relations & community relations: messaging/engagement.<br />

10 winter <strong>2015</strong> BlueWaterLiving.net<br />

aWard-Winning Writing<br />

& graphic design Work.<br />

patti samar. owner. Writer. designer. marketing consultant.<br />

(Also Editor & Publisher of Blue Water Woman & Blue Water Living)<br />

810. 987. 1256 www.theWritecompany.net<br />


Cell: (586) 801-6068<br />

Email: diannare@aol.com<br />


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