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1720 Elk Street
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Manager: Thomas K. Simpson
Planning to get married
after the new year?
interested in a quirky,
fun and small public wedding?
Blue Water Woman magazine will help
walk you down the aisle of love
on Saturday, January 7, 2017
at mcmorran Place
at our first-ever Bridal Show!
enter our essay contest and explain
why you would like to make January 7
your anniversary date!
Wedding package will include:*
• Gift certificate toward a wedding dress valued at $250
• Tuxedo rental gift certificate valued at $100
• Two plain gold wedding bands valued at $100/ea
• Floral package valued at $500
• A photography package valued at $500
• Custom-designed invitation package valued at $200
• Wedding on stage at mcmorran Place theatre
• Wedding officiant
Visit BlueWomanWoman.com for detailed entry information.
* All prizes/wedding items will be obtained from vendors selected by Blue Water Woman magazine; no exceptions.
Blue Water Woman retains the right to accept or reject any and all contest entries for any reason whatsoever.
Wedding reception not included.
Karen harris 5
catherine duffy houghton 6
keiryn ajayi-obe 8
laura lyon 10
from the editor
Happy Fifth Anniversary to us!
With this issue, Blue Water Woman officially turns five years old.
To celebrate, I have “rebranded/redesigned” the magazine, primarily in font and
color. I hope you enjoy the refresh and, of course, the same great stories that are
exclusively written about women in our Blue
The photos on this page are a few of my
favorite -- or they are pictures of some of my
favorite people -- from Blue Water Woman
parties and awards ceremonies that have taken
place over the past five years. I am thankful to
everyone pictured (and lots more people who are
not shown here) for all of their love and support
over the past five years...whether it was serving
as my Vanna White during an awards program
or helping tear down after a networking party,
everything you’ve done for me matters and is
Most of all, I would like to thank the 265+
women in the Blue Water Area who allowed me
to feature them in some way in this publication
over the past five years. You all inspire and amaze
me. Thank you for allowing me to share your
in Blue Water Woman!
just ask our advertisers!
The ad deadline for the next issue
of Blue Water Woman is November 1, 2016.
Prices start at just $125 for a business card sized ad!
Our most popular ad size is a quarter page at just $250;
sign a one-year contract and it becomes just $225 a quarter!
What a deal!
For more information, contact Patti Samar
at 810-987-1256 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
volume 6, number 3 spring 2016
Blue Water Woman is published quarterly by The Write Company,
511 La Salle Blvd., Port Huron, MI 48060. Circulation 5,000.
Editor & Publisher:
Patti Samar, owner, The Write Company
Patti Samar at 810-987-1256 or email@example.com
Questions, comments or story ideas?
Call Blue Water Woman at 810-987-1256
Blue Water Woman is the premiere publication
for women living, working and playing in the Blue Water Area of Michigan.
Its stories and features are written and designed
to be inspriational, motivational and encouraging.
© Blue Water Woman is the property
of Patti Samar of The Write Company
The Write Company is a writing, graphic design
and marketing consultation firm.
View our online portfolio at: www.TheWriteCompany.net
Editor & Publisher
Blue Water Woman
2 FALL 2016 BlueWaterWoman.com
A blog-style dIgItAl publIcAtIon
About the greAt women
of the greAt lAkes regIon.
Come follow their stories & subscribe (for free!) today.
to recommend A womAn
As A story subject, contAct:
FALL 2016 BlueWaterWoman.com 3
haPPy fifTh aNNiVErsary,
bluE WaTEr WOMaN!
aNd, PrOudly iNTrOduCiNg...
haPPy aNNiVErsary TO us!
Blue Water Woman magazine is so very pleased to be able to
celebrate this milestone anniversary with all of you: our faithful
readers and advertisers.
When we began this journey together in 2011, we had no idea if
anyone would even want to read about blue Water area women
or if this could be a viable business venture.
We should never have underestimated anyone’s interest in the
very awesome and cool women of this community.
Over the past five years we have featured more than 265 Blue
Water area women in the pages of our publication and we are so
proud of each and every one of them.
people places passions professions
she will stay if...
Our NEXT big ThiNg: grEaTlaKEsWOMaN.COM
and, we are especially proud to introduce to you our next “big
greatlakesWoman.com will not be a printed publication, but rather a digital
publication that can be read online in a blog form. stories on the blog, much like
those in Blue Water Woman, will feature women from across the eight states that
touch our five Great Lakes. Sign up as a (free!) subscriber and we will send the stories
directly to your inbox!
sharE yOur sTOry idEas
so, if you know of a great, every day woman doing great things in her community
and she lives in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, illinois, indiana, Ohio,
Pennsylvania or New york, please let us know about her! We would love to write a
feature story about her on our blog.
and, keep your story ideas coming for Blue Water Woman, too! We are especially
interested in writing about women who would not normally be featured in the local
media, who are just going about their lives doing great things.
you know...women just like you.
ThaNK yOu so much for the past five years...looking forward to the next five!
VOl. 1, issuE 1,
4 fall 2016 bluEWaTErWOMaN.COM
by Patti Samar
Karen harris, CEO
Visiting Nurse Association
and Blue Water Hospice
To Karen Harris of Port Huron, life is all about home, family and
giving back to the community.
Harris, the chief executive officer of the Visiting Nurse Association
and Blue Water Hospice, feels right at home at work, where she took
the reins earlier this year. Her impact on the nonprofit healthcare
organization – where she previously served as chief operating officer
– has been felt in a positive way since she began her tenure there in
“The mission drives the vision and that drives our strategic plan,”
she said. “I’m very driven by the mission of this organization. All of
that has fallen into place. Our patient volumes are higher than they
have been in at least four years and our hospice home is consistently
full for the first time since it opened.
“And I’m very proud of our staff because our quality scores and our
service scores are the highest in the area.”
Staff is like family to Harris. “Staff turnover is stable and we’ve
built a great team here and everything is just falling into place.”
The opportunity to become a CEO at this point in her career
– Harris began her career as a registered nurse before going on to earn
a bachelor of science degree in nursing and a master’s degree in health
care administration – just felt like the right fit after working for many
years in a hospital setting, ending her hospital career after serving as
both associate vice president of operations and chief nursing officer.
Prior to her employment at VNA/BWH, Harris had served on the
organization’s board of directors for five years.
“I just knew it was a good and compassionate organization,” she
said. “It’s been a good move for me. We have a good team. It’s a small
organization and everybody cares about each other. I’m from a small
town and so it feels like I’m home again.”
That small town Harris called home growing up is also known as
Capac. A member of the high school cheerleading squad, she married
her high school boyfriend who was captain of the football team.
“I graduated with 97 others and I still keep in touch with about half
of them,” she said.
Her hometown roots and her family life are still the most important
parts of her life, said Harris.
“Family is what is important and we both feel that way,” she said
of her husband. “We center everything all around our family. I’m not
really your typical career woman. Everything is about our kids and
During her off time, Harris spends a tremendous amount of time
with her six grandchildren, even dropping them off and picking them
up from school many days. It keeps her grounded and reminds her of
what she values in life.
While family activities occupy a lot her free time, Harris also enjoys
traveling with her husband and they have been able to make a number
of international trips. “We like cruising,” she said.
Harris also believes it is important to give back to the community
and she and her husband support causes that are important to them.
“We feel it is important to give back,” she said, noting that some
of that ties back into her work life and her desire to help people. “I
just want to do good things for the community and the community’s
health. I’m less competitive at this point in my career. I’m not trying
to be this extraordinary CEO. I just want to do good things. I just
want to be proud of what we’re doing as an organization.”
FALL 2016 BlueWaterWoman.com 5
Community Activist & Philanthropist
Living a meaningful life
by Patti Samar
Catherine Duffy Houghton, 98, of Fort Gratiot, began her self-proclaimed
“love affair” with trains when she took her first ride on one at the age of just
two years old.
Fate shined a bright light down on her when she grew up and married a
man whose family owned a railroad.
“I was just batty about trains,” she said, “and here comes this guy with
trains! I was so excited I was with a family that owned a railroad. What
more could you wish for?”
That man was George Duffy, whose family owned the 19-mile long Port
Huron & Detroit Railroad, and Duffy Houghton felt truly blessed to be
his wife for 45 years. Together, they had three now-grown children: George
“Sandy” Duffy, Jr.; Michaele “Mino” Duffy Kramer; and Katherine
“Kathy” Duffy, all of whom still live in the Blue Water Area. Duffy
Houghton’s marriage to George and, subsequently, after his death to
Englishman Herbert Houghton, took Duffy Houghton on a fun-filled and
meaningful life path that saw significant life changes for women and left her
with a global view of the world that one can only obtain after almost 10
decades on the planet.
A Midwestern gal who was born in Cleveland, Ohio, Duffy Houghton
eventually settled in suburban Detroit, where she completed high school at
the notable Kingswood School Cranbrook, on the campus of what is now
known primarily as Cranbrook Schools in Bloomfield Hills. While there,
she took ceramics classes from the renowned Marshall Fredericks, who later
went on to sculpt many famous public art pieces, including the “Spirit of
Detroit” and the Night and Day sculptures in front of McMorran Place in
Port Huron. She continued her friendship with him until his death a number
of years ago.
Following high school, she attended Sarah Lawrence College, a school of
the arts for women, near Bronxville, New York, in Westchester County. The
following year, she attended Connecticut College.
Following her collegiate years, Duffy Houghton eventually followed her
parents when they moved to Port Huron. Here, she worked in the office of
the local American Red Cross chapter as a secretary until her marriage to
6 FALL 2016 BlueWaterWoman.com
Throughout her first marriage, Duffy Houghton was a wife, mother and
involved community citizen, volunteering with projects for her children and
causes that were dear to her. To this day she very carefully follows local, state
and national politics and during the 1960s she was very involved with the
“I was president of the Republican Women’s Club,” she said, noting
that her children recall, from a young age, being dragged along to local
Republican headquarters to stuff and stamp envelopes during campaign
seasons. Today, Duffy Houghton feels disappointed in a Republican party
that she doesn’t recognize.
She recalled hosting former Michigan Governor George Romney in her
home and she called former Governor William Milliken a “gentleman.” She
chuckled when recalling her “Obama” sticker on her car years ago. “Can you
imagine? The former president of the Republican Women’s Club?”
Duffy Houghton closely follows current events and there are issues that
are near and dear to her heart and she is generous in her support of those
“It’s hugely important to me (to give back),” she said. “There is so much
that needs doing and these organizations just don’t have the money needed
to do it all.”
Issues of greatest importance to her include the environment, Planned
Parenthood and, as an accomplished artist herself, the arts.
“The world’s population is a great big huge problem,” she said. “It touches
our water systems, it touches our school systems and many other facets of
life.” She is fascinated with what she has read about stem cell research and
she considers it a personal responsibility to have a global view of the world.
She noted that young people need to be encouraged to look creatively at
the world and its problems and to be creative in their thoughts and actions.
“All older people should feel the way I do because we have something to
compare our world view to,” she said. “There was more love than hate in the
past. People tend to be more selfish now and you feel kind of vulnerable now.
It doesn’t have to be that way.”
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FALL 2016 BlueWaterWoman.com 7
by Patti Samar
Port Huron High School
8 FALL 2016 BlueWaterWoman.com
Keiryn Ajayi-Obe knows what a difference a teacher can make in the
life of a struggling student because she was once that struggling student
– and now she is that teacher.
Ajayi-Obe, 35, who teaches English at Port Huron High School,
knew from a young age that she wanted to work with words because
she loved reading and writing so much.
“I told my mom when I was in high school that I wish someone
would pay me to read and write and so I became a teacher,” she said.
But overall, Ajayi-Obe struggled academically with various
subjects in school. She felt discouraged at times and didn’t always feel
encouraged by teachers in those subjects in which she struggled.
“But then I had a really phenomenal teacher in high school and she
didn’t hold me back,” she said. “It was really important to me at that
time to have someone who believed in me. She let me choose what I
wanted to write about.
“I had some struggles academically, but she didn’t see me that way.
She just saw that I could learn. She totally believed in me. Without her,
I would have just accepted what all of my other teachers thought. The
issue was, I just didn’t learn the way other kids learned.
“Now, as a teacher, I realize how easy it is to forget what each kid
Ajayi-Obe also came from a supportive home environment and had
parents who believed in her abilities to overcome her obstacles, as well,
but now, as a teacher, she sees that is not always the case.
“I had a great childhood and my parents were very involved in my life
and they had a lot of rules and a lot of structure,” she said. “Now, the
stories I hear from some of my students are heartbreaking and they are
hard to hear.”
She noted that when students struggle with their home environment,
it can affect their school work, but she works with them, reminding
herself of her own academic struggles.
“I find what works best is to just keep at them and tell them they can
do it,” she said. “I don’t want to tell them what they can and can’t do,
but I won’t sugarcoat it for them. And I won’t tell them they can’t do
something I can see they are determined to do.
“I also just really try to support those who don’t have a great home
life…it’s important for them to know there’s someone who cares
about them. When you are a teacher, you are a parent from 7:30 in the
morning to 2:30 in the afternoon. Even the kids who come from good
homes still need a mom in the building from 7:30 to 2:30.”
Actually, Ajayi-Obe is a mom outside of her work hours, as well.
She and her husband are the parents to two young children, aged two
years and nine months. And while she loves being a mother, Ajayi-Obe
doesn’t let that define her entire life outside of work.
“I’m not just a mom,” she said. “There are other parts of my life that
are important to me and that’s okay.” In her spare time, she likes to
read and travel and can tick off a long list of travel destinations around
the world where she has already touched ground.
“Also, I have a close knit group of friends so when I feel like my sense
of reality is off, I can call on those friends. It’s nice to have a group
of friends who can go through all the life changes with you. And I’m
a Christian, so for me, God is first in my life and so even when it gets
tough, I know that it will eventually get better.”
FALL 2016 BlueWaterWoman.com 9
“Beatrice” of Lexington
saving the earth
by Patti Samar
Fiber artist Laura Lyon is helping save the earth by rescuing one piece of
junk at a time.
And she is doing it in a bright and sunshiny place also known as
“Beatrice,” her retail shop located in the heart of downtown Lexington.
Beatrice is full of items handmade by artists who use recycled materials
in their artwork. Lyon, who creates her own line of custom- made sweater
coats from recycled sweaters and fabrics, exhibits and sells her work in her
shop as well.
“Nothing in my shop says ‘Made in Mexico’ or ‘Made in China’,” she said.
“There is a mixture of one-of-a-kind art.”
Beatrice opened in March of this year and it came to be after a leap of
faith for Lyon.
“I’d never worked in retail so there was some fear in the belly,” she said
with a chuckle. “But we’ve done very well here.”
A resident of St. Clair County, she chose to locate her shop in Lexington
because she felt it would be supported there. “You don’t really find another
store like ours in Lexington,” she said. “This community supports the arts
and we’re excited to be here.”
Lyon earned a bachelor’s degree in graphic design in 1991, but ended up
working in the sales industry for many years. Her first job out of college was
as a sales representative for the Port Huron Times Herald and that led to a
long career in newspaper advertising sales.
“I have an art degree and even though I worked for corporate America, I
always stayed in the arts by attending fiber workshops,” she said.
When she left the paper in 2005, she had earned the title of advertising
sales manager. She said early on in her career she felt she was using her
graphic design skills at the newspaper by helping clients with their ad design,
but eventually she saw the industry changing and felt it was time to pursue
She dabbled in other working environments for a number of years before
10 FALL 2016 BlueWaterWoman.com
deciding it was time to go back to her artistic roots and begin creating and
working for herself.
Her idea for creating sweater coats came after she received sweaters from
a family member who had passed away. She wanted to create something to
help keep alive the memory of her loved one in a new and useful way.
Though she makes good use of her art degree when selecting various
fabrics and colors to coordinate in one of her sweater coats, Lyon didn’t grow
up knowing how to sew and to this day, she creates the coats free-style.
“I don’t sew with patterns,” she said. “I just see and cut and sew. I love the
fiber arts and the design was just a continual process of experimenting.”
After creating her first few coats, friends and family encouraged her to sell
them on the art show circuit and she found herself frequently down in the
“People thought they were cool and I ended up in Detroit at art shows,”
she said, noting that the more she sold, the more she knew she was onto
“Another reason for opening my own shop in Lexington was I got tired
of being on the road to the art shows,” she said. Being in one place – she
has a workshop in the back of her shop where she now creates her artwork
– allows her to sell her items in a stable environment.
Lyon feels good when she is able to give back to the community and she
has been able to get involved in a number of arts-oriented volunteer projects
in both St. Clair and Sanilac counties.
Additionally, she has been able to offer other artists who create upcycled
art the opportunity to sell their items in her shop, as well. And, she said,
customers are digging the whole concept.
“It makes them feel like they are being good to our earth,” she said.
“Instead of junking up our landfills, we are saving the earth one piece of
junk at a time.”
who will be named...
Blue Water Woman
of the Year?
Nominations now being accepted
for Blue Water Woman of the Year!
The Blue Water Woman of the Year Awards will honor women who reside in the
Blue Water Area of Michigan who demonstrate excellence and achievement
in one or more of the following areas:
• Mentoring other women
• Professional achievement
• Blue Water Young Woman of the Year (21 and under)
• Overall Honor: Blue Water Woman of the Year
Nominators MUST complete the nomination form and rules available at
A distinguished panel of judges from the Upper Peninsula selects award recipients.
Honoring the Award Recipients:
Those selected for awards will be notified by Blue Water Woman at the end of January/early February
2017. All will be featured in a story in the Spring (February/March) 2017 issue of the magazine. All
will be honored at a public reception (open to men and women) in February 2017.
Nominators must be committed to selling a minimum of 20 adult tickets to the awards reception.
Receiving an award is no fun without a cheering section!
Deadline for Submissions:
Submissions must be received by email or snail mail no later than Friday, January 7, 2017.
Submissions must be emailed to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Use your smart phone
to visit our website
and view the
Blue Water Woman reserves the right to refuse nominations for consideration without cause. All decisions are final and subject
to approval by Blue Water Woman. Why? Because we said so. ;)
all your life’s moments
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fall 2016 bluEWaTErWOMaN.COM 13
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