Jeannette Doud Earns Award for Chronicles of Island Life
Mrs. Doud is being honored by the State of Michigan for spending the last 24 years writing a weekly column for the Mackinac Island Town Crier and The Saint Ignace News . She was one of only 12 Michigan citizens this year to be presented with the state’s Volunteer Leadership Award Tuesday, May 24. The program, part of the History, Arts, and Libraries Department, began in 1954 and is rooted in promoting state pride among residents while celebrating the state’s rich heritage.
On May 16, Jeannette Doud turned 85 years old. She could be described as the Island’s Norman Rockwell of words. Her column paints a picture of the day-to-day lives of the people and events of the Island, and she chronicles births, weddings, fundraisers, parties, visitors, relatives of Islanders, and horses. She describes the weather, she takes the reader on a walk through Island gardens, or seats them in a white rocker on the porch of historic Grand Hotel.
She acknowledges the freighters that pass by the Island, and they, in turn, often salute her with three long and two short blasts from their whistles as they make their way through Round Island Passage heading to or from the Straits of Mackinac.
She writes about death, when it visits the tiny 2,200 acre island that has a few more than 500 year-around residents.
Dorothy Benjamin Zack was a reporter for The Saint Ignace News and the Town Crier in the late 1970s, when she became ill and was told by her doctor that she needed to spend the winter in a warmer climate.
“Dorothy’s greatest concern was the Island column would not be written,” said Mrs. Doud, “so she asked me to take over the column.”
“I’m not a journalist,” Mrs. Doud said to her friend, Mrs. Zack, “but I’ll write it.”
“I told her I would do it until spring, when she returned,” said Mrs. Doud.
Dorothy Zack died in Florida March 21, 1981, and, as though still waiting for her return, Mrs. Doud said last week, “I can still see her sitting at her typewriter. I feel dedicated to Dorothy and the wonderful column she wrote.”
Mrs. Doud’s sense of responsibility, her sense of loyalty, and her love of the Island make up her need and drive to complete the weekly column.
“Sometimes the words just come from my heart,” she said.
Her first column appeared in the Town Crier June 13, 1981. She writes her column longhand, on yellow legal sheets referring to notes she has made during the week about people and events. She only has missed a few weeks here and there in writing the column, which appears in The Saint Ignace News on Thursday, and the Town Crier on Saturday.
Inundated by a steady stream of well-wishers on her birthday last week, Jeannette Doud missed her deadline for the paper and called her publisher, Wesley Maurer Jr., to apologize.
“She felt she was letting our readers down,” he said. “With Jeannette, the concern is never for herself, it is always for her obligations to others.
“It’s amazing she ever gets her column done,” he continued. “Visiting with Jeannette is a constant interruption of telephone calls and people at the door. She records a continuous log of the news on her clipboard, all the while complaining that she can’t ever get anything done. She loves it.”
One summer, he took the Town Crier interns down to meet Mrs. Doud and found her behind the Windermere Hotel, directing a crew that was painting the hotel’s exterior.
“She was pointing to the hotel with one hand,” Mr. Maurer said, “and clutching her clipboard with the other. That column follows her everywhere she goes.”
Jeannette Doud laughs at a memory she has of Wes Maurer Sr., who was publisher until he died in 1995. She tried to quit writing, and told him he needed to find someone else.
“Mr. Maurer said, ‘You’re putting me out of business. Nobody will buy the paper without your column,’” said Mrs. Doud.
So she has continued to write and to record the social news on Mackinac.
“It’s one thing to get your name in the paper,” said the younger Maurer, “but I think some people don’t feel they’ve really made it until they get their name in Jeannette’s column.”
Along with keeping track of local people, Jeannette Doud hears from readers from all over the country. They call or write, and letters arrive even from England and Switzerland.
“The phone never stops ringing in this house,” confirms Mrs. Doud. She says it as if to complain, but she obviously enjoys the excitement of the news each phone call brings. Sometimes, the news isn’t so good.
“The hardest thing I ever wrote was an obituary for a six-year-old child who died unexpectedly,” said Mrs. Doud. “I cried while writing the entire obituary.”
Writing about the Christmas Bazaar each year is a joy, she said. She likes the way Island people work together and at the same time she is able to detail the beauty of the Island in winter.
“It’s a great community,” she said. “It’s a wonderful place to live.”
City Clerk Karen Lennard nominated Mrs. Doud for the Volunteer Leadership Award.
“She is an expert on the history of the Island, and most everyone on the Island turns to Jeannette when a visitor has a question regarding Island lore,” she wrote for the nomination. “She never tires of being a walking, talking information booth and has an infectious, devout love of the State of Michigan, and especially of Mackinac Island.”
Mrs. Lennard, who submitted the application without Mrs. Doud’s knowledge, said, “I did it because I respect her. Every time the paper comes out, just like the rest of the Island, I can’t wait to read Jeannette’s column,” she said. “I always feel good when I finish reading it. She is just a neat lady.”
As far back as she can remember, the Doud side of Jeannette Doud’s family was born on Mackinac in a small white home on Mahoney Avenue. Her mother, Rozella Chambers, was born on nearby St. Helena Island.
Though not partners, Mrs. Doud’s father, Gunn Chambers, and John S. Doud were the original souvenir men on Mackinac.
“What I gather, my father was loved by everybody. He died when I was around 18 months old and he was only 42 years old,” she said. She believes he died of a heart attack. Her parents ran three souvenir shops on the Island, on Main Street, at Fort Holmes, and at Arch Rock. The family business, the Arch Rock Curio Shop, was in the family for 63 years. In addition, her father was an auditor for the Illinois Central Railroad in Chicago and commuted back and forth by train to see his family.
Mrs. Doud met her husband, Robert, while working at Doud Mercantile when it was located at the head of the Arnold Dock. It later burned and was relocated to the corner of Main and Fort streets.
She was 19 when they married, and he was 39 and the mayor of the City of Mackinac Island. She smiles at the irony that, at the time, she was too young to vote for him.
Robert Doud wanted to invite everyone on Mackinac to their wedding. He did not want anyone left out, so no invitations were sent, she said. They were married at Ste. Anne’s Catholic Church October 2, 1939, and the church was packed, and, after all these years, she still tells the story with the sound of amazement in her voice.
In 1945, the couple took over the management of Windermere Hotel for Mr. Doud’s aging aunt and uncle. Now, Mrs. Doud owns and operates the hotel, on the west end of town, with her daughter, Margaret, who has been the Island’s mayor for the last 30 years.
When Robert Doud died in 1987, he had served as mayor for two years and had been on the city council for more than 40 years.
There have been many changes to the Island over the years, said Mrs. Doud. “I am so sorry I did not keep a diary every single day.”
Mrs. Lennard originally applied to the Governor John B. Swainson award for volunteerism, but that award is for state employees. When Jim Schultz, Michigan Week coordinator, received the application, however, he realized the significance of Mrs. Doud’s contribution and walked across the hall where the Volunteer Leadership Award committee was meeting and handed them the application, Mrs. Lennard said.
“The Volunteer Leadership Award salutes individuals who make a special contribution to their communities through dedicated leadership to projects that benefit their areas and the state,” said Mr. Schultz.
Flattered by the award, Mrs. Doud is also characteristically humbled by the attention it brings. She fretted this week about the award presentation in Marshall, and that getting the hotel open and the other pressures of spring would force her to miss the event.
“We live on an Island,” she said with resignation.
Besides, she has a column to write.