2010-05-15 / Top News

Jeannette Doud Chronicles Years of Island Life

By Karen Gould

Jeannette Doud, Mackinac Island newspaper columnist, turns 90 years old Sunday, May 16. (File photograph) Jeannette Doud, Mackinac Island newspaper columnist, turns 90 years old Sunday, May 16. (File photograph) Jeannette Doud of Mackinac Island will be 90 years old Sunday, May 16, and the community will celebrate her birthday in the Grand Pavilion at Grand Hotel that day from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Everyone is invited.

Mrs. Doud is well known for her weekly column in The St. Ignace News and the Mackinac Island Town Crier, which she has compiled for 29 years. Through the column, her name has become synonymous with the Island. It is a fixture in both papers, and some say they often read it first. She is the communicator of Island life, known for painting a picture of daily events and engaging readers in the seasonal flow of people and weather. She offers a glimpse into life on the tiny Island that swells with summer visitors and seasonal residents, and hums along as a working community in the winter.

As a baby, Jeannette Chambers Doud is pictured with her brother, Alfred Edward “Little Gunn” Chambers. (Doud family photograph) As a baby, Jeannette Chambers Doud is pictured with her brother, Alfred Edward “Little Gunn” Chambers. (Doud family photograph) “I love the Island,” said Mrs. Doud. “I'm very interested in everything that happens here and I'm so happy to be able to be a part of it.”

She has no plans to retire.

“I love the column,” she said. “I love the Island people.”

Mrs. Doud was married to the late Robert Doud, an Island businessmen and former mayor. Her daughter, Margaret, has been Mackinac Island's mayor for 35 years.

Mrs. Doud is regularly read by people from as far away as Japan to as close as her nearby neighbors. She knows many of the seasonal employees, everyone who lives on the Island year-around, and probably even more who visit the local community year after year.

She is relied on by full time residents who call her with details of family events to add to her column, birthdays, anniversaries, illnesses and hospital stays, and reports of who is traveling and who is visiting.

A yellow legal pad is with her around the house, ready to be filled with notes, names, and dates. At night, it rests on her bed stand, ready for column ideas that may come to mind after dark. Each week, her daughter transcribes the notes on a computer.

During the winter months, seasonal residents often depend on Mrs. Doud's column from afar, to keep them informed on the people and happenings around the Island.

In the summer, unless it is raining, she takes a carriage ride to different spots each day with her good friends, Buck and Alice Sharrow. In the winter, she and her daughter take a daily snowmobile ride to keep up with events and enjoy the scenery.

Mrs. Doud has a kind heart and is a good listener, an expert baker, and a lucid storyteller, recalling names, events, and details with ease.

“I do not have an enemy on the Island,” Mrs. Doud said. “I love everybody. I really do.”

She enjoys working around the house. Last week, she washed windows. She writes every day, and says she could not write the column without the help of her daughter. But her eyesight isn't what it used to be.

“I don't baby myself,” said Mrs. Doud, who also is a cancer surviver. “If there's a job to be done, I do it.”

Her work ethic keeps her connected to the community. She and her daughter also operate Windermere Hotel and the Dog House snack bar.

“One thing I have always admired about Jeannette is her sense of obligation to the readers of the Town Crier,” said publisher Wes Maurer. “Even at 90, she is an untiring chronicler of Mackinac life. I used to see her in the yard of the hotel, directing the contractors, always with a clipboard and a yellow pad on which the week's column was being written, live, as it occurred to her or as someone would pass by and relay a social item of note. I am proud of her that many of our readers consider it more important to appear in her column than to appear in the general columns of the newspaper.”

Five years ago she received a State of Michigan Volunteer Leadership Award for her weekly newspaper column.

“What a wonderful lady she is and such an important part of this community for all these years,” said R. Daniel Musser, chairman of Grand Hotel and a family friend.

“I suspect she knows more about this Island than anyone alive,” he added. “She's a fine woman with great insight about this Island. Loves the place. I don't know anyone who likes it any better.”

The one column Mrs. Doud looks forward to writing most every year is her Christmas column.

“It's long, maybe it's too long,” she said laughing, “but I hear from people I don't even know.”

Jean Huskey of St. Ignace, an active volunteer in her own right, is one of those readers. Both women have made a commitment to better their community, are separated by only a few miles of water, and yet have never met. Last week, Mrs. Huskey said she went hunting for just the right birthday card to send Mrs. Doud. She planned to include a note of appreciation for the insight Mrs. Doud has given, through the newspaper, on the people and places on Mackinac Island.

“I some day hope to meet her,” said Mrs. Huskey. “I have learned so many things about the Island just from her writing.”

In St. Ignace, Mrs. Huskey is not alone in her appreciation for Mrs. Doud, as Island resident Armand “Smi” Horn observed one day.

Once, while dining in St. Ignace, he overheard women talking in a nearby booth.

“Oh my gosh, today's Thursday,” he heard one say. “We've got to get the paper because we have to read Jeannette's column.

“I'll never forget that as long as I live,” said Mr. Horn, who says he “practically grew up across the street from Jeannette's house.”

“Over the years,” he added, “she has been a dear, dear friend of mine.”

A week ago, flowers began arriving at the home Mrs. Doud shares with her daughter on the corner of Market Street and Cadotte Avenue. At one time the pair operated a gift shop, Windermere Imports, on Main Street. Today, her daughter owns Windermere Hotel and for years Mrs. Doud took reservations and assisted with office work.

They weren't her first jobs. Her first job was working with her parents, Alexander “Gunn” Chambers and Rose Ella Metiever, at their souvenir shop at Arch Rock. Later, she worked at the Island post office, sorting letters. Also, she would bring her future father-in-law, James Doud, his mail when Doud Mercantile was at the head of the Arnold Dock.

“I have to tell you a funny story,” she said. “I'd bring him his mail every morning. He'd have a big smile on his face. 'Thank you, thank you. Some day I'll dance at your wedding.' Little did he know I'd end up being his daughter-in-law.”

Today, she spends time visiting, keeping up on Island news, and writing her column. Her telephone rings almost constantly and her doorbell nearly as often.

“Jeannette has become an institution on Mackinac, everybody's friend and loving grand- mother,” said Island resident Chuck Kleber. “She is a one of a kind, caring community asset, writing indispensable island history with colorful adjectives for many, many years. She'll be impossible to reinvent whenever she retires.”

Writing the column happened by chance when Mrs. Doud sought to ease the mind of her neighbor and predecessor on the column, Dorothy Zack, who had been diagnosed with cancer. She offered to write the column while Mrs. Zack spent the winter in Florida. Mrs. Zack's mother, Mary Benjamin, was one of Mrs. Doud's dearest friends.

Mrs. Doud had stopped by to collect Mrs. Zack's houseplants for the winter.

“She was sitting at her typewriter, it was nothing fancy, and sobbing,” recalls Mrs. Doud. “I said, 'Dorothy, you're going to Florida with that nice sun, I'm sure you'll feel better. Oh, she said, Jeannette, I'm not crying about my sickness, but I am crying that the folks won't have the news.'

“I said, 'I'm not a reporter, but I will do it until you get back in the spring.'”

Mrs. Zack died before returning to the Island.

“I'm still doing it at 90,” Mrs. Doud said, “and every day I'm writing something.”

She attended classes on Mackinac Island at the Thomas W. Ferry School.

“What a wonderful old school,” she said recalling that lunch then was 10. “I can remember we had long underwear and brown socks. We'd get to school and, of course, we'd be in every snowbank on the way. We'd come home at night and the range was coal and wood fired. Grandma would sit us in a chair, she'd open the oven door, and she'd get us dried out. We'd never miss school. The teachers were all great, too.”

One of those teachers was the late Cecelia Flanagan. Her daughter, Kay Hoppenrath, also lives on Market Street and is a friend to Mrs. Doud and her daughter.

“She's everybody's friend, the best cook and baker in town, bar none,” said Mrs. Hoppenrath. “We've all spent years trying to live up to her baking and cooking. I don't think she's ever met anybody she didn't like. She's a great lady.”

Mrs. Doud has offered bake goods at many community events and volunteered at the annual Christmas bazaar.

Mrs. Doud's close friend, Margaret McIntire, owner of the Iroquois Hotel, agrees. After all, Mrs. Doud is godmother to her daughter, Marti McIntire.

“She is just the most wonderful friend that you could ever have,” said Mrs. McIntire. “When I first came to the Island we became friends immediately.

“She probably has the best sense of humor of anyone I have ever known and she definitely has a heart of gold. I just think the world of her. I don't think I know anyone who is more highly spoken of on the Island. I don't think I've heard anyone ever say anything but nice things about Jeannette Doud. She truly loves this Island and the people here.”

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