Frances “Fran” Wiideman
I live in Misery Bay in the house my father built. I graduated from Jeffers High School, got married, had eight children. After my youngest child entered school, I decided, with encouragement from my brother, to continue my education. While enrolling at Suomi College, in Hancock, a professor encouraged me to take a Finnish Language course, saying that, for me it would be an “easy A.” So I did, and it was. (I am the granddaughter of four Finnish immigrants.) Then I wanted more.
Following the AA in Liberal Studies from Suomi College was a BS in Earth Science and an MA in English from Northern Michigan University, and finally, an MA in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) from Oklahoma State University.
Upon returning to Toivola in 1997, I was a substitute teacher at several local schools. In 1998, I accepted a position as Chair of a department that included ESL, Pro-College, and Students with Disabilities at Suomi College, now Finlandia University. In 2001, I accepted a position at Michigan Tech University to develop and direct an English as a Second Language (ESL) Program for international students who needed English language instruction to meet the language requirements for academic study at MTU. I retired in 2011.
I am a member of the Misery Bay-Toivola Seniors Club and, since 1997, a member of the Kalevan Naiset (Kaleva Ladies) Ainon Tupa #13 of Mass City.
In May of 1998, I was walking along the gravel road in Misery Bay when a neighbor, Marvin Mattson, stopped to talk to me. He had in his hand a nominating petition form for Director on the Ontonagon County REA Board, and after telling me some of the history of the REA, he asked me if he could nominate me for Director for the Toivola/Lake Mine District. I agreed, signed my name, and got elected. I have served on the Board ever since, as a member, vice president and president, participated in Director Training, and worked with attorneys to update the REA bylaws. I have learned to recognize and appreciate the impact that the REA has had on the rural areas of this country: The Power of Power.
In 1938, Toivola sent a committee of local farmers to Ontonagon to ask for power lines to be built through the 20 miles from Ontonagon to Misery Bay. When the rejection letter, along with the returned $5.00 membership fees per member/customer, signed by the REA Manager, came back, disappointment came to all those committee member’s faces.
I remember my father’s words as he built a store, Charlie’s Grocery in Misery Bay, to serve the needs of local families, his neighbors, friends, and relatives… farmers, loggers, and fisherman. The first years without electricity, then a gasoline generator in a small building near the house that brought power to Charlie’s Grocery and the taste of ice cream on a hot summer day.
Then, ten years later, REA came to Misery Bay and every home got power and ice cream on a hot summer day.