Friday, April 27, 2012


Herb and Marianna Gibson, Hoyt Purinton
Washington Island, Wisconsin -

When fire badly damaged Gibson's West Harbor Resort last November, Hoyt Purinton was one of the firemen inside the building.  His experience crawling around in the smoke came to mind several weeks later when he was scavenging at the Island Exchange (the dump) where he spotted a badly damaged vacuum that had been tossed on the scrap pile.  This unit had a look somewhat similar to one he had seen in the fire that evening, including the badly melted cord and warped plastic parts.

Believing it was the same Gibson vacuum, Hoyt took it home, then called the Kirby vacuum cleaner company in Cleveland to see if their Lifetime Warranty would still apply.  It would, except that the vacuum had actually been registered to Marianna's mother, Bernice Hansen.  However, a paperwork shuffle and an a price to refurbish the vacuum with new parts was agreed to, and in a few months the Kirby Company shipped the like-new unit to the Ferry Line office, but now registered under the Gibson name.  (There was great assistance from the gentleman at Kirby who at one time sailed for Cleveland Cliffs, and he recalled looking toward the island and West Harbor as his ship passed our shores. He then Googled West Harbor, while on the phone with Hoyt, to see what the harbor looked like on the satellite image. The Kirby Company is to be thanked for standing behind their quality product.)

Responding to my request to discuss some ideas, Herb and Marianna came to the Ferry Line office this morning and were reunited with their vacuum.

From the Gibson's description of progress at the Resort, furniture and mattresses are being moved in, with most construction work having been shifted to outdoors.  Their deadline for opening Memorial Day weekend still looks promising, although there is still much work to be done before its ready for customers.

We wish them well and hope the wayward vacuum will help in the reopening process.

[An added note: Bernice Hansen purchased this vacuum after her husband, Art, died, according to Marianna.   Bernice was living at that time in a ranch home on 11th Place in Sturgeon Bay.  When my younger sister, Martha, moved to Sturgeon Bay from Florida two years ago, by coincidence she bought the home formerly owned by Bernice and Art Hansen, where the vacuum would first have been used.]

 -  Dick Purinton

Thursday, April 26, 2012


Robin's nest with two eggs at island ferry terminal entry,
observed by Atlas Beneda and Mack Ellefson.

Washington Island, Wisconsin -   

How do eggs hatch if the mother is off the nest for long periods of time?   We're about to find out.  This smoker's kit near the west entry of the ferry terminal may have been a secure place to build a nest, but its location means foot traffic passing nearby approximately ten hours each day.   So far, we've not once observed mother robin.

Today is the birthday of John J. Audubon, and in observing his birthday I reprint here the flyer sent to C. H. Thordarson, collector of books on nature, science and English literature during his lifetime.  Thordarson was solicited as a very active and interested collector for a set of Audubon folios, books that are approximately two feet wide by three feet high.  Engravings were made in Europe that reproduced Audubon's life size renderings of American birds, which were then hand-colored. 

From a prospectus sent to Thordarson by book dealer Walter Hill on Sept. 20, 1913:  

AUDUBON (J.)        BIRDS OF AMERICA.    The Genuine Original Edition, Complete Set, containing 435 superbly coloured plates engraved by W.  H. Lizars or R. Havell &  Son, from drawings by AUDUBON.

4 vols. double elephant folio.  Fine set in contemporary full red morocco, g. e. 1827-1839.        $3250.00

The 435 plates in this Magnificent Work, illustrate 1065 species of birds – all delineated in their natural size and colours.   Cuview expressed the opinion that this work “is the most magnificent monument that art has ever erected in Ornithology.”

Everyone who attempts to describe the plumage of a bird, realizes how inadequate language is to convey a just idea of the richness and peculiar beauty of Nature’s living tints.
Each plate is one of the original copper-plates engraved in London and accurately colored by hand by W. H. Lizars or R. Havell and Son;  their extreme beauty makes them particularly desirable for mural decoration, and their rarity tends to make them exclusive possessions.  

“There has never been a keener eye than Audubon’s” says “Old John” Burroughs, and these plates in their unparalleled beauty, accuracy and spirit, prove it.  They form size 38 x 25 ½.   The plate-mark, or the size of the picture itself, necessarily varies, as the birds are in all cases represented of the size of life.  They must not be confounded with the copies made in 1861 by lithography, which are not in the slightest degree worthy of comparison with originals.

It may be noted that this is an extraordinary opportunity for the buyer and one which may not occur again.
A complete set of the work sold at auction for over $4,000.00

When Thordarson purchased this distinctive set, he added to the many rare and unusual books already in his library.  He collected up to the time of his death, a count that approached 11,000 by 1945.  These books were housed in special book cases, custom built for his collection in his Chicago office.  Later, in 1942, he transferred those cases and his library to his Rock Island boathouse where they remained until 1946. 

One reason for their removal to Rock Island was that Thordarson believed his books would be safer on Rock Island in time of war, should German bombing of Chicago become a threat.  Second, and maybe as practical a reason, was that the Thordarson Electric Manufacturing Company was bought out by the Burgess Company at that time.   His office items and files were moved to the basement of his factory, but the books and carved furniture were moved to Rock Island boathouse, a structure he believed to  be nearly fireproof, for safekeeping his books.

Following Thordarson's death in 1945, the University of Wisconsin entered into an Agreement to Purchase with the Thordarson heirs, and with that agreement in hand, the books were moved to Madison for their protection, complete inventory, and contemplation of how they would be incorporated into the library system.  This move also bought time for gaining additional university support and the arrangement of funding.  

The Thordarson library was ferried from Rock Island to Gills Rock by the Griffin, then by truck to Madison, where it then resided in the crowded old library building, now home of the Wisconsin State Historical Society.  A new university library was built in 1950, and the books were moved into the new building.  Volumes from the Thordarson library, selected books from that library that included the Audubon folios, formed the basis of the university's new rare book collection, kept in a carefully controlled environment.  Other volumes not considered rare were set out on shelves with other library books for borrowing.   

University officials stated at the time of their purchase that the value of the Thordarson collection was in scholarly research, and it was not intended as an investment.   But in fact, the value of his collection, with many individual volumes considered among the finest and rarest examples of early English language books in this country if not in the world, has appreciated considerably.  

Perhaps the most valuable among them are the Audubon folios.  

The entire Thordarson collection was purchased by the University of Wisconsin in 1946 for $170,000, plus a broker's fee of $30,000.   According to an internet auction source, an original Audubon folio set fetched $8,800,000 in 2000, and a single engraving brought $150,000.  By 2011, the auction sale of a "rare double-elephant folio"set had risen to a record $11,500,000 and a single print may now command $200,000.

The dear price of a set of Audubon's books today is supposedly a good thing, in that owners and dealers will be less inclined to sell plates separately, something that had been done in past years.  Also, most copies now reside in institutions, such at the University of Wisconsin rare books collection, where they will presumably remain intact for future centuries.

-  Dick Purinton     

Thursday, April 12, 2012


Washington Island, Wisconsin -

A smile, a pleasant greeting and an upbeat air are considered wonderful traits when you are face-to-face with customers on a daily basis.

No one did this better than Jason Carr.
However, Jason Carr was sentenced today on three felony counts in Door County Circuit Court by Judge Peter Diltz.

Carr pled guilty to three charges of felony theft and in so doing, waved his right to a jury trial.  Carr had earlier paid restitution to the Ferry Line in the amount of $28,000.   As a part of his sentencing, he will spend 30 days in the County Jail, pay a $500 fine plus court costs on each of the counts (numbered 39 in all) and will carry the felonies as a record.  The remaining 36 counts, Class A forgeries, have each been dropped, but they will remain on record as per the plea bargain with the State, as represented by District Attorney Raymond Pelrine.

This is unpleasant business for all concerned.

A complaint against Carr was filed August 25, 2011, following several months' investigation.  The investigation was triggered by Carr's own private conversations in which he admitted theft as a ticket seller over a several-year period.  Until late June of 2011, he had been not only a trusted ticket seller for the Ferry Line, but he was extremely well thought of by fellow employees and customers alike.  It was with concern for Carr as an individual, as well as for the significance of the crimes he had allegedly committed, that charges were brought forward through Sheriff's Department to the Door County District Attorney's office.

During his sentencing, Judge Diltz took time to personally address Carr, stressing not only the seriousness of his crimes, but also the breach of trust with the Island community that had supported him.  Diltz read into the court record the following letter from the Washington Island Ferry Line, Inc., signed by Richard and Hoyt Purinton, company managers and owners.

Because of the nature of the ongoing investigation and then proceedings over the past months, it was not possible, nor was it considered prudent, to publicize Carr's alleged actions.  However, with sentencing now completed, to not inform the public and our customers about this unfortunate turn of events also seems improper.

March 12, 2012

Door County Circuit Court
Judge Peter Diltz
c/o  District Attorney Pelrine

Letter to Jason Carr:
Washington Island Ferry Line appreciates your timely restitution for money stolen while you worked for Washington Island Ferry Line as a ticket seller.  We know the penalties under law in sentencing by the Court are not insignificant. 

However, because of your accepted plea agreement, you haven’t had to respond to questions concerning your crimes in court, and for that reason the public has learned little information about your crimes.

You told an investigating officer that you had been stealing for “five or six years.”  If that was the case, then the total stolen by you as an employee is five or six times the amount you’ve returned in restitution.   Apparently, you resumed work each spring during those years with intent to continue stealing money.  You shielded your stealing from others, even as you repeated your crimes, year to year.

Then, shortly after you were officially investigated for stealing, you expressed to several Washington Island friends in conversation, and to others through your Facebook page, words that indicated you were proud of your undetected theft. 

As your former Ferry Line managers, we think your breach of trust is as damaging as the money that was stolen.  Many people – your co-workers, the ferry customers, island neighbors and others – knew and respected you as a pleasant-mannered, smiling employee, often the first island person they came in contact with upon arrival at the ferry dock.  What they didn’t know – and we didn’t realize – was that the money paid to you by them you then put into your own pocket. 

By doing so, repeatedly, you’ve broken a bond of trust among co-workers and customers, and friends.  How will you now turn that around?  How will you help others to understand that you recognize what you did was wrong?   How will you go about regaining trust from a community that has supported you in many ways? 

You now have an opportunity to begin mending the trust that was broken, by an honest statement to the court, by showing the community in which you live that you are sincere in your acknowledgement of what you’ve done, and that you’re determined to restore our trust in you.


Hoyt and Richard Purinton, for
Washington Island Ferry Line, Inc.

-  End -

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


Chad and Evy Beneda in driveway of their new home.
Washington Island, Wisconsin -

A few weeks ago I posted a blog entry about family moving closer.  This was the first sort of announcement of the potential future sale of our former Main Road home to our daughter, Evy, and Chad Beneda and boys.  They are now 90% moved in, and have enjoyed being on the Island after moving from their former home in Brookfield.  They still own their Brookfield home and it will have it for sale, shortly.

In the meantime, during the week Chad will travel back and forth to sales appointments, much of it by air, as an insurance representative for Liberty Mutual's midwest commercial accounts, and he will also continue to report to his Chicago office for some of those days when not on the road.   But, if his travel connections work well, starting with the ferry on Monday morning, and if he's able to keep up the pace of weekly travel, Chad plans to be home each weekend with his family.

Their two sons, Atlas, 9, and Zander, almost 4, have also begun to acclimate with school projects and more outdoor time as the weather improves.  Atlas happily pedals to the nearby Island Library for books, and south along Main Road to his Gramma's for cookies and entertainment.

Mary Jo with grandsons Zander, Aidan, Atlas and Magnus
on move-in day.

The Beneda's home is the one "across from the log cabin," or "across from the ball park," also known as the "J. W. Cornell home," or the "Maple Grove Inn" where June and Jake Gunnlaugsson rented rooms in the 50s and early 60s.   It was purchased by Carl and Ethel Anderson in 1963 (Carl was a brother to Ed Anderson, Ethel was a daughter of J. W. Cornell), before being transferred to Mary Jo and Richard in 1976.  

We're pleased to see it still in the family, enjoyed again as a year around home by the Benedas.

-  Dick Purinton


Washington Island, Wisconsin -

Since early December, Trinity Lutheran Church has  been under renovation, the most extensive yet in the history of this church building constructed in 1948.

After the pews, organ, piano and other furniture were removed to temporary, off-site storage, then the carpeting and fiber ceiling panels were removed and disposed of.  Pro Foamers, Inc., of Green Bay sprayed insulation over the exposed ceiling surfaces, providing a much improved, estimated R-35, insulation factor.

While the ceiling was exposed, the renovation work also provided an opportunity to upgrade wiring and improve interior lighting.  The old fixtures will be reused, but a company in Green Bay is refurbishing them with new wiring and sockets that will accept modern, efficient bulbs.

With wiring and insulating complete, the Young Brothers then paneled over the foamed ceiling throughout with pine boards.   In mid-March, the Building Committee decided to extend the project by removing the barrier wall between the narthex (entry) and the sanctuary, an enlargement of the overall worship space.

Pine boards were installed over foamed ceiling.
Bob Young hands trimmed board to Dennis on scaffold.

The original (and often broken) floor tiles were then removed in preparation for new carpet throughout the spaces.

Also a part of the renewal is a new LP furnace with air-conditioning capability, and replacement of the 60+ year old windows which had required storm windows each fall.  New windows are currently being installed with modern, triple-glazed windows.  The new windows are transparent, not tinted or textured as were the original windows.   Because of this change, the new windows ought to admit much more natural light.

Larry (in window) and Dennis Young were
installing windows this Wednesday morning. 

This construction project is being paid for through generous donations, and it is expected to be completed - or nearly so - by Memorial Day, in time for added Sunday worship services, weddings and other anticipated activities.

In the meantime the Fellowship Hall, now in its ninth year of use, serves the congregation quite well for worship on Sundays, and as a gathering place for various church and community activities during other days of the week.

 - Dick Purinton  
Since early December, worship services have been held in the Fellowship Hall 
adjacent to the church.   Here, Pastor Frank Maxwell leads the congregation.