A look back at the news covered by the Advance in 2021–part 1

by Richard Lamb and Peter Jakey

The year 2021 had no shortage of news, both locally and nationally. We take a look at some of the headlines from the past year in part one of our year-end feature. 


It did not take the 2021 New Year’s Baby long to arrive this year. Early into the fourth day of the year, Jaxson Dean Budnik, not only became Presque Isle County’s (PIC’s)first baby, but MidMichigan Medical Center of Alpena’s first baby as well. Jaxson is the son of Alyssa and Steven Budnik of Hawks. He was born at 1:27 Jan. 4, weighing 5 pounds, 15 ounces and measuring 19 and one-half inches long. 

To bring in 2021 and raise awareness for kenyareal.com, three polar plungers, Scott McLennan, Josie Peltz and Kim Margherio took a quick swim into the winter waters of Lake Huron. 

After two years out of the chairman’s chair, the gavel has been passed back to Carl “Preach” Altman, who will take over the leadership position on the PIC Board of Commissioners. 

Frank Mays, the last living survivor of the Carl D. Bradley, passed away in Florida Jan. 7 at the age of 89. Mays, a deck watchman on the Bradley and first mate Elmer Fleming were the only two out of the 35-member crew to survive the Nov. 18, 1958 tragedy. “He devoted the latter years of his life to talking about the Bradley and everything that resulted from it,” said his son Mike Vogler of Rogers City. 

The number of residents and staff at Medilodge of Rogers City infected with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) went down slightly.  As of the second week of the year positive cases stood at 34, down from 38 reported the previous week at the facility.

There was a moment of silence at the Rogers City Area School (RCAS) board of education meeting for the late Don Kromer, who retired from the board when his term came to an end December of 2020. Bound to a specialized wheelchair, he served on the board for 10 years before completing his term in office. He passed away Jan. 1, 2021.

A future project in downtown Rogers City will not only fortify a landmark business, but possibly bring a large artistic mural to the center of the community. Presque Isle District Library (PIDL) owners of the Rogers Theater since 2016, have known since taking it over that the north wall that stands over the parking lot, was going to need to be renovated. 

In response to the Jan. 6 riot on the United States Capitol, the front page featured a photo of the Capitol along with a verse from the hymn “God Bless Our Native Land.”

“There is light at the end of the tunnel but we are not out of the tunnel yet,” said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in an update to the state Jan. 25. As a new variant to COVID-19 is reported in Michigan, the governor asked for patience as vaccines are administered to those who qualify. The governor planned to use federal funding from the recent Coronavirus Response and Relief Act to meet the goal of 50,000 shots in arms per day. 

Locally, the first vaccine clinic was conducted at the Case Township Community Center in Millersburg with a steady stream of people making their way down the halls of the former elementary school. There were 200 vaccines administered at the event. 

After a period of closures, restaurants and bars reopened at the end of the month allowing indoor dining at 25 percent capacity. Tables needed to be placed 6 feet apart with no more than six people allowed at a table. 

People living around Black Lake got a taste of iceboat racing as the 2021 U.S. Nationals took place on the harden surface of Michigan’s seventh largest inland lake. 


Richard Haneckow, 92, of Rogers City became the first member of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 607 to receive a 70-year service pin. It was presented in January by post commander Duane Dembny. 

Rogers City High School (RCHS) will be playing eight-man football this fall with games against opponents from all over the state. “This was a very tough decision, especially after we were supposed to start play in the Northern Michigan Football Conference, that is an 11-man football conference,” said RCAS athletic director Karl Grambau. 

What started as a traffic stop by the Michigan State Police at the Alpena Meijer, ended up in the backyard of a Posen residence. Luckily, there were no reported injuries, but the chase through the Posen area, involving high speeds on slippery roads, concluded just prior to school letting out at Posen Consolidated Schools, a few miles away. 

A pair of talented local performers did all the characters in “Tuna Does Vegas” at the Rogers Theater. Produced by the Rogers City Community Theatre (RCCT), the two-man show with Karl W. Heidemann, in his fourth go at the Tuna series, and Ed Perrault, in his first role in the Tuna series, but the latest role in his long list of credits.

Paula Streich, RCAS teacher of the year (TOTY), moved on to the next level in pursuit of regional TOTY accolades. The program selects 10 teachers through an intense application process to be regional teachers of the year. 

Chris Wilson speared a 61-pound sturgeon on Black Lake to earn the distinction of bringing in the biggest sturgeon of the 2021 season. 

The RCAS board of education voted to enter into a real estate listing agreement for Grambau Education Center (GEC). The building has been vacant since 2007 and previous attempts to sell the building yielded no results. 

Presque Isle Newspapers’ publisher Richard Lamb ended his term as president of the Michigan Press Association (MPA), after serving the media association’s leader for a record 19 months. He was the fourth publisher of the Advance to serve as MPA president following in the steps of Hal Whiteley in 1946, Harry Whiteley in 1968 and Richard Milliman (1979). 


The Nautical City Festival Committee, by a unanimous vote, decided to go ahead with the 2021 festival, after the 2020 event had to be canceled. New co-chairs of the committee were Margherio and Matt Mertz. 

 Plans were a go for the Rogers City Antique and Vintage Snowmobile show. The 17th annual event had a different look, with no banquet or bar, but a large display of snowmobiles graced the grounds of the Knights of Columbus Hall. 

After some downsizing to bring the development of a new Rogers City Area Fire Department (RCAFD) fire hall to fruition, groundbreaking could possibly take place as early as a few months. Members of the RCAFD met in special session to discuss plans for a 98-by-80- foot building with 7,840 square feet, constructed at the corner of Park Drive and South Sixth Street. 

Support is starting to grow for the Michigan Main Street (MMS) program with the announcement that Rogers City became the 50th community of Michigan to reach Redevelopment Ready Community status. 

Rogers City’s girls’ basketball team took two wins in three tries. Senior guard Karissa Rabeau scored 18 points in the fourth quarter to key a 45-42 win over Onaway. Breya Domke led Onaway with 15 points. 

Senior forward Matt Newhouse hit four 3-pointers in the third quarter in Rogers City’s  55-49 win over Alcona. Nick Freel hit all 16 free-throw attempts in his 30-point effort. 

RCHS wrestlers hosted a meet with wins coming from Anthony Paull, Clayton Henry, Isaac Paull and Austin Fenstermaker. In later action, Isaac Hein and Henry each earned their 100th wins on the mat. 

The Cards lost to Mio, 35-18, and Charlevoix, 42-30. Onaway won two matches against Mancelona and both with first-period pins. Brendan Fenstermaker won his match in 1:29, while Colby Pauly took care of his opponent in 1:48. They were the only Onaway wrestlers to win all three of their matches. 

The Posen girls’ basketball team continued its fine season with three wins in a week, including a 62-7 win over Atlanta. Ella Szatkowski had 27 points and Makayla Kamyszek added 14 points and 11 rebounds. 

The Viking boys’ basketball team improved to 7-1 and were ranked eighth in the Michigan Power Rankings. Lucas Stone led all scorers with 23 points in a win over Atlanta. 

The Onaway boys’ basketball team gave coach Eddy Szymoniak his 100th career win as his team rebounded from an 0-2 start to the season with wins in recent games. 

A two-person committee who will field all requests and information regarding the GEC was formed during RCAS board of education meeting. Board president the Rev. Dr. Greg Zurakowski volunteered to serve on the committee, while one of the board’s newest members, Karen Spens, also stepped forward. The motion to approve was unanimous. They will be the point people empowered to negotiate a potential sale of GEC, if there is interest. Any decision to sell it will be left up to the entire board. Zurakowski said the board continues to insure it and keep it safe. 

The number of PIC properties facing additional fees because of unpaid taxes from 2019 was at 453 Feb. 26, according to county treasurer Bridget LaLonde. An update was provided during the treasurer’s report during the Feb. 26, PIC Board of Commissioners’ meeting. 

Strike up the band, preferably a polka band, because the 2021 Posen Potato Festival was given the green light. Even though the vote was positive, there remained a level of uncertainty as to what state government will allow in early September, but members of the Posen Chamber of Commerce (PCC) voted unanimously March 3 to move forward with the planning. “Still, with everything that is going on, we are hopeful that the governor will keep things progressing and opening things up,” said PCC president Andrea Konwinski. 

Freel broke the17-year-old RCHS single-game scoring record on a night, on the same night, he notched his 1,000-career point. Scoring 25 points in the fourth quarter in Posen, Freel finished with 45 points to break Kyle Greene’s record of 42 that was set March 2, 2004 against Hillman. 

Ruth DeWyre, who is PIC’s latest centenarian, has lived a rich, full life. She worked for many years as a registered nurse at Rogers City Hospital and was there when it opened. 

Members of the Onaway City Commission approved a $761,201 budget for the next fiscal year that starts, April 1. 

Done too soon. In the new world of COVID-19, more cancellations have become necessary at RCAS All sports’ teams, with the exception of two bowlers who qualified for the state championship, were shut down for the season as of March 25. In what turned out to be the last team event for the RCHS wrestlers, they posed with a district trophy won on the home mat. Pictured were team member Caden Fenstermaker, Hayden Hentkowski, Austin Fenstermaker, Austin Bielas, assistant coach John Bielas, Caden Farmer, Isaac Paull, Henry, Isaac Hein, Jake Pomranke, Anthony Paull and assistant coach Jesse Fenstermaker. 

The Rogers City parks and recreation commission is seeking pledges toward the restoration of the Westminster Park gazebo. The goal is to raise $15,000 that would allow the city to secure a grant of $15,000, making the $30,000 project possible. The gazebo has a proud and important history, as it served as the original bandstand for the Rogers City Band, hosting a great many fantastic concerts in its day. The gazebo traces its history back to its construction by Michigan Limestone in 1918. 

Betsy Fleming who has loyally cheered for her children, grandchildren and athletes for many years, was honored with the John Geyer Award for her support of RCHS athletics. Sarah Talaske, representing the sports’ boosters, gave her the honor for 2019-20 at a home basketball game. 


Onaway High School (OHS) has announced valedictorian Jazmyn Friant, salutatorian Elliana Prow and honor student Keegan Hart as the top students from the Class of 2021. 

Following a short deliberation, members of the PIC Board of Commissioners approved a resolution to declare a state of emergency in PIC. The resolution will allow local government to conduct business virtually while still complying with the Michigan Open Meetings Act. This is a concern for local boards not only in PIC but statewide because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and recent statewide spike in cases. 

John and Beth Budnik of Rogers City, who have been business owners in Rogers City for four decades and have dedicated themselves to making the community a better place, will be the 2021 Nautical City Festival grand marshals. 

All winter long, PIC residents who travel U.S.- 23 south of Rogers City watched as new steel poles rose up and have now become permanent fixtures of the landscape. There is a new 22-mile stretch of 177 poles from the Lafarge quarry to the Carmeuse Americas quarry. According to M.J. Electric general foreman Jesse Kleiber, an RCHS graduate who was more than happy to find a job close to home, the project will more than likely result in less power outages for Rogers City residents. 

Presque Isle Newspapers had three winning entries in the 2020 MPA Better Newspaper Contest. Managing editor Peter Jakey added to his list of honors by taking two awards in the best sports’ columnist category. Former reporter Mary Ann Heidemann earned second place in the business and agriculture news category for her article on the updated laboratory studying lampreys titled “Lamprey count steady and new lab operational.” 

Of the five Onaway wrestlers who made it to the state finals, only one was able to make it to the podium. Dylan Crowe, wrestling at 140 pounds in Division 4, was one of three seniors to not only earn the right to make the trip, but was not stopped because of the pandemic as others were. He placed eighth at the tournament to earn all-state accolades. 

The Posen girls’ basketball team landed Szatkowski on the North Star League (NSL), Little Dipper all-conference squad and Kamyszek on the second team. Elizabeth Romel was an honorable mention selection. Rogers City landed two players on the boys’ NSL first team, Freel and Newhouse while Rabeau made the girls’ NSL first team. 

RCHS principal Nick Hein was proud to announce that 34 students will graduate with honors. The class of 2021 will be led by valedictorian Isaac Hein and salutatorian Lauren Andrews. The graduation ceremony, that will presumably be in June, will be conducted at a yet to be announced location. Last year it was conducted on the Gilpin Memorial Field, football field, and with the current situation in Michigan with COVID-19 numbers on the increase and concerns that capacities for an inside ceremony might be too low to satisfy the crowd that could be expected, it might end up on the football field again. 

In mid-April, area high school spring sports’ teams got their first action in two years, after the 2020 spring seasons were canceled. Posen’s softball team took on Pellston Monday and other teams are ready to play this week. Kamyszek drew the opening game assignment allowing four earned runs in the game. 

The 2021 shipping season is officially underway at the Port of Calcite with Carmeuse Americas loading the H. Lee White late in the weekend and sending it on its way April 12 with 30,000 tons of stone destine for Bay City. The White left the docks at 5 a.m., according to site operations manager Mike Cirino. 

Four RCHS wrestlers made the all-conference team for the NSL and two others earned second-team honors. First teamers included Hentkowski (20-9) at 119 pounds, Isaac Hein (24-4) at 160, Anthony Paull (26-1) at 215 and Henry (24-2) at heavyweight. Second team honors went to Isaac Paull (21-6) at 145 and Austin Bielas (24-4) at 171. 

The Cards have two, first-team Ski Valley Conference players in Kevin Pearson and Jager Mix. Spencer Nash made second team and Hunter Riley received accolades as an honorable mention. 

A community was in mourning following the passing of Randy Idalski at the age of 58. The super-likable, former PCC president, who served 18 years as president, has been Posen’s voice of sports, parades and pageants for a quarter-of-a-century. 

Former Great Lakes Lore Maritime Museum director Dave Erickson was honored with a lifetime induction into the museum. 

Cast members for the “Savannah Sipping Society” performed by the RCCT were Pennie Hoeft, Elaine Heidemann, Charlotte Heidemann, Val Schalk and Theresa Gibson. 

Posen High School (PHS) principal/superintendent Michelle Wesner was proud to announce the honor students from the Class of 2021 with Luke Jakey named valedictorian with a perfect grade point average, while Kathryn Tweedie was the second-ranking student and will be the salutatorian. 

After 30 years and one month with the PIC Road Commission including 13 as the superintendent/manager, retirement day has arrived for Jerry Smigelski. Dave Kowalski assumed the role vacated by Smigelski. 

Rogers City businessman Bryan Fuhrman, 32, passed away at a Grand Rapids hospital. He owned Retros Diner, Northern Traditions Meat Processing and operated The Pavilion Grill. 


Marianne Dougherty of Holy Cross Lutheran Church (HCLC) has been named Michigan’s Early Childhood Teacher of the Year. Dougherty, who has been at HCLC since the inception of the preschool program in Onaway in 2002, was notified by Travis Grulke, superintendent of schools Michigan district. 

The reroofing project at the historic Onaway Courthouse Building, after some weather delays, is well underway. Chappa Construction of Rogers City was awarded the $76,950 bid in April and owner Jesse Chappa was just happy that the rain and constant wind stopped so his company could finally get started. 

Members of the Rogers City City Council and city staff are working with the Michigan Department of Transportation in an attempt to make the intersection of Third and Erie more pedestrian friendly. The plan calls for enhancing the crosswalks and eliminating the left-turn lane, creating a single lane in all four directions. 

There were some sparks at the monthly board meeting of the PIDLwith Mark Thompson, PIC Historical Museum executive director/curator, questioning the level of communication in regard to the status of GEC. 

RCHS awarded athlete of the year honors to Morgan Baller, Rabeau and Isaac Hein at the event staged at the Rogers Theater.  

For supporters of the MMS program in Rogers City, sending in the application to the Michigan Economic Development Commission with unanimous support, was nothing short of a major victory. 

PIC qualified seven athletes for the state track and field finals a week from Saturday in Hudsonville. Onaway’s Madilyn Crull qualified in four events while Shelby Woiderski, Lainey Shimel and Gavi Woiderski also qualified for the Cardinals. Anthony Paull and Hentkowski from Rogers City qualified for the state meet as did Elizabeth Romel from Posen.


Everything seemed to be back to normal for the commencement exercise in OHS gym in the middle of the Memorial Day weekend. Forty-five seniors, ready to receive their diplomas were lined up in three rows in front of the stage for the festive occasion with anxious anticipation. 

The Rogers City softball team started the season with six-straight losses and were 2-8 after 10 games. The team was then shut down because of COVID-19 after sweeping a doubleheader in Posen to get their record to 4-8. Since then the Hurons have won 14 of 21 games improving to 18-15, 8-0 in NSL play.

There was a missing llama in Posen and the owners would love help finding it. For two years, the Rauls family, who live along East Metz Highway, has had no trouble with Nigel, who has always stayed right in the barnyard, but that Friday evening there was something spooking him. By Saturday, he was gone and the family spent the weekend searching. 

Members of the Rogers City City Council heard the request of a local resident and have been revisiting the issue of banning utility terrain vehicle. Council conducted the first reading of an ordinance that would make it legal to operate UTVs (side-by-sides) on Rogers City streets and alleys. 

The big rigs filled the streets of Onaway during their escort through town. The weekend event at the Onaway Speedway was quite a draw the next day with vehicles backed up in all directions. The PIC Sheriff’s Department had to assist with traffic control for a couple of hours. The vehicles were backed up to Tower on M-68 and to Two-Mile Highway to the south. 

After winning the Miss Shoreline title in Muskegon in February, 2020, MiKaela Bannon, 19 and a sophomore at Northern Michigan University in the fall, has waited an extra year for her chance to compete in the big pageant. That is because most pageants were shut down during the pandemic, including the 2020 Miss Michigan pageant. She made the semifinals as one of the top 11 contestants. 

There were 73 entries in the 2021 Fireside 500 on Grand Lake. Entries were very close to the same as 2019 and there were many comments from competitors about the beauty of the area and the hospitality of the Fireside Inn. 

Both the RCHS baseball and softball teams fought off tough competition to win district titles on the home field. The baseball team defeated highly-ranked Johannesburg-Lewiston 2-1 in the district finals while the softball team topped a talented Inland Lakes squad 8-6. 

Posen High School’s top athletes for the 2020-2021 school year were Lucas Stone, Romel and Kamyszek. 

The wonderful sound of the Rogers City City Band returned to the Lakeside Park band shell with director Jacob Barnby leading 40 strong in the first concert since Christmas 2019. Barnby had a wide-variety of musicians in front of him, who ranged from teens in high school to band members in their 70s, and all were eager to play on a public stage again and there was a lot of music to get out of their system. 

It will be a Father’s Day to celebrate at the home of Mike Hart Sr. of Onaway, who is working toward a full recovery from COVID-19. It’s a battle he almost lost in a Petoskey hospital. The Onaway Area Community Schools board of education president the last 10 years was released from the hospital just in time to be at his son Keegan’s graduation at OHS, May 30. 

Rogers City Art Walk organizers Margherio, Lori Jo Acre and Tim Pritchard called the event a huge success. Approximately 25 artists lined Third Street in Rogers City displaying handcrafted items while listening to the music offered by talented local musician Carrie Caruso. 

The long fruitful career of band director/music instructor Mr. Ed Wilbert came to an end at RCHS.  While there were seven band directors that came and went from the school in the 1970s, Wilbert has been there exactly 40 years. He came right out of Michigan State University (MSU) to take the position in Rogers City, replacing Ronald Henderson.  Christina Hemmer, a teacher at Rogers City for 24 years, also retired. 

The 2021 Presque Isle Harbor Wooden Boat Show exceeded all expectations, according to committee chairman Kowalski, with more than 2,000 visitors coming out. 

The NSL Little Dipper first-team soft ball players had four deserving players from Posen make the squad. They included Kamyszek, Faith Cousins, Ava Wesner and Romel. The Big Dipper division honored Rogers City’s Rabeau, Jeffra Dittmar, Kaitlin Nowicki and Mackenzie Bruning with selections to the first team. Rogers City placed three baseball players on the baseball first team for the Big Dipper including Evan Fairbanks, Dillon Cook and Matt Wilbert. For the Little Dipper baseball division, Posen landed two players, Lucas Stone and Chase Dubie. 

The Onaway softball program had three

players recognized by the Ski Valley Conference on the first team. Those Lady Cardinals are first baseman, junior Macie Decker, second base/catcher, senior Ellie Prow and catcher, junior Kyli Brewbaker. 

Gov. Whitmer accelerated the end of all COVID-19 epidemic orders on gatherings and masking as COVID-19 cases continue to plummet following increased vaccinations. As of June 22, capacity in both indoor and outdoor settings increased to 100 percent and the state no longer required residents to wear a face mask. 

(Part two will be in next week’s edition.)