2007 and earlier - Past Recipients of the Citation for Service to the Assembly

1979 - George Gibson

1980 - Mary Sherwood Hill

1981 - Catherine Stebbins

1982 - Emilie Williams

1983 - Jean and Russ Petrick

1984 - Joe Reeve

1985 - Norman Johnson

1986 - Agnete Hunt

1988 - Laurence Van Tuyl

1989 - A. Ray Cartlidge

1992 - Lucile and John Hawley

1993 - Charles (Bud) French

1994 - Katy and Hugh Gosnell

1995 - Eileen and Karl Rauschert

1995 - Evelyn Walter

1996 - Elsie and Bob Walton

1997 - Betsy Petersen

1998 - Arthur (Bud) Strong

1999 - Marjorie Pearsall-Groenwald

2000 - Doris and Dave Robertson

2001 - Jane and Telfer Mook

2002 - Lou Pray

2003 - Russell Freeburg

2004 - Bill Dahman

2006 - Kent Murmann

2007 - Jim and Luanne Buzzell

Citation for Long and Valued Service to the Assembly, 2011


AUGUST 7, 2011

Each year the Citations Committee reflects on the generous sharing of time and talent by members of our community and introduces one of those individuals to you.  Sometimes we learn of contributions that are quiet and behind the scenes – sometimes they are out where everyone is aware of them.  In the process we discover many things about what makes the Congregational Summer Assembly such a special place for all of us – and one of these things is how the concept of service to the community is a family value that is carried out from generation to generation.

The person we recognize this morning spends so many hours of each summer here in the Meeting House that a lot of people think she’s part of the paid staff.  And she is so closely identified with music that many people have no idea how much she does and has done here that has been totally unconnected to music. So I look forward to telling you more about her – MARILYN STIMSON WINTER.

It’s impossible to tell the story of Marilyn’s involvement in the Assembly without acknowledging her parents, Dr Edward Stimson and Emily Maclean Stimson.  They were larger than life in more than height and and are rightly seen as the role models for their three daughters – Kay, Marjorie, and Marilyn -  in representing what the Assembly is all about.

Marilyn was born the youngest of the three in Cincinnati, OH.  As her father accepted the call from Presbyterian churches in new cities the family moved to Galesburg, IL; Sioux City, IA; back to Cincinnati; and, finally, when Marilyn was 10, to Omaha, NB, where they remained.  A cheerleader in high school, Marilyn went on to Northwestern University where she was on the Pep Squad.  Anyone watching her get scores of children engaged during operetta practices can see that as a natural progression.  Who hasn’t heard this:  clap clapclap clap clap – clap clap? At the beginning of her junior year Marilyn transferred to Occidental College in Los Angeles where she went into music, stayed for a Masters in Voice with a Minor in Theater, and met Brian Winter.  Together they continued their education in music at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana.  Marilyn taught 4th grade while also earning her second Master’s Degree, in Vocal Performance, at Illinois.  Then followed Enid, Oklahoma, and several years of traveling in a kind of educational triangle:  Illinois, the University of Arizona, and Alma, MI – with both of them teaching and continuing work on their Doctor of Musical Arts in Voice programs.  Brian completed his in 1981 and Marilyn in 1982.  In 1983 they moved to Austin, Texas, where he was Director of music at the Methodist Church. Marilyn conducted 5 choirs at the Presbyterian Church and taught grades 1-6 plus  K – 12 vocal music.  In 1999 they moved to Severna Park, MD, where they have lived ever since.

That was a lot of activity out in the “real world.”  What about the Congregational Summer Assembly – our real world?  In the mid-40’s Dr. Stimson and Dr. John Lukens were both Presbyterian ministers in Cincinnati and were friends.  The Stimsons had vacationed in the Charlevoix area but were looking for a summer location more suited to the children.  Dr. Lukens had told Dr. Stimson many times how great the CSA was.  As Ruthie Lukens tells it, one summer morning in 1946 she and her parents were sitting at the table in the cottage, when all of a sudden they heard loud steps clumping across the porch, and a huge booming voice saying, “We’re here!”  Needless to say, her parents were panic stricken, especially her mother, thinking he meant “We’re here – to stay – with you”– in their small cottage!  Actually the Stimsons had rented a cottage – and beautiful Crystal Lake plus the atmosphere at the Assembly immediately captured them.  The next year they rented one of the Steele cottages and were “July people” for several summers before buying the last lot available on the east side of M-22.  In following summers they sort of camped out in the very basic structure that was erected while Dr. Stimson completed much of the work himself.

That began the real involvement in CSA activities – in operettas, Stunt Nights, and plays: “Cinderella,” “Ojibway Legend,” “Smokey Mountain,” “The Night of January 16th.”  Marilyn worked as a waitress in the Dining Hall and, after it closed, at the Crystal View when it served sit-down meals.  She also worked as Mr. Pope’s assistant in the Post Office.

During her college years she helped Emilie Williams with “Hiawatha,” teaching the children the music; and with the Monday night children’s dancing – subbing for Emilie at the piano on occasion.  She started singing in the CSA Choir at age 11 and sang many offertory solos and duets over the years.  After her marriage she and Brian also did recitals for the Assembly community as their daughters were to do later.  She worked on children’s operetta costumes for several years, then took on the Music Director’s role with Pandora in 1986.   For many years she either sang a major role, did the conducting or was the musical director of the adult operettas: “The Gondoliers,” “ Brigadoon,” “Flower Drum Song,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” “ Oliver” (in which, as the undertaker’s wife, she fell into the coffin!).  Marilyn has always been one to take her work very seriously and herself very lightly which is a wonderful pairing of qualities – so no one who saw “Road to Dunsinane” can ever forget her “heroic soprano” presentation of Lady MacBeth in gold breastplate and horned helmet.  Recently, in what she calls her “post ingénue period,” she played the wonderfully comic role of Sister Mary Regina, the Mother Superior, in both presentations of “Nunsense.”

While she has been the Music Director of many adult operettas, her first love has been being Music Director of the children’s operettas which she has continued to do since 1986.  For the last 25 years you have been able to find her every day during the 2 weeks before the show, working not only with the whole cast but with individuals and small groups – giving the equivalent of hundreds of mini private voice lessons – encouraging the timid, calming the anxious,  developing the abilities and the self esteem of the novices.  It has been a wonderful gift to all of us and to all of our children.  What the casual observer might describe as a form of masochism Marilyn describes as “just fun.”  In her words “It’s just fun to help people do things they never thought they could do.” And in recent years she has also started writing new songs to add to the shows.

But Marilyn has always had a deep feeling of responsibility for the non-musical side of the Assembly – those tasks that keep things running and that both reflect and direct the way our values and mission are carried out day by day as a community.  She was on the Youth Committee for several years and was instrumental in first providing a Staff Dinner in thanks and appreciation for their work.  During the years of the big teen dances she sacrificed her hearing to act as a chaperone.  Marilyn served on the Board of Trustees and was Vice President of the Board.  She has been a member of the By-Laws Committee for many years.  And she provides a long institutional memory for the Membership Committee having served as a committee member, as the committee chairman, and now again as a member.  Even when she is in the midst of rehearsals she comes to the weekly meetings and is never at a loss for words.

So, Marilyn, your parents represented for you what the Assembly is about – but over the years you have represented for hundreds of young people what it means to serve the community you are part of with joy.  Your name has been engraved on the plaque at the back of the Meeting House and everyone can thank you personally after the service.

Citation for Long and Valued Service to the Assembly, 2012

The Congregational Summer Assembly continues to be the place we love and want to return to year after year largely because this community in the woods between two beautiful lakes has so many wonderful people who volunteer their time and talent for the good of all of us.  The Citations Committee is privileged to learn about these contributions, to get to know more about these wonderful people and each year to let you know more about the one who receives the Citation for Long and Valued Service to the Assembly. 
We live in an era that seems to be consumed with instant transmission of information, with what is new or “just about to happen” seeming more valuable than what has already happened.  But in the lounge of the Community Building a lovely quilt hangs on the wall that was made as part of our Centennial celebration.  The centerpiece is a beautifully stitched picture of the Meeting House with ghostly figures in period dress going off in one direction while others in colorful modern dress are entering.  The words stitched on it read “They led the way…We follow still.”  The recipient of the Citation for 2012 is a man who personifies that centerpiece.   He is a true bridge between those who founded the Assembly and established the values of our community and those who follow still. 

Through the things he has done for us all and the way he has served as a role model, he illustrates in his own person an often elusive concept – “The Assembly Way” – HAL KNIGHT.
The Henry Hafner family came here in 1914 from Pilgrim Congregational Church in St. Louis;  fellow church member W.B. Knight brought his family soon after.  Hal Knight Sr. and Mariel Hafner courted during a summer at the CSA, married in St. Louis, and Hal Jr. was born there in 1920.  When he was 7 years old the family moved to suburban Webster Groves and except for college and military service in WWII he has lived there ever since – since 1954 in the house that he and his wife Nan built.
Hal graduated from Webster Groves High School and then, in 1942, graduated from Purdue University with a degree in Mechanical Engineering.  After a year working at Curtis Wright in St. Louis he volunteered for the draft, was recruited by the Navy, went through a 3 month training program at Annapolis,  emerged as an Ensign and was soon promoted to Lieutenant j.g.  During the rest of the war he served on the USS Weeden, a destroyer escort, in both the Atlantic and Pacific .  He was officially an engineering officer but he also was the volunteer chaplain for all faiths on board – Protestant, Catholic and Jewish - which tells you a great deal about him.  As a sign of his versatility, he was the ship recreation officer as well. 
After the war he returned to Webster Groves, joined the family business, W.B. Knight Machinery Company, and reconnected with high school friends.  One of them was Bill Coffman whose sister, Nan, was 3 years younger and therefore had been somewhat invisible to the older boys during high school.  She got her degree in Fine Arts from Washington University and in 1946 she and Hal met during a church fashion show when Nan modeled the wedding dress as “Bride of the Future” with Hal as her escort as “Groom of the Future.”  Serendipity!  They were married in real life in 1947 and enjoyed just short of 60 years together raising 3 children in Webster Groves and watching grandchildren and great-grandchildren grow.  He passed many of his own passions and values down the generations and had two very proud moments when he pinned his own Eagle Scout pin on his grandson Christopher and later when Christopher graduated from Annapolis.
During his childhood his family would come from St. Louis for two weeks at a time, spending many of the summers at the CSA in various rented cottages or at the Lodge.  Later his parents bought Peter Evans’s “Fernside” cottage on the South Shore Road – it was built in 1906, originally as a logger’s cabin, and is known as the first Assembly cottage with running water.  With his friends Hal took part in operettas, painted flats and built props. But he had been a Sea Scout during his Boy Scout days and sailing was the activity he loved most, especially challenging sailing on stormy days with his good friend Bob Moller.  There were times when Nan looked over Crystal Lake from their screened porch during a storm certain that she would be raising their three small children alone!  And he would return exhilarated and beaming.
The things he did for and with the Assembly have always been a combination of quiet, behind the scenes activities on behalf of others and leadership opportunities that were presented to him because of his obvious skills and talents but accepted by him because of his strong sense of responsibility and service.  He spent many years on the Budget Committee as a member and as the Chair.  He was also on the Endowment Committee, then he became a Trustee and was President of the Board of Trustees and Chair of the Executive Committee in the mid-90’s.
We now think of the Education Fund and the scholarships it provides to both CSA and Benzie County high school students as always having been there – but Hal was involved from the beginning, working with Cynthia Marshall Hood  and others to create the fund.  He and Nan made no claim as to their golfing skills but they happily played in the annual CSA golf tournament to help build the fund and he recalls the great time he and Rudy Lambert had on Main Street in Frankfort soliciting the local storekeepers for prizes.  He enjoyed attending the awards ceremonies at the high schools to explain the Scholarship Fund.
Hal was an involved and regular participant in the long standing “Tuesday Men’s Group” and was always an ongoing presence in and around the Assembly.  He didn’t just use his skills as an engineer on his own cottage but regularly helped his many friends with work on their cottages. A volunteer activity that he especially enjoyed was acting as a tour guide at Point Betsie.  He particularly liked to stay up at the light where he enjoyed telling the story of the light to visitors.  A favorite Point Betsie memory is of the day he was standing on the balcony outside the light and found himself looking down at a spectacular V of geese.  Nan shared his work at Point Betsie and took the map that was made of all the wrecks known to be in the lake, coloring and framing it to hang in the lighthouse.
Anyone who lives on the South Shore could count on seeing Hal every morning, rain or shine, cold or warm, walking his dog – first “Charlie Brown” and later one of a succession of Scotties.  Together he and Nan would walk the beaches to Frankfort or to Point Betsie and beyond while she would find objects for use in her art projects, especially rocks (often large and heavy) and interesting driftwood (often large and awkward) for him to carry home.
He still lives in the 3 story house in Webster Groves, responding to the daily phone call from the church and then going out to visit old friends or others from the church who aren’t as healthy as he is and who can’t get out.  He’s taught himself to cook so when helpful friends bring him dinner he can return the favor by baking muffins for them. 
Hal lives his faith as a humble and modest man who has always led by example.  It would be hard to find someone who is a better bridge between the early years of the Congregational Summer Assembly and the present with his ability to quietly demonstrate for us all what we mean by the “Assembly Way.”  Hal, I’m privileged to present you with this Citation on behalf of the entire Assembly and your name has been inscribed on the plaque at the back of the Meeting House.
After the service Hal will be on the patio outside the Meeting House where you can greet him and thank him in person.