Memorial Celebrates Holly’s Women, Past and Present
(Crystal A. Proxmire, Sept. 19, 2021)
Holly, MI – A new memorial at the Village of Holly’s Waterworks Park honors 100 women – from today’s hardworking heroes back though the community’s history. The effort sprung from a research project by local historian Joe Mishler and the organizational efforts of Holly ACTS (Action, Community Transformation, Solidarity), working with the village and other groups to gather information, create the plaque, and clean up the park so visitors can see and enjoy the Shiawassee River.
Included are women who have shaped the local government, the library, Holly Area Youth Assistance, suffragettes, women business leaders, philanthropists, and those who served in the military or as first responders. A recent unveiling ceremony saw scores of visitors braving the hot, humid morning to celebrate and reflect.
“As research began, it became apparent that this was going to be a lengthy list,” said organizer Kristin Koppa-Watt, founder of Holly ACTS and owner of the recently opened Thoughtful Threads boutique. “At some point throughout the journey a comment was made that maybe we had TOO many women on the list, but I say… over the course of 183 years, 80-100 women isn’t nearly enough and won’t even scratch the surface.
“It then became apparent that we have so many women still living who have and continue to do so much across all kinds of spectrums. Why in the world would we wait until someone is gone to give them praise, validate their service, and let them know how wonderful they are?
“So, this event became part of that plan. We truly do thank every one of you for being here today to celebrate each other and our community.”
The discussion began between Mishler told Watt about his research project on Holly’s historic women, including Elizabeth “Ma” Parry who ran the Lakeview Maternity home out of her home back in the 1950’s. “Her story and the selfless work she committed her life to here in Holly touched me so deeply that I left there with this need to know more,” Watt said.
“A few examples of women who have transformed Holly are Martha Alger , Phoebe Divine who started the George Washington Club, Elizabeth Ma Parry who I mentioned earlier, Winifred Mott A suffragette and activist in the Women’s Christian Temperance Movement, Joyce Slaughter who was the Rose Township Treasurer for decades and helped start Headwater Trails with Sue Julian and Sherlyn Everly, Elizabeth Hamilton who performed interpretive and educational play acts for festivals, Maxine Howe who was a justice of the peace and served on the Holly Village Council throughout the 1950’s and 60’s,Martha Alexander who was a lifelong member of the Holly Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star, Dorothy Alice Garant who worked for the Holly Volunteer Ambulance and a long time school bus driver. She was one of the known women to help make birthday cakes for community kids, and longtime Girl Scout leader.”
Watt also spoke of Rosemary Kelly, founder of Rose Hill Center.
“Rosemary and her husband Dan are not from Holly, but they helped put us on the map and developed Rose Hill Center in the Township behind the National Cemetery 30 years ago. Their son John was diagnosed with schizophrenia many years ago when therapies weren’t widely available. When they finally found a single treatment facility in Boston, that helped their son, they decided to create a place for their son and hundreds of others over the last almost 30 years to receive cutting edge treatment and stabilization therapies for those suffering with severe mental illness. It is one of only 6 like it in the country and people come here from all over the country to seek hope and healing. Rosemary didn’t have a road for her son, so she created one for him and has changed thousands of lives through those she touched. They chose Holly for the place to do this and it thrives today,” she said.
Mishler’s portion of the presentation included stories of local women in the military. This included Amber Kier Ogg who graduated from Holly High School 2001. “In an effort to pay for her college, she joined the US Army – Michigan National Guard. She served with 1775 military police unit. She was deployed to Iraq in May 2003. Her unit protected convoys which were targets for terrorists,” he said.
“One day, while leading a convoy, her vehicle was struck by an IED. The explosion came through the side windows and missed Amber. The main explosion missed Amber but pieces of it didn’t. the team leader was wounded and the gunner was killed. The vehicle stopped and Amber got out and engaged the enemy. At some point she couldn’t see and thought it was the dust and dirt. It was her blood.
“Wounded in action, Amber would be discharged with disabilities. She lost good friends in the action. She joined the long list of Holly people who served and were wounded in action. Scars and memories are permanent and Amber paid a heavy price for serving her country.”
He also spoke of Sarah Emma Edmunds who had left her home in Canada rather than be pressured into an unwanted marriage. She became a traveling bookseller and settled in Rose Twp, but felt drawn to becoming a soldier. She presented herself as a male by the name of Frank and successfully joined the 2nd Michigan Infantry to fight in the Civil War as a Union Soldier. She deserted when she caught Malaria rather than being discovered, but when she recovered she returned to the war effort as a nurse.
“After the war, her war injuries bothered her. She went to a reunion of the 2nd Michigan in Flint and all was forgiven. Frank was well liked and respected. The desertion was wiped from the books, and she received a pension of $12 a month and is the only woman buried in a National Cemetery as a soldier from the Civil War,” Mishler said.
Nicole Edwards Rankin shared some history, including the history of a time when women were not allowed to vote. She spoke of successful women in her family, and the steps that women throughout history – like her great grandmother who was the only woman to serve on the Flint Grocers Board in the 1950s, and her grandmother who was the first woman to have a man’s position at AC Spark Plug.
“For all the progress we have made, there is still much to be done. Gender norms are perpetuated by the division of labor inside and outside of the home. Women still make less money for the same positions that a man holds. Highly qualified women are still overlooked for a position and a less qualified club member is hired instead,” she said.
“Women are underrepresented in politics. In Oakland County, there are only two Villages with female council presidents, and there is only one Village council comprised of all women…
“I hope you leave today feeling inspired by the women listed on this memorial, by the ones that are here with use today, and by the women in your own lives that have inspired you to do more.”
Also among the speakers were Police Chief Jerry Narsh, Fire Chief Steve Mcgee, Ina Golden of Hometown Heroes, Library Board President April Brandon, Dance Instructor Angie Broegman, Councilperson Ryan Delaney, Jennifer Shannon, and Congressperson Elissa Slotkin.