Mike Vail and his wife Melissa, abbreviated for M&M, came to Beaver Island to relive a piece of history that was put in motion almost 70 years ago.
As Mike shares: “My father, William Vail, -Billy they called him here on the island- and my grandparents, Harry and Annabelle Vail, lived on the island from 1953-1956 when my dad graduated with the class of 56. My grandfather was the island doctor and my grandmother was the nurse. As the story goes, the Island was between doctors, once again and his grandfather was interested in the offer, as he had very bad asthma and the clean island air appealed to him. However, he said, he’d only come if a medical center was built, as there wasn’t one at that point. So, the go-ahead was given to build a medical center and it opened in the spring of 1954…
The local joke is that during his grandfather time on the island there was a veritable baby-boom, as if all the locals had been waiting for him to arrive.”
Dr.Vail saved Captain Glen’s hand and besides many other familiar names, gave birth to Joseph Kenwabikise. Out of gratitude for this last feat, Joseph’s mother made two necklaces that over the years ended up with Mike and Melissa.
The necklaces were going to be donated also to Beaver Island’s history, they decided and as Mike continues: “…(my) dad was a teenager while living here, age 16-19. He became friends with the game commissioner, Karl Kuebler…my dad says that beavers were “messing up” the southern part of the island, so my dad spent a lot of time trapping them with Mr. Kuebler. Then he taught my dad how to stretch and tan the pelts.“
The coat Mike and Melissa brought back to Beaver Island, was made from those pelts; made for his mother, Mike’s grandmother. Once the pelts were ready, they were sent off somewhere for the coat to be made.
Mike’s grandfather died in 1984 and his grandmother died in 2010 at the age of 96…, leaving the the coat, which appeared to be in very good shape to M&M. They took possession of it and decided that if they ever made it to Beaver Island, they’d donate it to a museum.
And so 9 years later the time came to visit Beaver Island and they booked a week at the Beaver Island Lodge, where his grandparents had stayed briefly during their early stay as is documented and chronicled in a three part series “the Beginning of the Beaver Island Medical Center” on the website beaver island.net. It became a busy week for M&M. On Saturday Mike ran in the Beaver Island Half Marathon and took second place in his age group and from there on they were both seen all over the island.
Another motive behind the intent to repatriate the artifacts, had also been anchored in the fact that Mike’s parents had bought a piece of land on Donegal Bay in later years, which in turn however they sold for nearly nothing, when Mike’s college education needed funding.
In a weird turn of fate now Mike and Melissa are cautiously discussing ideas on how they can move to the Emerald Isle. Coming full circle, the island seems to breathe a cross generational attraction that stretches across decades.