Paul Schloegel: What Being a Yooper Means to Me
“Rural Voices” shares cultural, educational, economic and artistic views of people who have lived and thrived in the Upper Peninsula. Each of our authors in Rural Voices may be living here in the U.P. or living someplace around the globe, but the U.P. is an important part of who they are and what their beliefs and values are today. Rural Voices wants to share the voices of our neighbors and friends about life and experiences in the UP.
I was asked, “What does being a Yooper mean to me?”
I’m pretty much a middle-of-the-road kind of guy who fell in love with a community, fell in love with an idea and most importantly fell in love with a girl.
Not a day goes by that I don’t share a story with another about my love for the Upper Peninsula, aka the U.P., aka God’s Country.
I grew up in Menominee, a great community on the shores of Lake Michigan (Green Bay). As the fourth of four boys I did my best to keep up with them, and I certainly have the scars to show for it.
My parents moved from the Chicago area to live closer to my mother’s parents. My father Tom and mother Pat were ready to settle down after working in various positions after graduating from MSU’s Hotel Restaurant program.
They bought a small diner in Marinette, WI in 1968 and later opened a second restaurant along the shore in Menominee in 1979.
For almost 50 years, Schloegel’s Bay View Family Restaurant greeted locals and travelers, offering an incredibly unique dining experience, seven days a week.
Often, more than 1,000 people per day would join us for a great meal and a beautiful view. As you might imagine, this is where I learned what it meant to work in “Family Business.”
Cutting grass at the age of 8 to bussing tables at 12 years old and later learning every aspect of the front and back of the business. I loved cooking and making people smile with delicious food, but working out front with the customers–that was where I wanted to be.
I learned from my parents that the ability to create those personal relationships every day was what made the business and the community better. My family at one time employed over 100 employees at its peak. We were extremely proud to provide for so many families.
When the time came, I was off to Marquette following two of my other brothers to Northern Michigan University to try and figure out what was next for me. I was expected to go back and carry on the family business, but, then it happened.
Lake Superior, Presque Isle and the freedom to explore this amazing “Big City” lifestyle….I was in trouble. School introduced me to so many things good, and, well, maybe not so good, but it was a life lesson I had to experience.
Marquette is quite different then Menominee, from the weather to the food, and yes even the politics are different. I loved it, and soon found my calling in the Public Relations and Political Science courses at NMU.
It was interesting growing up in a Republican Ronald Reagan-era home. At the same time, we were great friends with one of the local political icons, Democratic Congressman Bart Stupak who devoted his political career to our region. My brother Scott worked for the Congressman for almost 20 years.
Bart was a great leader, but more importantly he was a great Yooper. Things never got heated if ideals didn’t align while we sat around the table at deer camp, even during an election year. It was here I learned that the person is so much more important than the political party or whether or not they lived on one side of town vs the other, let alone county.
My dad once told me legacies are written long after we are gone.
Then there is the girl, two years and two months to the day older than me…Sorry honey I had to say it. Even though the first meeting was less than impressive, I knew I was not going to let her get away.
A stunning young mother after a first marriage that was not meant to be, her and her little 2 ½ year old daughter had me hooked. She moved here from Warroad, MN and joined the National Guard right out of high school to help with her dream of becoming a nurse.
All the while working full time–often on call and being a mother. We added one more beautiful daughter along the way, thanks be to God. Don’t get me wrong, it’s been the best and worst of times, but we work together to support our lives and the individual passions we have for our community.
For 30+ years she’s been at MGH either on the front line taking care of our neighbors or behind the front line taking care of those taking care of you. My favorite quote from her is, “We are Yoopers taking care of Yoopers!” and she’s very proud of that….So am I!
I have done what I can working in a few different positions over the years, with the last 9-plus years for Northern Energy Solutions, a local insulation and energy optimization company. Fortunately, she supports my desire to get involved in community service so you know she’s not afraid of a challenge.
Many years ago another great Yooper and friend, the late Representative John Kivela gave me some advice on how I could be a better public servant. I took that advice, preparing for the time I might serve on the Marquette City Commission like he did so well.
I’ve spent almost 15 years serving on advisory volunteer positions like the Presque Isle Advisory Committee, Board of Zoning Appeals and the Planning Commission all to try and give back to a community that has given so much to our family.
I am glad I did, because I was honored to serve almost three years on the City Commission after the tragic passing of another iconic leader and friend, Mayor Tom Baldini.
Impossible shoes to fill, but I hope I made him proud with my efforts. It’s hard to imagine two other public servants who embodied Yooper pride like John Kivela and Tom Baldini.
I know I’m not done giving back, and I hope to serve again someday. I could list a dozen more men and women that I consider mentors who make me want to be a better father, friend, neighbor and Yooper.
By my ramblings, you can tell that I am a proud man, but most importantly I’m proud of where I come from.
It’s more than trees and pasties. If I am staying true to my roots, it means we absolutely respect nature. We respect our neighbors as well as their opinions and we should be willing to do everything in our power to help others in need.
I’m inspired by my community’s rich deep history, and driven to be a part of its future through many outlets. These are the qualities that have molded this Yooper into who I am today.
Respecting and honoring the past, cherishing the present and responsibly leaving a positive fingerprint for our future generations.
This is what being a Yooper means to me.
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