Niemisto was community gem who won’t be soon forgotten

For those of us who work or live in the downtown Marquette area, something is significantly different.

The aura has changed. The guardian of downtown, Phil Niemisto, is no longer visible on West Washington Street. I am sure he is still with us in spirit, but he is not visible to the naked eye.

I have been in my corner office at The Mining Journal for 26 years and one constant has been seeing Phil come by my office every day. Sometimes he was just heading to the Baraga gym for his senior meal at lunch and sometimes he was just coming by to do our windows. No matter what the reason, Phil was watching over the downtown.

Phil is one of the people left from a unique generation. He usually wore a tie every day because that was expected as a show of respect for the people he interacted with. Phil’s main concern was always that people could enjoy their experience in downtown Marquette.

Keeping the windows clean was part of that. The flower garden in the pocket park had to be kept up with bright-colored flowers to welcome people to the downtown. The fact that Phil was present downtown every day let all of us know that everything was good in the world that day because Phil was here doing his self-designated jobs.

I was told that as he made it home from the hospital, Phil was showing great concern about who was going to take care of his customers to have the windows cleaned. Phil was assured that a group of people from Select Realty had agreed to take care of the window cleaning, which I am sure helped him relax because the most important thing for Phil was that his customers were taken care of properly.

I have also been told by the Marquette Downtown Development Authority that Andy and Erica Smith from The Gathered Earth Store have agreed to take on upkeep of the pocket park, which would make Phil very happy.

Phil’s statue will be there to welcome people and Erica and Andy will make sure everything looks good enough to meet Phil’s standards. That is a great gesture, which will help Phil rest in peace.

The work ethic that Phil displayed for an 88-year-old man is something that everyone could learn from. Phil clearly knew what his job was, as far as washing windows, and he did it until the very end when he just was not physically able to do it anymore.

Phil was in The Mining Journal a couple of weeks ago, still washing our windows and collecting his fee. We could see during the past year especially that Phil was slowing down significantly, but that did not stop him from doing his job. He still carried his bucket and his tools using the handle from his squeegee as a cane. He may have been doing the job a little slower, but he still did the job right. Phil was a guy who followed the motto that a job worth doing is a job worth doing right.

Now that Phil will only be with us in spirit, it is important for all of us who knew him to continue his legacy. Let’s work together to keep the downtown looking good, keep our windows clean, stop at the pocket park and soak in the warmth from the beautiful flowers that are there and offer a Phil-like smile to visitors to our area.

If we all do that, Phil’s legacy will live on forever, and that is something that would make Phil very happy.

Editor’s note: Jim Reevs is publisher of The Mining Journal.