Phil Niemisto leaves behind big legacy

He was never one to seek the spotlight anyway, but Marquette’s beloved Phil Niemisto, notable downtown window washer and tender of his namesake pocket park along Washington Street, in a way is in the spotlight now.

Niemisto died peacefully in his home Sunday at age 88.

Being almost 90 years old didn’t stop him from washing windows and making sure the pocket park kept its beauty.

Even in cold weather, Phil, who grew up in an orphanage and worked an assortment of jobs during his life, cleaned downtown windows, helping to keep Marquette beautiful.

He was not the type to invite recognition of his efforts, although he was friendly to people he encountered on the sidewalk.

At the October dedication of his life-sized statue at the pocket park, he appeared appreciative yet humble at the ceremony, with dignitaries doing most of the talking.

And when that statue was vandalized later, it was a big deal in the community, angering many.

The Phil Niemisto Pocket Park should always bear his name and be home to his statue.

Phil’s favorite movie was “Somewhere in Time,” a time travel movie filmed mostly on Mackinac Island that starred Jane Seymour and the late Christopher Reeve.

It was fiction, of course, but one cannot help but wonder if Phil is experiencing such a heavenly experience now, permanently tending to a garden whose flowers will never wilt. Who knows? Perhaps he’s telling Christopher Reeve how much he loved that movie.

To continue his memory, the Phil Niemisto Young Entrepreneur Scholarship is being created through the Marquette Area Public Schools Education Foundation, 1201 W. Fair Ave., Marquette MI 48955. Consider adding to his legacy by making donations to that worthy cause.

Marquette’s windows might not be as clean in the future, but perhaps the takeaway from having had someone as selfless as Phil in the community is to take over some of his tasks, be it washing windows, picking up litter on the streets and maintaining flower containers.

It’s what he would have wanted.