MARQUETTE - Donna Sullivan and her husband, Larry, were recently shopping at a local grocery store when they drew the attention of a little boy.
"Look Mom: It's The Jewelry Lady' is what he said," said Larry Sullivan of the lad. "He recognized her right away."
Perhaps that's because for 38 years now, Mrs. Sullivan has put together an incredible display of jewelry at the St. Peter Altar Sociey's annual spring bazaar.
Donna and Larry Sullivan work on jewelry for the upcoming St. Peter Altar Society spring bazaar. The couple has made a hobby of gathering items for the annual event, from which proceeds are used for charitable work. Donna Sullivan has been part of the event for 38 years. (Journal photo by Renee Prusi)
"It started when my dear friend Gertrude Roberts - everybody called her Girly - asked if I would help sell jewelry at the St. Peter bazaar," she said. "Girly told me all I had to do was sell the jewelry and she'd do everything else."
When Girly was no longer able to take care of the jewelry for sale, Mrs. Sullivan took over, with the help of Ruth Campana.
"Ruth worked with me until she no longer could," Mrs. Sullivan said. "My daughter, Cathy O'Donnell, has helped me set up ever since she was in grade school. Now her daughter, Colleen, who is in the fourth grade, comes over and helps me separate the jewelry. She matches up the earrings for me."
In 1990, when Larry Sullivan retired, he was recruited in the effort, which raises funds for the altar society.
"Larry started repairing and cleaning the jewelry. We work together side by side," Mrs. Sullivan said.
"When Laurie Schmit, the president of the altar society, put a request for jewelry donations in the church bulletin, with that it really grew," Mrs. Sullivan said.
"We started getting boxes of jewelry from people and from estate sales," Mr. Sullivan said. "You never know what we're going to find."
The Sullivans now work year round getting the jewelry ready for the annual sale.
"When we first started out, we had one partially full table," Mrs. Sullivan said. "Now we have 12."
The bazaar, which is the altar society's main fundraiser each year, takes place starting at 9 a.m. April 30 at the church hall, which is on the corner of Baraga Avenue and Fourth Street in Marquette.
"From the jewelry sale, 100 percent of the proceeds go to the altar society," Mrs. Sullivan said. "With the proceeds we have purchased all new banquet tables for the hall and have helped purchase chairs for the hall. We've purchased vestments for the deacons and vestments from the altar servers. We also help out missions and a lot of other things."
Four women help with the tables annually: Bonnie Rogers, Jay Shesky, Linda Kreis and Barbara Hein.
"I would like to thank the altar society for all the support they have given through the years," Mrs. Sullivan said. "I'd like to thank my husband, my daughter and granddaughter and all the good workers who help.
"And of course, the people who donate jewelry. They make this all possible," she said. "What started out as helping a dear friend has wound up as a hobby for us."
Her mother didn't have much jewelry when Mrs. Sullivan was a child, but that didn't prevent Mrs. Sullivan from being a fan.
"I have always loved jewelry. That's probably why Girly chose me in the first place," she said.
The Sullivans now go to rummage sales to pick up jewelry for the sale, then work on getting it spiffed up for the event.
"I wanted something to do when I retired," Mr. Sullivan said. "This is it."
The range of items that will be sold at the bazaar is staggering. From belt buckles and men's jewelry to sweater clips, ankle bracelets and earrings of all sorts, the tables will be filled come April 30 with a large variety of items, all clean and in working order.
"The jewelry is priced very reasonably," Mrs. Sullivan said.
With the sale coming just about two weeks before Mother's Day, she expects to see some children there, seeking treasures for their moms.
"Sometimes the little kids will only have 50 cents so I will mark down a little for them. But only for them," Mrs. Sullivan said with a smile. "We get a lot of Mother's Day shoppers. And prom shoppers looking for some bling."
Some people have been perusing the jewelry for most of the years since this started in 1973.
"I had a nurse from Ishpeming, Colleen Collins, who said she had been coming for this every year," Mrs. Sullivan said. "That's nice to hear."
Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.