MICHIGAMME - Kids in and around the town of Michigamme this summer have a new attraction to look forward to besides the beautiful lake.
A crew of volunteers and a larger group of donors has made it possible to put up a new playground at the town's beach area in honor of late resident Bob Mercier.
"Bob loved Michigamme," said his widow Mary Mercier. "He loved the lake. He loved the people. He loved the town."
Local volunteers work to assemble the new playground equipment in the town of Michigamme. (Photo by Carla Skytta)
When Bob Mercier passed away in February 2011, Mary Mercier said the family began considering a charity or organization to benefit from donations given in lieu of flowers at his service. Knowing his love for the town of Michigamme and the kids there, the family decided to put the donations toward what is now the Bob Mercier Memorial Playground.
Crews are expected to put the finishing touches on the equipment - spreading the wood chips that provide a soft surface under the equipment - in time for July 4. The new equipment includes a lower platform with three slides and a steering wheel. That platform connects via a sliding tube to a second taller platform, which also includes climbing surfaces, a staircase and a slide.
What now stands at the playground is just the first phase, however. Donations from the service raised $11,000, enough to cover the cost of the equipment. Mercier said the family is now hoping to raise an additional $13,000 for a second phase of the project, which will include a third climbing platform, climbing ladders, a slide and two side attractions - a plastic race car and a maypole swing.
The additional equipment will make the new playground appropriate for younger and older kids, Mercier said.
"It suits all needs," she said. "We have lots of people who have grandchildren visiting them in the summer time."
Bob Mercier was born in Michigamme and grew up in the small town, attending Northern Michigan University before getting married to Mary and moving to Chicago. The couple, however, continued to spend summers in Michigamme, adding the fall and spring seasons after Bob retired in 1994.
Particularly as he was nearing the end of his battle with cancer, Mercier said visiting Michigamme became increasingly important to her husband.
"The last summer of his life he was on chemotherapy," she said. "Those people (the doctors and nurses in Chicago) knew if he said, 'I have to get to Michigamme,' they'd better get his treatment done. The doctors understood that.
"He had just a wonderful summer here."
Those who are interested in donating to the project can make donations to the Bob Mercier Memorial Playground Fund at the Michigamme Township Office at P.O. Box 20, Michigamme, Mich. 49861.
Making the project possible is help from a number of volunteers, particularly Dan Grochowski, who coordinated volunteers and construction, and Mike Tembreull of Tembreull Excavating who donated the excavation work. Wood chips for the project were donated by Potlatch Corp. in Gwinn.
"It's just hours and hours and hours these folks have put in," Mercier said. "The playground really needed renovation. It had served many children over many years."
Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401.