Granddaughters penning book of a life well lived
MARQUETTE — Greek storyteller Aesop once said: “The level of our success is only limited by our imagination and no act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted.”
Janelle Franz and Julia Enz have made it their mission to document stories of their grandmother Margaret “Maggie” Britton’s life as an Upper Peninsula native, mother, grandmother, friend and longtime Northern Michigan University employee.
“We grew up with a grandma who was dynamic. She cared about people in an extraordinary way,” Janelle Franz said in an email. “Her love was so unique that it served as a catalyst for us to reach out and discover the impact she had on people in this community.”
Britton was a staple in the NMU Dining Services department as the manager of Bookbinders Cafe and was actively involved in the Bethel Baptist Church and the Gospel Tabernacle Church in Marquette. Her granddaughters want to give her a voice through the stories of others.
“The book gives readers who knew Maggie the opportunity to know her in a deeper way. We believe people who never met Maggie and read the book will be inspired by her story,” Franz said.
Britton was manager of Bookbinders Cafe in the basement of the Harden Learning Resources Center from 1980 to 1993, earning an NMU excellence in service award along the way.
“Her greatest contributions weren’t measured by awards or medals,” Franz said. “She was a person that others could rely on to genuinely care for them and give them good advice. Every person in a community is important, and our grandma reminded people of how valuable they were, often over a simple burger and fries.”
The importance of Britton’s story in some ways is to highlight the idea that we should cherish each other as people, her granddaughters said.
“Not everyone is going to grow up to be a prominent public person. Not everyone is going to grow up tackling major world issues,” Enz said. “But part of her story is showing what a major influence ordinary people have on each other. It is good to have role models of women who have accomplished dynamic things in their lives but many of us don’t go that route. It doesn’t mean we aren’t dynamic.”
Her granddaughters remember a room in Britton’s house that was filled with items she cherished, each one no doubt evoking a story.
“Grandma had a special room in her house dedicated to keeping treasures from loved ones,” the family writes on a website for the book. “It was a room filled with memories and love, and a place she prayed for us often.”
After Britton passed away on Oct. 2, 2011, the family realized they had never had the privilege of hearing the other side of her stories.
“I know there are many people who loved my grandma that I’ve never shared memories with,” the ‘Invent Your Story’ website states. “Those moments that are worth savoring and keeping forever.”
As a kindhearted mother and grandmother herself, Britton no doubt encountered members of the NMU student body during their very best or very worst times. Her family is seeking those stories, as well as tales of Britton from all phases in her life.
“Whether you were having a good time, figuring things out, or swingin on a swing set together as kids, we want to hear what happened,” the website states. “All memories are welcomed and needed to knit the pieces of her story together.”
Both granddaughters attended NMU. Franz graduated from NMU with a degree in English/writing and Enz obtained a degree in history.
They made several stops around the central Upper Peninsula during a recent trip, including the NMU archive office, the Marquette Regional History Center and the Peter White Public Library as well as local businesses to get the word out about their quest.
“We met many open arms in the Munising and Marquette communities when we visited to spread the word about the book project,” the I Remember Maggie Facebook page states.
Much work is ahead for Franz and Enz, who have compiled close to 30 stories so far, and hope to obtain many more.
“Maggie was dynamic. Not because of any one single big achievement that brought herself glory, but because of her character, the woman who she was, in love and sacrifice, touching the lives of people around her,” they said. “Those of us close to her could see the ripple effect of her persona in ordinary life, and we want you to see it too and maybe even be inspired by it.”
Those who have stories about Maggie Britton are urged to submit them by Jan. 31.
Even if you don’t consider yourself a writer, the family is eager to hear your story, they said.
To submit stories send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lisa Bowers can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is email@example.com.