Holiday lights a family tradition

The author and his family are seen enjoying the Neaults’ light display. (Photo courtesy of Robert S. Mercure)

MARQUETTE — Joseph Mercure, a French-Canadian immigrant from Quebec, came to Upper Michigan in the later half of the 1800s to seek work.

He worked as a teamster for the railroads, skidding logs out of the woods for railroad ties and bridge construction. Joseph was back and forth between the United States and Canada, depending upon the work situation.

He and his wife Virginia (Houle) had four children. His oldest, Thomas and youngest, Exilda were born in Michigan but his two middle children, Louis and Hormidas Joseph, were born in Quebec.

These children all came to live in Marquette. The three boys all built their homes near the old St. Mary’s hospital (present day Jacobetti Veterans Facility) on Fisher Street. When Exilda married, her husband Arthur Neault built a home just around the corner from her brothers, on 5th Street.

Louis’ son, Henry Mercure, worked with his brother Arthur as a contractor for many years, but put his talents to work at Christmas time. Henry’s outdoor displays were outstanding. Those who grew up in the late 1950s thru the 1970s often were taken for a ride by 523 E. Hewitt St. near Lakeshore Boulevard. The larger than life nativity display was a main feature. It was one of the first really big holiday displays in Marquette by a private party.

Henry’s son, Gary Mercure, took up his dad’s lead. At his home at 502 and with his neighbor at 524 Silver Creek Road, they started a holiday display with outstanding lighting and a drive-thru access. This display grew from the 1980s until about 2015. It was a destination drive to see at Christmas time for many families.

Exilda (Mercure) Neault’s grandson, Richard (Rick) Neault took up the family tradition of holiday displays. Rick with wife Valerie hit the ground running. As Gary Mercure phased out his displays, Cousin Rick expanded his!

The outstanding holiday display at 801 Silver Creek Road now attracts thousands of people to a walk through display.

The variety of displays, the lighting, and the Joy of the Season can be taken in by many new families out for a tour of holiday light displays. It was worth the drive out to see and take some family photos!

(As of the writing of this article, COVID-19 strikes again. Rick and Valerie decided not to put their displays up this year. Personal and public health concerns both played into their decision. They hope 2021 will be a better year for everyone.)

What about the author of this article? The grandson of Hormidas Joseph, does outdoor art work but lights? Not so much. If you drive by my house at 1427 E. M-28 during the day, you’ll see an invasion of penguins in my yard. The highway is not the best place to have people hold up traffic.

But some of my holiday outdoor artwork can also be seen in Two Harbors, MN; DePere, WI; and in Ishpeming at 599 Mather Ave. There you will see Charlie Brown, the Grinch, penguins, snowmen, nut cracker soldiers and sleighs gracing the yards of my children’s homes.

Well, merry Christmas, happy holidays and I hope you all keep your own family traditions going.

Editor’s note: Robert Mercure is a retired educator and a docent with the MRHC. Many examples of Mr. Mercure’s photo-op art can be seen at the Marquette Regional History Center.


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