MUNISING, MI – Don Benjamin Corp, age 88, of Munising, passed into the arms of the Lord Friday, February 19, 2021. Don Corp was a local icon and living legend, who embodied leading by example. Ambitious and grateful, he embraced every aspect of life with compassion and enthusiasm.
Don was born in Gros Cap, MI, on March 12, 1932, to the late “Nellie” Riley Corp and Benjamin James Corp. Growing up in the countryside at the tail-end of the Great Depression he learned from an early age to appreciate the simplicities of life. Relishing experience over possessions, he redefined the meaning of wealthy living. Growing up impoverished shaped his lifelong ideology to “waste not want not” which he encompassed daily.
He attended grade school in Gros Cap, which took place at their town hall due the initial school burning down. He then went to LaSalle High School in St. Ignace which was seven miles away. An accomplished academic, he had an impeccable high school career. However, he did miss one question in the four years of his attendance and he never forgot about it. In his defense, he said he wasn’t at school the day they learned what year the first scuba tests were done.
Math was his favorite subject, with him citing that it was “ridiculously easy.” Language came a close second, for the same reason. He initially studied French and Latin, while ending up taking two years of German to receive an easy A. Ironically, the German he took would have more significance than he anticipated in his near future.
Despite his outstanding achievements in school, March of his senior year, an English teacher informed him he wasn’t able to graduate because of a book report he didn’t do. Asking if he could make it up, the teacher replied, “Not a chance.” With a little sister still at home, he decided to quit school and join the military, resulting in an allotment of 25 dollars and a bond sent to his mother monthly, ensuring they would “eat good.” The school did issue him a degree after he returned from his service, which didn’t prevent him from delivering his classic line, “not bad for a high school dropout.”
At age 17, Don took a bus to the Sault, with full intentions of joining the Navy. Fate had other plans, as he was walking towards the office. He ended up ducking in a doorway to avoid an impending cyclone of heavy snow, which turned out to be the Army Recruitment Center. With his background in German, he ended up being transferred to Camp Funston, in Austria, a German-speaking country. He remained in Europe during the Korean War, serving as Military Police, guarding munitions. While in Austria, he additionally learned Russian. Don rarely acknowledged his veteran status, out of respect for his comrades who were killed on the front lines.
After the Army, he moved to Detroit and got a job at a parts plant. It took him three months to realize that he wasn’t cut out to be a “city slicker.” However, it took almost a year for him to eventually make his way back up north to St. Ignace. While in Detroit, he attended Greene’s Barber School where he received his barber license.
Don Corp began barbering February 15, 1954 which continued for the following 66 years of his life, until he decided to finally put down the shears and retire in September 2020.
While living in St. Ignace, he met the love of his life, Donna Marie Paquin, initiating a union spanning over 63 years. They met while she was waitressing at the Nicholai Hotel and Restaurant, which Don frequented regularly. The two lovebirds tied the knot in Gros Cap on August 31, 1955.
Five years married and four kids later, jobs in the area became scarce. Don had heard from a friend about a need for a barber in the town of Munising. They ended up relocating there in 1960, which became their forever community. While in Munising, they had an additional five children, resulting in nine total.
Alongside the barbershop, Don also doubled as the milkman at Bancroft Dairy for several years. He would wake up early and run his milk delivery route before opening his shop. All the while making sure to return home in between to make breakfast. Flapjacks were his specialty, with Don being an expert flapjack flipper. He would ask the kids to hold out their plates as he would flip the hot pancakes onto them. On Sundays he would often play ukulele for the children during breakfast, typically singing songs where he would insert their names into them.
Food was a staple of the Corp Household and their residence became a popular hangout. There was a regular rotation of neighborhood kids who would frequent their four-bedroom home for meals. Don would bake six loaves of homemade bread for the family every couple of days, depending on the demand due to neighborhood friends smelling the delightful aroma off the back porch! There was a large garden in the backyard which included beans, tomatoes, carrots, raspberries, apples, and plums which he would use for homemade goods, including jams and pies. His pies eventually became famous in the community. True to the waste not want not mantra, Don and Donna would can and freeze all of the excess produce to be used at a later date. There are several shelves still filled with the fruits of their labor.
Despite being a man of many talents, Don remained humble. When inquired about how many languages he fluently spoke, he’d laugh, “He didn’t even speak fluent English.” He ritually played several instruments, including the piano nightly. He also enjoyed the violin, guitar, banjo, and mandolin.
Family was extremely important to him, he tried to be involved with his children as much as possible. He would sometimes take them along on his milk delivery route, or they would come and visit him at the barbershop. Most importantly, every Sunday was family day. Being a devout man of faith and tradition, he would begin the day by attending church. When the children were younger they would proceed to go for a drive and have a picnic. When they got older, they turned it into a movie night. The whole family would attend, typically joined by additional friends. The evening would be complete with popcorn and homemade hot cocoa, compliments of Donna. They would start with watching Mutual Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, followed by whatever was on Disney. Another family tradition, was their yearly trip to Copper Country in the Keweenaw Peninsula. How they transported eleven people, 142 miles, in a singular vehicle can be left up to the imagination.
Don lived with ambition and honor, dedicating to the service of others. Never shying away from hard-work. He remained an active member of the community arriving front and center for all Mustang games. He also would personally donate pies to all the community bake sales, eventually receiving the nickname “The Pie Man.” His pies became a coveted commodity and quick seller at any charity event. Being the town barber, he would go above and beyond to deliver haircuts. He would cut hair at the rest home every Monday for years, and would make personalized house calls for the “old fogies” who were unable to make it down to him. All of these services free of charge.
He was a dedicated Lions Club member for 25 years, with model attendance. Assuming the role of the cotton candy man at the annual Lions Club Carnival.
Don was a proud member of the Anishinaabe Indigenous Nation. Initially seeking fishing rights, they joined together, combining several indigenous bands (the Corps being part of the Mackinac Island Band) which became the Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians who became federally recognized in 1972. After that he was made the first unit chief as his grandfathers were before him, Chief Anse and Chief Ambrose. For 24 years he served on the Housing Commission where he oversaw over 300 houses built for the tribe. The Sault Tribe honored him for his service by establishing a scholarship in his name.
A family man through and through, he often took a special interest in his 21 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren, assuming the role of a prolific mentor in their lives. He would take them on long drives, or teach them to bake, or identify local flora, being an expert forager himself.
Hungry for knowledge, he never stopped learning, and encouraged others to follow suit. He would do his nightly crosswords and word puzzles to keep his mind sharp, He had a system with one of his grandchildren, where he would complete the crossword sections and they would do the logic problems. He consistently would make impromptu offerings of half-done puzzle books at their door.
In the later years, Don would make it a point to make his wife Donna tea every evening, he called it her “Tea Time.” He would then proceed to play her piano as she enjoyed her beverage and tried to guess the tunes he was playing.
Don Corp was a larger than life character who was loved by all. His absence has struck an endless nerve, leaving behind an empty pair of shoes that will be incomparable to fill. He left behind a legacy, a beloved Munising icon, who has personally raised the bar for the standard of living. Always put your creamer in your coffee first, it will self-mix when you add the coffee after. Relish the little things, because in the end, that is what you cherish and take with you and don’t forget to save room for pie.
Don knew he was on his way out, his final words were, “I gotta go.” Faithfully devoted to the end, he reminded his family, “I’m leaving now, but we’ll be together for eternity.”
Don was preceded in death by his wife Donna, his daughters Claire and Lisa. He is survived by daughters Wendy (Tedd) Cruz Anchorage, AK, Ellen (Dan) Greer, Ishpeming, MI Melanie (Dennis) Reitano Waterford, MI, Marnie (Steve) Sheffer Munising, MI, sons Perry (Martha) of Waukesha, WI, Stanley (Cecilia) of Bethel, AK and Sam of Munising, MI along with the 21 grandchildren and 17 great grandchildren.
Visitation will be at the Bowerman Funeral Home on Friday, February 26, 2021 from 5:00 until 8:00 p.m. During the visitation at the funeral home, Covid precautions and attendance regulations will be observed as directed by the MDHHS. Masks will be required and the funeral home staff with be assisting with social distancing and the 25-person attendance restriction. To help with compliance and if able, if you last name begins with A-H please come between 5:00 and 6:00. If last name begins with I-O, please attend between 6:00 and 7:00, and if your last name begins with P-Z, please attend from 7:00 until 8:00.
Don’s Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated by Father Michael Ocran on Saturday, February 27, 2021 at 11:00 a.m. at Sacred Heart Church in Munising. Interment will take place at Maple Grove Cemetery later this year. His obituary and online guestbook may be viewed and signed at bowermanfuneralhome.net.
In lieu of flowers memorial in Don’s name may be made the Munising Booster Club or the Alger County Humane Society.