How Hard To Say Goodbye
By: Mary DeMott
Perhaps one of the hardest things to do when a person "retires" is to say good-bye to someone who has become a special friend. As I say good-bye to Vera
Henrich, who retired from work at Steiner Museum recently, I have to say that I will miss her very much. As Editor of the Wilderness Chronicle I got to know
Vera as one of the hardest working members of the volunteer staff at Steiner Museum. Vera was such an integral part of Steiner's to me. When I became a
member of the "Friends" of Steiner Museum Vera was the one "in charge" of the Museum to such an extent that she was there every single day, overseeing the two
paid staff who keep the building and grounds beautiful and who welcome visitors to the Museum. Vera throught nothing of being a very efficient part of the
"workers" who cleaned, moved and displayed artifacts to their best advantage, weeded the flower bed and in other words did "anything" that needed to be done.
As far as I could see, she was unfailingly cheerful and optimistic about things that were happening at the Museum.
The first time I met Vera I had been asked to visit the museum during one of the (beginning of winter) board meetings, by the Editor of the Oscoda County Herald.
The museum was closed for the season and the Board was having their final board meeting of the year.
I was told to go around the building to the "back/side" door where the meeting was scheduled to be held. The Board members did not know I was coming. I
expected a room full of people (I had been told no one would notice me when I came into the meeting) and that I would be able to observe quietly. I had been
asked to write a column on different artifacts in the building for the paper.
The back/side door was a door with a window in it and the people could see me when I came up to it, and I could see them. They were in a "small" room (the
office) all sitting around a pot bellied wood burning stove. And there were only a few of them! And here I was intruding on what was clearly a small, intimate, business meeting.
Vera opened the door and introduced herself and asked me who I needed to see. I had to explain about the Editor of the Herald sending me to observe and
perhaps consent to write a column for his paper about the artifacts in the building. Vera was very gracious and brought a chair for me to sit down until the meeting
was over. At that time she took me for a tour of the building and discussed some of the artifacts. It was the beginning of a very special friendship with a wonderful
woman. The rest, as they say, was history.
I did a very small interview of Vera at her retirement party and asked her when she started at the museum.
"Since 1997," she told me. "What attracted me, when I visited the newly opened museum - I looked around at all the 'stuff' and realized that it needed organizing."
Vera was one of the original members of the Friends of Steiner Museum Board and also was appointed by her Township to be on the Oscoda County Historical
Commission. She eventually took over the duties of being the "curator" of the museum and in those three positions she became a driving force in the expansion,
organization and very operation of the museum.
Ken Troyer & Vera Henrich
The day of Vera's "retirement/good-bye" party she was brought to the party by her family and was very unsteady on her feet. Laughing she said to me, "I lost my
legs - too much hiking in the Swiss Alps!"
Looking around the room, Vera commented, "I wish I knew how many hours I put in here." And what a number it would be if we could only know, because Vera
was there working to improve the looks and the placement of artifacts many days when the museum was closed.
Rayleen Oates, the present receptionist at Steiner Museum stated:
"When I first met Vera she was a tough cookie. She would always come in to the museum to make sure things were running smoothly and that I was doing my job
. She told me when I first got the job that I had some big shoes to fill. (Dorothy Griffith) Don't let her fool you - she is a very nice lady! I am glad I got to know
and work with her. Thanks, Vera!"
These two pictures show the Curio Cabinet that was purchased by the Boards to honor Vera. It will display items that Vera donated to the museum over the years.
Working with Vera in the years since I took over as Editor of the Wilderness Chronicle gave me a vivid picture of a dedicated lady, committed to the growth and
beauty of Steiner Museum.
When you next visit the Steiner Museum be sure to check out the beautiful Curio Cabinet with Vera's picture sitting on top of it. The items inside were all donated
Vera - you will surely be missed!