Each September we celebrate the winners of our 40Under40

list-the 40 most influential people under age 40 who are

changing the face of our region. It got us thinking:

Who are the folks who built that face in the first place?

We looked back to the mid-century mark, a time when our

region's residents were charged with defining a community on

the cusp. Traverse City's true titans, the visionaries who saw what did not yet exist, believed what could be and worked tirelessly

to build it. Though by no means a complete list, our first

annual 7Over70 list is our effort to celebrate a few of the

giants on whose shoulders we all stand.

Hal VanSumeren

Most Memorable Roles:

President of the Traverse City Chamber of Commerce for 32 years, two-year board member of Munson Foundation, which oversaw building of Munson Emergency Center.

Lasting Pride:

[The TC chamber] recognized that the environment was the area's biggest economic asset. That is something that had never been considered before.

Credit Where Due:

New Designs for Growth was the backbone of our economy, and they've done a really good job of managing what the city would look like. It all started with a Rotary guidebook. The chamber funded the initial printing then got heavily involved. Keith Charters [TC resident, chair of DNR committee] really carried the load and implemented so much. He was truly instrumental in spreading that gospel here and around the state.

Extra Credit: The hundreds of volunteers that agree to be part of the chamber. They are the catalysts that made our area what it is today.

Not Slowing Down:

I'm heavily involved in SCORE, finishing a two-year term as chairman. We counsel small businesses and people on how to start a business, manage it and find success-about 500 people a year. We've got about 35 [volunteers] in our chapter, mostly retired, with a business background. They come from all over the country.

My Advice:

Pay your bills on time and maintain good credit.

It Still Thrills:

I'm really proud of this area. Livability exceeds expectations. I always say the best trip I ever take is the trip back home.

Jim Beckett

Most Memorable Roles:

Mr. Traverse City, Mr. NMC, Mr. Gladhander, Mr. Rotarian.

Lasting Pride:

I raised funds for Camp Roy-El, a camp for handicapped kids in the 40s and 50s; St. Francis' grade school, gym, high school and church [built in 1977]; Northwestern Michigan College, its library, museum and, especially, the University Center. I served 34 years on NMC Board of Directors, was chairman too-though I think one of the reasons they made me that was because if they needed a signature, they could just call me, I live so close.


Only person to twice receive the distinguished service award from the TC Chamber, chamber president in 1958, and longest-serving member [58 years] of the TC Rotary Club … you understand it's strictly because I'm so damn old, you know?

Motto: I always say I didn't make a lot of money, but I know how to raise some.

My Legacy: It's up to the good Lord to decide. Did he do well? I hope the answer is in the positive. I hope people say, yes, he was a good man, did a lot of good things, served his community.

My Advice:

Keep the faith, for one. And continue to serve to the best of your ability.

I Owe A Lot To:

Obviously, after 62 years, you know that's got to be the spouse, my children and … great friends, but Dorothy [my wife] played a good role, she was a good scout. I always call her a great old broad. I went to a lot of meetings-a lot of women wouldn't tolerate that. I was gone a lot of the time, but she was very tolerant and she did a hell of a job with the kids.


My goal is feet first down Apache Pass [street on which he lives], then Heaven.

Jack Otto

Most Memorable Roles:

Trustee and nine-year board member of Child & Family Services; treasurer and six-year board member of Crystal Downs Country Club and the Glen Lake Association. Served on vestry and as treasurer of St. Philips Episcopal Church for 21 years before retiring in 2007. I continue to be active member of the Traverse City Rotary Club.

Lasting Pride:

I am particularly proud of 21 years as a treasurer of St. Philips Episcopal Church and in starting the annual golf club benefit for Child & Family Services 19 years ago.

Life's Lesson:

Forgive, forgive, forgive. Say you're sorry. And tell all your family and friends that you love them many times.

My Legacy: I hope it is said that I was generous with my time, talent and treasure, giving in proportion to the gifts I have been given.

My Advice:

Keep on top of technology, particularly in your field of endeavor.

My Inspiration:

My wife, Barbara Jean, because she kept me encouraged on a daily basis with a spirit of peace and joy following God's will.


No green bananas. I just want to co-chair the 20th annual Child & Family Services golf tournament next year.

Secret to Success:

You just have to love what you're doing.

K. Ross Childs

Most Memorable Roles:

County Administrator, Grand Traverse County; director of Michigan Leadership Institute; board member of Grand Traverse Commons, director of Traverse City Convention and Visitors Bureau, Redevelopment Corp., chair of Leadership Grand Traverse, director of Grand Traverse County Brownfield Redevelopment Authority.

Lasting Pride:

I have been blessed to be associated with "The Best of the Best": University of Michigan, Grand Traverse County, Munson Medical Center, Northwestern Michigan College, Grand Traverse Area Community Living Center and the citizens of the Traverse City area, which is the best place in the world.

Still Thrills:

24-year member Rotary Club of TC, present director of Traverse Bay Economic Development Authority, Progressive Advocacy Support Services, as well as NMC trustee and TC Presbyterian Church elder.

Life's Lesson: We make the little decisions; the big decisions are made for us.

My Legacy:

A much better place for our future generation to enjoy the wonderful place where we live.


I would only change the challenges that came upon our children.

Future Plans:

I would hope that everyone would understand and appreciate the long-range benefit of the septage treatment facility, and that the Record-Eagle would return to the pre-eminent source of accurate and unbiased reporting it once was.

Bill Marsh Sr.

Memorable Roles:

Founder of the Bill Marsh Auto Group, past member of the NBD board of directors, president of the Grand Traverse Offshore Racing Association (which staged two Offshore Races in 1988 and 1989), past president of the St. Francis Parish Council and lay leader in the church.

Lasting Pride:

Two years after moving to Traverse City to accept the General Manager position at Grand Traverse Auto, I purchased Ward Liebler Buick in Traverse City-the worst performing Buick store in the region. I pledged to make the Traverse City Buick store the top performing dealership within a year-and accomplished that goal in nine months, gaining a national reputation for the Buick store's performance. Over the years I added a variety of franchises that included GMC, Chrysler, Saturn and Hyundai, eventually becoming the top-selling automotive group in Northern Michigan. In 2005, I sold the business to three of my sons but continue to be an active consultant in the company. Currently the Bill Marsh Auto Group employs about 240 employees.

Life's Lesson:

Life is what you make it. You can go aimlessly and be a victim of life-or realize that you can control your life by taking control of the decisions you make. If you live life as an adventure, you have to be willing to take risks-financially or professionally. You must be able to make decisions with incomplete information.

My Legacy:

My family. All of my children have strong values that they live every day-and they show it in their personal lives and their professional lives.


I would have moved to Traverse City when I was 25, not 45.

My Inspiration:

Mr. Joe Thomas, my high school football coach. He finally convinced me at the beginning of my senior year that I could be what I wanted to be-if I believed in myself. I needed to do more than the limitations I set for myself. That changed everything.

Elnora J. Milliken

Memorable Roles:

Founder of the Traverse Symphony Orchestra and Old Town Playhouse. Started playing in a professional orchestra in fourth grade, graduated from Northwestern University with a degree in music. Nine credits toward my masters, but I married Dr. John Milliken instead. Played in the Kalamazoo and Dallas symphonies. Had five wonderful children, television and radio talk shows for 16 years (that won state and national awards) … board member of Interlochen Public Radio for 20-plus years.

Lasting Pride:

I am particularly proud of our Traverse Symphony Orchestra that I founded 50 years ago and played in until 2004. And I am also happy with the Old Town Playhouse that continues to welcome even more talented people every year.

Life's Lesson:

In good or difficult times, I have learned that it is my choice how I approach each day.

Future Plans:

I am here on the beach and listening to the rhythm of the waves and this thought came over the waves: I would enjoy being a host of the talk show, The View. Don't laugh; I can be funny.

Secret to Success:

Like yourself. Be kind to yourself. Making time to pursue your interests will always keep your attitude positive.

Patrick J. Wilson

Memorable Roles:

Past president of GTLA Bar Association, TC Chamber; recipient of TC Chamber Distinguished Citizen Award. Over the years I have worked as Counsel for Traverse City Public Schools, Northwestern Michigan College, Munson Medical Center, several professional and business organizations and non-profits. "Of counsel" with Smith, Haughey, Rice & Roegge since 2004.

Lasting Pride:

I am particularly proud of my long-term relationship as Counsel for Rotary Charities and Rotary Camps of Traverse City and the several initiatives these organizations have incubated over the past 40-plus years

Who Knew?

As well as a Michigan State University senior class president, I was a three-year MSU varsity football and basketball player, and played in a Rose Bowl and Final Four tourney-the only MSU athlete with that distinction.

My Advice:

Don't take yourself too seriously. You will fail, perhaps often, but tomorrow is another day, and you will be a winner if you ask for God's help. I like Gary Player's comment: The more I practice, the luckier I get.


I was to be Rev. Patrick J. Wilson, Archbishop of Detroit-sorry, Grandmother Connors. I should have gone to Green Bay to try out for the Packers, an invitation I turned down. Oh, well, Bart Starr wasn't a bad choice.


It's early, I hope to continue working and serving the community and my family. I enjoy getting up and coming to work, especially the company of very bright attorneys and talented staff. Maybe a trip to Ireland and Scotland to re-connect to the sod. I also play golf with some frequency (an understatement). My handicap: 10, but improving. The goal? Shoot my age before I turn 75.

As a token of our thanks …

Last month we honored the 40Under40 winners

with a reception and goodie bags full of swag … everything from spa treatments and free golf to food and gifts. This month, we wanted to do something special-yet different-for our esteemed 7Over70.

Each 7Over70 honoree will receive a legacy gift from Erik Gruber at Sagemark Consulting in Traverse City. The TCBN will interview each honoree about the legacy he or she created in the region-the businesses and organizations he or she helped build or bolster-plus family memories, impressions of northern

Michigan over the decades, personal values and

stories. A digital recording of this interview will be given by Sagemark to the honoree and his or her

family as a keepsake-a snapshot of the person's thoughts and observations in their own voice.

Selections from the interviews will also be available to TCBN subscribers on our website in the coming months.

A gracious thank-you to Erik Gruber and Sagemark Consulting, and cheers to our honorees.