Historical figures: Students play the roles of influential Norway residents

(Terri Castelaz/Daily News photos) Fourth grade students at Norway Elementary School presented a “live wax museum” on Wednesday at the Jake Menghini Historical Museum. Jeffery Perry, as Jake Menghini, stands outside the cabin that was home to the original museum.

NORWAY — Norway Elementary School’s fourth-grade students Wednesday brought to life the stories of 26 influential local figures from past and present at the Jake Menghini Historical Museum.

Each of the 50 students in Mary Beth Paul and Allen Trudeau’s classes dressed in costume and stood amongst the museum exhibits and grounds to deliver oral reports in what is described as a “living wax museum.”

As visitors stepped on a star with the name of their character, the student would come to life to tell their story. If not speaking, the students would stay still, like a “wax” figure.

Students have spent the past three months working on the project that features significant residents of the Norway, Vulcan, Loretto and Waucedah area.

Those included Bob and Carolyn DeDecker, David Asp, Vi Pearson, Father Raymond Zeugner, David Ebeling, Bing Soderlund, Mary Beth Langin, U.F. Asselin, the Odill family, Chief Tom King, Jake Menghini, James O’Callahan, John Pollard, Jacob Smith, Barb Perry, Mike Mahoney, Robert Danielson, Anton Anderson, Mary Maurina, Dr. Boyd Kelly, Wilmer Ramsdell and William John Bunt.

Emma Bubloni, who portrayed Anne Odill, gives her presentation to Norway-Vulcan Area School Superintendent Lou Steigerwald and Kristi Cazzola, the superintendent's secretary.

Character assignments were chosen based on interest and family relationships, including portraying their mother, grandfather and even great-great-great-grandfather.

“They were able to interview family members and even some of the people themselves,” Paul said. “The kids discovered how important these people are or were to the community.”

Blake Sternhagen got the opportunity to portray his grandfather, David Ebeling, a Vietnam veteran. “I was surprised to get picked to do my grandfather,” Sternhagen said, adding he really learned a lot about his grandfather’s military career. “This was very fun for me and hopefully for everyone, too.”

Jake Menghini, the man behind the museum name, was portrayed by Jeffery Perry. He highlighted interesting facts that included Menghini had 3,500 items in his own private collection that were donated to the museum after his death to carry on his legacy.

“He also helped coach gold medal speed skater Barb Marchetti,” Perry said.

Blake Sternhagen gave the story of his grandfather David Ebeling.

Emma Bubloni, who portrayed Anne Odill, the first child born to Anton and Elizabeth Odill in 1886, said she really loved learning about the fact that “she would call the cows in with a hoot or yodel.”

“She was also known for being the bossy sister and always wore a long black dress and white apron, except for Sundays,” Bubloni said.

Garrett Host enjoyed playing John Pollard of Pollard Dairy, giving visitors this quote, “My motto as a dairy man is this — offer a quality product and the best service possible. I, John Pollard, did that.”

Students Riley Beck and Maggie Ziller teamed up to present the story of former physical education teacher Barb Perry, an Upper Peninsula Sports Hall of Fame member who started the girls basketball and track teams at Norway High School.

They both found it fascinating how many titles Perry won over the years and how she was an important part of how girls play sports today.

Maggie Ziller as former physical education teacher Barb Perry.

“It was so much fun,” they added.

Paul expressed her appreciation for the assistance of Museum Partners member Jo Anne Sternhagen, who introduced the idea to the school in 2018. “She was so helpful and did a lot of research — I wouldn’t have been able to do it without her,” Paul said.

This is the third year the museum has hosted students, noted Sternhagen, but the last year they presented the program was in 2019, prior to the pandemic.

“They have done an amazing job with the work they put in,” said Sternhagen.

They also had many volunteers to help with the interviews at the school.

Garrett Host gets ready to present his talk about dairy farmer John Pollard.

Paul said it’s the perfect project, as it gets kids interested in the history of Norway while helping them with their reading, writing and speech skills.

“The kids are now intrigued to go look at the homes that they learned about in town,” she said.

Paul and Trudeau hope to continue the project next year.

“It’s a great way to get the public into the museum and offer this educational presentation,” Sternhagen said.

Terri Castelaz can be reached at 906-774-2772, ext. 241, or tcastelaz@ironmountaindailynews.com.


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