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City names ‘Local Treasures’

By: Julie Snyder | Mount Clemens - Clinton - Harrison Journal | Published February 25, 2015

 Bill Mangan, owner of Mangan’s Irish Hut in Mount Clemens, was named a Local Treasure by the city for his service to the betterment of the community.

Bill Mangan, owner of Mangan’s Irish Hut in Mount Clemens, was named a Local Treasure by the city for his service to the betterment of the community.

Photo by Deb Jacques

MOUNT CLEMENS — Two longtime Mount Clemens residents were recognized by the city for shedding a positive light on the community — the result of two lives well lived.

Retired teacher Thelma Ullrich and Bill Mangan, owner of Mangan’s Irish Hut, were honored during a Feb. 9 Mount Clemens City Commission meeting. Here is a look back at their lives.

Thelma Ullrich

Thelma Ullrich was born and raised in Mount Clemens and graduated from Mount Clemens High School.

During a time when women weren’t earning college degrees, Ullrich defied the times and earned a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Michigan. She then quickly earned her master’s in education from Wayne State University and secured her first teaching job at an elementary school in California.

When asked why she moved away from her hometown, Ullrich said with a giggle: “At that time I didn’t enjoy the weather in Michigan.”

She stayed in California for two years and then got a job teaching in Hawaii. She taught kindergarten there for four years before moving back to Michigan. She would teach in Mount Clemens Community Schools for four years before packing her bags again, this time for Venezuela.

“I loved teaching and I always loved children,” said Ullrich. “And I took the teaching job in Venezuela because I wanted to see more of the world.”

That she eventually did. Some of the more memorable trips in her life have been to Easter Island, the Galapagos Islands and Machu Picchu.

Ullrich, who never married and has no children, said the life of a teacher allowed her to take so many inspiring and educational trips around the world.

“I’ve been around the world twice,” she said with a beaming smile. “I like to travel.”

Ullrich returned to Mount Clemens for good in 1959 and became a teacher at Wilson School. She also taught at Clemens School and Lincoln School, where she was principal for a combined 26 years.

Ullrich said she still runs into some of her former students, and she enjoys seeing how they’ve changed since elementary school.

“It’s always fun to run into one somewhere,” she said. “It’s especially nice when they just come up and introduce themselves to me. I like that they remember me.”

A member of the former Nomads, Ullrich, who retired from teaching in 1988, still enjoys a trip now and again, but the many local groups she is involved in and supports keep her busy.

Ullrich is a member of the Anton Art Center Board, the Crocker House Museum Board, the Mount Clemens Historical Commission and the Mount Clemens Educational Foundation. She also stays fit by taking water aerobics at the Mount Clemens YMCA, and she’s on the Worship Music and Fine Arts Committee at the First Presbyterian Church of Mount Clemens.

“I like to help when I can and when I’m needed,” Ullrich said.

In a letter nominating Ullrich as a Local Treasure, Mount Clemens City Commissioner Lois Hill said, “Thelma is a wonderful example of someone who remains active (and) energetic well into her retirement. She can be seen driving her bright red Volkswagen around town and throughout Michigan. She truly is a local treasure.”

Bill Mangan

Born a first-generation American in the Bronx to two Irish settlers, Bill Mangan has never forgotten his roots.

“I grew up in a six-story tenement. There were probably 600 kids living within three blocks. My parents were called Mr. and Mrs. Mangan. We were taught to treat people with respect.”

Mangan did. At the age of 6, he would walk around New York City with his shinebox. He once shined Jack Dempsey’s shoes. “Can you imagine that today? A kid of 5 or 6 walking around New York all by himself shining shoes?”

But the times have changed,  and so has Mangan’s attitude about Mount Clemens.

Mangan had signed up to join the seminary out of high school and was well on his way to the priesthood in Arizona when he fell ill. He returned home to the Bronx, at which time he decided to join the U.S. Air Force. He was stationed at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, where he received schooling before being transferred to Selfridge Air Force Base, where he eventually became an Airman 2nd Class.

“I hated Mount Clemens at the time and wanted to go back to the Bronx,” recalled Mangan, who has two brothers and three sisters still living in New York. “When I first came here, it was all French and German. There were no Irish here.”

Then he met June.

The two married at St. Peter Catholic Church in Mount Clemens in 1955. Their ring bearer was Mount Clemens City Commissioner Gary Blash.

Mangan eventually left the Air Force and worked many years tending bar at Bill Murray’s Bar and Lounge on Court Street until Murray passed away and the building was razed in the late 1950s. The bar’s name was moved to a new location north on Gratiot, and Mangan stayed there with Murray’s nephew until 1970, when he purchased property off Rose Street. Construction of Mangan’s Irish Hut started in 1972 and was completed in 1976. The doors opened on March 12, just in time for St. Patrick’s Day.

Since then, Mangan said the place is packed during the high Irish holiday, and he’s looking forward to marking their 39th celebration next month.

“I’ve been very fortunate, very blessed,” said Mangan, who is today a father of three sons and one daughter; a grandfather to nine; and a great-grandfather to one 1-year-old.

“My great-grandchild turned 1 on Jan. 27, and I turned 84 on that same day,” he said proudly.

In addition to running a popular lunch destination and watering hole, Mangan is also involved in the Amvets, the American Legion, the Michigan Sheriff’s Association of Macomb County, the Mount Clemens Civil Service Commission, the Knights of Columbus and St. Peter Church.

Also a eucharistic minister, Mangan said he has no plans to slow down.

“My plan is to drop dead right here,” he said with a laugh. “I love it here and I’m happy at what I do. And I love the people.”

Nominated for the Local Treasure honor by Mount Clemens resident Gloria Hallard, Mangan, she said, is known for greeting every female at the door with a kiss on the cheek and each man with a friendly handshake, “the old Irish way.”