Decades-old mailbox revitalized and placed at historical museum

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published August 27, 2015

 The refurbished mailbox is installed, with new post and all, at the Baumgartner House with help from residents and the interest of the Fraser Historical Commission.

The refurbished mailbox is installed, with new post and all, at the Baumgartner House with help from residents and the interest of the Fraser Historical Commission.

Photo provided by Vania Apps

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FRASER — In the digital age, something as mundane as a mailbox is often an afterthought.


But when it comes to one particular mailbox that is now representing a piece of Fraser history, the journey has been nothing short of interesting.


It started in the summer of 1972 when current city Councilman Paul Cilluffo was taken to a house in the city by Marie Rattee, his girlfriend at the time. The two eventually got married and are still wed to this day.


The future Marie Cilluffo took Paul to the house of her uncle, Herman Wier’s, best friend, Ernest Loyson.


It was the first time Paul remembers seeing the mailbox, which is now officially a part of the Fraser Historical Commission.


“It was the first time I was ever in Fraser,” Paul Cilluffo said. “Mr. Loyson I could see liked machines and showed me his workshop — it was unbelievable. He was a genius, very smart.”


The mailbox was originally located at 34040 Utica Road.


According to the Fraser Historical Commission, Ernest and Dorie Loyson used to sell pansies and produce in the front of their home.


Dorie Loyson is currently 96 years old and lives at American House Lakeside Senior Living, in Clinton Township.


It wasn’t until a few years ago that the mailbox found its way to the forefront.


A resident named Ronda Steinmann said the mailbox was behind her garage for nearly a decade until she decided to give the unique piece of history to the commission.


“When (the city was) redoing Utica Road, my daughter and her (then) boyfriend contacted the city to get permission to remove it because she knew it was a memory from my childhood,” Steinmann said. “They dug it up, cement base and all, and there it remained behind my garage for about nine years before we brought it to (the Fraser Historical Commission).”


Nancy Ehrke, a member of the commission, said the mailbox was a bit battered when Steinmann donated it. The original paint had worn off, and a wooden bird that sat on top of the box had split into three pieces. The bird parts were stored with the mailbox and its post in the commission’s barn for about one year.


When the commission asked someone to volunteer to repaint the box, resident Vania Apps — who is also the president of Fraser First Booster Club — put her best foot forward and “did a superb job,” according to Ehrke. Apps also replaced the old bird with a new one that is similar.


“The original bird is going to be put together in some sort of frame for display,” Ehrke said.


Apps and Paul Cilluffo came into contact, at which point Cilluffo arranged to have a new post supplied and for the Department of Public Works to install it on the property of the Baumgartner House.


Apps said Cilluffo was instrumental in seeing that the restored mailbox was put up for residents to see, including paying for all the materials.


“It has this nostalgic history with a lot of people,” Apps said. “I offered to restore it because it was something I remembered as a kid traveling down Utica Road. I wanted it to be just as it was, so the restoration of it included getting some help from my brother, Tim Jessup.


“As it turned out, Marie (Cilluffo) knew a lot about the family who made it.”


Paul Cilluffo said he enjoyed taking the trip down memory lane, back to the days when guys and girls “went steady” and neighborhoods in the metro area were still becoming viable entities.


He hopes the work he, Apps and others put in will bring satisfaction to Fraser residents young and old.


“Fraser history is very dear to my heart,” Cilluffo said. “Before you know where you want to be in the future, you must understand where we as a community have been in the past.”

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