Many big stories characterize Grosse Pointes in 2014

By: K. Michelle Moran, April Lehmbeck | Grosse Pointe Times | Published December 30, 2014

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GROSSE POINTES — Two murder trials and the Kercheval closure grabbed some of the biggest headlines in the Pointes in 2014, but there were a number of other noteworthy developments, and many of them positive.

Development, park improvements and road millages
In Grosse Pointe City, the Village had a banner year, seeing the opening of roughly a dozen new businesses. These included the St. John Medical Center Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Campus, which opened in what had been the vacant Borders space.

In Grosse Pointe Farms, the city’s nonprofit Farms Foundation paid $200,000 toward a $300,000 project to create an expanded and improved dog park at Kerby Field; the new dog park opened to residents in May. The coming year is expected to bring even more developments to Kerby Field, as the Grosse Pointe Farms-City Little League undertakes improvements to the baseball diamonds and surrounding grounds.

During the summer, Grosse Pointe Shores residents and their guests enjoyed two new features at Osius Park: a splash pad paid for by the city’s nonprofit Grosse Pointe Shores Improvement Foundation, and a small concessions stand where they could finally purchase food and beverages without leaving the park. The GPSIF also celebrated its 30th anniversary with a party and fundraiser at the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House Sept. 27.

Grosse Point City, Park and Woods all saw road millages to improve crumbling local streets win passage during the Aug. 5 primary election.

Grosse Pointe Schools tech bond fails
Residents sent a resounding message regarding the district’s attempt at an approximately $50 million technology bond last February.

They didn’t want it, or they didn’t want a tech bond of the size and scope that was proposed.

Some residents had voiced a desire to see technology upgrades in the school, but there were complaints that ranged from the high price tag to parts of the proposal that were not specifically technology-based.

The proposal failed in all five Grosse Pointes and Harper Woods by an almost 5,000-vote margin.

“We respect the election process, and while disappointed that this was not approved, the results are clear that a different option is needed,” Superintendent Thomas Harwood expressed in a statement after the bond failure. “It is important we recognize the ballot results don’t solve the technology problems identified.”

“I have every confidence we will find a solution our constituents can support,” he said. “The administration will review the options for financing technology improvements as we develop the 2014-15 budget and review the financial needs for the 2015-16 budget and beyond.”

Woods tackles unruly crowds during fireworks
An event that typically results in fond memories for local residents, the annual fireworks celebration in Grosse Pointe Woods, included unruly crowds June 29.

In response, Grosse Pointe Woods city officials considered options that could have resulted in cancelling the fireworks.

The City Council discussed the problems and options during a meeting in July, but decided to take time in considering all of the variables.

The council voted at a meeting Dec. 1 to move the fireworks to Lake Front Park in 2015, though they said there were still details that needed to be worked out in the months leading up to the event.

Well-known residents pass away
The Pointes lost two nationally prominent business leaders and philanthropists in 2014. William Clay Ford, the last surviving grandchild of Ford Motor Co. founder Henry Ford, died of pneumonia just days shy of his 89th birthday on March 14 at his Grosse Pointe Shores home. Ford, who owned the Detroit Lions football team, was followed soon afterward by his friend and fellow Shores resident Ralph C. Wilson, who owned the Buffalo Bills football team. Wilson died at his home at the age of 95 on March 25, with his wife, Mary, and daughters Christy and Edith — better known as Dee Dee — at his side. He was predeceased by his daughter, Linda Bogdan. While both men were known for their success in the business world, both men supported many charitable endeavors, including many in the field of health care.

The past year also saw the passing of former Grosse Pointe Shores City Council member and President Pro Tem Rose Garland Thornton, who retired after more than 20 years of service in January 2008, when she was 88. Garland Thornton died at age 94 on April 26, 2014. A recipient of the Grosse Pointe Shores President’s Award, she had lived in the Shores since 1952 and was the longest-serving elected official and first female president pro tem in the community.

Farmhouse relocated
The historically significant Cadieux Farmhouse was saved from the wrecking ball when officials at Beaumont Hospital, Grosse Pointe agreed to pay to move it and find someone willing to accept the home. On July 9, the house — built in the 1850s by Isadore Cadieux (also spelled “Isidore” in some records) and owned by him and his two brothers, Charles and Richard — was relocated from the corner of Jefferson and Notre Dame to a vacant lot nearby at 533 St. Clair, also in Grosse Pointe City, where it was expected to get loving care from its new owner, history buff Leslie Kaye, a psychologist. The Cadieux Farmhouse is believed to be one of the oldest and final remaining examples of French frame architectures from the ribbon farm era in the Pointes and Detroit, but had faced possible demolition because it stood in the way of parking expansion at the hospital.

Family searches for answers
Saying that their mother was murdered and police in Grosse Pointe Farms and Woods covered it up, the children of late Grosse Pointe Woods resident JoAnn Matouk Romain filed a $100 million lawsuit against both departments June 10 in United States District Court, Eastern District of Michigan. Matouk Romain, who was 55 at the time of her disappearance, was last seen alive the evening of Jan. 12, 2010, at St. Paul on the Lake Catholic Church in the Farms. Her body was discovered on March 20, 2010, by a fisherman in the Livingston Channel of the Detroit River near Amherstburg, Ontario, where it was recovered by the Canadian Coast Guard and Ontario Provincial Police. Although local law enforcement concluded that Matouk Romain was likely either the victim of an accident or suicide — reports say she was seen that bitterly cold night on the shore of Lake St. Clair, directly across from the church — her children insist that their mother wasn’t mentally ill and wouldn’t have taken her own life, and they have been pursuing their own investigation for the last four years.

School leadership changes made, one announced
Two Grosse Pointe Public School System Board of Education members attended their last meeting in December, and Superintendent Thomas Harwood announced he would be leaving the district after his contract is up in mid-2015.

Board President Joan Dindoffer, a more than 17-year veteran on the board, and Trustee Thomas Jakubiec chose not to run for re-election in November.

Harwood informed the school board in December that it would need to launch a superintendent search for a new top administrator.

“I am extremely proud of the many accomplishments that the students and the staff have experienced in the Grosse Pointe School System over the past years,” he said at that time. “We should be proud of the continued tradition of academic excellence as displayed by the accomplishments and performance of our students.

“I am pleased that I have been a member of an instructional team that has worked diligently to keep the needs of the students at the forefront of the decisions and planning for the school system,” he said. “I am currently exploring other professional opportunities at this time.”