Royal Oak remembered through one woman’s eyes

Resident authors book about Mayor Clawson, Father Coughlin

By: Heidi Roman | Royal Oak Review | Published July 27, 2011

 Royal Oak resident Therese Christman authored a book about her father, former Mayor Henry Lloyd Clawson, who also had a hand in the founding of Beaumont Hospital. The book also discusses her friend and former neighbor, Father Charles Coughlin.

Royal Oak resident Therese Christman authored a book about her father, former Mayor Henry Lloyd Clawson, who also had a hand in the founding of Beaumont Hospital. The book also discusses her friend and former neighbor, Father Charles Coughlin.

Photo by Heidi Roman

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ROYAL OAK — Therese Christman’s dad was considered one of the founding fathers of Royal Oak. She’s got a lot to be proud of.

She also happened to grow up next to Father Charles Coughlin, a controversial priest of the 1930s who gained national attention for his radio broadcasts and outspoken views.

Naturally, she’s got some stories to tell. Stories that should not be forgotten.

“I knew information that no one else knew or had written down,” Christman said. “It bothered me.”

She started writing down those little-known memories in 2003 and finally compiled them into a book, “The Mayor’s Daughter: A Royal Oak Trilogy,” under the pen name T.C. Christman. It was released this month.

“It was bit by bit by bit,” she said of the process. “A lot of it is from memory, but some of it I give references for. I talk about things we did as children in the area.”

Her book is separated into three parts. The first tells the story of her childhood, growing up on Northwood Boulevard before The National Shrine of the Little Flower was built, remembered as she takes a walk on the Berkley and Royal Oak border in 2003 during the Woodward Dream Cruise.

Her father, businessman and Realtor Henry Lloyd Clawson, is the subject of the second part of the book. She calls her story of him a “living memory,” saying he’s just one of many ordinary people from the generation that made America extraordinary.

“He had a good sense of humor — a great sense of humor,” she said.

Clawson was blind when he died in 1971 but he lived a full and rewarding life, Christman said. He served as mayor or commissioner of Royal Oak in the 1920s and 1930s, and in later years turned his focus to Beaumont Hospital.

Clawson had a big hand in bringing Beaumont Hospital, today a world-renowned facility, to Royal Oak.

In the third section, Christman turns her attention to “the vilified priest,” Coughlin. He gained notoriety by using radio to preach to the masses and earn his nickname, the “talking priest.”

Christman became a lifelong friend of his and includes photos in her book of the building of Shrine. Coughlin became controversial for his anti-Semitic commentary, but Christman claims he was misunderstood.

When Christman’s father died, it was Coughlin who gave the eulogy.

“I wanted to tape it, and I put the recorder in my pocketbook,” she said. “Nothing came out. I had to try to remember it for the book.”

Christman is also an accomplished painter, and painted the watercolors that appear on the front and back of her book.

Her husband and biggest fan, James Christman, wrote the “About the Author” and the jacket cover. He never got a chance to meet his wife’s father.

“My father-in-law, who I never met but I know a lot about, was a business icon who had very strong qualities,” he said. “He was a brilliant leader who always had the goal of helping someone out.”

Christman describes his father-in-law as humble and likeable.

Therese Christman also owns and operates Christman Assisted Living facility in Royal Oak.

To purchase a copy of the book, send a shipping address, name and $25 to T.C. Christman, author, “The Mayor’s Daughter,” at P.O. Box 246, Royal Oak, MI 48068.

 

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