It’s hard to imagine Addison Township without Bob and Gwen Godkin.
Whenever a need arises, they’re there. Whenever there’s a local event, they’re there.
For years, they’ve worked tirelessly to help preserve the rural township’s rich history and in turn, have become an integral part of it.
They don’t do it for money. They don’t do it for glory.
They do it for one simple, unselfish reason – they love their town and they’re proud of it.
In appreciation for all the Godkins have done – and continue to do – to make their little corner of the world a better place, the couple will serve as the grand marshals for the 65th Annual Strawberry Festival parade.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Bob said.
“I think it’s a great honor,” Gwen said. “It shows the community appreciates us and we appreciate them asking us.”
“They’re very wonderful, caring people. They have been in the area for a long time,” said Phyllis Roe, chairperson of Leonard’s Summer Festival Committee.
The Strawberry Festival will take place on Saturday, July 15 (see advertisement below). The parade will begin at noon.
“Bob has been very active in our community,” Roe said. “We thought he deserved recognition for all that.”
As for Gwen, “she backs him,” Roe continued. “She’s there with him every time . . . supporting him.”
“Everything he does, I do,” Gwen said.
The couple has been married for 61 years.
Bob, 83, moved to Addison when he was just a year old and graduated from Oxford High School in 1952. Gwen, who grew up in Oxford, graduated after him in 1955.
After living on Long Island for two years while Bob served in the U.S. Coast Guard, the couple returned to Michigan and settled on Lakeville Rd., where they’ve lived since 1959. Bob spent 25 years working for General Motors, while Gwen was the secretary at Clear Lake Elementary from 1966-99.
Over the years, Bob’s been actively involved in many community efforts and organizations.
“I’ve lived here almost all my life and I feel like I’m just (repaying) a little bit of what I’ve gained,” he explained. “I’ve had a good life here in Addison Township.”
“He’s been an inspiration to me,” said Addison Township Supervisor Bruce Pearson. “I love history and I love listening to his history. He’s taught me a lot about the history of the area and his family.”
Bob’s done more than just talk about history, he’s rolled up his sleeves and preserved it. He helped save the Arnold schoolhouse from literally being relegated to the ash heap of history. At one point, there was talk of Addison’s fire department possibly using it for a practice burn.
This quaint, one-room schoolhouse educated children in Addison from the 1850s through the 1950s.
Shortly after Pearson took office in 2008, he and Bob were driving to a meeting together when Bob looked over and said to him, “I sure wish we could save the school.”
“I said, ‘Well, I think we can if we put our heads together,’” Pearson recalled. “That’s how it started . . . He was the spark.”
The historic structure was purchased by the township for $1 in July 2009.
Bob served on a three-member committee that oversaw moving the schoolhouse from the northwest corner of Lakeville and Hosner roads to the township’s 229-acre Watershed Preserve Park off Rochester Rd., just north of the Village of Leonard. This 8-mile trek up the road was done in September 2009.
The Arnold schoolhouse has since been restored to its former glory and plans are to open it to the public this fall as a welcome center for park visitors.
Bob likes the fact it will be there for future generations, including members of his own family, to appreciate, enjoy and learn about.
“That’s not going away,” he said.
Bob has been a staunch supporter of the Polly Ann Trail that runs through Addison, Oxford and Orion townships, along with the villages of Leonard and Oxford.
For years, he served as a citizen representative on the trail’s management council, providing valuable input and insights that helped guide the non-motorized pedestrian path’s development.
Bob built, by hand and from scratch, a wooden picnic table and bench for the trail, so users would have some place nice to rest and enjoy a bite to eat.
Bob has been a hard-working and dedicated member of the Lakeville Cemetery Auxiliary. He’s currently the group’s vice president.
Over the years, Bob has helped clean-up the historic Lakeville Cemetery along Drahner Rd. and make improvements to it. He’s even assisted in fund-raising efforts such as the auxiliary’s regular spaghetti dinners at Milmine Hall.
“We’ve done a lot of work up there,” Bob said. “We’ve added a gazebo, flagpoles, a lot of things.”
“I can’t say enough about what he’s done – along with the Mallias (Marlene and Geno) – for the cemetery,” Pearson said. “Without them, the auxiliary, our cemetery wouldn’t be as beautiful as it is.”
Bob has the distinction of being a descendant of the very first person to be buried in the 11.24-acre cemetery. That individual is Derrick Hulick. He lived from 1759 to 1843.
Originally from New Jersey, Hulick fought in both the American Revolution and the War of 1812. He came to Addison in 1839 to live with his daughter, Mary, and son-in-law, Dennis Snyder. The Snyders were among Addison’s founding families.
Bob is looking forward to the Strawberry Festival. He loves eating those delicious sundaes made by Addison firefighters.
The one thing he misses is marching in the parade as part of American Legion Post 108’s color guard. He didn’t do it last year because he had suffered a stroke. He’s still recovering from it.
But don’t worry, he’s determined to get back on his feet and in the parade again, marching in his Coast Guard uniform and proudly carrying a flag.
“I really like doing that. I hope to do it again,” Bob said.