Empire fix-it man volunteers skills
But mostly, volunteering is a way to put all his tinkering skills to good use. He’s pretty good at it, too. So much so that his family has a nickname for him: MacGyver.
Payment was busy last week helping to set up for the Port Oneida Fair and getting a 100-year-old two-horse, hit and miss engine running for a fair demonstration. His work background is computers, as he was a systems analyst for General Motors for 35 years.
“But I’ve always been involved in mechanical things,” Payment said. “There’s very little I can’t fix.”
And while he volunteers with several local organizations, perhaps the one closest to his heart is the Empire Lions Club. He is a past president of the club, as well as chairman of the pancake breakfast, which serves about 500 people every spring. He mans a fryer at the club’s annual chicken dinner, held in conjunction with Empire Anchor Days. And at the time of this writing, Payment had a barn full of stuff that had been collected for the club’s auction held on Sunday.
But Payment has also been vicepresident of the Empire Museum for about eight years, ever since he retired. He jokes that the only reason he was asked is because he lives right next door to the museum and museum President Dave Taghon wanted to be able to use his workshop. In fact he recently built a box for steel projectiles that had been used in Lyle guns, which were used to shoot life-saving lines out to boats that had run aground.
Payment volunteers at St. Philip Neri Catholic Church, where he is a member, as an usher and a member of the buildings and grounds committee. He has also put his carpentry skills to work on Habitat for Humanity homes, as he has always loved carpentry work and currently is working on restoring his own kitchen cupboards.
“I should do more of that,” Payment said of the Habitat homes. “I just don’t have the time ... Once people find out you can fix things you get tapped more often, which is fine.”
He also has a love of history and has traced his own family tree back to 1645 in France. He loves old farms and buildings and thinks more of them should be preserved. As such, he volunteers with the Friends of Sleeping Bear group and with Preserve Sleeping Bear and has worked on restoring farm outbuildings in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. He has also worked on the restoration of the Katie Shepard Hotel, a historic building on North Manitou Island.
Payment, 67, is a fifth-generation Empire-ite. He lived for 35 years in Ortonville, a little town near Flint, while working for General Motors.
He started volunteering when he retired about eight years ago, but it’s something he always wanted to do. Keeping up with a full-time job, children and a home didn’t give him much time for it, he said.
“It’s great to be retired and be able to spend time at it,” he said. “I don’t know how I ever worked before, I’m so busy now.”
And spend time he does, joking that he doesn’t get enough time with his wife Linda Payment, an Empire Village Council trustee.
“We don’t see each other very often,” he said. “We have to make an appointment.”