2018-08-16 / Life in Leelanau

Talk of the county

Having a conversation with Harriet Wall

EVERY MORNING for six years, Harriet Wall goes for a swim in the open water of Lake Michigan or at the new YMCA. EVERY MORNING for six years, Harriet Wall goes for a swim in the open water of Lake Michigan or at the new YMCA. Name: Harriet Wall

Town or township of residence: Elmwood Township

Resident since: We’ve owned this house for 20 years, the first four of which we were part-time residents.

Age and birthplace: 75 and St. Louis, Mo.

Occupation: Retired, but volunteering seems like a full-time job sometimes.

Marital status: Married

You live in Leelanau County because: I had only ever been up here in the winter for skiing and the spring for a class I audited that took a trip to Sleeping Bear every year. I needed a place I could get away for short periods of time, so we thought we would buy a place up here. When I retired, it became our year-round residence.

Last good movie you saw: “The Heat,” a documentary about women chefs. It was well constructed and had real people, women who came into the profession in different ways and support other chefs - male and female.

Last good book you read: “There There” by Tommy Orange, about Native American experiences in urban life.

If you could trade places with one person for one day, it would be: There are things I wish I could do or be better at, but I’ve never seen someone else’s life as a model for myself. I don’t want to turn the clock back - I’m happy with the age I’m at and the person I am.

Things important to you that you’ve accomplished so far: Probably number one would be all the years I taught at University of Michigan Flint and the research I did with students. I can’t think of a career I would have found more fulfilling. I’m also very proud of my daughter. I can’t take credit for what she’s done but I hope that I had at least a dose of influence. In my less public life, I’m proud of my garden and learning to cook.

What you hope to be doing in 10 years: The same things I’m doing now but hopefully I’ll be better at them, or at least not worse. I also hope I don’t lose the ability to be self-reflective and consider doing new things. I like to stay busy but sometimes I think I say yes too much.

Things you lose sleep over: I sleep really well. I go to bed early and wake up early.

If you could change one thing in Leelanau County it would be: I would make it more culturally diverse. It may be fine for people my age that have been out in the world and made all kinds of friends from different countries that live different lives, but it’s not so great for kids that are just growing up.

Favorite dessert: I don’t particularly like sweets, but I do cook all kinds of different foods.

Are you a coffee drinker? I love coffee but don’t drink it as much anymore. I do have tea throughout the day, though.

Favorite place in Leelanau County: Good Harbor Bay. I don’t get there as often as I should.

If you had more time you would: I’d read more probably, as I already swim every day of the year. Swimming and skiing were the only two things that kept me from going crazy in graduate school. When I started working, it was a way to meditate and was also how I came up with my best ideas. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to appreciate it more and more.

The words that best describe you are: Determined for what I want to do, reliable, nurturing - I hope, sometimes creative and there are some bad things but I probably shouldn’t share those.


We’ve got the perfect position as the gatherer of Talk of the County interviews. We’re looking for an outgoing person to interview one Leelanau County resident for the feature every week. Must be reliable. We look for a wide range of demographic and geographic sources for TOC. Please call or email Alan Campbell, 256-9827 and/or alan@leelanaunews.com.

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