Page 78 - Color Tour 2018
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‘I would go out and bury the stones, as we had buried him.’
hails from a German family in Leland. His family established the Leland Mercantile in the mid-1800s, when it was an all-purpose general store, supplying goods to North and South Manitou islanders when those islands had more people than the mainland. He grew up there, where the Leland River  ows into Lake Michigan.
Esther grew up six miles south of Leland down the lake at the Lake Leelanau Narrows, where they live now. The Grants came from Scotland by way of England in the 1800s, according to other family members who say there’s a Grant castle in Scotland. Esther Grant and Ralph Cordes met when they were in high school at St. Mary. Ralph Cordes became an accountant and they trav- eled and worked across the United States before  nally retiring to Lake Leelanau.
Their home faces north with majestic trees to the west and east and a long sloping lawn to the water where there’s a narrow dock. There’s an extensive cattail marsh across the way, off limits to all but the shyest and wildest animals. There’s the sound of an outboard motor, far off in the distance, someone motoring across the lake to a favorite  shing
spot, hoping to  nd perch for a late brunch.
One day a bear swam across the narrows, Mrs. Cordes says, and dis- appeared into that marsh. Deer have several times been seen swimming across. Muskrat, beaver, otter, fox, and squirrels have, from time to time, appeared in the Cordes back yard. In the waterway itself ducks and swans swim happily. They nest in the marsh. A sandhill crane stood on the end of their dock one day.
“We used to  sh off the dock,” Mrs. Cordes says. “When we were kids. We caught bluegills, sun sh, perch. Now there’s hardly any  sh because of all the motorized boats.”
The marshland opposite the Cordes home, considered one of the most beautiful and complex on the lake, has been preserved by the Leugers family, and others, with a donation of 72 acres to the Leelanau Conservancy. In 1937 George and Louise Leugers came from Cincinnati and established what would become a 10-cottage family complex about a mile south of the Narrows and rough- ly opposite Fountain Point.
Esther and Ralph Cordes travel frequently to Hong Kong where their son, their only child, and their grand- son live. The grandson sometimes
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Telephone for 36 years. Mrs. Priest was a stay-at-home housewife, rais- ing six children, three boys and three girls, and teaching Sunday school. “I was a catechist,” she says. “I taught catechism, the stories in the Bible.”
Through that work she says she had the opportunity to travel to the Holy Land and work on archeologi- cal sites in Israel, traveling with church groups in Europe as she went to and from the Middle East.
“I fell in love with Turkey. A crip- pled woman on the street, I touched her and she gave me a talisman. It was a blessing. There was a current of energy that went between us. No words. We didn’t speak each other’s languages. I could feel it. She could feel it. I’ve never gotten over it. One person to another, in a strange place.” Many of the European people she met became close friends, visiting her home in America.
Mrs. Priest returned to the Middle East over several summers. “We found pottery, weapons, hidden jew-
els. We proved scripture. Who lived there, how they lived. Don paid for my tours. He didn’t want to go. He’d traveled in the military. He wanted to stay where he could hunt and  sh. My children were here and could help him with whatever he needed. His children adored him. Then when he got sick, I took care of him. We built this house. I thought I’d go back to the Holy Land but I’m too old now.” Nancy Priest is in her 80s but acts at least two decades younger. She can still shovel snow. “It’s very hot there,” she says, “over 113 degrees in the shade. So, my time is here now and that’s  ne. This is what’s meant to be.”
She’s written a book about her life, “One Leelanau Girl,” that she hopes her grandchildren might read some- day.
***
Esther and Ralph Cordes live
downstream of Mrs. Priest on the Lake Leelanau Narrows — right on the Narrows, almost at the epicenter, in a brick house that belonged to Ted Grant, Esther’s father. Ralph Cordes
Leelanau’s Seer
“All of us are watchers, but few are observers. Missing are the village elders and seers, the astute perceivers who interpreted life and effort through nature and the primal cycles. Kathleen Stocking is one of those seers and she is delightful.”
—THE NEW YORK TIMES
DOG EAR BOOKS NORTHPORT HORIZON BOOKS TRAVERSE CITY
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~ Tasteful Gifts for Your Discerning Friends
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