Page 56 - Visitors Guide 18
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It’s hard to think of Empire as a military town.
But even for a community known for its ability to reinvent with the times, Empire’s enlistment as an U.S airbase may be the strangest line on its resume.
Back when easy access to west Lake Michigan shoreline stretched from New Buffalo
to Naubinway, Empire Village and its economy slept through much of the year.
But the Cold War changed that. As the Soviet Union and the United States traded barbs and threats for nuclear holocaust, military planners
determined that the quickest way for a missile to hit America’s heartland was from the north.
So the Aerospace Defense Command built a long-range radar site on a hill overlooking Lake Michigan.
“The Air Force base was really hopping after World War II, and it was a big boost to the local economy,” recalled Mark Deering, who fought in the Paci c Theater as an Army infantryman. “It was a good deal for everyone.”
During its heyday, the Air Force base was one of the biggest employers in the area. The base was only occasionally open to public because of its secrecy, although during a rare open house in 1955 residents were allowed to view radar technology as 15 military air craft screamed over Storm Hill in honor of Armed Services Day.
Both Deering, who was
Mark Deering, shown here in 2016 with his great-granddaughter Surrie, celebrated his 100th birthday in 2016. He called the now- closed Empire Air Force base a “good deal for everyone.”
Leelanau Visitors Guide 2018
10085 West Front St . Empire
Home of the 3/D Colorwheel Book
quoted earlier in a Leelanau Enterprise story, and the Air Force base left their marks on Empire. Deering returned to his hometown after the war to work in the family grocery store, which is still owned and operated by the Deerings.
After completing a long life of community involvement that included serving as village president and holding a seat for 50 years on the Empire Township Board of Review, he
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