Bruce says it was a piece of cake. The glaciers were just a little bit higher than the snowbanks around their Cat Harbor home and the tundra was not much different than the Copper Falls stamp sands that are part of their winter playground. Jeane couldn't think of a nicer place to celebrate a 25th wedding anniversary. Most of us could.
The Olson's hardy life style is perhaps best exemplified by the place they have chosen to live. A low lying rocky outcrop projecting into the teeth of Lake Superior's mighty northwesterly and northeasterly storms. While several Harbor residents enjoy views out "over" the lake, the Olson's look "into" the lake. Bruce built a hefty dock that storms soon removed. Tons of rock are stacked along the shoreline. Mother Nature and the Olson's keep a wary eye on each other.
For the Olson's, Cat Harbor is paradise. A favorite pastime is watching the lake in its many moods and marveling at the waves rolling in and crashing over outlying reefs and the protecting rocks. It's an ideal home base for their other major interests: hiking, cross-country sking, boating and jogging. Jeane says the real appeal of their Cat Harbor location is its remoteness. "I guess we are a couple of loners; we really enjoy the quiet, the isolation -- it's so peaceful."
The Olson's bought the property in 1989, used it as a vacation home for a couple of years, and made it their year-around home in 1992. The home was built by Eagle Harbor resident Wes Korri in the late 1960's and was the home of George Thomas for over twenty years. Bruce and Jeane fell in love with the property immediately, buying it the first day they saw it. "We were especially attracted by the offshore rocks."
Keweenaw was not a new phenomena for the Olson's. Bruce, Jeane and their kids had been coming up from the Detroit area and vacationing in the Copper Country for over 25 years. "Our favorite trips were probably the several times we camped at McClain Park, one of the nicest state parks in Michigan."
For Bruce these trips and the move to Cat Harbor were trips home. He grew up on Hancock Canal, just inside the Portage Upper Entry, at Boston Creek. He's the son of one of the area's last commercial fisherman. Bruce's many Keweenaw friends can attest that dad's fishing prowess was not passed on to the son. Bruce's talent was in building cars and a lifetime career with Ford in the Detroit area followed life on the Portage. Always the advocate of doing things right, Bruce was at the forefront of Ford's move to better car quality.
These mechanical skills have made Bruce a valuable member of the Eagle Harbor Volunteer Fire Department. He's also the kind of guy you would want to have around in an emergency: calm, knowledgeable, resourceful and confident -- his disarming "aw-shucks" demeanor notwithstanding.
If you see someone walking out of Fraki's with a couple cases of Log House Snack Toast, it's likely to be Bruce, especially if they are on $1.69 sale. Friends are in awe of his capacity to snack. Jeane says it's a family trait, his family -- ""They are awesome eaters!" But Bruce, how do you stay so trim and fit? "I run a lot." He adds,"People would be surprised to learn that I once weighed over 200 pounds." Would we?
Jeane grew up in Pontiac and Lewiston. Friends are quick to identify her ready smile, positive outlook, organization skills, and high energy as just a few of the things that make Jeane so valuable in the Harbor community. Jeane chuckles at the mention of "high energy". "If they only knew I take a two hour nap everyday." Nap or not, this former restaurant manager, bookkeeper, "kid-raiser", and still homemaker is a very special lady.
The Olson's have six children and eleven grandchildren. It's a "his, her's and our's"combination. Jeane's daughters Susan and Shari live in Southeast Michigan. Son Robert is in Virginia Beach, VA. Bruce's daughters Debra and Tammy are in the Detroit area. Bruce and Jeane's son Erik is also in Southeast Michigan.
The children are frequent Cat Harbor visitors. "We use to always 'play tourist' with the kids; you know, all the favorite sights - Delaware Mine, Copper Harbor, Brockway, Eagle Harbor Light. Now the kids just like to visit with us and 'hang out'. So do we."
Between Bruce's snacks and Jeane's good home cooking, the Olson's don't eat out a lot, but when they do, the Eagle Harbor Inn, the Harbour Haus and the Country Haus are local favorites. "Our favorite is probably the Sunday Champagne Brunch at the Country Haus", Jean reports, "That's really special."
Asked what great ideas they might have for Eagle Harbor, the Olson's are quick to respond,"Leave it as it is. Don't mess with it." Jeane adds,"We know new people are attracted to this area for the same reason we were - the rugged beauty, the remoteness, the wonderful feeling of a 'small town', but all of us, new neighbors and old, must be careful that we protect this precious and all too fragil environment."
That's the Olson's. Youthful retirees who thrive in the rugged isolation of their Cat Harbor homesite, actively participate in the life of the Eagle Harbor community, and, above all, are just nice folks. As our visit ended and your editor was departing, Bruce said, "Stop back for a snack." I will.
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