Sharon Kennedy – When Will We Meet Again?

Two years ago I wrote about a group of people who met at Avery Square and enjoyed each other’s company while munching sweet treats courtesy of Susan Nixon Wyatt of Dafter. In March of 2020, the group disbanded due to the pandemic. Many participants lived in the Avery apartments and stayed behind their doors as a precautionary measure against C-19. Last Friday I attended a Christmas craft show at the Square and was delighted to see Meco Bonacci, one of the attendees who never missed the morning coffee klatch.

Following is the article I wrote in 2019 when things were “normal.” I hope readers enjoy meeting the woman who brought so much joy to the residents and anyone who stopped by for a homemade muffin, cookie or piece of candy. Readers will also get to meet some of the regulars. Although no one knows when the tradition will continue, everyone is hopeful it will be in 2022.

Susan didn’t intend to start a coffee klatch three times a week at the Avery Square atrium on Ashumn Street in Sault Ste. Marie but that’s exactly what happened. In 2006, she had knee replacement surgery on both knees and started going to the Avery gym. One day after her workout she was heading for the door when she noticed two residents drinking coffee at an atrium table. Being a friendly gal, she asked if she could join them. Meco Bonacci and Roger Kamper jumped at the chance to have a pretty lady in their midst.

From that chance meeting, the three became friends. Their stories and laughter were contagious, and it wasn’t long before they were joined by other residents of the Avery Square apartments. “I started bringing muffins to go with the coffee from Snookies, a small coffee and sandwich shop located in the atrium,” Susan said. “Soon I was getting requests for more than just blueberry or cranberry muffins. My new friends looked forward to chocolate chip cookies, brownies, peach cake and many other sweets including birthday cakes. However, the previous manager of the Square was not so pleased and threatened to have me arrested and thrown out if I kept bringing in baked goods from my kitchen. I stopped for a couple weeks, but everyone said they missed my treats so I threw caution to the wind and brought the group whatever I baked.

When Snookies closed, one of our regulars, my cousin, Lavon Goeschel, volunteered to bring coffee to share with the group. Lavon was also threatened with arrest. Bringing food and coffee from home was frowned upon. However, eventually there was a change in management and the new manager, Dennis McShane, was happy to see us and said we were welcome to continue what we had started because it was a nice social event and gave the residents something to look forward to.

“We’ve grown from three members—Meco, Roger, and myself—to Lavon and Jeff Burse whose mother lives in one of the apartments. Other attendees include Sharon Maier, Phil Gage, Joe McKay, Larry Horde and Roger Hetrick. Sometimes Debbie Smart and Randy Schafer join us. As people walk by, we invite them to stop. Sometimes they stay for an hour and sometimes they’re busy and we hand them a cookie or give them a bag of snacks to enjoy later. Everyone is welcome from people who live in the apartments to those who come to the building for medical appointments. The atrium is a very busy place.

“I’ve always liked older people,” Susan continued. “They have many interesting stories they enjoy sharing with anyone who wants to listen. And the best part is they always have time to visit. We’ve seen many come and go throughout the years. Some friends have moved away. Others, like Gary Goetz, have passed away. We miss them and talk about them because even though they’re gone, they all left memories. We miss Gary’s awesome pistachio cake almost as much as we miss him. It’s important for older people to know they are loved and appreciated. If someone is having a bad day, there are plenty of hugs to help that person feel better. One of the ladies told me we need at least two hugs a day. She’s made me into a hugger.

“We look forward to events like pancake Fridays held at the Central Savings Bank. Lavon, Sharon, and I take the orders and bring them back to the group. Eating breakfast together is a nice way to start the day. Holidays are extra special. Lavon keeps track of birthdays and I bring a cake or whatever would be most pleasing to the person celebrating the birthday. Everyone loves fudge so that’s always a hit. Another favorite is white chocolate with pistachios and dried cranberries. Christmas is a festive time. The atrium is beautifully decorated and we have a party with plenty of good food and lots of laughter. We exchange gifts and share Christmas memories from our youth.

“I’ll tell you a little about our regulars. Meco Bonacci is the heart of the group. He has a wonderful sense of humor, and his smile and laughter keep us in good spirits. Years ago he moved from the Soo to Milwaukee and worked at the Pabst Blue Ribbon beer plant. From there he moved to Flint and worked at a DuPont plant. Like a lot of other people, when he retired the lure of his hometown brought him back to the Soo. Roger Hetrick worked in a factory. Roger Kamper said he drove a semi and let it go at that.

“Lavon Goeschel was a custodian at Lake Superior State University’s Cisler Center. I didn’t know she was a distant cousin on my Dad’s side until we got talking when I was a cook there and we realized we were related. I met Sharon Maier when she worked with my husband, David, at the old Ramada Inn.

“Jeff Burse, who loves cracker candy, delivered bread in the area. One of the residents thought he was my son so now that’s what I call him. He’s a real gentleman and is always willing to lend a hand to anyone who needs it. Fortunately, his gentlemanly ways are better than his baking. For Christmas one year he wanted to make cracker candy which is something like a Heath bar. I gave him the recipe but things didn’t go quite as planned. He set fire to his oven and that was the end of his cracker candy baking days.

“Phil Gage is our storyteller. He was a farmer and managed a fertilizer plant. He also drove a school bus. Phil and his wife were campground hosts for many years at the Brimley State Park where they were known as the “Popcorn Couple” due to their generosity in serving popcorn to the campers. Even now we have “Popcorn Wednesday” because that’s the day he brings his favorite snack to share with all of us.

“Joe McKay worked at the Soo Sheltered Workshop. He’s the quiet one of the group until you get to know him. He always has a smile for me. Larry Horde was a weather forecaster and was stationed all over the states. When he retired, he moved to the Soo. He loves golf and football and at one time was a coach. Dave Gonyeau was a teacher, principal, and school superintendent. Somewhere between those jobs, he worked on and sold boats. He’s well known in the area.

“One of the most rewarding things about our group is the kindness that flows from one person to the next. Everyone is accepted for who they are. We meet every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 9:00-11:00 a.m. and newcomers are always welcome. It’s a nice way to spend a couple hours and get to know strangers who become friends.”

Baking at home and socializing at the Avery Square are not Susan’s only interests. She’s also an accomplished equestrian. On summer weekends, she attends horse shows with her granddaughter, Stephanie. They show Stephanie’s registered quarter horse, Lark’s Interest, affectionately called by his barn name “Scooter.” When Susan collects ribbons, she brings them to the group and explains why they aren’t all blue. Her friends tell her they’re proud of her because they know how much time and effort she puts into showing. During the winter, Susan accompanies her granddaughter when she travels on weekends with her hockey team.

Sometimes it only takes one person to enrich the lives of others. Susan Nixon Wyatt took the time to stop and say hello to strangers. That simple gesture grew into a gathering of friends enjoying a tried and true and remarkably rewarding tradition—the mid-morning coffee klatch. If all goes well, it will return to the atrium when the pandemic is gone.

2 Comments

  1. Jody Harrison

    Loved this article! I was especially glad to read about Susan Nixon Wyatt. I believe she may be the Susan Nixon who grew up in Brimley and was a student in high school while I was teaching there. I still have a decorative fork and spoon that she made me in her shop class.

  2. Jane Duschen

    I’m so pleased My cousin Roger is having a blessed time with all of you. Next time I’m in town I would enjoy having coffee with him & his friends. Happy belated birthday Roger.

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