Historical Commission news and highlights

Mackinaw historian Sandy Planisek awarded by U.S. Coast Guard

Sandy Planisek is awarded by Captain Steve Teschendorf (left) and Retired Capt. Joe McGuiness.

Certificate of Merit recognizes her numerous contributions to local maritime history

Sandy Planisek wanted to write a book about the Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw WAGB-83, but ordinary research from shore wasn’t going to suffice for the Mackinaw City historian.

Over a two-year period from 2004 through 2006, Planisek joined the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw on a regular basis to experience life aboard the cutter first-hand. She educated herself on ship systems from bilge to treetop and she participated in duties from mess cook to captain. Her goal was to document the crew and equipment before it was decommissioned in 2006.

The result was Planiseks’ book, “Icebreaker Mackinaw WAGB-83,” which chronicles the experiences and the lives of those who serve the United States on our waterways.

Additionally, during a three-year span from June 2001 to June 2004, Planisek embarked on a journey to tell the stories of the lighthouse keepers of the Great Lakes. She interviewed numerous lightkeepers and their families and combined their oral histories with her own meticulous research. From those efforts, she released her book, “Reliving Lightouse Memories” in 2004.

Since the two books were published, Planisek has donated all proceeds of both to the Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association. She also has given much of her time to local lighthouse work and was instrumental in ensuring the retired Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw came home to Mackinaw City, where it is now a museum ship on the village’s Lake Huron shore.

For these efforts and her dedication to maritime history causes on Aug. 8 Planisek was surprised during an Emmet County Historical Commission meeting with an appearance by Captain Steve Teschendorf and Retired Captain Joe McGuiness, who presented her with the Coast Guard Certificate of Merit.

This level of award, Teschendorf noted, requires the signature of a Coast Guard Admiral; Planisek’s award is signed by Rear-Admiral Fred Midgette, Commander of the Ninth Coast Guard District.

The award states, in part:

“The Commandant of the Coast Guard takes great pleasure in presenting the United States Coast Guard Certificate of Merit to Doctor Sandra Planisek for delivering compelling narrative of Great Lakes lighthouse keepers and the final years of commissioned service for USCGC Mackinaw (WAGB-83) …

“Demonstrating physical and emotional courage, she participated in the full range of cutter missions, from the Grand Haven Festival in summer to icebreaking in winter. ….

“She has honored the Coast Guard with invaluable contributions in its recorded history. Doctor Sandra Planisek’s actions are most heartily commended and are in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Coast Guard.”

McGuiness told the Historical Commission that Planisek’s book about the icebreaker Mackinaw remains the crew’s favorite, because of the time she took to listen to their stories and tell them in the beautifully bound volume.

“She nailed it,” said McGuiness. “It’s the unvarnished Mackinaw.”

Planisek was surprised and honored by the award.

“It was the opportunity of a lifetime for me, Joe,” she said. “The Coast Guard did a great service to me as well.”

Both books are available at the Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association www.gllka.com.


Mackinaw City historian Sandra Planisek receives national history award

Sandra L. Planisek

June 2013

MACKINAW CITY, MI – The American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) has announced that Sandra L. Planisek is the recipient of an Award of Merit from the AASLH Leadership in History Awards, for her efforts in chronicling and preserving the history of the Village of Mackinaw City.

Planisek’s work in exhibit creation, book writing, historic audio-tour development, historic structure restoration, grant writing, and overall regional leadership in history made her an outstanding recipient of this award, the organization stated in a media release.  The AASLH Leadership in History Awards, now in its 68th year, is the most prestigious recognition for achievement in the preservation and interpretation of state and local history.

"Mackinaw City has such a rich history, encompassing 10,000 years, that it was easy to fall in love with the past — its stories and its people. I am only one person in a community dedicated to sharing this passion with our neighbors and visitors,” said Planisek. “What an honor to have been chosen to represent this region."

Planisek’s efforts have been far-reaching into all segments of Emmet County, with a concentration of her historic studies, writings and activities in the Mackinaw City area. She is a founder and member of the Mackinaw Area Historical Society and its Heritage Village project, a member of the Emmet County Historical Commission and the Essence of Emmet group. She serves as a councilmember with the Village of Mackinaw City and has been a supporter of programs and projects at the International Dark Sky Park at the Headlands, an Emmet County park. She has also served as a scholar for the County on various grant-funded projects that have depended on her knowledge of this area’s unique history and her graphic design skills.

“To say Sandy is a tireless supporter of our historical and cultural resources would be an understatement,” said James E. Tamlyn, Chairman, Emmet County Board of Commissioners. “Her to-do list never ends. It includes five- and 10-year projections and goals for historic properties, such as McGulpin Point Lighthouse and Historic Site, as well as addressing short-term needs, like signage at parks. She’s an author of an historical look at McGulpin Point, and she’s currently writing a book about Charles Langlade, a notable Odawa warrior from Northern Michigan.

“She is not only a historian, expert and writer, but a true leader in this county. And when historians look back at Emmet County many decades and centuries into the future, they will surely come across the dedication, hard work and commitment of Dr. Sandra Planisek in preserving the stories that shape what they see.”

This year, AASLH has conferred 88 national awards honoring people, projects, exhibits, books, and organizations; just four people, including Planisek, received individual awards for their efforts that didn’t involve writing a book.

“The winners represent the best in the field and provide leadership for the future of state and local history,” AASLH leaders noted.

Other Northern Michigan leaders also recognize Planisek’s contributions to historical preservation here.

"Dr. Planisek’s work with the Great Lakes Light House Keeper’s documents the history of four area lighthouses; the St. Helena Lighthouse on St. Helena Island; the Cheboygan River Front Range Light and Cheboygan Crib Light in Cheboygan and the McGulpin Point Lighthouse in Mackinaw City, as well as the ‘Ice Breaker Mackinaw’ Coast Guard Cutter which is now a museum ship located in Mackinaw City,” noted Jeff Lawson, Cheboygan County Administrator and former Village Manager of Mackinaw City. “Dr. Planisek’s written works include ‘Beginning Guide On How To Save A Lighthouse,’ ‘Icebreaker Mackinaw WAGB 83 1944-2006’ and ‘Reliving Lighthouse Memories.’ The works cited play an important role of documenting the history of lighthouses as well as the decommissioned USCG Cutter Mackinaw WAGB 83."

Additionally, Lawson noted, Planisek donates all profits from the sales of the books to the organizations featured.

Presentation of the national awards will be made at a special banquet during the 2013 AASLH Annual Meeting in Birmingham, Alabama, on Friday, Sept.  20. The banquet is supported by a generous contribution from the History Channel.
The AASLH awards program was initiated in 1945 to establish and encourage standards of excellence in the collection, preservation, and interpretation of state and local history throughout the United States.  The AASLH Leadership in History Awards not only honor significant achievement in the field of state and local history, but also brings public recognition of the opportunities for small and large organizations, institutions, and programs to make contributions in this arena.  For more information about the Leadership in History Awards, contact AASLH at 615-320-3203, or go to www.aaslh.org.

The American Association for State and Local History is a not-for-profit professional organization of individuals and institutions working to preserve and promote history.  From its headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee, AASLH provides leadership, service, and support for its members who preserve and interpret state and local history in order to make the past more meaningful in American society.  AASLH publishes books, technical publications, a quarterly magazine and monthly newsletter.  The association also sponsors regional and national training workshops and an annual meeting.



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