Mary Ann Michel in ND American Legion Auxiliary Woman of the Year
by Marvin Baker in the Kenmare News
There’s a long list of patriotic projects Mary Ann Michel is involved in, from visiting veterans to decorating her home with a patriotic theme. But Michel doesn’t consider them as burdens in the least. In fact, this Donnybrook woman is ready for the next task that involves patriotism. Maybe that’s why a committee from North Dakota American Legion Auxiliary chose Michel as Woman of the Year for 2015-2016. She is a member of American Legion Auxiliary Unit 195 in Donnybrook and presently serves as its membership chair. “I think it’s our job to pass on patriotism,” Michel said. “And patriotism goes way back in my family.”
Her father was in World War II and her mother had four brothers who served in World War II. She said back then, the camaraderie was more obvious than it is today, as she feels it is slipping away. “We’re a nation that forgets,” Michel said. “That’s why our little post does poppy posters, pennies for veterans, Boys State, Girls State, and music camp. We want to keep patriotism alive.” Legion Auxiliary 6th District President and fellow Unit 195 member Marilyn Bott, said Michel is always willing to help. “She’s membership chair and just about every committee,” Bott said. “She’ll always volunteer.” Bott said it’s quite an honor for Michel to be selected for this statewide honor and for Unit 195 to have the Woman of the Year as a member. Michel does indeed have an impressive resume. As membership chair, she has taken the membership from 64 to 89 members and is shooting for 100 to mark the 100th anniversary of the American Legion in 2019. She personally calls all members to make sure their dues are paid and to help recruit new members.
Michel spearheads three blood drives each year, in February, June and October. She calls everyone on the donor list, as well as making cold calls requesting donors. The blood drive has had many as 40 units of blood in a six-hour span and Michel is there to help tear down and clean up. Every fall Michel is given $100 to buy school supplies that are donated to Kenmare Elementary School, Kenmare High School, and Berthold Public School. This year Kenmare used the supplies in its backpack program for the needy children. Michel often visits veterans who are ill or shut in. If they need a ride to an appointment or just to go to town, she is always ready to help, Bott said.
On Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day, Michel helps set up and decorate for the programs, as well as participating in them. She also does cooking and baking for those holidays. Michel has a hand in teacher appreciations baskets that are packed after Veterans Day and delivered to the two Kenmare schools. She helps her husband Danny place more than a dozen flags on poles around Donnybrook for special occasions and helps take them down and secure them. Last year, the unit entered a float in the North Dakota State Fair parade. Michel helped decorate the float and was dressed as Uncle Sam and rode the float holding the American flag. She also shops for veterans who are at the VA hospital in Fargo. She tells an amusing story about purchasing $100 worth of deodorant. When the store cashier questioned why she was purchasing so much deodorant, she said, “It’s going to be a hot summer.”
Michel is also working hard to get new members, younger members, into the unit. It already has 27 junior members, however, she would like to see that increase and get some of the younger members actively involved in the unit. She is proud to say that she has a niece, who lives in Dickinson, who has told her “it’s not Memorial Day if you don’t go to Donnybrook.” She is hoping other young people begin to feel the same way about Unit 195. Bott said that she would a difficult time trying to do her job as president without Michel’s help and enthusiasm. “I don’t know, I just do things,” Michel said. “I have the utmost respect for veterans, so I just do things.”
Michel has been a member of Unit 195 for more than 47 years and her husband currently serves as the commander of American Legion Post 195 in Donnybrook. Michel will be honored for her efforts during the North Dakota Department Convention at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks June 28-30. In addition, she has been invited to the national convention in Baltimore the end of August and be recognized on a national stage. Michel admits she does all these things to advance patriotism in the community and the United States. She said it wasn’t long after Sept. 11, 2001 that people in the general public began to forget what happened, even though the United States spent 12 years in Afghanistan and is now sending troops back into Iraq.
Locally, however, she said patriotism is blossoming in the communities that Unit 195 serves. Michel says she and others in the Auxiliary are getting a little help though, from public service announcements about veterans that are aired over-the-air TV stations. Otherwise, according to Michel, countless others are involved in much the same thing she is doing, perhaps even on a larger scale. She said she was very humbly surprised when she was announced Woman of the Year. She said the award, and nominating local members was brought up at a January meeting but faded away, or so she thought. Michel was late for a couple of meetings and the membership must have slipped her name into nomination in her absence, she said. “I’m not the only one who does it,” she said. “I don’t want to take away from the others. It’s a team effort.”