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My Morning in Northport with Phil Mikesell

Howard W. Hewitt, Northport, MI. – Some people ask retired Political Science Professor Phil Mikesell why he retired to a tiny village like Northport, Michigan.

Sure he can talk about the beautiful Grand Traverse Bay just down the street from his home or Lake Michigan just a few miles the opposite direction. But it’s the sense of community he really likes.
 
The village is about 600 residents with 40 percent of the population there just during the warm boating months. Northport is on the northern end of Leelanau County. And yes,  it does snow – about 140 inches two years ago. But last winter was far less severe.
 
The area draws retirees, authors, artists, and even Food Network star chef Mario Batali.
 
Mikesell and his wife, Vina, have been working on their retirement home for several years. They were introduced to the area by longtime Leelanau resident the late Dick Ristine, who lived in Leland.
 
The couple gutted the two-story house and had a wrap-around porch added on the front side. The main floor is an open floor plan connecting living space and a modern kitchen. The beautifully landscaped backyard keeps them both busy with flowers and vegetables.
 
But the fun part of my morning with Phil was riding around town and listening to his enthusiasm for this unique spot. We went up to the Grand Traverse Lighthouse, where Phil serves as a member of the board promoting education and preservation of the landmark.
 
We drove across town to a trail in a naturally wooded area that Phil and a handful of other town men are creating. We passed the local fire station where Phil goes for morning coffee and chat. “Sort of like the Scarlett Inn,” he suggested.
 
As the Mikesells and I chatted on their front porch two different women stopped by to check in on details about community activities.
 
Phil talked about all of the arts and cultural activities just a half hour down in Traverse City.
 
Steve Charles will have a story in an upcoming issue of Wabash Magazine about Mikesell’s transition from college professor to active retiree. I simply visited to shoot some photos.
 
By the time I returned Phil to his home, I was convinced he should work for the local chamber of commerce or I should buy a Northport retirement home.
 
It sure seems he and Vina found the right place for an active community life, good neighbors, intellectual pursuits, and even some occasional hard work.

Not a bad way for any one to retire!