“In service to One, in service to all.” — Knights of Columbus motto
This latest interview gives us an insight into the life of 71-year-old Grosse Ile resident Gregg Zuccker.
How long have you been a resident of Grosse Ile?
My wife, Barb, and I have lived on Grosse Ile since 2004. However, our connection with the Island goes back many decades through Barb’s aunt and uncle, Hazel and Carl Baumann. We currently live in “Littlecote,” the over 150-year-old home the Baumann’s purchased in 1954 in the historic East River Road district.
What is your earliest memory of the Island?
My earliest memory of Grosse Ile is associated with visiting the Baumanns in 1969. I was immediately impressed by how peaceful Grosse Ile was. Many years later when we moved to the Island, I noticed how very little things had changed. Grosse Ile still has minimal traffic compared to other places we have lived and is so tranquil. It is really a quiet oasis in a noisy, bustling metropolitan area.
Have you ever lived anywhere else?
Over the years of our marriage, Barb and I have lived in a dozen different locations across the country. Before moving to Grosse Ile, we were living on another island, Hilton Head, in South Carolina.
When we made our move to Grosse Ile our intention was to live at Littlecote. Unfortunately, the house had fallen into severe disrepair over the years and needed major work. When we had the house appraised by experts, they recommended that we not consider fixing it up and just tear it down.
The house, however, had sentimental value to us — Barb’s aunt had lived there for 50 years until she was 100 years old. Also, a home that is over 150 years old is a rarity, and we are history lovers. We decided to ignore the experts’ recommendations, and throw all of our effort into attempting to restore the house to its former glory. Renovations involved full restoration of all mechanical and electrical systems. The Victorian wooden spires that capped the roof line were also restored and the copper tops were replaced. The exterior limestone, quarried from the Island, was sand blasted to expose the original pale undertones. After months of painstaking work and more than a few dollars, we have the house looking very close to its original beauty.
What are some of the things you most appreciate about living on Grosse Ile?
The quality of life is exceptional. The Island is a very safe place to live. Our first responders — the police and fire departments — are outstanding. We have a good school system, all of the churches work well together, and the recreational programs are numerous, providing our adults and youth with plenty of attractive choices.
The people in the community are some of the best I have ever met. The families are solid with great values. It has been a privilege to work with many of them on various church projects.
Finally, the location of Grosse Ile is perfect for our family reunions. We have two adult daughters — one lives in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., and the other in Denver, Co. Grosse Ile is a great mid-point for everyone to meet.
What are the biggest changes or events that you have seen happen on the Island?
I appreciate everything that has been done to beautify the Island. The work that the Township, civic groups, and Paul Smoke have done to make the entryways to both bridges and Four Corners more eye appealing has really been impressive.
I think that centralizing the parks and recreation administration at Waters Edge was a big improvement. Things just appear to be running more efficiently now.
Finally, I believe the school district has maintained high academic standards while doing a good job of improving its infrastructure. The students continue to be high achievers, and the buildings and grounds look like they are well cared for.
Tell us something about yourself and your passions?
My wife and I come from very small families. Both Barb and I were only children. Barb had no cousins, so she was responsible for both her parents and her aunts and uncles in the latter stages of their lives. Consequently, we have both been very experienced in serving the needs of others.
That desire to serve others is a segue to one of my passions. I am very involved in the local chapter of the Knights of Columbus. It has been very satisfying to work with many other very talented people in the chapter to support basketball, football, and soccer programs; drug and alcohol abuse programs; a student scholarship; and the Special Olympics. The Knights also helped raise funds to repair the Sacred Heart roof and maintain the five buildings and 27 acres of the parish. We raise much of our funding through our annual Lenten Fish Fry. Our Knights thoroughly researched the fish fry venues in the area, took the best from what was being done, and put together what we think is the very best fish fry at Sacred Heart on Fridays during Lent. If you haven’t tried our fish fry, you are really missing something!
Barb and I are also very avid boaters. Our trips to Mackinac Island, Charlevoix, Petoskey, Harbor Springs, and Traverse City made lasting impressions on our now adult daughters as they still refer to the boating trips with fondness.
Both Barb and I love to garden. A major part of our renovation to Littlecote was bringing the gardens back to their original splendor. We typically have something flowering throughout the growing season.
Finally, I am a real car guy. I worked for General Motors for many years, and gasoline and oil run in my veins. My grandfather taught people to drive when automobiles first became a transportation option. My father had an automobile dealership. To maintain my connection to this automotive tradition, I have a 1988, hand built, two-seater, touch screen/digital, Buick Reatta with just 34,000 miles on the odometer that I drive around on special occasions.
Any final comments about living on Grosse Ile?
We have made many good friends during our time on the Island. Most of them I have met working on various service projects. All I have ever had to say is that I needed help, and I find I am surrounded by a group of energetic people with outstanding skills. Grosse Ile is simply a great place to call home.