Traverse City
Community-Oriented Funeral Home

Essay Contest Sponsorship
Read the winning entries below . . .

Our funeral home sponsored the Perry Hannah "Leadership Lessons Learned" contest which was created to inspire future leaders and encourage reading about our region's rich heritage.  This special scholarship opportunity was coordinated by Peg Jonkhoff and Fred Hoisington, co-authors of the book Perry Hannah's Gifts, Then and Now, and members of the Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation's Youth Advisory Council.  

High school juniors and seniors in Antrim, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska and Leelanau Counties were invited to apply.  Books were available at the Traverse Area District Library, High School libraries, Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation office and the Reynolds-Jonkhoff Funeral Home.  The co-authors donated this book to all local high school libraries during 2018 to help celebrate the Perry Hannah Home's 125th anniversary year. 

The students emailed their 300-500 word essay to Gina Thornbury at the Foundation and addressed the question:  After reading Perry Hannah's Gifts, Then and Now, how can you apply leadership lessons learned to your own future?  

Gina provided the ten essays submitted anonymously to the Foundation's Youth Advisory Council members in January 2019 and they determined the top five essays.  Then, Peg, Fred and Tom Gorsline (publisher of this book) read these five anonymous essays and determined the winners.   

The first place winner was, Marie Krueger, who received a $1,000 award and this winning essay will be published in the eventual third printing of Perry Hannah's Gifts Then and Now.   The second place winner, Garrett Kesner, received $500.  Thank you to all students who read the book and participated in this very special essay contest.  

Perry Hannah's leadership lessons legacy and his many gifts of land and architecture continue to evolve in our community.   A few examples include the land for the Carnegie Library which is now home to the Crooked Tree Arts Center, Rock and Mineral Club with space available for public use in the Reynolds-Jonkhoff Boardroom or the Park Place Hotel with it's impressive recent renovations.  

Perry's Hannah's beloved bronze statue at the corner of Sixth and Union Street is yet another example of his lasting leadership influence.  Perry will on occasion be dressed anonymously as a caring tribute to Traverse City's founding father.  Perry even has a Facebook page that features photo highlights of his many "gifts" over time as well as updates about this statue's educational opportunity for both residents and tourists.  

Congratulations to Marie and Garrett for your winning essays and thanks as well as to Perry Hannah and all of our community's visionary leaders past, present and future!  


1st Place Essay by Marie

Many people today believe there is little need to educate themselves on our area’s history.  What they may perceive as an uninteresting story is actually one of the greatest resources we have to help us understand what truly makes a great leader. In fact, in today’s tumult culture, now more than ever, we have great reason to study our area’s past leaders like Perry Hannah, for it is through men like him that one can learn to be a true leader. In Perry Hannah’s Gifts, Then and Now, readers learn how to be a true leader through recognizing the value of others, having expansive interests, and possessing an innovative mindset.

One of the first things that I noticed when reading Perry Hannah’s Gifts, is how much Traverse City’s founding father valued and cared for others equally. Mr. Hannah showed immense respect for Native Americans in the area when he allowed them to continue their customary use of the land that he owned and by hiring them into his logging company. Another way Mr. Hannah cared for people is through donations of land to the city, county, and churches. After reading about Mr. Hannah’s respect and care for others, I began to realize that being a leader isn’t about the person themselves, leadership is about the people and the lives you change. As a leader, I will strive to remember that it is not about me, it is about the people that I help.

Another quality that I notice about Mr. Hannah when reading the book is his interest in a multitude of activities, including a logging company, a bank, a term in the Michigan Legislature, retail stores, a state road, a local railroad, a hotel, an asylum, and various philanthropic gifts, to name a few. Through Mr. Hannah’s example I learned that in order to be an effective leader, I must truly be involved in my community and work to better it. I hope to follow Mr. Hannah’s example as a leader and continue to grow my involvement in the Traverse City area community. 

After reading Perry Hannah’s Gifts, it is apparent Mr. Hannah’s most innovative solutions were the ways he used new technologies in transportation -boats, stagecoaches, and trains- to grow the Traverse City area’s commercial activity. As someone who aspires to be a true leader, I hope that I can develop an innovative mindset like Mr. Hannah and never shy away from what may seem to be a daunting task.

After reading Perry Hannah’s Gifts, I learned the qualities of a great leader. The life of Perry Hannah has taught me that as a leader I need to be able to recognize the value of others, have expansive interests, and possess an innovative mindset. Perry Hannah is a prime example of why it is important to learn about our area’s founders and I will be forever indebted for what he has taught me about how to be a true leader in my community.


2nd Place Essay by Garrett

Perry Hannah, the founding father of Traverse City, first came to our area in 1851. He purchased the “resource-rich, Boardman land holdings” that, through his vision and leadership would blossom into the Traverse City that we know and love today. 

While reading the book Perry Hannah’s Gifts, a few important leadership qualities stood out to me. Mr. Hannah would empower his employees to start their own businesses and encourage them to join him in donating land for the public to use, for such things as churches and schools. Mr. Hannah understood that this effort to build a thriving community would also take collaboration. I can, in my own life, follow these examples that Mr. Hannah left behind. 

Perry Hannah employed virtually anyone who was willing and able to work during the 1850’s. Many of the lumbermen that he employed had families and they needed an alternative to board house living. Mr. Hannah would allow them to take low grade lumber, at no cost, so they could build shanties and shack homes. This support would help to ensure that these families would stay in the area long term.

Mr. Hannah realized that for Traverse City to grow and become a “sustainable community” he would need to collaborate with others. He was known to encourage the establishment of new and, sometimes even, competing businesses.  On occasion, he would even be a silent partner for these new companies. Mr. Hannah encouraged the people around him to be the best they could be and to build businesses that would last so that Traverse City could grow and flourish. 

Instead of thinking of Traverse City as “just” another lumber town, he thought bigger. This is one of the main reasons that Traverse is what it is today. He donated land and built businesses that would ensure continued migration to Traverse City.  Mr. Hannah took the lead in shaping the direction and growth of our entire region but also realized the importance of collaborating with others. 

Mr. Hannah is a great example of a successful leader. In my own life, I can empower the people around me and encourage them in their hopes and dreams. I have been in the choir program at Traverse City Central High School for four years. As a senior, I am seen as a leader. Like Mr. Hannah, I encourage people and help them with whatever they need to succeed. Helping others to succeed, is what makes you a real leader. Good leaders have a strong will and a caring heart, both of which are qualities that I think I share with Mr. Hannah. 

Perry Hannah truly was the architect of our community and an inspiration to everyone who came after him. Mr. Hannah was not a leader because of his wealth or power but instead because he encouraged and empowered people and collaborated with others. It is because of Mr. Hannah that we enjoy a community that is still thriving 115 years after his passing.