Harold's Story

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Harold Roosevelt Gronseth, 88, a longtime resident of Suttons Bay and teacher in the Traverse City Area Public Schools, died Sunday, Dec. 10 in Perry, Georgia.
Mr. Gronseth, who last taught at the former Norris Elementary School before his retirement in 1982, was a 1948 graduate of Suttons Bay High School. He also taught in two other Michigan communities, Reed City and Greenville, during his 27-year teaching career. He was born in Detroit and moved with his parents to Suttons Bay while in high school.
Mr. Gronseth and his family had deep ties to Suttons Bay, where his father had a cherry orchard and his paternal grandfather, and later his uncle, operated Gronseth's Shoe Store. His Norwegian immigrant grandfather, Lars J. Gronseth, moved to Suttons Bay from Bay City in 1886 after answering an ad for a shoemaker.
As a young man, Mr. Gronseth was a boater and joined the United States Power Squadrons in Traverse City, earning a navigation certificate after taking a rigorous course.
He established scholarships in his parents' memory at their alma maters. The scholarship for his mother is at Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa, and for his father at Albion College in Albion, Michigan, where Mr. Gronseth also studied. He graduated from the school in 1952 with a teaching degree, with concentrations in history and art.
Mr. Gronseth told Albion officials that he "just wanted to do something that would be a lasting tribute."
"I knew how much he thought of his time at Albion," he said of his father, Harold E. Gronseth, who died in 1962 in Suttons Bay. "It's just a very satisfying thing for me, to know that there is something permanent and beneficial that I did while I was walking around this good earth."
On his mother's side, Mr. Gronseth was proud of his middle name, Roosevelt, and family ties to two presidents, Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt. Mr. Gronseth was a distant cousin of both presidents, just as his well-known relatives were to each other.
Mr. Gronseth moved with his mother, Alice Roosevelt Gronseth, to Perry in 1982. She died there in 1988.
In the 1970s, Mr. Gronseth made two transoceanic voyages to Europe, one aboard the Queen Elizabeth to England, and the other on the Leonardo da Vinci, a memorable trip with a number of celebrities aboard en route to the film festival in Cannes, France. He remembers sitting in the bar one evening with a journalist and spotting the famous Spanish artist, Salvador Dali, sitting with his wife at a nearby table. The journalist had been assigned to write about him and others, but he confessed that he was too frightened to approach the artist. Mr. Gronseth, who had written a paper about him in college, proclaimed, "I'm not." He marched over to the table and chatted with Dali about his art. "He was pleasant," Mr. Gronseth recalled.
Mr. Gronseth will be remembered for his wonderful storytelling, especially about family. He had an exceptional memory of family history from his childhood and beyond. He will also be remembered for his love of cars, trading them in about every two years for a new one.
"I never saw a car I didn't want to buy. I had to have it," he once said.
Mr. Gronseth's first car was a 1937 Packard, a gift from his father in 1952. It was among his favorites, with its sleek lines, running boards and iconic hood ornament. He continued his love affair with cars, even later in life in Perry, where he once purchased, as he called it, "a tricked-out" 2008 Dodge pickup.
Survivors include cousins in several states, including Michigan.
Funeral services will be held on Saturday, Dec. 16 at 1 p.m. at Immanuel Lutheran Church, Suttons Bay, with visitation held one hour prior. Burial will be held at a later date at the Lutheran Cemetery, Suttons Bay.
Memorial gifts may be made to the Leelanau Historical Society, P.O. Box 246, Leland, MI 49654.
Arrangements are with the Martinson Funeral Home & Cremation Services of Leelanau.
Published on December 12, 2017
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