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Working girl

Mae kept busy with jobs, but had time for romance, family

May 5, 2011
By RENEE PRUSI - Journal Staff Writer ( , The Mining Journal

NEGAUNEE - Mae Rogers, who celebrates her 100th birthday in just about two weeks, met her first husband in the course of her work.

"He was my patient," she said. "I took care of him after his appendectomy and he kept after me to date him. I had to marry him. He wouldn't leave me alone."

He was Erland Hill, as Mae referred to him, "a Suomilainen (Finn)."

Article Photos

At left, Mae Rogers of Negaunee will celebrate her 100th birthday May 20. She’s still active and shares the story of her life with wit and humor. (Journal photo by Renee Prusi)

Mae was working at the Twin City Hospital in Negaunee when Mr. Hill was admitted as a patient.

"I wasn't working when he had his surgery," she said. "But he had some complications and I took care of him then."

They married in 1939.

"We finished off 1938 and went right into 1939, getting married," she said. But she kept on working.

"I liked working at the Twin City Hospital. The doctors were wonderful," she said, ticking off a list of the physicians who worked there in the hospital's heyday.

"Dr. Lindquist was a marvelous doctor. And Dr. Van Riper was so great with patients," Mae said.

When parts of Negaunee were fenced off due to caving grounds, unsteady earth because of underground mining, the hospital closed.

"After they tore the hospital on Cyr Street down, I went to work at Morgan Heights," she said. That facility, located in Negaunee Township, was a haven for patients with tuberculosis.

"I was on the floor at first," she said. "Then I ran the sterilizer for the TB nurse, Julie Miller, who was a wonderful person."

But through the years, when Mae needed a break from nursing, she would find other jobs.

"I was sick and tired of nursing and was looking for another job. Iver Laiho owned the Main Drift Restaurant," Mae said. "His son had gone off to war and Iver needed help. I was married and living on Elm Street when I worked there."

All these years later, Mae vividly recalls some of the customers, like the man who had plenty of money for a golf club membership, but refused to pay the 3-cent sales tax on his $1 lunch bill.

"I made Iver wait on him so I didn't have to deal with that nonsense," she said.

With its thick-sliced homemade bread, the Main Drift was the busiest restaurant in Negaunee.

"It only had a counter, no tables, but it was busy, for sure," Mae said. "Iver was quite a guy. He was the nicest boss in the world to work for."

Mae went back to nursing after her waitress stint.

"I was always able to leave and go back to nursing. I was always able to get my job back," she said.

Other jobs she had included precision sewing at two different dress factories in Negaunee.

She and Erland had a daughter, Jill Ann Hill, who graduated from Negaunee High School in 1961.

Jill, now Jill Tessaro of Marquette, gave Mae three grandchildren, Larry J. Wendt, Jodie Wendt Blau and Tracy K. Wendt. And they in turn have given her five great-grandchildren. Mae has two great-great grandchildren as well.

Erland passed away from a heart attack at age 51 in 1966 after 27 years of marriage to Mae.

She had returned to Morgan Heights, then called the Acocks Medical Care Facility, and retired in 1976.

"Then I took a job at the (Negaunee) senior center, where I took care of the senior meals three days a week," Mae said. She kept that post for the next 10 years, retiring for good at age 75.

But in the meantime, she found romance again with Gordon "Bud" Rogers.

"I knew of Bud but it was 1980 when I met him, really," she said. "I had been a widow 14-and-a-half years when I met him. He was 71 and I was 70 and in two months we tied the knot."

The couple eloped to Menominee, where a minister who'd formerly been in Negaunee did the honors of marrying them on Feb. 18, 1981. They honeymooned in Peshtigo, Wis.

"We weren't newlyweds, we were oldlyweds," she laughed.

"Bud was a good, good man. He worked for the Marquette County Road Commission and at a gas station in the area," she said. "He always had two jobs."

Bud, who passed away in 2001, had two sons and two daughters: Gordon Jr., Lenny, Sandy and Marlene, who have given Mae another 10 grandchildren and a number of great-grandchildren.

Mae, a member of Mitchell United Methodist Church for nearly 80 years and the writer of the church's newsletter, will celebrate her milestone birthday with a party thrown by family and friends later this month.

Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253.



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