MARQUETTE - Former Marquette resident Lisa (Muljo) Schuster found the inspirtation for her first novel in the Upper Peninsula community in which she grew up, Hubbell.
That novel "Service Station Angel" was released at the end of 2013 through Outskirts Press, which is located in Colorado, where Schuster now lives.
The story is loosely based on the late Ernie Poisson of Hubbell, who operated Ernie's Service Station for many years. Poisson was often referred to as "The Upper Peninsula's Santa Claus" for his efforts to help his community, especially at Christmastime.
Ernie Poisson, who operated Ernie’s Service Station in Hubbell for years, is shown above. Poisson loosely inspired “Service Station Angel,” a new novel by Hubbell native Lisa Schuster. (Submitted photo)
Schuster, a former Marquette resident, has published her first novel, “Service Station Angel,” bottom, which is loosely based on the life of an Upper Peninsula man. (Submitted photo)
"Ernie is similar to the main character in my story," Schuster said in a telephone interview. "He was the leader of the children's choir at St. Cecelia's Catholic Church and through that he kept a lot of kids from not having a purpose in life. My brothers would hang out at Ernie's station, pumping gas and filling tires. Everyone loved him.
"His big thing was all year, he took in toys and repaired them. He'd pound out dents and dings and repaint them," she said. "Then at Christmas he had a party for the needy kids in town. He did that for 40 years or more. He was wonderful."
While Poisson was her inspiration, the book is a work of fiction.
"What's true in the book is that he lived in Hubbell, he had a service station and he was the children's choir director," Schuster said. "The twists and turns in what happens in the book are what's fictional."
On a recent return visit to Hubbell, Schuster stopped to visit Ernie, who was living in a convalescent home.
"He was tickled and humbled that I was writing about him. Tears flowed down my face when he had that reaction," she said. "Twenty days before my book was published, he passed away. But I was happy I had been able to tell him he inspired me in so many ways."
Her love for the U.P. shines through in Schuster's novel.
"When I think of the U.P., I think of different locations and I write about that in the book, the drive from Eagle Harbor to Copper Harbor, just the beauty of being along the lake," she said. "Every year, I miss autumn in the U.P. One year, my mom sent a bag of leaves to my house (in Colorado). The leaves are so different in Michigan. In Colorado, they're mostly yellow. I wanted to show my friends here the many beautiful colors in an Upper Peninsula autumn."
Schuster resided in Marquette from 1990-1994. Now she and her husband, Jeff, daughter, Savanna, and son, Grant, live in Highlands Ranch, Colo.
However, Schuster still has plenty of family in the U.P. Her parents, Richard and Cheryl Rozman, reside in Gwinn. Her sister Linda Muljo lives in Marquette and her brother Darren Muljo lives in Gwinn, while her brother Scott Muljo resides in Lake Linden.
Schuster's sister Kim Yirsa is the downstater, residing in Lansing.
Already, Schuster is three chapters into her next book but she is thrilled with the response to "Service Station Angel."
"The reaction has been very positive," she said. "Especially from people in the U.P. People have told me the book made them laugh. It made them cry. They especially like the talk about mining towns and about the beauty that is there."
For more information about the book, visit www.outskirtspress.com/servicestationangel.
Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253.