1973 May 1, Floyd Starr Day
Click to Enlarge
1973 was a very special year for both the founder and his school. Not only would Uncle Floyd celebrate his ninetieth birthday Tuesday, May 1, but on Sunday, October 7, the Starr Commonwealth would observe the sixtieth anniversary of its founding. It was well that Starr arrived at the Hotel St. Regis in Detroit the day before the festivities, for he would have a busy birthday.
Floyd Starr began with a ladies’ luncheon which paid special tribute to the Commonwealth’s three remainingauxiliaries. Still active in 1973 were Mrs. L.D. Fitzmorris, president of the South Oakland County Auxiliary, Mrs. R.E. McGinnis, president of the Farmington Auxiliary, and Mrs. Ron Petty, wife of theAssistant Director of the Van Wert campus. It was a bittersweet occasion for Star. As he commentedafterward, “It wasn’t easy to tell the ladies thank you for what they had done,while remembering all the fine chapters we have lost over the years.”
In tribute to the Grand Old Man, Floyd Starr Day extended far beyond the Grand Ballroom of the St. Regis. In Starr’s home town, Mayor pro tem Charles Jones issued theproclamation for the community of Albion, and in Ohio Mayor A. W. Schult pronounced the same honor for the city of Van Wert. By special edicts from the two state governors, it was “FloydStarr Day” from Lake Superior to the Ohio River.
The six o’clock reception for more than 300 guests was enhanced by an impressive display of tributes from former associates. Among other honors, Starrreceived special recognition from the House and Senate of the State of Michigan, as well as the Governor’s Community Action Award of the State of Ohio. Former Governor and Supreme Court Justice John B. Swainson presented an award from Michigan’s Governor William G. Milliken, and the late Governor G. Mennen Williams brought with him a special resolution from the Michigan Supreme Court. also present to bring his own good wishes and those of his wife Lenore was another past governor, the Honorable George Romney.
After the candlelight dinner, the ballroom grew dark for “a retrospective presentation of slides highlighting Floyd Starr’s life and accomplishments.” Thereafter the program was in the capable hands of President Larry Bendtro. “Old boy,” Gordon Blossom, reminisced about his years at the Commonwealth, followed by tributes fromtrustee Ernest C. Browne, Jr., Juvenile Judge John Toner of Cleveland, Ohio, auxiliary chairperson Mrs. Henry Johnson, and Michigan’s legislative spokesperson Mrs. N. Lorraine Beebe. The last to speak was Judge Theodore VanDellen, chairman of the Board of Trustees for many years and a close friend of UncleFloyd. On behalf of the trustees past and present, VanDellen presented the president emeritus with an engraved Steuben bowl in recognition of his ninetieth birthday.
At that point Candace Somerall rose to toast the man “whose greatest gift to young people is his exemplification of how much can be done with one human life.” Touched by her words and overwhelmed by theoccasion, Starr offered a toast in kind to Candace for “planning and executing” his birthday party. It was a moment typical of many that evening. “You could feel it like aphysical presence, the outpouring of love and affection,” wrote columnist Mark Beltaire in the Detroit Free Press.Bendtro’s reading of a letter and Certificate of Commencement from President Richard Nixon came almost as anticlimax. All in all, it was an eveningrich in memories, and Starr enjoyed every moment of it.
Source: Keith Fennimore. FaithMade Visible: The History of Floyd Starr and His School. Albion, Michigan:Starr Commonwealth. 1988.