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The North Wind

The North Wind

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Mackayle Weedon
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My name is Makaylee! I am going to be a senior majoring in Social Media Design Management. I am apart of the Phi Sigma Sigma Sorority chapter on campus! I love thrifting, photography, skiing and going...

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Opinion-- A list of regrets before I graduate
Opinion-- A list of regrets before I graduate
Sal Wiertella March 1, 2024

Phil Niemisto: Window Washer, Gardener, Giver, Local Icon and Old Soul

Community members have decorated the statue of Phil Niemisto located in his pocket park.

Editor’s note – Local icon Phil Niemisto died on Sunday, Feb. 25, in his home. He was 88-years-old. In commemoration, The North Wind is featuring the following series of quotes from Phil about his life from an interview conducted in the winter of 2017.

I come here [Donckers] every day, maybe two or three times a day. I don’t really eat a whole lot here, but I do have coffee.

My big thing at one time was going to Mackinac Island. I used to go there at least three or four times a month. Yeah, I got into that “Somewhere in Time” movie. I met everybody in that movie except the big stars.

Mackinac Island was more or less going up to the Grand Hotel takin’ it easy and relaxing. I went there quite frequently. I stayed at the Grand Hotel three or four times and other places there. Actually the movie is what brought me to Mackinac Island and after that I just kept on going.

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It seemed like no matter how many trips I made there I learned something brand new, that was kind of interesting. So that was my entertainment you might say. I don’t drink or smoke or nothin,’ ya know?

I was raised in the orphanage for my first 12 years. It was kind of like being in the army. Get in line, get in line, get in line. I didn’t know any different. I was just a baby when I went there. To me it was just a normal thing.

The orphanage had their own school in there, classrooms and all that. The grades went up to the sixth grade, I think. I liked studying agriculture. I don’t know, it just came to me being with plants and flowers. I had a flower garden at the orphanage.

I have a garden across the street, been doing the pocket park around ten years. I’ve been planting flowers around this town about 30 years, different places.

I lived in Flint for about 20 years. I worked in a hospital down there. I was an orderly. It was a totally different line of work. I went down to Flint in 1950 and I came back here in 1970.

They were looking for people to work in the auto factories. This was during the Korean War. Everybody was going off to war, most of the guys.

Way back then, we hitchhiked out of here. You can’t do that today, but back in that day you could hitchhike a ride. We got three rides all the way [Flint] and pulled in the same day and I stayed down there for 20 years.

Actually that was an accident. I didn’t plan on it. It wasn’t even on my mind, but I was working at the library part time and I needed to get more hours in, so I came down town and I lined up a bunch of snow shoveling jobs and all of a sudden it wasn’t snowing. There was a building I was already working for and I went in a found some tools in there and I came out and started fiddling with the windows there and pretty soon people started calling me and that’s how I got started. I made that my new career.

Just the windows—in the wintertime just the windows that’s it. I was working at the senior center for many years, but I cut that out cause it’s too hard walkin’ over there, so I gave that up. I worked there for many years. Now i’m just confined to doing the windows everyday.

You’re making something look better all the time. That’s the whole process. The flowers or anything, you’re improving and making something look better. It isn’t just for the sake of putting money in your pocket. You’re making something look better than it was before.

What businesses do you do the windows for? Everybody.

I’ve learned a lot about life.

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