About Deborah J. Larsen

Deborah J. Larsen is the assistant director and local history librarian at Mount Clemens Public Library. She is active in the Macomb County and Rochester-Avon historical societies, and writes on a wide range of local history topics.

Gail Kemler Celebrates a Century

Rochester is marking the 200th anniversary of its founding this year, and local resident Gail Kemler has witnessed almost half of the town’s two centuries of history. Kemler, of Rochester Hills, is planning to celebrate her 100th birthday at the end of this month, in the company of scores of family and friends. Gail Johnson Kemler was born October 28, 1917 in Brookfield, Illinois, where her father worked on a railroad line. When Kemler was four years old, her mother became seriously ill and … [Read more...]

Potere-Modetz Funeral Home is One of Rochester’s Oldest Businesses

Although it has been known by several different names throughout its history, the roots of the Potere-Modetz Funeral Home go back 137 years in Rochester. Along with the Rochester Elevator, the funeral home qualifies as one of the town’s oldest businesses. It all started around 1880, when William Harvey Greene went into the furniture and undertaking business in Rochester. Within three years’ time, he was successful enough to build a brand new store at 311 S. Main (now the location of Haig’s of … [Read more...]

Frank Rewold & Son Has Been Building Rochester Since 1918

Jason Rewold began working in his family’s business as soon as he was old enough to swing a hammer. He followed a tradition that goes back four generations in the Frank Rewold & Son construction company.  The firm traces its history back to 1918, when Frank M. Rewold worked for auto magnate John Dodge and his wife, Matilda, at their Meadow Brook Farm on Adams Road. The senior Rewold was a jack-of-all-trades handyman for the Dodges. He built and maintained many of the barns and farm … [Read more...]

How Crittenton Hospital Came to Rochester

Crittenton Hospital in Rochester Hills Celebrates its 50th Birthday on August 15 It took ten years to be born. In April 1957, a group of local business and professional people formed a committee to discuss bringing a new hospital to the area. At the time, Rochester had only a small osteopathic facility called Avon Center Hospital, located near the corner of Rochester & Avon roads. Avon Center opened in 1954 with 20 beds – and later expanded to 40 – but lacked many of the services that the … [Read more...]

Healthcare in Rochester with Doctor Siffring Before Crittenton Hospital

Dr. Loren Siffring Remembers Small-Town Medicine Later this summer marks the 50th anniversary of the day that Crittenton Hospital opened its doors to its very first patient. Today, area residents have a wide array of state-of-the-art healthcare facilities and practitioners available nearby. The situation was very different, however, when Dr. Loren W. Siffring first came to town. A friendship forged in the Air Force brought Dr. Siffring to Rochester. He was a native of Colorado, where he … [Read more...]

Remembering the Rochester Explosion

It was one of those events that had people asking, “Where were you when…?” Twenty-five years have passed, but those who were in Rochester at the time can tell you - as if it happened yesterday - where they were and what they were doing when they heard the explosion on May 20, 1992. It was a warm, late-spring Wednesday afternoon in downtown Rochester. The evening rush hour was underway when, at 5:20 p.m., a blast erupted, leveling the northernmost two-thirds of the Crissman building at the … [Read more...]

Rochester Media Acknowledges World War I Social Media Day by Honoring the Horse Named Tess

A century ago - on April 6, 1917 - the United States entered World War I. Today, in towns across the nation, memorials stand in honor of local men who served in the conflict. American Legion posts, like the Homer Wing post in Rochester, bear the names of some of those who gave their lives. But there is one Rochester hero of World War I who has no granite monument to commemorate service during the war. Her name was Tess. The Parke-Davis Company, a prominent Detroit pharmaceutical firm, … [Read more...]

The Battle for Avon Township, Rochester and Rochester Hills, A Tale of Two Cities

As we celebrate the founding of Rochester during 2017, we must also note that Rochester Hills shares the same anniversary. Both Rochester and Avon Township - today’s Rochester Hills - received their first non-native settlers in 1817. Some of the founding Graham family members built their home in what is now the City of Rochester. The rest of them moved out to the area that is now the intersection of Avon & Livernois Roads, becoming the first white settlers of what would become Avon … [Read more...]

Who was James Graham, the Founder of Rochester

An 1877 Oakland County history book records that on March 17, 1817, a small band of emigrants followed the Clinton River inland from Mount Clemens and stopped at the place we know today as Rochester. Here they founded the first non-native settlement in what would later become Oakland County. The group included James Graham, his wife Mary Vandemark, their son Alexander and his wife, their son Benjamin, and Christopher Hartsough. Descendants of the Graham patriarch would remain in the greater … [Read more...]

Whims Insurance Celebrates a Century in Rochester

By Deborah J. Larsen When Tom Klix and his sister, Connie Klix Mercer, head to their offices at Whims Insurance each morning, they take a literal walk down memory lane. The company’s offices are on the second floor of the Mitzelfeld building at 322 S. Main Street. The municipal parking lot behind the building sits on property that was once the home of Klix and Mercer’s grandparents, Leslie and Lyla Whims. The two siblings now run the insurance agency their grandfather founded. They … [Read more...]