By Shelby Stewart
Ortonville- Ask Ron Sutton a question regarding the last 100 years of Ortonville history and there’s a good chance he’ll know.
From 2-5 p.m., April 27, the Ortonville United Methodist Church, 93 Church St., will host a 90th birthday gathering for Sutton—whose worked, served and lived in the community, touching the lives of others in a variety of ways.
“I just guess that I’ve always liked Ortonville,” laughed Sutton. “Even though I didn’t actually move to town until 1940.”
Ron Sutton was born in a home on Bald Eagle Lake April 20, 1929 to parents William and Ruth (Hemingway), with siblings Orra, Robert and Maurine.
“Everyone but my father contracted Scarlet Fever and our home was quarantined for awhile,” he recalls. “The doctor came out and put a big pink sticker on the house.”
The family moved to a farm on Sands and State Park roads, which the family lost in the Great Depression, then to Oakhill Road in Groveland Township, and later to home on the corner of Narrin and Mill streets in the village.
Sutton attended Bird School on the corner of Bald Eagle Lake and Bird road, a one room school house, and started fifth grade in Ortonville in 1940. He recalls life in the village including meeting Civil War veteran Fred Wilder, once when he marched past his home on Mill Street while playing trumpet in a parade and another time when he went over to the house with his mother in the early 40s.
“The high school was where the ball fields and the DPW garage is now,” recalled Sutton. He also said he would wait until the last minute to get up in the morning, and his mother would drive him into school when he was running late, and if the principal saw him, he would wait until Sutton was in class to ring the tardy bell.
After he graduated high school in 1948, Sutton married Mary Lou Cooper in June of 1950. The couple was married for 57 years, and she passed in 2005. They also have two daughters, Sherry Jacobs and Luann Mann and 3 living grandchildren, one that passed away, 7 great grandchildren.
“My wife never lived on anything but Mill Street all her life,” he said. “I’m happy both my daughters are here, happy to have been here my whole life.”
Sutton also remembers what has changed throughout the village, including businesses.
“There was a fur buyer in town,” he said. “Us kids used to sell our muskrats to them.”
He says there were also two black smith shops, two general stores, a bakery, a shoe cobbler, a funeral home, a hotel, three car dealerships, four places that sold gasoline, two bars, and a restaurant called ‘The Three Ds’ where A and W is now.
“We had everything downtown,” he said. “We used to ice skate on the mill pond. One of the bad things that happened to Ortonville was losing the Mill Pond.”
All during school, Sutton made money by peddling the Pontiac Press on a horse, then worked with his dad at the gas station, eventually partnering with him in the business for seven years. At the time, gas cost 18.9 cents. After that, Sutton worked at General Motors in Milford, where he retired from on July 1, 1985.
In the meantime, Sutton has been serving the community in a number of ways. He served in the village council, on the Brandon Township board, the Brandon School Board, the Brandon Fire and Police board, the Ortonville cemetery board, the Brandon Board of Review, has been a Mason for 68 years, has been a member of Ortonville United Methodist Church for 66 years and was a volunteer fireman for 20 years.
“The fire truck was an old Model A,” said Sutton. “The one down in the basement of the Old Mill. When we got a new one they wouldn’t let me drive it.”
Sutton was on the Fire and Police board when the fire hall in Ortonville was bought in the 70s, and on the school board when the Brandon-Fletcher building was built in the late 60s.
“A lot of people didn’t want it,” said Sutton. “Said it was in a swamp and it would sink.”
Now, Sutton goes on daily walks around the village, stopping in to visit with people along the way. He also currently is a member of the Ortonville Historical Society, and has been for 15 years.
“Just treat everybody like you’d like to be treated,” advised Sutton. “It don’t take much to say ‘have a nice day’ or ‘hello’ or ‘how are you.’”
Help celebrate Sutton’s 90th birthday on April 27, 2-5 p.m., at the Ortonville United Methodist Church, 93 Church St., Ortonville.