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Local News Summary - November 29, 2023 Edition

Local World War II veteran reminisces
Lyle Ames, a Hillman resident and World War II vet who served in the Navy, will soon be turning 100 years old, and he has about as many stories to tell. Among them is his witnessing of the signing of the peace treaty between the U.S. and Japan.

Ames was born and raised in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in Pickford. His parents were farmers, and his father wanted to keep Lyle working on the farm. So, when it came time for the son to be drafted, the father went to the draft board and secured a deferment for Lyle. However, when the family began receiving unfriendly letters about Lyle not serving, Lyle went to the draft board and volunteered to enlist.

“I had no idea what I was getting into,” he told the Tribune in a recent interview.

After boot camp and quartermaster school, Ames became a helmsman on the U.S.S. Iowa, a ship 887 feet long. According to Ames, the ship was like a small city with everything one would need to exist, including a post office. The U.S.S. Iowa had also been equipped with a bathtub, because polio prevented President Franklin Delano Roosevelt from being able to stand for a shower. Ames spent a lot of time in the conning tower with 16-inch walls of steel, which is where the sailors went when the Japanese were firing on the ship from the air.

“They were always trying to drop bombs on us,” Ames said.

With an entire fleet of American ships in a concentrated area, he said it was important for every ship to stay on course to avoid collisions. Although the Japanese were trying to destroy the ship, the most damage inflicted was from a typhoon that ruined a shaft and rudder. The Iowa had to return to the U.S. to go into dry dock for repairs, which Ames had trouble envisioning because of the ship’s size. It made more sense to him, though, once the ship’s tanks were drained.

“We came up out of the water like a cork,” he recalled.

With the ship in dry dock in California, the crew was granted three weeks of leave. Ames went to Michigan to get his wife, Lorma, the childhood sweetheart he had met when he was in seventh grade, and returned to California to wait out his leave in a hotel with community showers and the requirement the guests change their own sheets. It was a fair deal, he remembered with a smile, because the rooms only cost three dollars per night.

After dry dock, the ship was back in action until the Japanese surrendered. The signing of the peace treaty was supposed to take place on the U.S.S. Iowa, but Ames explained the location was changed to the U.S.S. Missouri, which was anchored nearby. As a helmsman, he called dibs on the periscope in the conning tower for the event. He saw a Japanese representative approach the Missouri in a cruiser, which he quipped was likely one of the few Japanese vessels remaining.

“I could see everything that took place,” Ames relayed, adding it was a powerful moment.

Of all his experiences serving the country, one thing he considers remarkable is that every day he was onboard he met someone he had never seen before. He frequently asked about when a new face had come aboard only to discover they had been on the ship the whole time. Ames estimated there were 2,500 sailors in addition to officers and Marines on the Iowa.

After his military service, Ames became a postmaster along with his wife. The two had a son, Rodney Ames, and a daughter, Cheryl (Ames) Scramlin. Lyle Ames served as a postmaster for 27 years, and his wife was a postmaster for 30 years. They began working in Pickford and were later transferred to a post office in Gaylord. After retirement, Ames and his wife lived in Arizona before returning to Michigan. They moved into Hillman’s Haven in 2017, where Lorma passed away in 2020. The two dated for about five years before their marriage of 75 years.

Although Lyle will be celebrating his 100th birthday at the end of January, anyone meeting him would think he’s closer to 70. He said he stays in shape by walking laps inside the assisted living facility twice each day. Ames also continues to work. Although he is officially retired as a postmaster, he continues to sort the daily mail at Hillman’s Haven and deliver it to the appropriate destination. A big THANKS to Lyle Ames for all his service.

Briley Township master plan to be sent to county commissioners
Briley Township’s planning commission has completed the township’s five-year master plan, and township board members have authorized sending it to the county commissioners for approval. The matter was discussed at the regular township board meeting on Nov. 22.

Once the county approves the master plan, there will be a 63-day waiting period before the planning commission reviews the master plan and submits it to the township board for final approval. Phil LaMore, township clerk, told board members a Downtown Development Authority is “almost imperative” to support the master plan.

“You’re going to see a lot of good things coming up in the downtown,” LaMore said.

He later told the Tribune the plan includes park projects that will be funded with the help of an $830,000 grant recently awarded to the township. Once the master plan is formally approved, it will be posted on the township website.

“I think the planning commission did a good job putting this together,” LaMore said during the meeting.

Final Elk hunt approaching
Elk from this year’s last hunt will be on display in Atlanta on Dec. 9 and 10. The last elk hunt takes place Dec.9-Dec. 17. According to the Department of Natural Resources, the size of the elk herd in northern Lower Michigan is steady. An aerial survey done in 2022 of 1,080 square miles found 793 animals in 92 groups, resulting in a population estimate ranging from 870-1,684 elk.

Michigan’s native elk disappeared about 1875. According to the historical and fossil records, elk were widespread in the Lower Peninsula during precolonial times. Ten years after Michigan’s state flag was officially adopted, one of its major symbols no longer existed in the state. Eastern elk went extinct with the help of forest clear cutting and overhunting. Today’s elk herd dates to 1918, when seven Rocky Mountain western animals were released near Wolverine. The number of animals grew to about 1,500 elk in the early 1960s, and limited hunting was possible in 1964 and 1965.

However, reduced habitat and poaching in the late 60s took the elk herd down to about 200 in 1975. With reduced poaching losses, habitat improvement and management of hydrocarbon development, the elk numbers increased to 850 by 1984. Elk hunting in Michigan resumed that year. According to Chad Stweart, biologist for the DNR, the elk herd number has been stable for the past four or five years. The survey estimate from 2022 reflects the size of the herd has increased by about five percent in the past two years.

A tightly restricted annual hunt keeps the herd from growing so big the animals disrupt farmland or cause road accidents. Anyone with an elk hunting license is fortunate to get one. Elk licenses are very limited and only available through a drawing. A base license is not required to apply for the drawing, but, if chosen, one must purchase a base license and elk receipt to hunt. Only 260 elk licenses were available for the 2023 fall hunting season. The odds of getting drawn for an elk hunting permit are .01-.06 percent.

Hunters are selected using a weighted drawing system that began in 2003. In each drawing, an applicant’s total number of entries is equal to the number of chances earned in past drawings plus one chance for his or her current application. Someone drawn for an elk license and not utilizing it goes to the bottom of the list. Those issued an any-elk license are ineligible to apply for, obtain or purchase a future elk license for the remainder of their life. Those issued an antlerless-only elk license are ineligible to apply for, obtain or purchase an elk license or chance for 10 years.

Death Notices
Full obituaries are in the Tribune print & paid online edition
Bonnie J. Howe
Tammy L. Hofstra
Bonnie A. Neuenfelt

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