Besser Museum for Northeast Michigan
Board of Trustees
Claudia Chapman is a retired preschool and elementary teacher. She taught for 30 years. Claudia and her husband, Jim, own and operate a sheep farm in the Bolton area. They belong to Farm Bureau, Michigan Sheep Producers Association of which she is on the Board of Directors. Claudia is a Besser Museum Founders member and before serving on the Board of Trusees, she was on the Founders Board and was the Founders' President for many years. She belongs to the Founders Book Club and is on the Reel Fun Fishing Tournament Committe for the Thunder Bay River Center. Jim and Claudia have 3 children, 8 grandchildren, and 2 great grandchildren.
Jim Johnson graduated with a master’s degree in Fisheries and Wildlife from Michigan State University in 1972. He worked as a fishery biologist and statewide fishery manager for the state of Nebraska from 1972 to 1979, and then moved to Salt Lake City where he served as the State of Utah’s statewide fishery research coordinator until 1989. Jim moved to Michigan to take his dream job as Michigan DNR’s lead fishery researcher on Lake Huron, managing the Alpena Fishery Research Station from 1989-2014. Since retiring, Jim continues to publish in scientific journals about changes to Lake Huron’s fisheries caused by invasive species and documenting success of efforts to bring about recovery of native fish species important to both recreational and commercial fisheries.
Jim serves on the DNR Lake Huron Citizen Fishery Advisory Committee and is a member of the American Fisheries Society, the International Association for Great Lakes Research, Trout Unlimited, and Hammond Bay Anglers Association. He chairs Besser Museum’s Research Vessel Chinook ad hoc committee, which is presently exploring with the DNR the possibilities of displaying this 70-year-old vessel and its role in protecting Great Lakes fisheries after its retirement as the DNR’s Lake Huron survey vessel this summer. Jim has served on the Besser Museum for Northeast Michigan Board of Trustees since 2016.
Michelle Miller, a life-long resident of Alpena, is retired from Alpena Public Schools. After working in various positions including Administrative Secretary to the Director of Non-Instructional Affairs, Anna M. Besser Elementary School Secretary and lastly Secretary to the Alpena High School Principal, she retired with 36 years of service. Michelle currently work as Office Manager for Thunder Bay Arts Council and try to be very involved in the events they sponsor throughout the community. She also coordinates the Family Day for the Brown Trout Festival, which now attracts 500+ children and their families. Michelle academic pursuits include the Career/Technical Education through Alpena Public Schools and various classes at Alpena Community College. Michelle has served on the Besser Museum for Northeast Michigan Board of Trustees since 2015.
Janet Young is a native of Alpena with ancestors coming to this area in the 1860s. Janet graduated from Western Carolina University and spent over thirty years teaching math and science in a public elementary school system. Janet also taught art classes to A.P.S. students over a televised broadcast system. Janet is a former Art Van visual merchandiser and interior decorator. Since retiring, she has authored several history books, based on extensive research, documentation, and primary sources – connecting the specific history of Northeastern Michigan to the general history of the Midwest:
A Place Called Presque Isle: Topics: fur trading, steamboat wooding stations, commercial fishing, and lighthouses.
Grand Lake’s Vintage Resorts: Topics: hunting & fishing clubs in 1870s, resorts, hotels, dance halls, and camping— relating tourism to the Industrial Revolution, economy, urban populations, automobiles, and development of roads.
Book Three: Topic: Lumbering
Book Four: Topic: Great Lakes shipping and shipwrecks.
Ashley Wilmot has worked in education for 15 years and is currently an administrator for Alpena Montmorency Alcona Educational Service District. After a childhood spent enjoying all the Besser Museum has to offer, she relocated to earn her Bachelor's degree in Psychology. She furthered her education with Masters degrees in Education and Psychology as well as two educational specialist degrees in psychology and educational leadership. Once returning to the region, Ashley fell in love with Northern Michigan all over again. She is honored to serve on the boards for Thunder Bay Theater, Huron Humane Society, and NAMI-Alpena Affiliate Chapter. Ashley enjoys writing, hiking, snowshoeing, and traveling.
Julie Austin has been married to her husband Dana for 38 years. A native of Southern California, Julie, Dana, their two sons, and their son’s families moved to Alpena over eight years ago to start the Austin Brothers Beer Company. Julie has a passion for antiques and art. Julie loves historic pieces that have a story to tell. Julie dealt in antiques and estates while living in California. Julie has a good basic well-rounded knowledge of the age and worth of most items. She enjoys researching unique and “different” pieces. She loves learning about local history and what brought towns to succeed and what may have led them to fail. Julie also enjoys decorating and she especially enjoyed helping decorate the Besser Museum for the Season of Light exhibit.
Born and raised in Alpena, Reverend Jon Gougeon and his wife, Kitty, have recently returned to the area in June of 2021 after serving in the ministry for 18-years. They have two children and two grandchildren, all of whom live in Alpena as well. Prior to his years as a pastor, Jon was employed in the local hardboard mill for 31 years and learned much about the forest products industry that employed his great-grandfather years ago as a lumberjack. Jon’s great grandparents on is father’s side immigrated to Alpena in the late 1800’s and were among the founding members of St. Anne’s Catholic Church. On his mother’s side, Jon’s great grandfather served in the Life Saving Service at Tawas Point lighthouse. Understanding and listening to the stories of “old” Alpena filled his mind with a love of the lakes, rivers, and forests. Jon loves paleontology and history and telling stories about these topics. Jon also loves hunting, fishing, and kayaking on the Thunder Bay River.
Brian Bartosh has been married to his wife Julie for 22 years and was born and raised in Alpena, Michigan. They have a blended family with five children (three boys and two girls) and three dogs. Brian began his career in the family insurance agency, Top O’ Michigan Insurance, in 1979. From his early childhood days, he has always enjoyed the museum and all that it offers. Visiting the planetarium, viewing the changing displays, and learning about the Alpena area. Brian enjoys volunteering and has joined the museum in past years for fund raising events and for other activities. History and science have always been a fascination for him and remain a key interest of his. He has travelled around the country visiting various museums and is proud to have the Besser Museum in Northeast Michigan in his hometown of Alpena.
Clarence "Tuffy" Cross is a retired Boat Captain. He was a commercial fisherman from 1952 to 1969. Worked for Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Fish Division, doing fisheries research on the DNR RV Chinook for 31 1/2 years retiring as Boat Captain. From 2002 to 2018, operated a business called C2C Net Service, building nets and teaching people how to fabricate nets. Served 6 years on the Alpena Yacht Club Board of Directors and was commodore twice. Also serves on the Besser Museum Ad Hoc Committee for the Katherine V Exhibit. In 2014, along with his wife, published a book on the History of Commercial Fishing. His second book, History of Commercial Fishermen in Iosco and Alcona counties was published in 2019.
Gary Goren is a retired educator. He has worked as a history teacher, a middle and high school principal and as the Director of General Education and Technology at the AMA Educational Service District in Alpena. While there he wrote many successful grants and helped create and run Sprinkler Lake Education Center in Alcona County. He also worked closely with many local agencies including the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, the Alpena County Library, and the Besser Museum. He also was the Executive Director of Michigan ASCD in Lansing, providing professional development for administrators statewide. He previously served on the Besser Board and its education committee. Gary has been active with the Alpena Civic Theater. He is originally from Birmingham, Michigan and has seven grown children and stepchildren scattered about the country.
Dan Florip is a transactional attorney and a partner with Gillard, Bauer, Mazrum, Florip, Smigelski & Gulden in Alpena. He graduated from Alpena High School and has earned degrees from the University of Michigan and Ave Maria School of Law. Around Alpena Dan has previously served on the Alpena Public Schools Board of Trustees, the Alpena Downtown Development Authority, and the boards of directors for Habitat for Humanity and Junior Achievement. He currently is the historian and archivist on the board of directors for the Friends of the University of Michigan Gilbert & Sullivan Society. Dan enjoys playing golf, Gilbert & Sullivan opera, and researching family history (ask him sometime about his grandfather's jump from a burning B-24 over Austria or his family connections to Kaiser Wilhelm I, "The Scarlet Letter," the founding of Rhode Island, or William McKinley's assassin). He also enjoys traveling with his wife and two young sons.
Sara Winter is a retired teacher from Alpena Public Schools with 28 years of service. Sara and her husband Brian have two adult children. Sara holds a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Western Michigan University and a master’s degree in the Art of Teaching from Marygrove College. The majority of her teaching years were as a 4th and 5th grade teacher with a team-teaching emphasis on Social Studies where she taught Michigan History and American History and used the Besser Museum for frequent field trips to enhance the Social Studies curriculum. Sara has been a member of Delta Kappa Gamma teacher organization for twenty-years, and along with her husband Brian, is a friend/patron of the Besser Museum. With her love of history not only did she use the Besser Museum as a teaching resource during her years of service, but also visited the museum as a community member and has a personal historical and family connection to the museum. Her grandmother was a World War II veteran and was part of the WAVES (Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Services), and her Navy uniform was on display at the Besser Museum. Also, her late father-in-law, Ron Winter, has his 1911 Alpena Flyer on display at the museum as a permanent feature which shows one of the only models of a car manufactured in Alpena during the turn of the last century. Sara’s father, Steve Bye has also exhibited his artwork at the Besser Museum. Sara and her husband Brian own and operate several businesses, including Colburn Outfitters in downtown Alpena.
Sue Stender is currently the Chief Financial Officer for WMCR Corporation in Alpena. She holds Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting from Ferris State University. Sue has over 40 years of accounting experience. Sue was elected to the Alpena Community College Board of Trustees in 2016. She is a Chamber of Commerce Ambassador and has been involved in many high school girl’s athletic programs and clubs. She is joining the Besser Museum Board of Trustees in 2019.
Presque Isle, Michigan
Michael Beaulac recently retired from the Michigan Office of the Great Lakes where he oversaw a diverse portfolio of water-related projects. He has undergraduate and graduate degrees in oceanographic technology, marine and water resource management. His 40+ years of experience includes work with the Florida Institute of Technology in the Gulf of Mexico and Bahamas, US Fish & Wildlife Service in Alaska and the Great Lakes, Kentucky Division of Water, and in the private sector. During much of his tenure, he served as the project lead on state and national projects designing and creating environmental information management systems for industry and regulatory agencies. He has also enjoyed many years of shipboard experience conducting government and university research. Mike is now a private consultant and currently lives in Presque Isle with his wife, Katie Wolf. They have two adult children. Mike enjoys biking, kayaking, hiking, cooking, and traveling.