Besser Museum for Northeast Michigan

Board of Trustees


Jim Conboy

Cheboygan, Michigan

Jim Conboy is a retired banker and lawyer.  He is a past CEO of Citizens National Bank, and past chairman of the Michigan Bankers Association.  Jim currently serves on several boards including the Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance, the Top of Michigan Trails Council, and the Cheboygan Communities Foundation. He is a member of Rotary.  Jim is a trustee emeritus of Alma College having served on that board for twelve years. He is married to Susan Conboy, they have three children, and six grandchildren. He has a B.A. from Oakland University and a J.D. from Wayne State University Law School. 

Claudia Chapman

Alpena, Michigan

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

Ossineke, Michigan

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

Alpena, Michigan


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

Alpena, Michigan

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:

  1. A Place Called Presque Isle:  Topics: fur trading, steamboat wooding stations, commercial fishing, and lighthouses.

  2. 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.

  3. Book Three: Topic: Lumbering

  4. Book Four: Topic: Great Lakes shipping and shipwrecks.

Diane Speer

Alpena, MI

Diane Speer holds a BA in English and journalism from West Liberty State University in West Virginia and has worked as a journalist for most of the past 40 years, including the last 29 years at The Alpena News. As lifestyles editor for the newspaper, she has covered the Besser Museum since joining the staff in 1989 and is a strong supporter of the arts in general through her writing efforts. She also has been actively involved in the community in a number of organizations over the years. Diane is a current board member of the Thunder Bay Arts Council.  Diane has served on the Besser Museum for Northeast Michigan Board of Trustees since 2018. 

Michael Ableidinger

Alpena, Michigan

Michael Ableidinger is the President and owner of Benjey, Inc. He graduated with an engineering degree from Michigan State University. Michael has served on the Besser Museum for Northeast Michigan Board of Trustees since 2016.

Ashley Wilmot

Alpena, Michigan


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. 

Clarence Cross

Alpena, Michigan


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

Alpena, Michigan


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.


Marie Fielder

Alpena, Michigan

Marie Fielder received her Master of Arts degree in Elementary Education and Early Childhood, in 1992 from Central Michigan University.  She is retired from the Alpena, Montmorency, Alcona Educational Service District where she served 27 years as this District’s Teacher/Consultant for Special Needs Infants and Toddlers.  Marie is a member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians.  She is a member of the Northeast Michigan League of Women Voters.  Marie lives in Alpena with her husband David.  Together, they have 5 adult children and 1 grandchild.   Marie enjoys gardening, exercising, and spending time with her family.  


Jean Thomas

Alpena, Michigan

Jean Thomas has been helping clients with their graphic design, advertising, printing, and publishing needs for years and has enjoyed expanding her service offering to real estate agent most recently.  A native of Alpena, she moved south for a few years to attend college and search for new challenges and urban adventure but returned to the area after missing the water and surroundings. A graduated from ACC, she attended both Lansing CC and took courses at MSU.  Jean enjoys getting involved in/and supporting the community, especially the art community.  She served as a member of the board at Art in the Loft for several years. Her hobbies include: many outdoor activities as well as working with stained glass and exploring the areas hidden gems such as Besser Museum. Jean has two grown sons, Spencer of Holland, MI and Chad of Midland, MI.

Judy Suszek

Alpena, Michigan

Judy Suszek is a recently retired accounting professional.  During her twenty-five year tenure as the Finance Director for Hope Shores Alliance Judy directed all aspects of the agency’s financial management including grant compliance and reporting, budget preparation and monitoring, financial statement compilation, payroll and accounts payable processing and internal control management.  She served on Hope Shores Alliance’s Board of Directors finance committee, leadership team, and strategic planning and staff enrichment committees.


Judy holds a degree in accounting and spent most of her professional career providing financial management for charitable organizations. Additionally, she completed numerous national and state professional development courses.  Working to further the causes of an agency’s mission and provide financial stability to worthy non-profits presented her with invaluable lessens in giving of one’s talents, the importance of sharing compassion, and the impact of social change efforts.  


Currently, Judy is the Chairperson of the Executive Committee of the Besser Museum for Northeast Michigan Board of Trustees.  She served as Treasurer for the Besser Museum’s Board of Trustees from 2015 through 2018.

Sue Stender

Alpena, Michigan

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.

Michael Beaulac

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.