As far as signs go, this one is very basic, downright prosaic.
Painted on a piece of wood, it does not glow. It does not blink. It just hangs there, although for several years it was tucked away in a box under Phyllis Charlesworth DelBenne’s bed.
Her daughter, Michelle Mazzella of Niles, discovered the sign in 2009, while cleaning out possessions from her mother’s house. Actually, Mazzella re-discovered the sign, as she was the who tracked it down and gave it to her mother three years before Phyllis suffered a massive stroke that left her unable to care for herself. Phyllis moved in with Mazzella and became a full-time caretaker. And with that came the sad chore of cleaning out her mother’s house, and the joy of rediscovering the sign.
“Several months later we decided to build an addition on our place, a place just for mom,” Mazzella says. “I hung the sign up on her little private porch for her to enjoy, but because of the severe mental and physical disabilities caused from her stroke she was never able to enjoy this sign.”
Nevertheless, the sign stayed on the porch until June 11, 2016, when Mazzella brought it to Geneva-On-The-Lake, where it had originated. At one time it marked the location of the Laura Huldah cottage on Mapleton Beach West Drive.
The cottage was built by Mazzella’s Quartier ancestors. William E. Quartier named the cottage Lorie Huldah in honor or memory of his daughter, Lorie Huldah Quartier, who died at the age of 15 from meningitis. Mazzella says she does not know if the cottage was named before or after the girl’s death.
The Quartier family eventually sold the cottage, and the simple sign went with it.
“My mom had always wanted to buy this cottage but it never happened,” Mazzella says. “Over the years she always said that she would love to have the sign that hung on the cottage.”
That thought stayed with Mazzella until 2006, when she decided to track down the sign, if it still existed. She contacted Marge Milliken of the GOTL Visitor’s Bureau, who connected her to the cottage’s owner, Eddie Sezon. Amazingly, Eddie had not tossed the sign, and Mazzella drove to GOTL and reclaimed it for the family.
“I asked him how much he wanted for it and he didn’t want anything, he was happy to do this for me and my mom,” Mazzella says.
Phyllis received the sign from her daughter at the Christmas 2006 family gift exchange.
“Nobody was prepared for what would happen next,” Mazzella says. “My mom opened her gift-wrapped box and had a look of confusion on her face. She asked me ‘What is this?’ And I said ‘What does it look like?’ And she continued to remove the tissue paper and with a crack in her voice she asked ‘This is a replica, right?’ And I replied, ‘No, it’s the original’ and I continued to explain how it came to be in her possession.
“To say she was surprised is an understatement, and she was at a total loss of words and then her emotions over took her. She cried and cried out of joy and out of sadness that she had no older family left to share this moment with. She had her kids and grandsons, but it wasn’t the same,” Mazzella says.
Phyllis wanted to hang the sign “someplace special,” but she never did. It stayed in the box, tucked under her bed, until Mazzella hung it in the porch.
Mazzella says her mother’s condition has deteriorated to the point she can no longer enjoy her personal items, like the sign. In 2016 Mazzella made the decision to return the sign to GOTL. She arranged a meeting with Milliken and on June 11, presented the Lorie Huldah sign to the Visitor’s Bureau. Mazzella feared that after she passed, her family members would not cherish the sign as much or know its story, and would “end up on the burn pile.” Thus the full-circle donation to the resort that gave her ancestors so much pleasure.
Milliken, who has since retired from the bureau, says the sign is stored at the bureau and will be displayed in the office starting May 1, 2017, when the bureau opens for the 2017 season.