Don and Liz Nowka

Family History in Old Mission and Traverse City

This region has deep roots of history with families that have resided here, making their mark for future generations. OMP Resident Liz Nowka is part of that history, as her ancestors were on the peninsula as early as 1867. The circle began with Liz’s Great, Great Grandparents Art and Letitia McManus, and their daughter Eva McManus (Liz’s Great Grandma). Joan Crandall Zupin (Eva’s daughter and Liz’s Grandmother) continued the circle by sharing childhood memories from Old Mission.

The stories, the beauty and ultimately … the family roots … brought Liz and Don Nowka back to Old Mission Peninsula.

Liz Nowka was raised in Shelby, Michigan in Oceana County on Benona Hills Farm, a fruit farm owned by her father, Gary Burmeister. The farm has been in the same family for many generations- a centennial farm and then some.  Liz’s mother, Nancy, is from Traverse City and Liz’s grandmother, Joan Crandall Zupin was born, raised and lived in Traverse City at the young age of 99. She passed away in August of 2018. Liz was born at Munson, and has been coming to Traverse City for visits since birth. She spent every summer going to Cherry Fest, the beach, and watching fireworks.  She attended all holiday gatherings at her grandparent’s house downtown, filled with food, laughter, family and friends every year. 

Liz’s grandmother, Joan, is the daughter of Deronda “Chum” Crandall and Eva McManus.  Deronda’s family was in the lumber business and later had a gas station at what we all know now as Chum’s Corner.  Eva was raised on Old Mission Peninsula at the corner of Center and Montague Roads on East Bay.  They had a fruit farm which Liz’s grandmother Joan remembers very fondly as a little girl.  Her grandfather, Arthur “Art” McManus would save one special cherry tree for the grandkids to be able to pick cherries from.  They would spend time at the farm & swim in the bay all summer.  This old homestead has a lot more development around it today, but the beautiful house and historic barn (pictured in the book, Barns of Old Mission) still stands as a reminder of what our beloved peninsula once was.  Deronda (nicknamed “Chum”) met Eva after she had finished teaching at Stoney Beach School on the peninsula and traveled via horse and buggy with her sister, Sara “Alberta” McManus to Grawn to look for new teaching jobs.  While teaching, she met Chum at a party. He exclaimed, “that is the woman I am going to marry” when he first saw her.  Eva’s sister, Sara “Alberta” went back to Old Mission, married George Lardie and together they owned the Old Mission General Store. 

Later, Joan’s brother Max Crandall purchased and ran Max’s Service. He owned it for many years before passing it down to family.  Her other brother Deronda “Curly” Crandall owned Curly’s Service on the southeast corner of State & Union Streets, which is now Randy’s Old Towne. Joan remembers working for her brother Curly doing the books for the station.  She married Ralph Zupin, of Elk Rapids.  Ralph was a salesman at the Ford dealer in downtown TC and later was the manager of Hertz at the airport. Together they had four children.  Liz’s mother Nancy and her aunt Barb were rare for their time- twins! 

Liz met her now husband, Don Nowka at Grand Valley State University.  She started bringing Don for family visits to Traverse City starting in 1997.  At first, the talks about moving to Traverse City weren’t serious, just family conversation. 

Don & Liz Nowka – Photo by Scarlett Piedmonte

Fast forward to 2005.  Liz married her college sweetheart, Don, just before Liz accepted a position at NMC and Don accepted a transfer where he was working at Auto-Owners Insurance from the Grand Haven area. They moved up north and took up residence in Grandma Joan’s basement until they found their new home in Orchard Heights on the base of Old Mission.  It didn’t take long for them to fall in love with their quiet neighborhood on the base.  It’s a bike ride from downtown, a walk to Bryant Park Beach, a short drive from all the beautiful wineries, beaches & scenery on Old Mission, and the perfect setting for family & friends’ gatherings. 

Photo by Scarlett Piedmonte

In 2016, Don and Liz purchased the Bay View Insurance Agency on Three Mile Road in Traverse City- a local independent agency servicing the Traverse City region which has been in business for 20 years.  Liz works at West Middle School and helps out at the agency in the summertime. They have two dogs- Forrest & Finn, who get to go to the office every day and greet their friendly clients. 

Liz is proud of her family’s rich local heritage, and is as excited to get back to her roots today as she was when the couple moved here 12 years ago.


The circle goes on…

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