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Reasons for love of ‘home’ as diverse as communities themselves

Published 9:07pm Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Southwest Michigan and northern Indiana may be world renowned for their abundant natural resources, but the asset that may get overlooked the most is the diversity of the region.

This includes diversity in the cities themselves, diversity in the backgrounds of the citizens and diversity of things to do for residents.

Just as diverse, however, are the reasons those who call the region home love it. Someone told me that if I asked 20 different people that I would get 20 vastly different answers.

So, I decided to put that theory to the test and reached out to some of the wonderful people I have had the pleasure of meeting in my time here. I didn’t make it quite to 20, but here are a few of the answers that I think embody the spirit of this civic pride.

For Lisa Croteau, program manager of the Niles DDA Main Street, it mostly goes back to the old real estate mantra: Location, location, location … and the people.

“Before I ever got involved with anything here, I fell in love with the small-town charm and history of Niles. And the Riverwalk, and Veni’s Candy, and amazing antiquing. All are things I still love. Plus, Niles is kind of the center of the universe,” she joked. “Take a drive in any direction and you’ll find anything anybody could want to do.

“We are 15 minutes from charming Buchanan and Three Oaks, 30 minutes from the lake or nearly any place in South Bend, within an hour of Amish country or Kalamazoo, 90 minutes from Chicago, two hours from Grand Rapids, three hours from Ann Arbor or Indianapolis, and so on and so on,” she said. “And Amtrak gets you to many of those places, so you don’t have to drive if you don’t want to. With those places come the wonderful fairs and festivals, shops and restaurants — all offering uniquely wonderful experiences.”

The fact that, at least in most years, the region has four distinct seasons is certainly a plus, too, she said.

“But, above all, it’s the people,” Croteau said. “I have met — and have the honor of calling friends — some of the most wonderful people in the world, many born and raised in Niles.”

For Rachael Clanton, the sentiment is much the same.

“I have lived in Niles all my life (31 years) and some of the reasons I’ve always enjoyed living here are how we are near so many things: big cities, rural areas, multiple lakes and other water sources, many sports fields and complexes, many colleges, airports, shopping venues, restaurants etc. If something is not close, there are plenty of ways to get to where we want to go,” she said. “The main reasons I’ve always enjoyed living here, however, are because this is where God has placed me. Most of my family is in this area, and we have many amazing pastors and churches that truly love Christ and preach His word.”

For CeeCee Wilson, of Cassopolis, the reasons may be a little less tangible but are certainly no less powerful.

“Sometimes there is no logical, understandable reason why we love someone, or in this case, some place; it just is. For me, I love Cassopolis in many of those intangible ways: it makes me feel better being there than anywhere else; it fills my being with the essence of possibilities; my spirit is fulfilled by spending time walking its still wild lake shores, forests and parks; it ‘gets’ me and ‘accepts’ me just as I am,” she said. “Life takes you to unexpected places but love will bring you home. In other words, Cassopolis is my place to come home.”

Patty Patano may not have lived in Dowagiac her entire life but she has certainly loved it from the beginning.

“My sisters and I would come to visit my grandparents, aunts and uncles. Raised in big cities all our lives, we thought it was wonderful to be able to walk to town and be in the heart of things without parents tagging along. Community was alive and well and we knew so many people,” she said. “When the time came for me to decide where I would put my roots when the market crashed in 2008, Dowagiac was on my mind.  Finally in 2010, I made the move.  The essence of the town remains the same as it was those many years ago.”

“Community is part of my love of Dowagiac. There are people who have lived here for years who deeply care about this town. Its future is always top of mind when it comes to its leaders and advocates. Fred Mathews epitomizes the true Dowagiac spirit — and there are many like him, including Don Lyons and others. You can’t force community. People just want to be involved and enjoy each other and Dowagiac has that attitude,” she added. “People here seem to care about each other; they care about those who need help and they care about the success of this town. In a very short time, I have made friends that I know will be a part of my life for years to come.  You can’t buy that spirit.  It has to exist in the hearts of the people. And Dowagiac has that great spirit.”

During his career Jerry Marchetti has lived in eight different communities but doesn’t hesitate when he says the Edwardsburg community is the best by far.

“The people care about each other,” he said. “The proof is how the churches and local organizations in the community work together to provide food and support for the needy.”

So, it is a simple question — that clearly sparks some complex answers: Why do you love Michiana or the town in which you live?

 Michael Caldwell is the publisher of Leader Publications LLC. He can be reached at (269) 687-7700 or by email at

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