Fannings finish 50th season at Shady Shores


Patriarch Bill Fanning, 88, still takes his cuts and catches at morning softball games.

Patriarch Bill Fanning, 88, still takes his cuts and catches at morning softball games.

Sister Lakes’ monster, southwest Michigan’s Sasquatch, hasn’t been seen since the summer of 1964, when Bill and Terry Fanning first brought their brood to Dewey Lake.

Maybe their own invention, the Shady Shores ghost, scared away Bigfoot.

The Fanning family, which eventually grew to seven — four sons, three daughters — last week celebrated their 50th anniversary coming to Nevins’ 1926 resort.

Fanning sons fanned out across the nation, from Jim and Kristen in Colleyville, Texas, to Bill and Kathy in Oakland, Calif.

They don’t get together for Thanksgiving or Christmas, so they count on their summer sojourn to reconnect their far-flung family and with other equally loyal families, such as the Portos (1957).

Jim, 48, who does international marketing, research and development for Daltile, said, “It’s hot down there” in Texas. “It’s a nice week to come to Michigan. Two sons are in Oakland and the other is in Hartland, Wis. All three girls are still in the Chicago area. My parents spend part of the year in Florida. My dad worked at Northern Trust for 38 years. It’s a destination for our family to keep coming back, and part of it is these other families. It’s like ‘Dirty Dancing.’ These families grew up together. It’s a great way for us to see our nieces and nephews,” from the pitcher in from Las Vegas to his brother at second who coaches basketball in Barcelona, Spain.

Northern Trust Corp. is an international financial services company headquartered in Chicago.

Bob and Janet Wirtanen came from North Olmstead, Ohio, as he has for 47 of his 49 years. He didn’t make it the year he was born or the year his grandmother’s health declined.

“It used to take us six hours before the Turnpike,” he said in between pitching stints. “1950 was their first year. College girls who were the waitresses lived above food service in the lodge. My earliest memory is playing here as a kid 3 or 4 years old. I was born in ’64, but I’ve seen the Sister Lakes monster on the internet. I’m an insurance agent for Nationwide going on 27 years. My daughter’s 11, my son’s 10. Gathering with these people is priceless. It’s so special, a movie could be done about it someday. I always say if we had an all-expenses-paid trip to Hawaii, I’d pass on it” if it meant missing what is “definitely one of the highlights of my life as far as friendship and a place to go every year.”

Though not quite a movie, an extensive video was created pre-YouTube.

It’s a multi-family reunion whose guest list Aug. 3-10 included Steve and Mary Meents of Hawthorn Woods, Ill.; Diane Voss of Griffith, Ind.; Gene and Olga Porto of LaGrange, Ill.; Bill Maves of Arlington Heights, Ill. (since 1979); Terry and Mo Dunne of Western Springs, Ill.; Jay and Terry Porto of Arlington Heights, Ill.; Tom Voss of Lowell, Ind. (since 1968); Keith and Beth Skibicki of Hinsdale, Ill.; Greg and Kim King of Aurora, Ill.; David and Mary Jo Reilly of Kalamazoo; and Kirke and Missy Machon of Park Ridge, Ill.

Beth said, “When I was little, I grew up with these people. Now we’re bringing our families. That’s the beauty of it. We didn’t know these families and never would have met in any other facet of life. I was 2 our first summer.”


Shady Shores ghost


“We were renting over on Little Crooked,” Bill recalled. “One day I had the five kids in the station wagon riding around. Someone on the beach yelled, ‘Hey! Bill Fanning! It was the wife of Jim Dunne. She was a Lally, who lived across the street from us in Oak Park. Our kids had a ball. I tried to get two weeks in July, but they were full up except for August, so we came in ’64 and every year since. We didn’t know the Meentses or the Vosses, but we became fast friends. One night every year after shuffleboard, the Shady Shores ghost comes out. It’s one of these kids with a sheet on. When it appears, all the younger kids charge after it. We have to have a fast ghost, then it disappears.”

More than 30 Fannings assembled in the lodge in their shirts to play games such as musical chairs, which they played as kids.

“After shuffleboard this year,” Bill said, “we had a hootenanny down at the fire ring. One of my grandsons, who’s playing second base, is a marvelous violinist. We had a banjo and we all sing.”

Every morning starts with softball games on (Larry) Murray Field, which they named for the Shady Shores manager who pitched for both sides.

“They used to have a buzzer system. Three buzzes meant Larry was wanted in the office,” Bill said. “It never buzzed during the game, but this day it did. He was grousing” at the interruption, a ploy to lure him down the hill.

While Murray was away, they hung the sign on the backstop.

“When he came back and saw it,” Fanning said, “he was really emotional. He ran everything and did a great job. Frank and Alice took over when the elder Mr. Nevins died. They’ve sold off a lot of the property and the whole place is for sale now. It’s the people who make it, and the people are great.”

Frank Nevins Jr., a charter member of Sister Lakes Fire Department, was 89 when he died in 2006.

“When I was growing up,” Beth said, “Mrs. Nevins always did a little nature walk to teach us about plants. Then we’d come and color in the lodge and play at the park.”

“Something goes on every day,” Bill said. “Shuffleboard for kids, shuffleboard for adults, square dancing, reading to the kids at 2 o’clock in the afternoon, a scavenger hunt, costume parties.”

“They don’t care what the weather is, they’re always busy having fun,” said their host, Marcia Nevins. “Everybody misses Wick’s (Apple House). After everybody goes, it’s awful. It’s quiet and sad. They’re really sweet people.”








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