2021 in Review: Top U.P. stories

A look back at some of the biggest headlines of 2021
This is a recording of the TV6 Early News.
Published: Dec. 30, 2021 at 4:42 PM EST
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UPPER MICHIGAN, Mich. (WLUC) - 2021 was a time for Upper Michigan residents to unite in overcoming another rocky year.

In early February, Marquette’s A Room at the Inn opened its doors as a full-time homeless shelter to help those hit the hardest.

“The best part about this shelter is now that we can focus on the important piece of that mission which is transitioning people out of homelessness and into permanent supportive housing,” said Nick Emmendorfer, A Room at the Inn executive director.

March and April sparked fires across multiple Upper Michigan counties.

Communities in Calumet, Mackinaw Island and Nahma rallied to support those whose homes were destroyed.

“McDonald’s provided breakfast for well over 100 firefighters,” said Copper Country Salvation Army Director Peter Mackin. “Econo Foods, Baby E’s BBQ, and a bunch of different agencies stepped up and stepped forward working with us at The Salvation Army to help all of the emergency crews.”

In late April – a parent’s worst nightmare unfolded.

Cam Besonen, a 17-year-old boy with non-verbal autism went missing in Paulding. More than 600 volunteers rushed to aid in the search.

After combing around 36 square miles of woods his body was found.

“I’ve been sheriff for nine years and undersheriff for 12 and that was the worst day of my career,” said Ontonagon County Sheriff Dale Rantala. “Telling the parents that we found him, but not alive.”

Shortly after, a proactive program was started to ensure other families did not experience the same heartbreak.

Project Lifesaver, a tracking band system, was brought to the Copper Country.

Nearly a dozen families have already signed up.

“On the search in Ontonagon it took I think three days,” said Houghton County Detective Lt. Charlie Klein. “Over $100,000 in resources were spent to search for Cam. Where Project Lifesaver – their average response time recovery time is 30 minutes.”

In July – another loss hit Houghton.

Brian McLean, former Houghton county sheriff of 25 years, died from an accident at his home.

Fall brought more changes to leadership in UP institutions.

The NMU Board of Trustees voted unanimously in September to terminate Former President Fritz Erickson’s contract.

“When I took this job, my one hope was that I would leave the university whenever that happened in a little bit better place than we were,” said Fritz Erickson, former NMU president. “I’m really proud that we did that.”

Former Finlandia President Philip Johnson announced his resignation a month later.

The city of Marquette changed leadership too.

Former City Manager Mike Angeli retired in May after nearly 45 years of service in the city.

And in Munising, changes to a prominent landmark occurred when a large piece of the Pictured Rocks Cliff Face broke off.

Reminding us that change is always on the horizon.

This year saw challenges, evolutions and disasters.

But, even in the most trying events, we’re reminded that the UP is truly someplace special.

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