Ed and Irene Fleis were born
in Leelanau County, Michigan, in 1915 and 1916 respectively. They were married in 1937, a 56
year union separated only by Irene's death. Most of their married life was in Leelanau
County, Centerville Township and then Solon Township for 36 years.
Ed and Irene were both raised in traditional Catholic families, with farming as their
families' occupation. This background of faith and strong work ethic was a defining influence in their lives.
EDWARD VINCENT FLEIS
Ed was born in Centerville Township, just outside of Cedar, the second oldest of 12 children, to Thomas and
Agnes (Pleva) Fleis. Back then, a team of horses was used to plant the many acres of potatoes that the farm produced for a
cash crop. Potatoes were hauled in 150# bags and loaded on the train in Bodus. The farm
also raised oats, wheat, corn, hay, cattle, pigs, chickens, a vegetable garden, and fruit trees to sustain the family.
Ed attended Holy Rosary School where he was taught English by Felician Nuns,
as Polish was the family language. Every morning Ed awoke at 5:00 a.m, hurriedly did all his chores and
walked a mile to school. Along the way, he stopped to check on his elderly,
Aunt Anna Fleis, who lived alone and stoked the wood stove. He repeated this after school.
After several years, it was sad the morning he arrived at her door to find she had passed away. It
lived in his memory forever. At age 10, Ed was taught violin by one of the nuns.
The spark of his talent ignited, as he played the treasured violin of his paternal grandfather,
Tomacz Fleis, who brought the violin with him when he immigrated from Prussia/Poland. Ed was honored to
play violin at Mass and special occasions, and it was instrumental in meeting Irene years later.
Before classes started Ed attended Mass at 8:00 a.m. There were about 100 students who occupied three classrooms.
All subjects were taught besides art and music. It was quite an honor for him to be awarded five years perfect
attendence. In 7th grade, Ed won the annual Leelanau County Spelling Bee.
In 1929, at age 14, he received his 8th grade diploma. That same year, his father
had a sunstroke which made Ed and his older brother, Leo, age 16, responsible for the operation
of the farm. The demands of the farm did not afford continued formal education for Ed.
Over the years, Ed's father, Thomas, became his teacher, guiding him in the skills of carpentry, plumbing,
machine repair, electrical installations and farming. Ed helped install the first
galvanized roof on the barn. He was harnessed in a rope so he wouldn't fall
down. He also helped build their underground root cellar, where bushels
of potatoes, cabbage, carrots, and apples were stored for the family's use.
DOROTHY FLEIS (LAMIE)
Irene's parents were Eugene and Jennie(Plamondon) Lamie, who also farmed
in Centerville Township, closer to the village of Lake Leelanau. Irene was the sixth born of 8 children.
The Lamie's smaller farm raised crops of potatoes, grain, corn, and hay, a large vegetable garden, fruit trees,
and a patch of raspberries. During harvest season, the freshly ripened produce was sold
at the market in Lake Leelanau.
Irene was of french descent, and attended
Martin School, a small one-room school with about 50 students. By that time Irene's family was speaking
the English language. Irene walked over a mile to school and sometimes bob-sledded over the hills
during the winter months. One teacher, Angeline Hominga, taught all grades, primary
through 8th grade. When you were promoted to the next grade, you knew exactly what to expect after observing
other grades being taught.
There was no electricity. The
room was lit by kerosene lamps and a large pot belly stove warmed the room and ...no inside plumbing! When
you were thirsty, you went outside and drank water from a pipe which flowed water constantly over a creek nearby.
School was special to Irene because it was exciting to learn! Irene studied Geography,
Physics, Agriculture, English, Spelling, Reading, Arithmetic, History, Ancient History, and Penmanship. She studied religion
at St. Mary's Church in Lake Leelanau and made her First Holy Communion when she was 9 years old.
Irene received her 8th grade diploma in 1929, at age 13. She felt proud
of her accomplishment and eagerly looked forward to attending high
school in the fall.
She went on to attend 9th grade at St. Mary's School, Lake
Leelanau, but only for three months, because transportation wasn't available during the winter months and the school
was five miles from home. Room and board near the school was an option but it was an added expense
her parents couldn't afford. These were tough times of the Great Depression and Irene's parents were allready paying
room and board for their older sons. Her parents decided that it was more important
for their sons to get an education because someday they would be supporting a family. Of course, Irene
As Irene helped her mother, Jennie, she learned essential
homemaking skills, became an excellent seamstress, and gained more confidence in the kitchen;
cooking, making jam, and canning fruits and vegetables.
Irene met Ed at 19 years of age. Ed was 20 years old and
allready established playing music with a band called Isadore Sodbusters (Ed, Uncle Steve Pleva and Stanley Mikowski).
The band played for special occasions at Centerville Township Hall where Ed and Irene became acquainted.
Ed walked four miles to court Irene. Two years later, Ed asked Irene's father, Lugie, for her
hand in marriage. Lugie gave them his blessing. On the morning of their wedding,
Ed hitch-hiked a ride to church from Frank Mazurek. Ed and Irene were married
at St. Mary's Church, Lake Leelanau, by the Rev. Father Albert A. Kehren, on September 4th, 1937
They were parents of twelve children, Ruth Ann, Juliette, Edward, Mary Jane, Theodore, James, Bernadette,
Lawrence, Shirley, Joan, Noreen, and Rita. All the children respect the legacy of their
After moving several times in
the early years of marriage, Ed and Irene settled into farm life in 1945, on French Rd., Centerville Township,
with were four children. There was electricity but no other modern conveniences. Water was hand-pumped
and heated on the wood stove. Baths were taken in a galvanized tub on the kitchen floor. Dishes were washed in a white enameled
dishpan. Ed helped with farming between working small construction jobs. As a young mother Irene cared
for her small children and ran an efficient household. While living on this farm three more children were
born. In 1949, Ed and Irene purchased the Fleis homestead, from Ed's father, located
on Schomberg Rd, Centerville Township. The rest of the children were born on this farm.
This home had modern conveniences which included a white, porcelain, kitchen sink and full bathroom upstairs.
Ed remodeled and provided his family with a second full bathroom on the main floor. Wallpapered walls were covered
with knotty pine and other walls were freshly painted. Irene picked a bright chartreuse color above
wanescoating in the dining room.
Moving to this farm meant more work for
Irene and her growing family. The older children had to rise early to keep up with all
their chores. Irene had plenty of domestic work to do in a very busy household as she
supervised most of the farm activity. Ed's outside jobs were increasing which brought
much needed income. From time to time, Ed's father would stop by and help out. He
would follow the potato digger, making certain the kids were picking potatoes. Neighbors helped out, too!
especially during late summer season; husking corn and trashin' wheat.
Irene was thrifty and sewed most of her childrens clothing when they were young. On one
occasion, she was given a used ladies coat. She removed all the stitching, fashioned her own pattern,
and produced two warm coats and muffs for her daughters to wear. Scraps of material never went to waste, they were
used to make quilt tops, and hot pads.
Sundays were a day of much needed rest
and Irene was always prepared for company. Folks stopped by to visit anytime during the week and relatives
often gathered on Sundays. Irene would always serve a special Sunday feast.
She was a superb cook and everyone looked forward to her wonderful meals, especially her tasty fried chicken!
It was the best!! ( Many of her recipes are in "Our Family Cook Book). Ed would always toast:
"Nas Drowie!" (Here's to your health!) when offering a beverage. The blessing of a prayer
before dinner was always said by everyone.
laughter, food and drink, you could always count on playing cards..... especially Euchre and Cribbage!
It was a rare occasion when you didn't hear music, too! There was always time for
fun in the Fleis household.
Ed entertained his family,
playing violin, and the children would dance with each other in the living room. Quite often, whenever
Ed and Irene attended a family or social event, he had his violin tucked away in the car, just
in case he might be invited to play. Ed was honored to play his music at many occasions,
and enjoyed playing violin throughtout his lifetime.
Irene would tell her daughters
to "sing" as they were doing the dishes, and she'd start singing herself. Pretty soon the
girls were singing their mother's favorite songs. Then the music spread to the rest of the family. To
this day, you will hear Ed and Irene's adult children sing the songs they learned in childhood:
"The Bible Tells Me So", " Let The Sunshine In", and "Que
Serra, Serra". On the occasion of Ed and Irene's Golden Wedding Anniversary in 1987,
the children surprised their parents by singing a revised version of "The Twelve Days Of Christmas".
Ed and Irene were lifetime members of Holy Rosary
Church. Ed was a choir member and belonged to the Holy Name Society. He
was a 4th degree Knights Of Columbus member and served the color guard. Irene was a lifetime member of
Holy Rosary Ladies Rosary Society and belonged to the 3rd Order Of Dominicans. Ed and Irene were both actively involved with
church activities. Irene lend a hand preparing food for summer and fall festivals. Ed pitched tent,
worked Bingo, and did miscellaneous jobs.
Faith was not limited to the confines
of the church. The children witnessed a wonderful prayer life of each of their parents. They
said the rosary daily, and if one of the children got up very early in the morning, they would see their
father kneeling in the living room saying his prayers. Their mother did the same, but knelt in the bedroom.
( This was repeated in the evening).
EDUCATION OF FAMILY
Irene loved to teach her children.
She concentrated on making learning fun for them. Spelling out words was second nature
to her and it would make the children think and help them learn to read. Irene was determined that
all her children excel in their education and graduate from high school, something she had always wanted
A good education was reinforced when all twelve children
attended 1st through 8th grade at Holy Rosary School where the three oldest children graduated from high
school. Ed and Irene were members of the Holy Rosary PTA (Parents and Teachers Association) while their
children were in school. In 1961 the high school at Holy Rosary closed. Glen Lake Community School opened
and many students chose to transfer. Ed served as Trustee on Glen Lake School Board when Cedar, Maple City,
Glen Arbor, and Empire Schools consolidated. The rest of the family continued their education at various high schools, including
St. Francis School, Traverse City, St. Mary's School, Lake Leelanau, and Glen Lake Community School.
All twelve children earned a 12th grade diploma which made Ed and Irene extremely proud of their family's achievment.
In 1949, at the age of
34, Ed formed his own construction company. His accomplishments bear witness to his
success. He built the Cedar Post Office, Holy Rosary Convent, and remodeled Holy Rosary School. He engineered
and constructed the Kalkaska Fish Hatchery which currently is state land. Ed also contracted
to build many residential homes along with barns and silos throughout Leelanau County.
Ed supervised the engineering and construction of the Cedar River Project which also involved installation
of the red and white galvanized walking bridge, donated by his daughter and son-in-law, Julie and Ray Watkoski.
A commemorative plaque honoring this achievment is placed in Solon Township Park.
In 1960 Ed and Irene purchased a business and property from Lewis D. Commins in the village
of Cedar. The property came with two buildings; a newer vacant concrete building, and an older wooden structure which had
"hitchin' posts'" in front. Customers used to strap their horse to the post while
they shopped for general farming merchandise. The only inventory remaining in the old
store were" a few rusty nails and some seed corn" The old store was burned down, and Ed and Irene
"started from scratch" building inventory in their new business which they named Cedar Hardware
and Farm Store. With help of family members and Ed's wealth of
knowledge and experience in construction and farm supplies, plus Irene's interest in supplying customers
with small household items, toys, and school supplies, the family store became a thriving business. They
maintained the business for 12 years.
Ed and Irene moved to the village of Cedar
in 1964. They had lived on the Fleis homestead for 15 years.
Ed and Irene were well known and respected
in the community. Besides supporting church, school, and other organizations, they were business owners
in downtown Cedar which provided stronger family ties and helpfulness to a wider community. Ed was charter
member of the Cedar Chamber Of Commerce and was president when the Chamber sponsored its 1st Polka Festival, in 1976, which
continues today with great success. He was also a charter member of Cedar-Maple City Lions' Club.
Ed served his community as a long-time volunteer. One of his favorite pastimes was the caller of
Both parents were leaders:
Irene in the household, and Ed in the business world. They inspired their children to be strong
in their faith of God, and encouraged family togetherness. They both supported higher education for their
family, and the children excelled! Six children completed advanced education and received degrees.
Two sons served the military (Marines and Army). Most of the children became entrepreneurs.
The family has served the fields of engineering, construction, excavation, industrial computer controls, nursing, cosmetology,
office administration, banking, travel, and public service.
The love of music
Ed and Irene shared with their family continues today, as the family produced three family bands, and the children enjoy singing
(solo, small group, or all together).
Irene was a loving wife and business partner
of Ed and she nurtured and loved her children. Her spirit of determination led them to succeed, and
her unfailing discipline contributed to the childrens' character. As Irene advanced in years, she would say, "my
children are my best friends"! Irene lived a good and fulfilling life of 78 years.
Shortly after Irene's death, Ed remarked, how "thankful"
he was "to get along with all his children". Ed was a "card shark" and loved to challenge
his family; playing cribbage and card games. He was always ahead
of the game.....keeping score!! Ed loved his wife, Irene, the mother of all his children, and provided
wisely for all of them. He lived to see five generations in his family. Ed
enjoyed a long, full and rewarding life of 86 years, until his death in 2001.
Influenced by their parents modeling all the Ed and Irene Fleis offspring enjoy meaningful family and community
lives. Together, the twelve children are so thankful for the lessons, values, discipline,
myriad of skills and musical abilities they have been so fortunate to inherit.