Dr. Webb and Her Morgan Travel to the EU

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Summer time is more than a break from teaching classes for members of the Northwood faculty. For many, it is an opportunity to complete needed research for fall and spring classes, to attend academic conferences, or learn more about the latest industry trends and best practices. For Dr. Diana Webb, professor of finance on Northwood’s Michigan campus, summer is all that, but it is also a time to pursue one of her lifelong passions and areas of expertise: Classic automobiles and boats.

What follows is a brief background of her “love affair” with Morgans, and the bio of her Morgan, named Baby.

A Love Affair, Years in the Making

I began driving Morgans when I was nine years old. My father, Douglas Van Patten, designed racing boats and drove Morgans. He felt his children should understand automobiles, racing, and driving; so we started driving early.

My early driving days were in northern Michigan, along the western shore of Lake Michigan (what is currently called the tunnel of trees). My father would drive over to Lake Michigan from our cottage in Carp Lake, Michigan; then on the gravel road, he would turn the Morgan over to me.  I was allowed to drive from Mackinaw City down to Harbor Springs. There were lots of curves and lots of down-shifting, clutching, and finding the apex of the road. Life with my daddy was fun! And I would have begun driving earlier, but my feet couldn't touch the pedals.

Those were the days before the road was paved, no police, and I think a lot of families allowed their kids to practice driving up at the family cottage.

Our Morgan DHC, Baby, was born in 1963 at a factory called Morgan Motor Company Ltd.

When we first adopted Baby she looked pretty good but her engine was suffering a cracked head, loose pistons, and a leaky carbonator. We revived Baby and now at 50 years old, she is looking better than ever.  Although she began with a left hand drive set up in England, she is now a right hand drive, and has lived in the Detroit area for many years.

In addition to her usual routine of serving as a judge at auto and boat festivals throughout Michigan and the Midwest, Dr. Webb had a unique opportunity during the summer of 2012 to attend the 40th Anniversary of a Morgan victory in the Le Mans Race and to serve as a judge for the Morgan Concours show with Charles Morgan of the Morgan Automobile Factory in Great Britain—the only American and female to do so.

The following are highlights from the travel diary she and her husband, Jervis, kept to chronicle their trip.

The Trip of a Lifetime

In December of 2010, we traveled to Amsterdam and visited our friends, Machiel and Ingrid Kalf. They suggested that we should bring our Morgan over for the 2012 Morgan Owners Gathering (MOG) in Le Mans, France. We thought about it and began to save our money after making the decision to take Baby home for a European visit.

On March 15, 2012, the 1963 DHC went back to Europe for a vacation, so into a box she went from Michigan to Rotterdam, Netherlands. Arriving in April of 2012, our Morgan was picked up by a few of our friends and driven to their home in Oudendijk, where a few improvements were made.

On July 1, we arrived and enjoyed the sun and warm temperatures of Holland. Our group of friends headed out before dawn on July 6, from Holland and proceeded to Le Mans France, about 800 km away.

Everything was going fine until the 1963 DHC decided to quit. After analyzing the problem, we determined the fuel pump malfunctioned and could not be repaired, so we called the motoring service truck. Our Dutch friends protected us, offered sympathetic words, and waited about two hours on the motorway before a car retriever arrived. They were concerned we would not be able to communicate with the car retriever so they stayed, eating their lunch on the motorway, and subjected their precious Morgan automobiles to the elements of the highway. They offered candy, sandwiches, and sympathy. What good friends! The car retriever arrived, we said farewell to our Dutch friends, agreeing to meet up with them in Le Mans.

The gentleman at the auto repair had a delightful personality. Upon our arrival he smiled and said, “Ah! A Morgan, what fun!” After he replaced the fuel pump and the rotor, lubed the joints, and fixed the carbonators, we left the repair shop six hours later and headed for Le Mans, France in the rain. The repairman gave us clear directions on getting back to the motorway. Off we went, confident Baby was feeling better.

With map in hand, we missed the correct highway, and headed for Calais, France, in the rain. Despite being totally lost, we had a lovely drive. It was getting dark, and the rain ensued. We spent the night in Calais and continued on in the morning. French roads and motorways are not marked clearly on maps. We often found three different types of signs: European Union, French Province, and local. After an hour of going back and forth on countless roundabouts, we took the last roundabout, thinking this has to be the one! We finally saw the sign that said south to Le Mans. We were on our way.

We finally arrived in Le Mans. Although, we were cold, wet, and muddy, we were experiencing quite the adventure. As the Europeans say “we were on the circuit”. We saw about 500 Morgan automobiles located in one special holding area of the Le Mans Circuit. Of all the Morgans, our 1963 DHC was one of the oldest.

I must remind you that every day it was cold and rainy; however, Morgan owners enjoy any type of weather. There were no “trailer queens” at this event; the Morgan was being driven and enjoyed. It was great to meet so many nice people. A few people told us that our Morgan should have been in a special spot, due to her age.

After the Le Mans Circuit, the Holland Morgan Club ventured northwest along the Atlantic Ocean coast through the French countryside, admiring small quaint villages and the beautiful landscape of France.

We later arrived at the hotel La Sapinie’re at Wisques, near Saint Omer, France. Our accommodations were very nice, “country French”, as we say in the US. We met our group for a drink and a Dutch contingent gave a toast to me for my ability to drive. I was very surprised and at the same time felt accepted by the Dutch club.

The next morning we met for breakfast and visited the German La Coupole. This famous tourist attraction was 3 km away from the hotel. This was where the Germans fired the V-2 Rockets toward England.

After two nights at the La Sapinie’re hotel we departed for our next adventure, passing through French medieval towns and the famous 6 km tunnel under the sea. We continued to the Assen Hotel in Assen, Netherlands, which was hosting 300 Morgans for the Holland Club’s 40th anniversary.

We found our exit and the hotel with no problem. That evening we met Morgan friends for dinner and drinks. We were tired, so we left the group early, falling into bed exhausted. In the morning, as we glanced out of the hotel window, Morgan automobiles were everywhere, what a beautiful sight! Our Morgan was gleaming with droplets of rain. We thought to ourselves, does life get any better?

It was raining and Jervis, my husband, was smart to have covered the bonnet to protect the engine from the elements; Baby can be temperamental if she is wet. Now remember, it hasn’t stopped raining during the trip, maybe a little sun now and then which gave us hope, but not much. We followed our Dutch leaders, as they arranged the holding area for the Morgan. Again, out came our plastic cover for the bonnet.

That evening we met many Dutch and English Morgan owners during the dinner. The dinner started off with a new 3 wheeled Morgan being driven into the reception room. Speeches were given; Xan Morgan was on hand representing his family’s Morgan Automobile business.

Saturday evening in Assen was a 10 year theme (1962-1972) with beautiful large renditions of the Beatles, including marketing and sales brochures for Morgan. We enjoyed the evening, sitting with some lovely people who were English and Dutch. We were excited to meet people who live and breathe Morgan.

Sunday we went back to the Assen Circuit and finally got the directions clarified, without having to follow another club member. It was raining, so we tucked into Baby and had our lunch watching Morgans coming and leaving the Assen Circuit. After lunch we headed back to the paddock for more racing. Due to the rain, the racing was interesting on our corner, and every now and then there was a spin out. The three-wheelers and motorcycles with sidecars were something we rarely see in the US; I suspect because no one has the courage.

We bid our farewell to Morgan owners and later that evening joined our Dutch friends for a farewell drink. We invited our friends and all of our Dutch club members to join us in Michigan. We have plenty of room at the farm.

On July 16, we departed to return to our bed and breakfast in Grosthuizen. We traveled the long man-made dike, stopped and took pictures of this well-constructed engineering feat! The drive was simple and uneventful; the best kind of a drive to have. We arrived at the bed and breakfast early afternoon, with time to grocery shop in the village of Avenhorn. We also had time to visit our friend at his beautiful country home and make final travel arrangements back to the US.

That evening we relaxed at the bed and breakfast, and enjoyed the view of the backyard. We wondered if our Dutch friends were as exhausted as we were. My husband and I have organized this type of automobile event; we understand the amount of planning, preparation, time, and public relations that must be done several years before the actual culmination of the event. Although you can plan and prepare, there is always an unexpected glitch; a guest speaker who does not arrive, a dinner that did not satisfy the participants, weather conditions that are troublesome, and the constant concern for our participant’s safety. More often than not, however, our plans come together well.

Morgan owners are a “special breed” they love how that machine performs under conditions that are less than desirable. They have an adventuring spirit, with true appreciation for the design of a truly beautiful piece of equipment.

Many thanks for Machiel and Ingrid Kalf for helping us arrange this trip. They reserved lodging accommodations, arranged our Morgan to be picked up and delivered back to Rotterdam, and received us at their lovely country home for dinners, tea, and talk. We thank all of the Dutch club members for their kindness and informative discussions on our favorite topic, the Morgan.

 

Family Assets, Capitol Gains

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Michelle Perri is a mom with all the responsibilities that come along with being a parent: driving her girls Hannah, 11, and Abigail, 5, to and from school, attending cheerleading practice, being active in her church, and working full-time. She also has Multiple Sclerosis (MS), and so does her husband, Joe. However, she hasn’t let this define her or stop her from being an active role model and volunteer in the community of Lansing, Michigan.  Perri has been the assistant at the Lansing Adult Degree Program (ADP) site with Northwood for about five years. She enjoys working alongside Program Center Manager Julie Hanna, and Admissions Advisor Todd Lake, who have become a great support group to Perri. According to Hanna, “Michelle is an integral part of the Lansing team. She supports two people, handles all incoming applications and is a data entry whiz. It was a real blow when she, too, was diagnosed with MS, but Michelle put up a fight and came back to work as quickly as possible. She gives us everything she’s got every day.”

Perri also loves the student interaction that comes with her job, adding she likes seeing Northwood students when she is out in the community. Perri is a student in the undergraduate program as well. Joia Collins, BBA graduate and current MBA student, said Perri helped make her transition from Lansing Community College to Northwood an easy one. Collins added Perri was able to quickly respond to her questions and they even had a class together, “Michelle provided exceptional service to me as a student at Northwood. I will be forever grateful.”

As a daughter of missionaries, Perri grew up in Japan and lived in Georgia as a young adult. When she was 18, her mother died of breast cancer and her father died in an accident about a year later. Before her father passed away, she reunited with cousins in Lansing, and ultimately made the decision to make the move to Michigan. At the age of 20, Perri (formerly McElroy) married Joe Perri, who had been diagnosed with a disease of the central nervous system while the couple was dating.

Michelle Perri was not diagnosed with the disease until 2010. Her main concern was their children. Knowing their girls may have an increased susceptibility to MS, she started them on a vitamin regimen to reduce their risk.

According to her doctor, Perri has a very unique situation: being both a patient and a caregiver. Joe Perri is in a wheelchair with limited use of his legs and takes medication daily, while Michelle Perri has “bad days now and then.”

“Do you think I’ll have a good, long life?” Perri asked her doctor, who assured her this would be possible with an early diagnosis and treatments to reduce the progress and severity of MS. She visits a local hospital monthly for an infusion treatment and has bi-annual check-ups at the University of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

“There’s always someone worse off than you,” said Perri, while sharing that one of her daughter’s cheerleading coaches is in a wheelchair. She is thankful she is still very strong. Perri has followed her daughter, Hannah’s, cheerleading team as a “Cheer Mom” for the past four years. It is important to her to be supportive of a sport her daughter loves and which helps her develop self-esteem. The team will be traveling to Virginia Beach for a national competition this year, so Hannah Perri will be busy raising funds for the trip through a bake sale, car wash, can drive, and other fund raising activities. “It’s important she works for her money,” said Perri, whose parents instilled a strong work ethic in her. She also learned it is important to give back to the community.

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For the past two years, Perri and her older daughter have spent their Saturdays serving breakfast at Recovery Place Ministries in Lansing. This ministry and homeless shelter offers free meals to the homeless, lost, and hungry.

“We always need smiling faces to help. It’s been a blessing to have them,” shared Joe Staten, one of Recovery Place’s founding members, adding the Perris will stay after the meal to “hang out” and talk with their guests.

On Sundays, the Perri family plays an important role at Oasis East Lansing Church. According to Pastor Scott Hayes, “Joe and Michelle have been an amazing addition to our work at Oasis. They consistently push through their own personal challenges in hopes of helping others.”

Michelle Perri coordinates the childrens’ programs, while Joe Perri oversees curriculum development for some of the programs and has helped with the church’s marketing efforts by building relationships in the community. Hannah Perri helps with Hayes’ own children in the two to four-year-old room working with toddlers. “Abbie is hilarious!” Hayes commented on Abigail Perri. “She has one of those smiles that make you feel happy inside.”

Hayes described Michelle Perri as, “incredibly servant-hearted and loyal,” adding she has become someone he and his wife, Ericka, rely on both organizationally and personally. “Joe is the kind of guy who comes in and wheels around and talks to everyone. The entire Perri family has been a big part of the work at Oasis Church – it would be hard to envision it without them in it,” Hayes continued.

The Perri family has also participated in Lansing’s Walk MS for the past three years. This annual event raises awareness and funds for MS research, which makes the family feel less alone in their fight against the disease. Support from friends and family at the walk helps encourage them to never give up.

Others are taking a more direct approach to help support the Perri family. Family friend, Caryn Freed, started an online fundraiser via GoFundMe.com after Joe Perri spent three weeks in the hospital early in 2013. The fundraiser, Help Joe Walk, was developed to help the Perri family purchase Bioness®, electronic leg braces, which will enable Joe Perri to walk again. Freed also keeps the Help Joe Perri Walk Facebook page up to date by including other opportunities to help the family raise funds for the leg braces, provides updates on Joe, shares links on Lansing area MS events, and promotes the resources on National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s webpage.

“You can still do anything you want to do. You just have to learn how to overcome the situation,” said Perri. “It’s important to surround yourself with positive people who say, ’You can get through this.’” Perri feels blessed to have many people like this in her life, so no matter how down she may be one moment, she manages to still see the good side of things.

Perri added she and her husband have a great sense of humor, which helps them get through the challenges they face every day. She hopes to be a future spokesperson for MS, and said her girls give her strength. “Every day, we get up, and hope again,” Perri added.

I followed-up with Michelle Perri just before finishing her story. When I asked her about her weekend, at first her response was brief, “Lots of stress, falls and I thought about calling you and saying forget the story. I’m not that great of a person.”

As we continued the conversation, Michelle gave me a full update on how busy and stressful her weekend had been. Friday night, she cleaned her hair stylist’s house – in the middle of summer, with no air conditioning, in the exchange of getting her hair done the next day. While at the salon, she got a call Joe had fallen out of his wheelchair, so she rushed home to help out. Next, she picked Hannah up from a bake sale, and then helped get the family ready for a wedding and reception, which lasted until late evening. Joe woke up in the night not feeling well, so he stayed home from church the next morning.

“By the time I made it to church I was in tears, again, like every Sunday,” Perri said. Even with all the chaos in her life, she has an amazing ability to see the positive side of things, “I was able to close my weekend out on a good note by going out to dinner with some friends. They are the type of people who will let me have a pity party, but then tell me I can’t give up.”

- Nikki Gonzalez