Mary McKSchmidt said she believes in love at first sight. At 7 years old, she saw Lake Michigan for the first time, something she calls a turning point in her life. Today, at 66, the Laketown Township resident writes and speaks in defense of the Great Lakes, striving to diminish the pollution that threatens them. In 2018, she self-published a book called Uncharted Waters.
It is largely a memoir, including myriad life adventures while advocating for the Great Lakes and emphasizing the necessity of clean water.
“It was my dad who first introduced me to Lake Michigan,” she said. “He took me to the state park near Manistee. (I) scrambled out of the car … and saw my first view of Lake Michigan. It was magical.”
After growing up in East Lansing, adult life became hectic: her executive position was demanding and required her to live in Chicago on the sailboat she and her husband owned, while her husband lived in Nashville where they owned a business.
“Really, my home was American Airlines. I lived on the road,” McKSchmidt said. And after 30 years in the corporate world, it was time to move on.
“In my mid-50s I said, ‘… I’m meant to do something else with my life … I went into the black abyss of ‘now what?’” she explained. That decision led back to that childhood love affair: She and her husband moved to Michigan to live near Lake Michigan, where a day of sailing would reveal her life’s new direction.
“We were out sailing after heavy spring rains, and I saw this brown, filthy swirl from the Grand River. I later would hear it was laden with sewage flowing into my beloved lake. I thought, ‘How can we allow this to happen?’” McKSchmidt said.
Since that day, she has become an advocate for the Great Lakes, including public speaking and writing. Uncharted Waters is the fruit of her four-year effort. True to her mission, McKSchmidt carries a trash bag on her walks along the beach, cleaning up debris.