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Ronald J. Calery Community Action Center officially named

Family, friends of the late CLMCAA founder gathered on the 25th anniversary of Avery Square to rename 524 Ashmun

524 Ashmun became a name of the past on Monday, Aug. 1 when Chippewa Luce Mackinac Community Action Agency (CLMCAA) invited the family of the late Ronald J. Calery inside to cut the red ribbon, renaming the building after its most instrumental founder — Ronald J. Calery Community Action Center.

The date chosen corresponded with the 25th anniversary of Sewell Avery Square, which the man behind CLMCAA co-established.

Pictures showcasing CLMCAA’s development over 57 years laid next to a framed silver plaque, reading as followed:

“This building is dedicated to Ronald J. Calery in honoring an outstanding community citizen and leader. His untiring efforts to improve the lives and conditions of all citizens of the Eastern Upper Peninsula and his continued dedication to economic development, housing, senior services, and early childhood development. May this building stand to represent his accomplishments and commitment to all he sought to serve.”

CLMCAA Executive Director Joe Nolan was especially proud to rename the building next to the Avery Square senior living community after his friend and teacher. It was Calery’s passion, skill set, and knowledge that influenced him as a young man.

“My first job was working, here, at community action when I was 14 and 15-years-old for two summers as a janitor,” said Nolan. “This was the first time I had ever met Ron Calery, Tony Bosbous, Reenie, Donn Riley, etc. “At that age, I was fascinated with every small conversation we had.”

Taken back by the love these men had for Eastern Upper Peninsula (EUP) communities, Nolan absorbed all he could.

Several years later, the eager teenager became CLM Community Action’s finance director. Today, Nolan holds the position his greatest mentor once had as agency director.

In the words of Calery’s understudy, he is still “impacting and changing lives from beyond the grave.”

Calery passed away at his family home surrounded by loved ones on Oct. 8, 2020.

He was born in Hamilton, Ontario on March 26, 1935. Following a Catholic-based education, he served in the United States Marine Corps. But Calery’s heart was in social work.

He went on to earn a Master of Social Work degree from Michigan State University. From there, he served as branch office director of Catholic Social Services in Sault Ste. Marie.

“My husband was very dedicated to serving people his whole life,” said Reenie Butler Calery. “During President Lyndon Johnson’s ‘war on poverty,’ community action agencies started up everywhere. He became involved in getting funding together to form community actions in the Upper Peninsula (UP).”

In 1965, Calery founded community action in Chippewa County. He then assisted in putting together six agencies across the UP, while serving on the community action board of directors. This is where Butler Calery worked for 43 years, alongside her husband and former Sault Ste. Marie Mayor Bosbous. 

Bosbous served Chippewa County Community Action for 42 years, functioning as head start director and deputy director under Calery. Perhaps Bosbous said it best when he said, “Our sole responsibility was helping people help themselves; It was a labor of love.”

Among the numerous ribbon cutting attendees stood Patrick Gagliardi, former Democratic member of the Michigan House of Representatives from 1983 through 1998.

“Pat was very instrumental in obtaining funding at the state level for projects we did,” said Butler Calery, crediting all involved in turning Calery’s rather large social service dreams into reality.

Calery advocated strongly for area seniors, children, Native Americans, veterans, homeless, and poverty stricken families. He sought affordable senior care and living, co-creating various CLMCAA programs.

As a public servant, Calery served on the Sault Ste. Marie City Commission, several state boards, and various national organizations. He also spent 32 years on the War Memorial Hospital Board of Trustees.

However successful Calery was, friends and family referred to him as a people person and “lifelong practical joker.” He was always able to make others laugh.

The seniors of Sewell Avery Square were laughing and socializing today at their annual senior picnic at Sherman Park. Calery will forever be remembered through those smiles.