Pabich honored during Shanty Days
By Kevin Naze
ALGOMA – More than 60 people — city leaders, business owners, fellow volunteers, friends and family — packed the event space at the Robert Ray Gallery for the 2023 Shanty Days Honoree luncheon Aug. 11.
Guest of honor was Cathy (Vlies) Pabich, a 1972 Algoma High School graduate that former Algoma Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Sara Krouse said has a special knack of identifying a person’s strengths and bringing them along for the ride.
“She is one person who moves mountains and parts seas to make Algoma a betterplace to live, a better place to visit,” Krouse said. “Her reach extends to the health and quality of our most precious resource, water, to the beautiful beach that will be enjoyed for generations to come.”
Pabich said she was humbled and surprised by the recognition.
“Algoma has a long and continuing history of volunteerism, and I am very aware that I am something of a newbie,” Pabich said. “My volunteer record here only goes back to 2013, while many have served for decades.”
Any spotlight that shines on her, Pabich said, is really earned by and shared with the many others who she’s worked with on community projects like Friends of Crescent Beach, Soar on the Shore Kite Festival and Bird City Algoma.
“In the process of working on natural resource issues, I have learned so much about the amazing human resources that exist in our community, and are available to it,” Pabich said. “I am constantly moved, inspired and filled with gratitude that so many, mostly very busy people, say yes to contributing their time, talent and treasure to making Algoma a good place to live.”
Her husband, John, said she’s a loving, considerate and tough partner.
“Cathy believes that one person can make a difference, and it starts in your own backyard,” he said.
He cited relationships forged with the City of Algoma and Lakeshore Natural Resource Partnership, her strengths as advocate for clean air, water and beaches, and her skill in bringing people together for a common cause.
“Cathy is a shy person, and prefers accomplishments recognize the group efforts of all contributors,” he said. “She’ll tell you, ‘I don’t do it alone,’ and proceeds to bring people together with a focus. She makes people feel their own value and recognizes their contributions, and genuinely enjoys the different perspectives they bring.”
John said Cathy’s toughness was evident in the 23 years she spent making homes in different areas of the country as his Coast Guard wife.
“She grew everywhere she was planted,” he said. “Family was often over a thousand miles away. She earned both a bachelor’s and master’s degree during that time. Worked as both a librarian and paralegal.”
He ended his time by congratulating his wife “for raising the rest of us up to share in this honor. We’ve discovered your superpower.”
Meanwhile, Krouse, the Friends of Crescent Beach Event Coordinator, said she served on the committee that selects the Shanty Days Honoree, “and no person is more deserving of this distinction than Cathy Pabich.”
Krouse said her first experience with Cathy was in a meeting, and she was immediately taken with Pabich’s grace and intelligence.
“I left the meeting with purpose she instilled in me, feeling committed to my community, and also had a long list of tasks I was suddenly charged with,” Krouse said, drawing laughs from the crowd.
Friends of Crescent Beach was established in 2015 in response to citizen concerns about beach storm drain outfalls, algae, invasive plants and litter.
“One by one with Cathy’s leadership, these issuesare being addressed,” Krouse said. “With partners like the Lakeshore Natural Resources, the City of Algoma, and Kewaunee County, Friends of Crescent Beach is the hardest working advocate for water and environmental health in the area. Our efforts have expanded beyond Crescent Beach, we now care and advocate for the Ahnapee River and Olson Park.”
Krouse said Cathy was once described as an iron fist in a velvet glove, “and there is really no better description for her gentle way of ‘volun-telling’ you what to do.”
Pabich said it wasn’t in her comfort zone to be singled out.
“I am already well rewarded by the opportunity to meet so many interesting people that I now also call friends,” she said. “My life has been enriched beyond my wildest imagination. The knowledge, talent and life experience that exists in Algoma is absolutely mind-blowing.”
Moments later, Pabich received a well-earned standing ovation from the crowd.