G.G. Paschke: Keeper of the Flame of Ephraim

It doesn’t take more than a step into the living room of Glenore “G.G.” Paschke to sense what makes her heart beat. 

“I love Ephraim,” she says as I admire one of several paintings of the picturesque village that hangs on the walls of her home tucked into the woods of Maple Grove Road near the village’s southern edge. She has lived here for 66 years, during which she has watched the village evolve while holding onto the past she’s now a steward of. 

Paschke grew up in Manitowoc, but as a child her parents came up to stay in Fish Creek and Sister Bay. In high school she worked at Cornils Riding Academy for three years, right next to the Skyway Drive-in Theater, not far from where she lives now. Back then, she remembers, the Skyway was the exciting new entertainment in town.

“The summers I spent here when I was little formed my feelings for Door County,” she says. “I really couldn’t pick any other place to live.” 

Hers was the classic summer vacation of yesteryear, when mom and the kids would come up for the summer and dad would drive up on weekends. After Labor Day, the village was a ghost town. 

“In 1951, I rode my horse down to Wilson’s on Labor Day Monday to get their basket special – hamburger, fries and coleslaw,” she remembers. “And I could ride my horse right down the middle of the highway.”

GG Paschke holds the medal given to her when she was named Ephraim’s 57th Fyr Bal Chieftain in June. Photo by Myles Dannhausen Jr.

She attended the National College of Education (now Lewis University) in Illinois, then in 1956 marriage brought her to Ephraim for good. Though the marriage ended when she was 43, her love of Ephraim did not. She stayed in the house she still resides in, never remarrying, but forging deep bonds with friends and community – in her church, as one of the longest-tenured members of the Ephraim Historical Foundation, and on the golf course, where she still plays 18 holes regularly.

Her parents would eventually move to Door County as well. Her father managed Aqualand before it was an RV Campground, and Paschke worked as his treasurer.

“That was a very interesting life for my children,” she says. Aqualand was a wildlife zoo of sorts then, with bears, deer and all manner of local animals. “In the real winters we used to have, the snow would pile up so high that the deer could walk out on the snowbank and over the fence and we’d get calls to come get them. We had bears that drank Nehi pop from Kewaunee Bottling Company. People would feed the deer marshmallows. Kraft called to find out what we were doing with 50 boxes of mini marshmallows a week.”

But before that in her youth, she worked as a waitress at the Eagle Inn, where the Ephraim Yacht Harbor condominiums now stand. 

“I had these tips burning a hole in my pocket so I walked over to the Anderson Store,” she recalls. “I never imagined I would be a docent and volunteer there for 20 years.”

Those visits to the store all those years ago are now what she uses to teach people about Ephraim as a docent at the Anderson Store Museum, where she works every Thursday and Friday. There she passes on history passed not through dates and names, but through the authenticity of story and memories. 

“I was very lucky getting to know Miss Bunda and getting to know Adolf Anderson,” who ran the store when she was a girl. “Adolf was in his 90s when he ran the store, and he would take a power nap on one of the counters whether people were there or not.”

She is much appreciated by Cody Schreck, Executive Director of the Ephraim Historical Foundation, which oversees the store. 

“To have someone who can work there who actually knew Adolf Anderson when he was there, that’s incredibly unique,” Schreck says. “It brings a different energy to the store. And she is just incredibly valuable. 

She is one of those people who at the drop of the dime will be there and cover a stretch. She covered a shift there on her 88th birthday this year. She loves the store and cares a lot about Ephraim.” 

Dawn Volpe met Paschke when Volpe arrived to serve as the pastor at Ephraim Moravian Church in 2010 and quickly grasped her affection for the community.

“She’s the keeper of the flame and folklore of our ancestors and really takes pride in passing it on from generation to generation,” Volpe said. 

“I’m prejudiced toward Ephraim,” Paschke says. “I feel our village has tried to keep its pristine look. Many people say this is like the Cape Cod we remember.”

For Paschke, that pristine look never gets old, whether it’s in the Chick Peterson painting on her wall or her drive to work.

“I live up above Ephraim,” she says. “When I come down that golf course hill and I see the twin steeples of Bethany Lutheran Church and the Ephraim Moravian Church, I think it had to start somewhere and it did start right there. The beauty of Ephraim is below that.”

That beauty is owed in part to people like Paschke, and in June Schreck called her with unexpected news that she would join her mother-in-law, Hilda Paschke, and uncle-in-law, Morris Larson, in the exalted list of 57 people who have been honored as Fyr Bal Chieftain. 

“I was speechless. I never expected it,” she says. 

Listening to the pride in her voice as she talks about her town, it seems she should have. In fact, it’s a wonder it took so long.