What Are Neighbors For?


I returned home from a recent trip to the hardware store to find a magazine article on my porch. A yellow stickie was affixed to it, which read:


This has got to be your family. Name / Location… and a first son John (your father?) – quite a good story – and a fine effort to help people.


The note was from a neighbor whose name I recognize but couldn’t associate with a face. Playing guitar on my porch has given me ample opportunity to meet people I should remember as well as they remember me but don’t. This was Hal. His name would show up when I began typing his last name in my email address space. Probably from some group email that got passed around.


I wrote him immediately after reading the article, mostly to thank him for bringing it to my attention. He’d spent about 25 in Michigan and kept up by subscribing to the magazine, “Michigan History” published by the Historical Society of Michigan. This article came from the March/April edition, and other than guessing my Uncle John to be my father, Hal had made the proper connection. I was indeed named after my Uncle John Graham Shinnick, and like him, I was also called by my middle name “Graham”, at least for the first several years of my life. Go to the Writer section of this website and check the story “Graham Cracker” for more on that.


The article was about a well-known landmark in what is now Rochester Hills, the Haven Sanitarium. The Haven was originally a 33,000-square-foot mansion built for my grandfather Fred and his wife Lillian. Though several reasons were given for its conversion to a sanitarium, general philanthropy, and the suicide of my aunt’s father among them, the conversion came about in the early 1930s when the depression hit and taxes skyrocketed. Many mansion owners made such repurposings in those days, and my understanding was that this had been the primary reason for doing so.


I remember Grandmother being into gardening, but not that she was so into it that she designed the landscaping of the mansion. I didn’t know about the suicide in the family. Although I had heard that the Haven would have many household names as clients (the actual names were never divulged for the sake of confidentiality) I didn’t know that it was because the doctors there were world renown types and the facility itself was quite famous.


The Haven came to prominence as acceptance of psychotherapy became more accepted, but then the growth of prescription medication led to a decline, and the Haven closed in 1968 and sold. I had been unaware of the sale, but I did know that the place had burned to the ground in 1973. Nice to know it wasn’t on my uncle’s watch.


The article contained several photos, many provided by my cousin Bo’s family. Near the end of his life, I grew closer to my uncle Graham since he had by then remarried and spent winters at his wife’s home in Oklahoma. It was on my way to my brother’s home in Southern California, a trip I liked to make at Christmastime before I moved out west myself. But after I moved, I managed to lose contact with he and his family.

The John Shinnick Web Site

Some Family History

Last Update: August 7, 2022

John Shinnick 3.0: It's All About Me

I tried to get in touch through the author, historian Tiffany Dziurman, since she was likely the one who contacted Bo (or her family) for the photos and likely much of the information in the article. It’s perhaps coincidence that my good friend from college, Alan Naldrett, a historian who wrote several books on Michigan-related topics, had approached me not long before his untimely death about a possible book about the Haven. It may be that he and Dziurman knew each other, at least professionally.


I recognized some of the photos in the article – one of granddad of which I have a copy, one of he, my Uncle Graham and my father in their bowling attire which is now with my brother, and a  pic of the 1912 Detroit Athletic Club’s basketball team starting five, one of whom was indeed my grandfather. One picture I don’t remember is of Uncle Graham and his wife Josephine. Me and my sister affectionately called her “Jo-mommy.” The photo depicts a much younger Jo than I remember, but it’s distinctly her.


So there you have a sketch of a piece of my family history. It turns out that Dziurman had made quite a project of the Haven and actually hosted a Zoom presentation by the Rochester-Avon Historical Society in May of last year. I wish I had known.

~ Quote of the Month ~

Some people see the glass half full. Others see it half empty. I see a glass that's twice as big as it needs to be. - George Carlin 


George saw things a bit differently than most people, and in doing so, became one of the great comedians of all time. I got this from the recently published "A Modern Man." I didn't realize he wrote books, but he published several. I found I liked his work as a stand-up comedian better, though most of his routines made their way into his printed work. This quote kinda typifies Carlin at his quirky best.

Jo and Gray.png

As always, blue buttons indicate new content since the prior monthly update. 



08/07/22 - Monthly update completed, 2 stories added.

07/18/22 - Hooked up new format for stories (Shinn the Writer).

07/01/22 - Monthly update completed.

06/02/22 - Monthly update completed (no update last month.)

04/07/22 - Monthly update completed.

03/07/22 - Monthly update completed.

01/31/22 - Monthly update completed.

01/02/22 - Monthly update completed.

12/01/21 - Monthly update completed.

11/03/21 - Monthly update completed.

10/25/21 - Small update of scholar section.

10/06/21 - Monthly update completed.

09/06/21 - Monthly update completed.

07/30/21 - Two-month update completed.

07/25/21 - Korg link deleted. 

07/17/21 - The mysterious Korg link is added.

05/29/21 - Monthly updated started.

Uncle Graham and Jo-Mommy