Sharing a House Full of Memories

Tina Zimmerman was a young mom with three children in tow when she first met Howard Parr in 1993. “My husband and I were moving from California to Michigan for his job and looking for houses in Manchester, Michigan,” explains Tina. They looked at the Parrs’ house and fell in love with it. “It was gorgeous!”

Today, Tina is Chaplain Tina, part of the Chelsea Retirement Community (CRC) Spiritual Life team. Her fourth and youngest daughter, Hannah, who was born in this house, now works at CRC in Life Enrichment. Howard is a CRC resident at Glazier Commons. As fate would have it, Tina’s office is right across from his apartment.

At the age of 99, Howard has written his eighth book, entitled, “The Sharon Hollow House” – as he says, “to tell her about the house she’s raised her children in.”

The Sharon Hollow House was built in 1885 by Francis Smith. In the 1920s, Henry Ford bought the house and surrounding property and built a factory nearby that made cigar lighters and stop light switches.  The factory manager lived in the house.  After Ford’s death in 1947, the house and factory were sold.  This grand house was turned into apartments and eventually fell into disrepair.

Enter Howard Parr and his wife, Lenora.  Originally from Manchester, Howard wanted to return to his roots upon retiring from Huron Valley Schools in Milford.  In 1973, in preparation for Howard’s retirement, they purchased the Sharon Hollow House as their “retirement project,” knowing the size and location of the house, surrounded by trees and farmland, would be an ideal spot for their children and grandchildren to enjoy.  Howard writes in his book: “We said it was a retirement project, and so it became, but we never regretted it as it came to give us so many pleasant years we probably couldn’t have had anywhere else.”

Over the next twenty years, the growing Parr family celebrated many happy reunions, holidays, cook-outs, and even a wedding at the Sharon Hollow House.  It was a “second home” for their grandchildren who called it “Bupie and Grandma’s House.”

In 1986, the Parrs hosted a “100 Christmases” event at their home, to celebrate the 100 years of Christmases since the house was built.  The event included the builder’s two grandsons and their wives and was co-sponsored by the Manchester Historical Society.

The Sharon Hollow House continues to be a warm and welcoming place for Tina’s family, hosting graduation parties, recitals, and family get-togethers.  Tina’s grandchildren, ages 3 and 5, also love to visit Granny and Grampy’s house, finding lots of places to hide and run around. “There is a lot of life and family in that house,” says Tina.  “That’s what makes it special,” agrees Howard.