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Petoskey lost a shining star of its business community when Lynn Duse, 80, passed away on January 11, 2023, at her home, surrounded by her loving children, Mario and Marnie, and her beloved greyhound dog, Giorgio.
Lynn has long been an anchor on Mitchell Street operating the Circus Shop -- a destination children’s wear retailer. Lynn’s mother, Edna Brown McCartney Danser, opened the shop in 1946. With its iconic merry-go-round horse, the Circus Shop has clothed multiple generations. Every child growing up in Petoskey likely has ridden the Circus Shop horse.
Lynn began working at the Circus Shop as a school girl. Lynn quickly developed a winning combination of a warm smile and welcoming presence. She would later refine her retailing skills in the children’s department at top department stores in Chicago and then San Francisco. She eventually returned to Petoskey to operate the Circus Shop with her mother and then with her daughter, Marnie. Lynn had an impressive recall and could inquire about a long-time customer’s children by name whenever the customer would return to the shop.
Always ready to promote the Circus Shop and downtown, Lynn helped shepherd children and elephants on Mitchell Street. When a circus was in Petoskey, Lynn, her mother, and Marnie would arrange for the circus elephants to appear in downtown to give elephant rides to children. They would collect bananas from local grocery stores to feed to the elephants.
Fostering Petoskey’s charm was at Lynn’s core. She would gladly share ideas with shoppers about fun Up North activities and good restaurants. She took pride in giving out maps of hiking paths for family outings from the Little Traverse Conservancy.
Lynn first began welcoming visitors to Petoskey at an early age. Together with her mother, sister, and brother, Lynn escorted the Governor of Michigan, G. Mennen “Soapy” Williams, in the 1952 parade celebrating Petoskey’s Centennial. Wearing period costumes, they rode with the Governor in a 1916 Dodge supplied by her grandfather Ben Brown of Brown Motors. Later in life, Lynn would again appear in period costumes on numerous occasions to celebrate Petoskey’s rich history during Little Traverse Historical Society festivities.
Lynn generously gave her time to boost downtown Petoskey in many additional ways. She has sat on the Downtown Development Authority and Downtown Management Board. She joined the Grain Train Board, when it was seeking to acquire its own downtown building. Lynn was pleased to be a Little Traverse Historical Society Board Member, affording her new opportunities to give back to Petoskey.
Lynn had become a storehouse of downtown history, having been born in Petoskey and growing up and working throughout her life on Mitchell Street. Lynn also enjoyed being on the Greenwood Cemetery Board. She saw Greenwood as a sacred place for reflection and an invaluable resource for Petoskey historic research.
Lynn had an appetite for travel adventures. After working in Chicago and San Francisco, Lynn journeyed to Aspen, Colorado, where she worked as a receptionist at a ski lodge. She later traveled to Germany where she worked in housekeeping at a country lodge.
Then on a short vacation trip to Italy, Lynn met her future husband in Venice, Luciano, a professional photographer working on San Marco Square. Lynn eventually returned to Petoskey with Luciano to resume working at the Circus Shop. Both Lynn and Luciano continued to cherish Venice, remaining close to Luciano’s Venetian friends and returning on numerous occasions.
Lynn found joy in cultural diversity. She adored Venice’s unique character, often inviting friends to join her on trips to experience Europe, particularly Venice. She helped to establish a foreign film series in Petoskey. Lynn loved the theater’s ability to broaden our horizons. She volunteered at the Petoskey Playhouse, when it offered performances near the waterfront, and later joined the Little Traverse Civic Theater, including appearing in the 1980 production of Shadow Box.
Lynn welcomed a variety of viewpoints. At the Circus Shop, she often told the story of her “bi-partisan couch” -- a small children’s love seat. At her invitation, both a U.S. Democratic Senator and a U.S. Republican Senator sat on the couch -- but not at the same time. However, she had little sympathy for downtown building owners who showed only faint interest in growing a vibrant downtown beyond their own real estate holdings.
Throughout her life, Lynn’s passion was children. She not only helped to cloth them at the Circus Shop, but she found additional ways to nurture them. She became a soccer coach. She served on the Camp Daggett Board. She taught Sunday School. You could find Lynn in grade schools, sharing her business acumen with prospective young entrepreneurs.
Family came first for Lynn. Lynn loved and was devoted to her husband and children. She served on the PTA for her kids and was a Scout Den Mother. When the family lived on Mitchell Street, she moved them to Bay View for summers for her kids to join friends and enjoy the great outdoors. She would join Luciano at times for art shows where his photography was on display. She worked together with her son Mario to develop his own photography business and with her daughter Marnie to grow the Circus Shop into a mainstay on Mitchell Street. Lynn happily shared with them her energy, charm, and love of people.
Lynn cherished her close friendships. As a young woman, Lynn enjoyed nothing more than a girls’ weekend on Beaver Island with her many Charlevoix pals. She fondly looked forward to reunions with her fellow Petoskey High School classmates. She enjoyed connecting with friends through social media.
Lynn found comfort at Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Petoskey. She participated in youth programs while in school and she and Luciano were later married at Emmanuel. Lynn became a lay reader, acolyte, Sunday School teacher, and a student in the Episcopal Church’s Education for Ministry program.
The Petoskey Chamber of Commerce has recognized Lynn’s many contributions to Petoskey. It honored her with the first ever Athena Award, given to those who strive toward the highest levels of professional accomplishment and who have devoted time and energy in a meaningful way to Petoskey. Lynn felt so humbled to belong to the select Athena club of high-achieving Petoskey women who have since received the award.
Two Petoskey News Review columnists recently expressed public gratitude for Lynn. Prior to her death, Jerry Donnelly wrote that “She is a good soul. I am sure Lynn will continue to be involved in the Petoskey community with her volunteering spirit and commitment to Petoskey. She is a person of great character. She will have no problem being seen around town doing God’s work.” As Kendall Stanley later reflected, “Downtown Petoskey won’t be the same without Lynn Duse.”
Lynn was preceded in death by her husband Luciano, her mother Edna Brown McCartney Danser, and her father George Paul McCartney.
She is survived by her children, Mario (Krista) Duse and Marnie (Kristin) Duse; grandsons Hayden, Britton (Belfy), and Malcolm Fox Duse; her sister Celia McCartney Mundt and her brother Abbott McCartney (Sigi Block); her nephew Andrew (Allie) Mundt; great nephew and niece, Simon and Audrey.
Those wishing to remember Lynn are invited to consider, in lieu of flowers, the Little Traverse Historical Society (https://www.petoskeymuseum.org/) and Northmen Den Youth Pantries (https://northmendens.org/).
A celebration of Lynn’s life will be held on Monday June 5, 2023 at Emmanuel Episcopal Church 1020 E. Mitchell St Petoskey at 11:00 a.m. Following the service the family invites all friends to a reception at the Perry Hotel in downtown Petoskey.