By Tom Tolen /

The Brighton area has lost one of its staunch champions for the preservation of local history.

Marieanna Bair passed away Wednesday at the age of 95. She was born in 1926 in Detroit, but for most of her adult life lived in a historic house on East Grand River Ave. in Green Oak Township, where she raised five children with her husband Bert, who passed away six years ago.

Bair was an active member of the Brighton Area Historical Society from its founding in 1981, a board of directors member for 38 years and the society’s president for 15 of those years. She was also a long-time president of the Green Oak Twp. Historical Society. On the statewide level, Bair was one of 150 women presented with the “Michigan First Lady Award” in 1987 during the state’s sesquicentennial. The award was given to 150 largely unheralded women who quietly do great things for their local communities.

Bair graduated from Brighton High School in 1944 and was instrumental in the establishment of the Brighton High School Alumni Association. Past city of Brighton Mayor Kate Lawrence, commenting on Facebook, called Bair an “incredible woman…and the force behind the Brighton Area Historical Society,” while Shirley Ross loved “her sharing of the area history and her quick wit.” As a staunch advocate for women’s rights in addition to historical preservation, Bair was named eight years ago to the Brighton Area Women’s History Roll of Honor.

Bair was instrumental in the preservation of Old Town Hall at Main and St. Paul in downtown Brighton, which was built in 1879. The restored building is now the headquarters of the CoBACH Center. She also championed the preservation of the 1873 Pink Hotel (originally the Western House) at Main and First, which was restored with a matching addition and is now home to Brewery Becker. Likewise, Bair championed the restoration of the 1885 one-room Lyon School House, which was restored and made into the Brighton Twp. Hall before being donated to the historical society in the 1980s as its headquarters.

Mary Ann Cate, also commenting on Facebook, remembers Bair as “a sweet, kind and gracious lady,” while Kerry Schotter Bennett says Bair “was a dedicated historian who would do everything in her capacity to help others with their research endeavors.” Retired, former Brighton Area Fire Dept. Captain Larry DeWachter summed it up succinctly when he said that Bair was simply “a wonderful person.”

Marianna Bair had 13 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren. She is at the Keehn-Griffin Funeral Home at 706 West Main St. in Brighton, where funeral arrangements are incomplete at this time.

The Brighton Area Historical Society and its president, Jim Vichich, provided statistical information for this story.