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Hometown Hero: John Strayer

The Fenton resident has officiated a zombie wedding, was friends with Madonna and won the Applefest apple pie contest.

After climbing volcanoes and sailing across the Great Lakes, small events in Fenton might not seem to measure up.

But that's not how John Strayer sees it.

“I enjoy the feeling of community, of being surrounded by people who know and care about each other,” the 54-year-old Fenton resident said.

The owner helped organize and sponsor the , and in October, he put together Fenton's first .

“Like all businesses, Tanglewood Assisted Living & Home Care spends money on advertising, promotions and marketing,” Strayer said. “I've decided to spend those dollars providing free events for the community. With these type of free events, I get to have fun and promote my business at the same time.”

When he’s not working, being a film buff or baking an apple pie (he won the pie contest in 2002), you might find Strayer coaching , taking in a Shakespeare play or officiating a zombie wedding dressed as a skeleton, which he did for the in October.

“I wish he would run for mayor,” said friend Patrick Perfitt. “He’s great for the town. He’s really involved, and he’s a real bright, hard-working guy. I often ask him, ‘How do you do everything you do and still watch a ton of movies all the time?’ ”

Though Strayer has deep passion for Fenton, it’s not where he spent the early part of his life. He grew up in Rochester and attended , where he played football, ran track and played chess. He said he had a friend who became one of most popular pop stars ever — Madonna, who back then went by her full name, Madonna Ciccone.

"We sat next to each other in history class," Strayer said. "She was very nice, always friendly, pleasant and outgoing. She lived nearby, and we would share rides home from school."

Strayer went to law school, passing the bar in 1982, and went on to argue cases in the Michigan Supreme Court the United States Court of Appeals.

When he wasn’t in the courtroom, he was off on an adventure. He hiked the 220-mile John Muir Trail through the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California, climbed volcanoes in Mexico and Mount Rainier in Washington, and he sailed in the Port Huron to Mackinac race.

“Before I was married, I spent most of my free time outside,” Strayer said.

He married his wife, Gail, in 1990. The couple decided to build Tanglewood Assisted Living on a 20-acre parcel of land on Tipsico Lake Road. The 12-bedroom, 5,000-square-foot facility aids residents with Alzheimer's and dementia. A horse barn and equestrian center on the property allow residents to interact with the animals.

“The horses provide a wonderful experience for Tanglewood residents,” Strayer said. “We have been in business now for 16 years, and we have helped over 100 residents suffering with memory loss.”

Once Strayer settled in Fenton, he didn’t want to be anywhere else.

“This town will forever be tied to our family, in memories and photo albums. We've celebrated many accomplishments and milestones with ice cream at . On countless weekends, we've explored the wilderness in Dauner Woods. We've enjoyed many walks in town, especially when they end at ,” Strayer said. "Over time, these experiences have tied us to this place and, as we look back over the years, we're extremely grateful we settled here.”

About this series: We at Fenton Patch believe everyone has a story to tell, and we believe that many Fenton residents have some heroism inside them, not by saving the world, but by the way they handle the little things in life. That is why, each month, we take an inside look at a Fenton resident's life and find out what makes that person tick. If you would like to nominate someone to be a Hometown Hero, contact Fenton Patch Editor Jason Alexander at jason.alexander@patch.com.

You can read about other Hometown Heroes here.

C.C. November 30, 2011 at 02:58 PM
Without a doubt, John Strayer is one of the most giving and unselfish residents of Fenton. His sponsored events draw people to the heart of our City that he lives in and loves. I only wish he had the time-because he has the skill, to serve on Fenton City Council where he could use even more of his talents benefiting our residents. Hats off to John for his dedication to his business-Tanglewood Assisted Living, his community and his family. I'm proud to call him friend and neighbor.
Peggy Harrington November 30, 2011 at 04:24 PM
According to the American Heritage dictionary a hero is defined as -- a person noted for feats of courage or nobility of purpose, especially one who has risked or sacrificed his or her life. Neither Mr. Strayer nor any of the other so-called “heroes” in the Hometown Heroes column fit the bill, not even close. In addition, the column should thusly be renamed if indeed there are no true heroes being featured. Yes, they are all good citizens in their own right but NONE can even begin to compare themselves to soldiers fighting on the front lines to “protect our freedom,” firemen rushing into burning buildings to save lives, policemen fighting crime to protect lives and keep communities safer and too often in doing so, losing their own lives, or even my dad and sister who many years ago happened upon the scene of a near-drowning and by administering CPR, saved the young boy’s life. These are our true heroes! I am sick and tired of the overuse and abuse of the word “hero” by irresponsible media. STOP detracting from and diluting the true meaning of what heroism is! Heroism is NOT presiding over a “Zombie Wedding” which by the way, many would agree is sacrilegious at best!
Jason Alexander November 30, 2011 at 05:19 PM
Peggy, We value your opinion and agree with most of your points, but if you read our "About this series" at the bottom of the article, we state these are not "Heroes" in the true definition of the word. These are good people in our community and may not be "heroes" literally, but they are figuratively by our own definition, which is listed below. It states: About this series: We at Fenton Patch believe everyone has a story to tell, and we believe that many Fenton residents have some heroism inside them, not by saving the world, but by the way they handle the little things in life. That is why, each month, we take an inside look at a Fenton resident's life and find out what makes that person tick. I am sorry you do not agree with the name of our series, but hope you do appreciate the good deeds of these Fenton residents.

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