A tribute to Mike Lozon: The Lakeshore’s storyteller

Mike Lozon’s optimism didn’t diminish, even after his brain tumor diagnosis. The emergency surgery came just days after he knew something was wrong when he couldn’t make his fingers work the keyboard.

In one of our last conversations, after his eyesight had been reduced to a tunnel of blurry images, he clung to a doctor’s suggestion that he might be able to wear glasses that would bring back some of his lost vision, so he could continue writing and taking photos. He was happiest behind a camera. 

Lozon, who died July 2 at age 73 after a five-month battle with glioblastoma, holds a special place in our hearts at The Lakeshore because of his early support as a contributor with his stories and photo essays. His photo of Big Red against the majestic backdrop of clouds and Lake Michigan has been our signature image. Earlier this year, he took a hiatus to finish two biographies. 

He completed 12 historical books over his career. His first book, "Vision on Main Street: Downtown Holland's Resurgence as the Heart of the Community," told the story of the revitalization of the once-struggling downtown Holland, with the help of Prince Corp. founder Edgar Prince and his wife, Elsa. His last, filled with his photos, was "Where City and Country Connect: How the Holland Farmers Market Grew from a Few Vendors to a Community Treasure." His longest book, “Mr. Turkey: A Biography of Bil Mar Foods Co-Founder Marvin De Witt,” was one of his favorites because he spent 15 months trailing the entrepreneur and philanthropist as part of his research. 

Lozon also spent countless hours as a group facilitator at Herrick District Library, teaching the art of writing a memoir, says his wife, Jan. 

Mike Lozon was happiest when he was using his camera to tell stories.

For decades, Lozon chronicled our community in words and photos. His journalism career spanned several West Michigan newspapers, including the Holland Sentinel and The Grand Rapids Press. 

“Mike was a consummate professional and a hell of a journalist," said Sarah Leach, executive editor of Gannett's Holland and Petoskey newspaper groups, in the Sentinel’s obituary of Lozon

For a man who spent most of his life telling other people's stories, Lozon apparently never thought his own was worth chronicling. There’s no memoir, and he asked that no memorial be held. His optimistic and curious nature camouflaged someone who was more private than we realized. While he was never one to toot his own horn, many others are sharing the impact he made over the years. Here is a sampling:

"Mike Lozon was a delight to work with. We got acquainted at the Holland Area Arts Council, where he chronicled every event, every class, every exhibit opening with curiosity, sensitivity, and joy. He also made sure that all of our city’s public art was photographed to its best advantage. When the city of Holland's Public Art Committee decided to create an online inventory and map of the city's public artworks, Mike Lozon stepped up to re-photograph every piece — all 92 of them! Mike truly loved his city and passed that love on to all of us. Because of Mike, we are all fortunate to view our town through his loving, artistic eye."

Lorma Williams Freestone
Holland Public Art Committee

“It was always a delight to work with Mike. He was personable, sincere, and ever so professional, taking care and pride in his work as a reporter, a writer, and, more recently, in capturing quality images of our parks and community. We have lost a valued chronicler of our story — and a genuinely nice guy.”

Ben Beversluis, who worked with Lozon at The Grand Rapids Press, the Holland Sentinel, and most recently on joint freelance projects. 

“Mike was an incredibly talented photographer and a great person. He developed the photography tours on Windmill Island during Tulip Time and conducted them for years. He also managed photography interns during the festival and taught these college students how to take great pictures. Many of Mike’s works have been included in our media kits and brochures.”

Gwen Auwerda
Tulip Time Executive Director

“Mike Lozon liked to describe himself as Windmill Island Gardens' ‘unofficial official photographer,’ a title I'm sure he held at many organizations and events along the Lakeshore. Mike captured thousands of images of events and everyday activities at our park and provided many of the iconic images we used in ads. 

“He clearly had a passion for his work, coupled with wonderful knowledge and experience that comes with years in the field. However, what made him truly special was his love of people. Some of his shots that I love most captured not just locations or events but the people enjoying them. Any skilled photographer can take a beautiful shot of our windmill or flowers, but Mike had a knack for catching wonderful personal moments that are what makes our park truly memorable — smiling and laughing kids, staff and guests interacting, or visitors in awe of natural or historic settings. 

“On a personal level, I'll miss running into Mike at an event in the community and finding an email a few days later with a great shot of my family enjoying the day. There are many people in the community who treasure photos Mike shot — and shared — that captured beautiful moments. It was great that, beyond capturing events, Mike knew the people involved and cared about them as well.”

Matt Helmus
Windmill Island Gardens Development Manager 

"I remember Mike for his kindness and generosity, his ability to understand the use of lighting in his photos, and his willingness to share his love and gift of photography with others. He did a wonderful job leading the special photo tour/session at Tulip Time, usually held early morning or after hours to get shots without all the tourists and to take full advantage of the unique lighting available at that time. He was thoughtful and patient, and always had a smile."

Alisa Crawford
Author, De Zwaan: The True Story of America's Authentic Dutch Windmill

“Mike’s goal as a volunteer for Ottawa County Parks & Recreation was to visit and photograph every park in every season to share images with us for promotion of our parks. Anyone with photography experience can appreciate the sheer number of hours he spent — not only shooting photos, but also editing, organizing, uploading, and labeling. In addition to the contribution of his time and work, he was also an amazing ambassador. If you happened upon him out and about, he always had (at least) three cameras/bags. Even with the heavy load, he always carried an extra bag full of parks brochures to hand out to visitors. What's incredible is we were not the only organization he supported. His contributions as a volunteer are truly inspiring." (Here is his full collection of park photos.)
Jessica VanGinhoven
Communication Specialist, Ottawa County Parks 

“Mike Lozon was a longtime Chamber member and active volunteer. As a small business owner, he served as chairman of the Chamber’s Small Business Committee and worked on many of our other small business programs, including heading up the selection process for our annual Small Business Person of the Year Award. 
“Mike was a terrific journalist and historian — his writing offered behind-the-scenes looks into many local companies and organizations. I especially appreciated his work documenting the history of the Holland Economic Development Corp. (HEDCOR). In his work as a newspaper journalist, Mike’s stories were fair, thorough, and interesting to read. He knew how to get to the heart of the story. Mike was a great man, a wonderful storyteller, and a dedicated member of our community. He will be missed.”
Jane Clark
President & CEO of Michigan West Coast Chamber of Commerce

“Even if you didn’t know Mike personally, you’d recognize him at every event. Multiple cameras around his neck, photo credentials dangling from a lanyard. He loved capturing the community in his photography and was generous in sharing his work. Some of our most engaging and admired images came from Mike.”

Linda Hart
Executive Director of Holland Area Visitors Bureau

“Mike loved people and he loved telling their history and their stories. He loved Holland, Michigan, and wanted Holland to be the most incredible place to live on this Earth. He cared that farmers had a voice, and one of his main goals for his Holland Farmers Market book was to tell their story. He told the story of why farmers do what they do; why they get up in the middle of the night to go to the farmers market and stand in sometimes not great weather. He also described what we go through to get our produce in the ground and grow it, then pick it, wash it and take it to sell it. He loved that story. He was so good at telling stories. We're so grateful that God gave us the opportunity to meet Mike, and that he could touch our lives and, hopefully, we touched his as well.” 

Cindy Visser 
Visser Farms

Fortunately, Lozen left a legacy of so many stories. You can find his books at Herrick District Library, and see his collection of The Lakeshore stories and photo essays below:



Read more articles by Shandra Martinez.