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Steve Manor, in hospice with terminal cancer, looks back on 55 years in Howell

Steve Manor, who resigned last week from Howell City Council after 23 years, says he has entered hospice care after a five-year battle with colorectal cancer.

On his Facebook page, Manor said that on September 28 he submitted himself to in-home hospice care.

“I did so because I had no more treatment options but was still able be functional at home,” said Manor. “I have deteriorated a lot since then and am grateful for Hospice. Please don’t withdraw, rather I really like visits and phone calls I get.”

Manor granted an exclusive interview to GIGO News as he looked back over his more than 55 years in the Howell community.

His first thought was to thank the community for their years of support, but he quickly had another, more urgent, point to make.

“Be quicker about getting colonoscopies,” he said. “I got one and was diagnosed with rectal cancer. The oncologist told me it’s a cancer that is not curable, but is treatable and we can get you several years. I asked him, ‘How long is his record?’ And he says, ‘Well, it’s gone from four months to eight years.’ And I said, Okay. I’m at five now, basically and I’m pretty near the end. So it went from the colon, and of course that got removed by surgery, and settled in the liver. We removed that by surgery. It’s moved to the lungs, no surgery available, no treatment available.”

Despite that prognosis, Manor refused to give in to cynicism.

“The things that I think about are positive things,” he said. ‘My personal experiences as a teacher, and it’s been very, very helpful. Because I’ve reached out, through my Facebook friends, for support and people have been responding, people I haven’t talked to in many years.”

Manor came to Howell as a public school teacher in 1966 when he accepted a teaching position in the old Michigan Avenue school on the site where the U.S. Post Office building is currently located. Later, he taught at the Highlander Way Middle School and then Howell High School. In all, he served in public education for 32 years, before retiring in 1998.

He said a former student had reached out to him recently asking if he remembered him.

“Oh boy, did I remember him,” he laughed. “He was a pistol and reminded me of one specific and particular classroom incident. We were in a discussion on the origins of life and the text was pretty wide ranging. He was argumentative and interrupted. He was 15, a smart kid, but also a smart, you know what. I finally challenged him and said, ‘Come on up here and make a presentation.’ Well, he went up and he made a presentation and he did a very nice job of his argument, evidence of and why, and so on. And then he sits down, and he got a round of applause from the kids, who of course, were all on his side,” Manor said chuckling. “But he remembered that incident and he reminded me of it and how pleased he was that he had the opportunity to do it. He is now a 19th year teacher, all in public schools, all high school.”

He also recalled another former student, “a 16-year-old dynamo” he called her, who helped lead, organize, and run the high school’s Diversity Club that he started shortly after Livingston 2001 was created in 1987 in response to a cross burning in Howell. Livingston 2001 later became the Livingston Diversity Council.

“Man, was she a powerhouse,” he recalled. “She took over kids. She directed, she organized. Full of energy, a good, good kid. And she’s stopping over just to share some of those organizational memories with me.”

Manor later went on to serve for many years in the Diversity Council, taking a leading role in trying to change the racial dynamic in Howell and Livingston County, which had, and still has, a reputation for intolerance and bigotry.

Despite that, Manor said things are much better now than they were when the Diversity Council began.

“Perspective is important,” he said. “I think people have become more civil. I think there’s less open name-calling than there has been in the past. That’s what I call more civil. People have been less inclined to challenge people of color that they might see on the street. I think that’s better. I think people, with the incidences we’ve had around the country in the last several years, have become more introspective about their own biases, their own prejudices and their own beliefs for that matter. And I’m not talking about the hardcore white supremacist group of people. They’re not going to change. I’m talking about that huge group of people that have either been in the middle or on the left silent, but now becoming a little more forthright to speak up and say, ‘Hey, that ain’t right. We should not be thinking and treating people that way.’ But when the Diversity Council and other individuals stand up and say that’s wrong, it challenges them. And it’s harder and harder for them to challenge back. So I’m an optimist about it.”

After retiring from teaching, Manor turned from public education to public service, winning a seat on Howell City Council in 1999, serving through the years in a variety of roles, including as mayor pro tem, chair of the Howell Brownfield Redevelopment Authority and as Howell’s delegate to the South East Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG), where served on the Executive Committee as Livingston County’s city/village representative and as Vice Chair of the Finance and Budget Committee.

“I have loved every minute,” he said of his time on council, but then added with a chuckle, “Well, I have loved almost every minute of it. There have been a few occasions when it was not much of a pleasure, but you put your head down, listen, resolve to do better, and move on.”

Manor said he was proud of all that had been accomplished through the years to take a downtown that had “good roots” but had suffered from benign neglect, and work with developers to make major investments that were necessary to encourage small businesses to come in and start boutique shops that have made Downtown Howell a destination.

But Manor says, none of that would have been sustainable without the city investing in the infrastructure, citing the alleyway and State Street as two examples. He also noted the recent addition of a public restroom on Clinton Street as well as the collaboration with Thai Summit to create a kids’ play space that also attracts people downtown.

“The farmer’s market attracts people downtown,” he said. “Main Street does the Taco Tuesday rallies and other events that attract people downtown and build community. People downtown need other people. Get acquainted with more people, and begin to feel an attachment for their community. And we have been building community for a long time. And that simply needs, of course, to continue. Citizens need to continue that. But it’s just helps make a wonderful community.”

In July, Manor was honored by the council for his decades of service with a reception and surprise proclamation of appreciation outside Howell City Hall.

Manor was also named to be the grand marshal of the 2022 Fantasy of Lights Parade on Nov. 25 and notwithstanding his condition, he plans to be there.

“Big honor, big honor,” said Manor. “I really appreciate it. Looking forward to it. My hospice team social worker said, ‘Well, we had a team meeting the other day and we all figured out that our job is to keep you alive until the end of November.’ And I said, ‘Thank you. That’s a good goal.”

When Manor was asked if he had anything else he wanted to add, he paused, and then with a joyous laugh said, “Go State.”

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