Little Brown Bear

Elizabeth Upham McWebb Monroe Michigan Author’s Little Brown Bear Statue Dedicated

The statue in front of Dorsch Memorial Branch Library honors children’s author Elizabeth Upham McWebb. Not even Aunt Bett could have scripted this better.

On Sunday, October 07, 2002 Elizabeth Upham McWebb, better known as Aunt Bett, received much of the love she has shared with Monroe for most of her life during the dedication of the Little Brown Bear bronze statue at Dorsch Memorial Branch Library. “Aunt Bett is a national living treasure,” said Jeanne Micka, chairman of the dedication, to the hundreds of people in attendance. “She has given Monroe so much time and dedication to us and our children and today we return the favor.”

See Some of the Work This took

Sitting in a chair in front of the statue, Mrs. McWebb was pleasantly surprised during the unveiling of the statue, which represents the character from her “Little Brown Bear” books. “Oh my,” she said as she applauded after the unveiling of the statue, which sported overalls and rested a hand on his chin while sitting on a log.

Monroe Evening News Photo By Bryan Bosch Chief Photographer © 2002 Photo Used by Permission

Throughout the approximate 1½-hour dedication ceremony, many people took part in celebrating the life and works of Mrs. McWebb. She wrote her first book, “Little Brown Bear,” in 1942. Numerous other books followed throughout the years and she dedicated much of her time at Dorsch telling stories to generations of people.

The ceremony included the National Flag Exhibit — a large American flag displayed while the crowd recited the Pledge of Allegiance and the national anthem. The exhibit, making its final visit around the country, was on display since Mrs. McWebb’s relatives wrote the Pledge of Allegiance.

Also, special guests spoke about the impact Mrs. McWebb has had on generations of readers. Monroe County Commissioners Floreine Mentel and William Sisk and state Sen. Beverly Hammerstrom, R-Temperance, were among the speakers. State Rep. Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, also spoke to Mrs. McWebb and the crowd. “You have inspired so many people to read, including me at a young age. I remember you reading to me at Dorsch library when I was a kid,” he said. “Monroe stands on the shoulders of a giant and that giant is Aunt Bett. You helped bring out the child in all of us … Thank you, Aunt Bett.” She also received many letters and flowers from people around the country, including a letter from first lady Laura Bush. Monroe Mayor C.D. (Al) Cappuccilli also provided a gift for Aunt Bett. “Your dedication to storytelling and reading to so many people … you have found the key to open our hearts,” he said. “Because of that, we are giving you the key to the city.”

Kaye Lani Rafko Wilson, the emcee of the event, introduced Devon Vergiels, the sculptor of the statue. “I was honored that I was able to do this,” she told the crowd. “There is no one more deserving of this than Aunt Bett.”

Despite being the honored guest at the dedication, Mrs. McWebb still found time to share a moment with people of all ages. Before and after the ceremony, she found herself in the middle of the crowd signing autographs, shaking hands, giving out hugs and remembering the good ole’ days with family and friends.

“The only word I can come up with is ‘flabbergasted,’ ” she said with a smile as she sat on the log of the statue surrounded by a large group of people waiting to speak to her. “I feel like a rock star.”

Children also were among the many fans in the crowd. Mrs. McWebb took the time to sign autographs during the ceremony for youngsters who came up to her with a pen and program in hand.

“She is amazing,” said Angela Honas of Monroe, who brought her Brownie Troop 614 to the ceremony. “This is her day and she still took time to talk to everyone she possibly could; even during the ceremony.”

Mrs. McWebb’s upcoming 98th birthday, Oct. 20, also was celebrated with cake and flowers. After the dedication, refreshments were served at the library.

Sponsors of the dedication were Monroe Art and Beautification Fund Committee (MABFC). The statue is the first project completed by the MABFC, a group of volunteers that formed under the guidance of the Community Foundation of Monroe County.

From the Monroe Evening News January 30, 2004

Elizabeth Upham McWebb, the woman known as Aunt Bett who thrilled kids young and old with spellbinding stories that bridged generations, has spun her last tale.

Mrs. McWebb, 99, long celebrated as a local living legend, died at 2:14 p.m. Thursday, January 24, 2004, at TenderCare of Monroe, leaving behind a legacy of good feelings and fond memories for the thousands whose lives she touched.

Services were held at 1:30 p.m. Sunday at First Presbyterian Church. The Revs. Dean and Ellen McGormley, co-pastors of the church, officiated. Burial was in Monroe’s historic Woodland Cemetery.

Born Oct. 20, 1904, in Flat Rock, she was the daughter of Albert and Elizabeth (Wilson) Upham. She married George (Mac) McWebb Aug. 20, 1940, in Angola, Ind. He died March 14, 1968.
Surviving are a nephew, Norman Friedline of Rapid River, and three nieces, Jeanne (Wesley) Cominess of Monroe, Barbara (James) Crocker of Rockwood and Patricia Wiegerink of West Branch