|Phelps High School recently inducted Eleanor Lapp and Dick Mendham to its Knights Hall of Fame during the high school graduation ceremony.
Dick Mendham (left) and Eleanor Lapp were the two inductees to the Phelps Knights Hall of Fame for 2013. They were recently honored at the high school’s graduation ceremony. —Photo By Sharon Gifford
Following is a brief biographical portrait of the two new inductees.
Eleanor Lapp attended her first eight grades of school in the village of Ringle near Wausau. Her high school years were spent at Wausau East High School, where she graduated with a class of 500 in 1953.
Then it was on to university at Stevens Point where she graduated after two years in the rural education division. Her bachelor of science degree came 12 years later after taking classes at night school and summer school.
She married Richard Lapp and taught school in Phelps. She and her husband also operated a seasonal summer resort on Lac Vieux Desert in Phelps. They had one son, Rick, who went on to graduate from Phelps High School.
Lapp’s teaching career began in Phelps in 1955 and continued until her retirement after 41 years as an educator in various primary positions.
During those years, she began writing for children, publishing numerous stories and six books. The books are on display in the school’s media center.
Community service also was a part of her life. She served 10 years on the Phelps Northwoods Hospital Board and 20 years on the Phelps Library Board.
The Lapps built a log home on wooded acres in Phelps after selling their resort. Since retirement, they have shared their gardens with the public with local garden walks.
Lapp helps to sponsor regional art shows. She said she enjoys skiing and spending time with family and friends.
“The nicest thing about staying in the Phelps area has been meeting former students and parents, and hearing about their lives and their accomplishments,” said Lapp.
Dick Mendham was born in Pontiac, Mich. He lived in Milford, Mich., on a potato farm and later a dairy farm in Romeo/Armada, Mich.
He attended a small agricultural community school where he played basketball and baseball and worked on the family farm.
He received a bachelor of arts degree in hotel and restaurant management and a master’s in hospitality management at Michigan State College.
Upon graduation, he married Elsie, whom he met during an internship at a Howard Johnson’s restaurant. They moved to Naperville, Ill., and worked with the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission at Argonne National Laboratory in property management. He served two years in the training program and various management positions.
The Mendhams vacationed in the Watersmeet, Mich., area and stopped by a real estate agency to inquire about a lot for future building, eventually finding the Sunrise Lodge.
The seasonal nine-unit American Plan resort is still a year-round business for the couple 45 years later.
Mendham took substitute teaching jobs in Phelps, Land O’ Lakes and Eagle River schools. He also worked as an outreach coordinator in the early days of Nicolet College.
This led to a full-time position on the Rhinelander campus, teaching hospitality, business and accounting classes.
All three of the Mendhams’ children attended and graduated from Phelps High School and the University of Wisconsin. All seven grandchildren have attended Phelps school and have been active in Phelps sports and other activities.
He served on five area chamber of commerce organizations and was appointed to serve on the Wisconsin State Tourism Council by three governors.
Sunrise Lodge grew from nine small cabins to 24 large homes and cottages under the Mendhams’ ownership. Staff increased from three seasonal workers to the present 10 full-time year-round and 30-plus seasonal workers.
More than 200 Phelps residents have been employed at ?Sunrise Lodge.
Mendham said his hobbies include attending his grandchildren’s ball games, cooking, community involvement and tending his flower and vegetable gardens.