HOMES OF DISTINCTION: Alpena couple fill their home with art and artifacts
ALPENA — It’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance that you find a home filled with love, care, and passion inside and out.
For June Perry and Patrick Labadie, that’s just their house that they’ve lived in for 20 years.
The married couple, both of whom kept their own last names, retired in 2000 from their careers of teaching and directing various maritime museums. By 2003, they decided to rest in Alpena, over on the corner of Mirre Street and 3rd Avenue.
When searching for unique houses, residents around the block recommended Perry and Labadie’s house, referring to it as “the hobbit house.” It’s a fitting name, as much of the exterior displays architecture of European households, fit with rock columns and a tan color for its base and green outlines. The groomed and healthy bushes and flowers mesh with the green grass surrounding the home.
The interior is just as rich — if not richer.
Cabinets are filled with historical boat models of great importance to Labadie. Walls are decorated with portraits of people Perry has met along the way in her life.
Two paintings of Labadie are found on different walls of the house, each showing different parts of his life that struck Perry with inspiration. One shows him younger, while he was working on a ship model in an attic of a previous home. The other shows Labadie laying down on the hardwood floor of the current house with their late cat, Peanut. It was made the same year they bought the place.
Perry had a story for each one of those paintings, filled with a passion and love for each subject displayed in her carefully crafted strokes and colors. The emotions can vary, whether it be joy from seeing Labadie’s love of his own craft and pets, or genuine sorrow shown in the portrait of a student that died at a very young age.
Every painting lived its own life and Perry wanted to tell it. To do that, the basement was turned into an art studio filled with canvases, photos of Perry’s next subjects, and walls of her past subjects.
Meanwhile, Labadie told his own story through the stories of the past in the attic. His passion is maritime history, the boats of wars and the Great Lakes. His interest grew after his grandfather told stories of his time at the shipyard in Detroit. His great-grandfather and grandfather worked there and helped with the construction of multiple ships.
It’s evident that is the source of his love after seeing the collection of ship-making tools that were passed on to him, stored carefully in a slanted room. He loved showing them and explaining the purpose of each one while he ducked below the narrow triangle ceiling.
The Alpena County Library has a multitude of photos, articles, and more stored from his collection.
The main floor harbors a blend of the pair’s personalities. A forest wallpaper created by Perry sticks to the upper walls of the entering room, near the ceiling.
Wood and glass combine in an arrangement around canvas paintings and models of ships like the Edna G. displayed in the sunroom.
A lot of that craftsmanship can be credited to Alpena contractor Floyd A. Gagnon, the designer of the current house, which was remodeled over an older house built in the late 1880s and keeps some of the original’s design.
“When we saw the house, it was on sale for three years,” Perry said. “We didn’t understand why, the place was gorgeous, and we’ve loved it ever since.”