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R.D. Musser of Grand Hotel Dies at 80

Musser Porch

R.D. Musser, Jr. died earlier today of congestive heart failure.  From The Detroit News:

Robert Daniel “Dan” Musser, Chairman Emeritus of the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, died today in Lansing of congestive heart failure. He was 80.

During his more than 60 years with the Grand Hotel, he helped guide it to its world class status and expand the size and length of the season, earning attention for the island and tourism in Michigan.

Musser began working at the hotel as a college student in 1951, when its 200 rooms were open from July 4 through Labor Day. His uncle, W. Stewart Woodfill, had owned the hotel since he purchased it in 1933 during the height of the Great Depression.

In 1960, Musser became president of the hotel and later purchased it along with his wife Amelia in 1979.

In the 1970s, Musser began a complete makeover of the hotel, updating the interior and redoing the 385 rooms so that no two look alike.

“When I took over we had about 120 rooms that shared a bath, which could cause real problems,” Musser once said. “If you were in one of those rooms, you could lock the guests in the other room out of the bathroom. People would come to the desk complaining they couldn’t get into the bathroom, which obviously was a problem. We got rid of the last rooms with adjoining baths about 1970.”

Musser also served as the Mackinac Island Public Works Commission Chair for more than 30 years. Under his guidance the island installed a modern water and wastewater system and capped the island’s landfill in 1991.

Former Governor William G. Milliken called Musser “an important figure in Michigan politics as host and friend.”

“Dan Musser was a pillar of great strength on Mackinac Island,” said Milliken. “He will be greatly missed not only on the island but also among those across the state who value what he did to assure the excellence of the Grand Hotel and that he so long did to promote the state.”

Former Gov. Jim Blanchard issued the following statement. “Dan wrote the book on hospitality. He and his family have done more for tourism in Michigan than anyone. The Grand Hotel is not only the crown jewel of Michigan, but a fabulous gathering place for the leaders of Michigan and America. People come from all over the world to go the Grand Hotel. Dan’s passing is a great loss for Michigan and the world of hospitality.”

In his hotel business, Musser was known for a very close attention to detail. On the day before the hotel opened for the season, he would tour the rooms one-by-one to spot any last minute problems. He was known for leaving handwritten notes to employees, sometimes as many as 50 or 60 a day, pointing out things that needed attention…

From  Grand Hotel’s Facebook page:


It is with great sadness we let you know R.D. Musser, Jr. passed away early this morning. Mr. Musser was highly respected in the hospitality industry and a true icon to everyone who knew him. He became president of the hotel in 1960 and then purchased it with his wife Amelia in 1979. For more than 60 years he operated America’s Summer Place. As we approach the 80th consecutive year of the hotel opening under the stewardship of the same family, it will not be the same without the presence of Mr. Musser who had a ritual of going through each guest room before the hotel opened to make sure it was ready for the season. He will be greatly missed by his loyal staff and guests.