Chairman of Iconic Mackinac Island Grand Hotel Passes at Age 80

Musser was a long-time advocate of protecting Mackinac Island’s unique environment, including serving more than 30 years as chair of the island’s Public Works Commission. Under his guidance, the island built a state of the art water supply system that uses a cutting edge microfiltration process and an equally modern wastewater treatment plant that meets or exceeds all federal guidelines. Musser also was instrumental in having the island close and cap its landfill in 1991. All non-recyclable waste is hauled to a state-approved landfill on the mainland.

Musser was known for a very close attention to detail in the operation of Grand Hotel. One of his rituals was a room by room tour of the hotel on the day before it opened for the season to spot any last minute problems. He also was known in the hotel for his hand written notes to employees, sometimes as many as 50 or 60 a day, pointing out items that needed immediate attention.

A visiting reporter once remarked to him that it seemed the hotel paid “an incredible attention to detail.” He replied, “This is a detail business.”

In addition to Grand Hotel, Musser had a second passion in life–show dogs. He and Amelia Musser reached the pinnacle of that world in 2010 when their Scottish Terrier, Sadie, earned “Best In Show” honors at the 134 th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York in 2010. Sadie scored an unusual double win that year when she also was named “Dog of the Year’ by the American Kennel Club at its annual awards dinner.

Grand Hotel continues to be recognized in a variety of unique ways that underscore the status as a world class hotel that it achieved under Musser’s leadership. It is listed perennially as one of Travel & Leisure magazine’s Top 500 Hotels in the World and has been named a winner of the AAA Four Diamond Award for the 18 consecutive year.

The 2013 season is the 80th consecutive year the hotel has been under the stewardship of the same family. In March 1933, in the depths of the Great Depression at a time when all the nation’s banks had been closed, W. Stewart Woodfill was the sole R. D. Musser, Jr. Page 3 bidder in an auction to take the hotel out of receivership. R. D. Musser, Jr. was Woodfill’s nephew.

Robert Daniel Musser, Jr. was born in Circleville, Ohio April 29, 1932, the son of Robert Daniel and Betty Woodfill Musser. He grew up on a small farm and raised purebred animals as a member of the local 4-H Club. Musser was a graduate of Dartmouth College and served in the U.S. Army as an intelligence officer during the Korean War. Musser was highly respected in the hospitality industry and was a past Chairman of the American Hotel Association Resort Committee. He also was a member of the Tavern Club in New York City.

In addition to his lifelong love affair with Mackinac Island, Musser was fond of a second island, St. Croix, where he wintered for the past 20 years. Musser is survived by his wife, Amelia, daughter Robin Agnew and her husband Jamie of Ann Arbor, daughter Margaret “Mimi” Cunningham of Mackinac Island, son R.D. MusserIII and his wife Marlee Brown of Mackinac Island, and seven grandchildren.

Funeral services will be held Wednesday, April 17 at 10 a.m. at All Saints Episcopal Church in East Lansing, with burial at a later date on Mackinac Island.

The family is asking that in lieu of flowers contributions be made to the Mackinac Island Community Foundation Library Fund.

Learn more on Mackinac Island in the Mackinac Island Vacations tab.

Article Comments