Over the last 11 years of living in the county, life has been good to Tom Balazs and Liz Ketterer. Their connection to Leelanau and the community grows deeper with every passing year. “My family has always been involved in the mission and vision of the Conservancy. My parents brought us to events the Conservancy hosts and properties we all love to hike,” Liz said. “My dad is a docent, and the Conservancy has just become part of our way of life. We wanted to give back.” In 2018 the couple became Sustainers Circle members. “When we were still in California, part of the high cost of living is the abundant recreation,” Tom explained. “I consider our contribution to the Conservancy as a way to conserve and maintain all the beautiful outdoor places we like to go.”
Liz grew up in Grand Rapids, and Tom in Chicago. They met in Chicago while attending film school and began dating before graduation. “We both got jobs in the film industry and moved to Los Angeles afterschool,” Liz said. “And then we kind of moved around California for a bit.” Liz and Tom spent their mid-20s moving around the golden state, but as they got older, found themselves feeling rootless. “We already had to save money to fly home for Christmas every year, and it cost so much it was the only time we could afford to go home,” said Tom. “If we stayed, we would be lifelong renters, so we started looking at other places we wanted to go.”
In Leelanau, when we think about home, we think about happiness. Liz’s parents, Ed and Linda Ketterer, bought property at the tip of the peninsula when Liz was a child. The family camped on the property in the summertime before building the home that Ed and Linda would eventually retire to.
Tom’s first few experiences in Leelanau were in winter. “While we were still in college, I had come up here with Liz a few times in the winter. Of course, it was beautiful.” Fast forward to the couple living in San Francisco. It was July, and Tom decided to fly from California to Liz in Leelanau, who was enjoying time with family at a reunion. With only winter experiences in his mind, he was dazzled by summer. A sunset spent watching Liz’s nieces and nephews frolic on a beach north of Northport would be a memory they revisited later when contemplating where to putdown roots.
After getting home to their San Francisco apartment one night, Liz saw Tom browsing Leelanau real estate on his laptop. It was 2011, and Liz’s parents were ready to retire fully to their Leelanau home. “We just grew more and more curious about making the change,” Liz said. “We moved to Leelanau exactly one week before we got married at my parent’s house.”
Some might say that home is where you grew up or spent the most time. Tom and Liz have never felt more at home than they do in Leelanau. “There’s something about here that you always want to get back to,” she said. “It’s not like any other place in the world. Being members of the Conservancy helps make us feel connected to our home.”
You can join the Sustainers Circle today! A Sustainers Circle membership of $500 or more annually provides foundational support to ensure Leelanau is protected now and in the future. Sustainers Circle members receive invitations to special events, recognition in our annual report, and insider updates about how you are helping preserve Leelanau. Please join the over 600 families making a collective impact on the Leelanau you love. For more information about the Sustainers Circle, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Development Director Paris Morse at [email protected]