January 26, 2022

Ensign leaves sweet legacy

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Arthur Ensign checks a batch of maple syrup in this April 2013 photo at the family’s sugar shack in Marathon. Ensign, who died this week, helped initiate the local maple festival.

Until earlier this year, Arthur Ensign was in the woods, working a family business that helped lead to Marathon’s signature event, and doing what he loved most: making maple syrup.

At 92, he used an all-terrain vehicle to get around the woods and maple groves, but he could still hunt and don’t tell him he couldn’t. He was hard working, active and slightly stubborn, his grandchildren said.

“If someone told him he couldn’t do it, he’d try even harder to prove him wrong,” grandson Josh Ensign said Wednesday. “I probably got that from him.”

Calling hours are Saturday for Ensign, 92, who died Sunday.

Their grandfather taught them a great deal about treating people with respect, said granddaughter Carrie Newkirk.

“Grandpa was always about manners and that golden rule, do unto others as they do unto you,” Newkirk said. “If your neighbor needs help you help them because someday you will need that neighbor to help you.”

Sometimes that neighbor was a grandchild who needed to bait a hook or figure out what lure to use to put a fish in the pan during a camping trip to Black Lake in St. Lawrence County.

“He was an avid fisherman and I remember him being like, ‘You need this lure, and this is what you’re going to catch with it,’” said Newkirk, the elder sister to three brothers.

Arthur Ensign was committed enough to the maple syrup that came from his woods that he put up some of his own money to create the Marathon Maple Festival, Josh Ensign said. However, he did once take a 10-year hiatus from making syrup to experiment with buying it in bulk and bottling it.

He did that while juggling a dairy farm and spending 22 years as Marathon’s highway superintendent.

Josh Ensign, his siblings and father, Randy, resumed the maple-making business in 2013, and a fourth generation of Ensigns is boiling away every spring in the sugar shack at the back of their Marathon property.

He was a strong man, Newkirk said, outliving two wives and a grandson, Nathan Ensign, who died in a 2007 accident in 2007, but that doesn’t mean hard.

“It was the first time I had ever seen my grandpa cry,” Newkirk said.

And he had a sweet tooth.

“He loved ice cream. Vanilla, with maple syrup on top,” she said. Even with his health failing, he wouldn’t skip the treat that weaved through his life.

Newkirk even fed it to him in the nursing home.

Ensign is survived by his children and their spouses, William and Melanie Ensign; Colleen and Lanny Northrup, Randy and Joann Ensign, Reed and Laurie Ensign, Milton Parker; sisters and their spouses Jean and Gus Carmen and Mary and Arne Lih; 11 grandchildren, several great-grandchildren; a great-great grandchild; and several nieces, nephews and cousins.

Calling hours are 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturday, followed by services at 1:30 p.m. at Marathon Methodist Church, 203 E. Main St.