Traverse City News and Events

Utah To Traverse City. And Vice Versa

Dec. 12, 2015

It sounds like the beginning of a joke: “So there were these two Mormons in Argentina, one from Utah and one from Traverse City…"

But, it’s actually a true story. It was missionary work that started Abigail Ayres and Betsy Lewis' friendship – together in South America from opposite parts of the United States. Little did they know this was also the beginning of a bizarre Traverse City connection.

Part of a larger mission group that spent a year and a half in Cordoba in the mid-2000s, the young women were paired together for six weeks and developed a very close relationship.

"As a missionary you are placed with different companions throughout your time of service," explains Ayres, who was 21 when she chose to do a full-time mission through her church. "One rule is to stay with your companion at all times, unless going to the bathroom. I had nine different companions during my year and a half in Cordoba. Betsy was my fifth companion. I literally spent six full weeks with Betsy 24/7 and we became lifelong friends because of our experience together."

The young women served the people of Cordoba by painting houses, teaching English, visiting the sick, volunteering for different organizations and sharing the words and works of Christ.

They both returned home in late 2008, Ayres to Utah and Lewis to Traverse City. But their lives coincided again, when Lewis ended up in Utah, getting a degree in art from Brigham Young University. Ayres was just a few hours away at Utah State University so they stayed in touch.

Fast forward seven years, Ayres had her first child, quit working fulltime and started doing some writing as a creative outlet. She began writing list poems – which she first experimented with in a college writing class – which involve selecting a subject and listing everything about it. Ayres decided to go with colors. She read them to her family and friends, and they encouraged her to publish them.

Ayres selected her Gold poem as her first and began the hunt for an illustrator. She contacted Betsy because of her art background. She couldn't do the project but put Ayres in touch with her sister Clarissa (also from TC), who coincidently had also graduated from Brigham Young with a degree in art and was still living in Utah.

The duo worked together for nearly three years adding pictures to words. This past summer Ayres self-published "Gold," a picture book for the 7 and under crowd.

“It is a simple yet fun book that teaches important lessons, the main one being The Golden Rule,” says Ayres, of the story that takes readers into the imagination of a little girl, who discovers that "all that glitters is not gold" and treating others the way she wants to be treated is the real secret to happiness.

But there is one plot twist in Ayres' real life that she never could have anticipated – Ayres and her family now live in TC, after an out-of-the-blue job offer brought her husband here.

"When he first told me about it, I remember saying, 'Traverse City? I’ve heard of Traverse City'."

Call it a sign or call it fate. But the couple packed up the family and headed to Traverse City sight unseen earlier this year.

What's more, Ayres and her family now live about a mile away from where Clarissa used to live and Clarissa still lives in Salt Lake City – about six blocks away from where Ayres once lived.

“It makes all the sense in the world, and yet no sense at all,” Ayres says of her landing in TC after first learning of the city years ago in Argentina.

But so far so good. “We love it here," she adds. "It’s so beautiful.”

As for her first foray into the publishing world, Ayres says "Gold" has been very well received with strong sales. She is now hard at work on the next book in the color series – maroon. As her least favorite color, Ayres says "Maroon" is about finding the good in the things we don't like. Brown, white, black and a final book, black and white, will round out the series.

“Gold,” the first of a color-themed picture book series, is available online only for $14.95. Ayres is offering 20 percent off (coupon code: Ticker) for residents of her new hometown.

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