Edward James was an ambitious and outgoing young man. He wrestled and played football in junior and senior high school and was known to set high standards for himself, doing his best to excel in every new venture.
In 2009, Edward went to boot camp to become a United States Marine. Working in data, radar, and communications, he moved up in ranks from Private to Lance Corporal in 2011, Corporal in 2012, to Sergeant in 2014. His commendable work earned him several service and campaign medals and ribbons as well as the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, Navy Unit Commendation, and the NATO Medal – ISAF Afghanistan.
The year Edward completed boot camp was the year his mom Lisa Stepanski began her craft of making homemade greeting cards. Lisa sent out greeting cards to not only her son but other young men in the platoon as well, each card putting a much-needed smile on a young Marine’s face. Unbeknownst to Lisa at the time, the months Edward spent at boot camp in California would become the catalyst for transitioning Lisa’s hobby into a boutique business, EJ’s Greeting Cards & Gift Shop which she opened in 2016.
“We were sending him mail every day. At his graduation I told him, ‘I’m so proud of you bud!’ He said, ‘I know Ma, and all that mail was great!’ I have been making embellished greeting cards ever since,” said Lisa, who has made the mission of her shop to be that of loving, remembering, and honoring her hometown hero, her son Edward James. Lovingly referred to as “EJ”.
In 2015, after 2 enlistments and 6 years of service, Edward James “EJ” passed away at Marine Forces Europe while stationed in Stuttgart, Germany. EJ was proud to be called a Marine, but underneath his title was a kind, gentle young man. A free spirit and beautiful soul with a contagious smile that filled up a room. Lisa has made the mission of EJ’s Greeting Cards & Gift Shop to share her son’s smile with the world one card at a time.
Walking into Lisa’s shop located in Alpena’s Harborside Center, you will immediately see a memorial to EJ lovingly filled with photos. His presence in spirit radiates in Lisa’s interaction with her customers. The variety of cards Lisa creates is impressive, from hand-stamped card sets and cards featuring local photography to custom designs for special occasions. Each card is handcrafted by Lisa with the love and pride she feels for her son infused into the creation.
Memorial Day is a day to remember and honor those who served and currently serve our country in the United States Armed Forces. It is a day to show our respects and our gratitude to the fallen, as well as to the families that raised them and the friends who knew them.
This weekend, we remember and celebrate Edward James and our hometown heroes who have served and continue to serve. Who is your hometown hero?