In a cruel twist of fate, less than a year after opening the highly successful Firekeepers casino in Battle Creek, Michigan, Laura Spurr, the tribal chairwoman of the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi Indians, died of a heart attack while attending a conference in California.
The 64-year-old Spurr was instrumental in the process that required the tribe to petition the government to take land into trust for the casino, one of only four times that has occurred. Then, she directed the construction and financing of the casino, especially difficult during an economic downturn.
But after the casino opened last August, it was immediately successful and contributed hundreds of jobs for the tribe and the surrounding communities. But she wanted to see the tribe’s economy diversify even more.
“Hopefully we will have communities that want to work jointly with the tribe, and potentially there are things we could do together down the road-possibly small manufacturing for people who can’t get into the gaming industry because of past history,” she told the Western Michigan Business Review in 2008.
Spurr’s accomplishments, however, went far beyond the casino. She graduated from the University of Michigan in 1967 with a BS in nursing and for more than 40 years, she worked as a nurse in different practice settings in the cities of New York, Washington, D.C, Chicago and Grosse Pointe.