Common Bond Celebrates

Common Bond in Schoolcraft schools matches mentors with students who are challenged during its once-a-month activities. It kicks off each year with the X-Treme Kick-off party for high school and middle school students. Over 200 came together to celebrate the 20th year of hosting this party with pizza, an obstacle course and the mechanical bull ride.
The event is headed by Amy Green, who is assisted by many other teachers in the school. Students help each other and learn to appreciate their special abilities, Green says.

Mill Reunion

A reunion of those who worked in The Mill before it closed in 2001 was held in October by the staff of Paper City Development. Lots of memories were shared by those who took the opportunity to tour the mill and hear about the plans for renovation. A reception tent kept people warm while they ate lunch and shared stories.

Homecoming in Schoolcraft

The Schoolcraft Homecoming Court is pictured below.

Obituaries

Linda Susan Ailes, Schoolcraft, passed away at her home October 21. She was born April 18, 1960 in Kalamazoo, the daughter of Carl and Joanne (Engle) Wisner, and had been a lifelong area resident. On July 26, 1980, Linda married Ryan B. Ailes, who survives. Also surviving are her children, April Ailes, Jason (Nicole) Ailes and Stephen (Jamie) Ailes; grandchildren Dylan, Morgan, Jalynn, Liam, Davis, Esmae and Marley; parents Carl and Joanne Wisner, mother-in-law Marylou Ailes; sisters Karen (David) Booth, Teresa (Greg) Dragoo and Beth (Arthur) Agletingler; and several nieces and nephews. Donations may go to Curesarcoma.org/donate or sarcomaalliance.org/get-involved/give/donate in Linda’s name. Visit Linda’s page at langelands.com.

Cheryl Ann (Mandly) Barker, 75, Vicksburg, passed away October 12. Cheryl was born in Gary, Ind. on June 6, 1944, the daughter of Antone and Christina (Engle) Mandly-Berg. Cheryl’s father passed away when she was two years old. Her mother married Fredrick John Berg, who truly became her father. While in nursing school, Cheryl would meet the love of her life, William Charles Barker, on a blind date. They married August 20, 1966, then moved to Michigan, where they created their life together on Barton Lake. Cheryl received her degree in nursing from Illinois-Masonic Hospital, Chicago. She began her career as a registered nurse and worked in pediatrics at Cook County Hospital. Cheryl would continue her nursing career for over 50 years, which included working at Bronson Hospital and Heartland Healthcare Center. She was a proud member of the American Legion Auxiliary #261 Cedar Lake Indiana. Cheryl enjoyed cooking, gardening, antiquing, but most of all Cheryl loved being on the lake. She could be found enjoying the sunshine, boating, fishing, water skiing and entertaining. Her love for the lake taught her adored children, grandchildren, foster grandchildren, and great grandchildren to love the lake life as well. She was preceded in passing by her parents, her husband Bill, and one daughter, Sandra Barker. Surviving to cherish her loving memory are a son, William John Barker, daughter Cheryl Lou Moore, both of Vicksburg; sisters Luana (David) Klaas, Ruth(Randy) Deweese, Annette (Terry) DeVries, and Verna (Robert) Carr, a brother, John (Tana) Berg; grandchildren Courtney, Mitchell and Isaiah Moore, William and Anna Barker, Jessica Johnson, and Latorya Smith, nine great grandchildren and a host of other relatives and friends. Donations may go to American Legion Auxiliary #261. Envelopes available at Hohner Funeral Home in care of arrangements. Online condolences may be shared at http://www.hohnerfh.com.

William Thomas “Bill” Bush, 79, died from complications of pancreatic and liver cancer October 4. Born and raised in Schoolcraft, the son of William Michael Bush and Ella Jane Wright, he was a long-time resident of Redding, Calif. Bill worked as a farmer and then as a mechanic on agricultural equipment. Bill basically loved anything with a motor and could fix anything. He leaves his wife of 35 years, Eileen Bush of Redding; children Tom Bush and wife Debra of Schoolcraft; Cheryl Crawford and husband Billy of Ashland, Ore.; and, AJ Gigliotti and wife Ali of Shasta Lake City, Calif.; grandchildren Brittany Hetrick of Schoolcraft, Jesse Gigliotti of Redding, Tucker Gigliotti of Shasta Lake City, and Cassidy Gigliotti of Shasta Lake City; great-grandchildren Tristan, Bryce, Jackson, Audrey, and Kennedy; and brothers, David Bush of Battle Creek and Richard Bush of Goshen, Ind. He was preceded in death by his sisters, Alma and Judy, and a brother, Walter. Donations may go to the National Pancreatic Cancer Foundation at npcf.us.

Arthur (Corky) Clayton Emrick Jr., 61, Florence Township, Constantine, died Aug. 19 of natural causes. He was born March 2, 1958, in Vicksburg, the son of Arthur Clayton and Ida Mae (Parsons) Emrick Sr. He had been a Constantine resident since 1995, coming from Vicksburg. He was employed for more than 20 years by the Sturgis Journal as a photographer, journalist and sports editor. He was a recipient of numerous Associated Press, Michigan Press Association and Gatehouse Media “Best of Gatehouse” awards. He was synonymous with prep sporting events in St. Joseph County, spending much of his time on the sidelines and interacting with coaches and student-athletes. He also embraced his role as a news reporter for the Journal, serving on the police, fire and courts beat. Prior to working at the Journal, he was a dispatcher and police cadet for Kalamazoo Township, involved with local fire departments, police and dive rescue. He was a fan and shareholder with the Green Bay Packers, enjoyed his dogs and cooking. On Dec. 16, 1995, he married Susan Kay Walters in Constantine. She survives, along with his parents, Arthur C. and Ida M. Emrick Sr.; his children, Arthur Clayton Emrick III, Tyler John Emrick and Emilee Brianne (Jeremy) Leech; stepchildren Amanda Walters, Nathan (Carolina) Walters, Matthew Walters and Mark (Kelly) Walters; two grandchildren and a step-grandchild. Donations may go to the athletic department of a school of the donor’s choice.

Penny Gail Esman, 67, Vicksburg, passed away October 15. Penny was born on February 14, 1952 in Indianapolis, Ind. She was the daughter of Preston Hubert and Edna (Sumerville) Lard. She graduated from Kalamazoo Central High School and attended classes at Kalamazoo Valley Community College. On January 24, 1981, she married the love of her life, Harm Esman, Sr. She was a CNA that worked at Friendship Village and various other places over the years. She is described by her family as awesome, sassy, loving, strong-willed, beautiful, silly and sometimes a little goofy. Her greatest gift besides for her love for her family was helping others. She was a very selfless person who brightened the lives of those she touched. She was preceded in death by her parents and her sister, Esther Lard. She is survived by her husband of 38 years, Harm Esman Sr; her children, Delbert “Bud” James (Aimee Labrec) Gunnett, of Athens; Jeremiah Lee (Shannon) Gunnett, of Kalamazoo; Jedediah Jack (Crystle) Gunnett Sr, of Grand Junction; Harm Esman Jr, of Kalamazoo; Jessica Ann (Michael) Lopez, of Vicksburg; and Jennifer (James) Boren, of Vicksburg. She is also survived by her 20 grandchildren, Tristen, Cammi, James, Stephanie, Kaitlyn, Jeremiah Jr, Cherrish, Jedediah, Brittany, Harm III, Christian, Briana, Autumn, Cordell, Savannah, Justine, Zack, Audrey, Alexis, and Chelsea; great grandchildren Madalynn and Harper; a brother, Preston “Corky” Lard Jr, of Kalamazoo. Penny will be cremated and the family will have a Celebration of Life Service at a later date. Visit Penny’s page at mccowensecord.com.

Thomas A. Krill, 67, Schoolcraft, passed away on the weekend of September 27. He was born September 22, 1952 in Kalamazoo to Frederick and Doris (Haas) Krill. Tom was a 1971 graduate of Loy Norrix High School and a resident of the Kalamazoo area all his life. He was the proud owner of the Krill’s Korner party store, located in the Edison neighborhood, for over 30 years. Tom enjoyed golfing, fishing, cooking, travelling, playing poker and was an avid coin collector. He was a loving father, grandfather, brother, and uncle who enjoyed spending time with close friends and family. Tom is survived by a son, Casey Krill; grandchildren Madison Krill and Oliver Krill; brothers Frederick (Cindy) Krill, Charles (Cindy) Krill, Phillip (Sue) Krill, Joseph (Robyn) Krill, James Krill; and sisters Janet (James) Carter and Joyce Jarmen. He was preceded in death by his parents and his brother, Donald Krill. Per his wishes, cremation will take place and funeral and burial services will be determined at a later date. Visit Thomas’ webpage at mccowensecord.com.

Jesse E. Rochholz, Jr., 81, Schoolcraft, peacefully passed away at home October 18 after a battle with Lewy body dementia. He was the son of Jesse E. Rochholz, Sr. and Virginia (Burson) Rochholz. He moved from Mattawan to Schoolcraft in 1948 and graduated from Schoolcraft High School in 1957. He was married to Sandra Rochholz for 60 years. He was an accountant in the agricultural business for 29 years. Both he and his wife retired on August 31, 2002. He enjoyed spending time with his family, making model cars, auto racing, and Tiger baseball. Surviving are his wife, Sandra Roccholz, sons Michael (Brenda) Rochholz, of Schoolcraft and Jesse E. Leroy “Roy” (Rosie) Rochholz III of Schoolcraft, daughters Paula (Robert) Beckman of Ohio and Dena (Stephen) Holman of Schoolcraft; grandchildren Stephen Rochholz, Sara Wright, Nicole Enzweiler, Jessica Wynne, Holly Smith, Michael Geesaman, and Brad Geesaman and 10 great grandchildren. He is also survived by sisters Janet Pratt and Judy Molenaar, as well as several nieces, nephews and cousins. He was preceded in death by his grandson, Paul Beckman. Visit Jesse’s page at avinkcremation.com. Donations may go to Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan.

William “Bill” Slater Jr., 84, Vicksburg, passed away peacefully surrounded by family October 25. Bill was born to William and Emma Slater on September 9, 1935. Bill is survived by his significant other, Joyce Beckner; his daughter, Sue Gonser (Mike Colasanti); grandchildren Steven Quada (Kayla Imler), Paul (Karen) Quada, Joshua Slater (Angel Nocis), Lindsey (Bret) Borock, and Brittany (Shaun) Rutgers; a daughter in law, Michele Slater, as well as several siblings. Bill was preceded in death by his parents; his wife, Ellen (Brooks) Slater; and son, Steve Slater. Visit Bill’s page at mccowensecord.com.

Gordon Lou Sutton, of Schoolcraft, passed away September 21, at the age of 72. Gordon was born on September 11, 1947 in Kalamazoo. He was the son of Garlef and Beryl (Prosser) Sutton. Gordon graduated from Mattawan High School in June 1966. He then joined the Army in November, 1966 and served through November, 1969. He was preceded in death by his parents, Garlef and Beryl Sutton, and his brother, Lloyd Sutton. He was survived by his sons, Scott (Shawn) Sutton and Gary (LeAnne) Sutton. He is also survived by his sister, Sondra (James) Shilling. Visit Gordon’s page at avinkcremation.com.

Gregory John Visel, 32, Schoolcraft, died October 10. Greg was born September 30, 1987 in Kalamazoo, the son of Barry and Nancy (Schneidt) Visel. Known as one who loved giving hugs, Greg made friends with everyone he met and was especially fond of and thankful for those he met through his Circle of Friends social group. He enjoyed the latest technology, calling or FaceTiming people regularly just to chat. He particularly loved competing in the Special Olympics in several sports including bowling, track, basketball, soccer, and others. Greg was preceded in death by his mother, Nancy. Surviving are his father, Barry; brothers Ben (Trisha) Visel and Pete Visel; and nephews and nieces Jake, Joe, Addie, and Lexi. Cremation has taken place to be followed by private burial. Visit Greg’s page at BetzlerLifeStory.com. Donations may go to Special Olympics Area 16.

Josephine “Jo” Weems, 76, Schoolcraft, died September 26. She was born on June 4, 1943 in New Jersey. In 1984, Jo and her husband, Connie, moved to Michigan, where they settled in Schoolcraft. She spent years working for Ernst and Young and Lane Bryant, which meant she had an amazing wardrobe. Jo only bought the clothes they sold, changing her wardrobe every time they came out with a new line since she told her husband this was required by the company! As a result, Jo had three full closets of clothes and endless boxes of shoes. In 2012, Jo was deeply saddened with the death of her beloved husband, but she did her best to not let it slow her down. She joined the Kalamazoo Area Newcomers Club and Sit and Stitch where she gained many new friendships. Jo’s family includes her two children, Scott Weems and Chris (Cheri) Weems; grandchildren Jake and Allison Weems, and a brother, Peter (Pat) LaPlaca. Visit Jo’s page at betzlerlifestory.com. Donations may go to Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan.

Frances Marie Weinberg, 96, of rural Three Rivers, died Oct. 1 following a brief illness. She was born in Plainwell on Nov. 17, 1922, the youngest of seven children born to Dwight and Edith (Eley) Marker. She was married to Rex Hamilton Weinberg on Aug. 16, 1941 in Kalamazoo. Together they operated a farm north of Mendon, owned a dry cleaning and laundry service in Kalamazoo’s Oakwood Plaza, and ran the John Deere dealership in Vicksburg. They were members of the Farm Bureau, working the St. Joseph County Fair booth and ushering for many years in the grandstand. They wintered in Florida every year beginning in 1962. She was an active member of the West Mendon Community Church for 70 years. Frances enjoyed yardwork and gardening, playing dominoes and bingo with friends, and especially loved time with her family. She was eager to share words of wisdom and advice with her family, and she took great pride in things being, neat, clean and well organized. Frances is survived by her son and daughter in law, Ron and Pat Weinberg of Mendon; grandchildren Troy (Sandra) Weinberg, Sheli (Mark) Daniels, Jeff (Elizabeth) Jergens, Robin (Mark) Parks, and Tim (Tonya) Jergens; 20 great-grandchildren; eight great-great-grandchildren; and a son in law, Pat (Judy) Jergens. She was preceded in death by her parents; her husband, Rex, in 2010; and her daughter, Carolyn Jergens, in 2006. Donations may go to the West Mendon Community Church. Visit her page at eickhofffuneralhome.com.

Milford “Mel” Weinberg, 84, Scotts, passed away September 30. Mel was born on April 6, 1935 at home in Brady Township to Harold A. and Mary K. (Waltz) Weinberg. He moved to his current home and farm in 1937 and grew up attending Pavilion #4 country school and enjoyed the many class reunions in his later years. He graduated from Vicksburg High School in 1953. He then attended Western Michigan University before entering the Army in 1958. He served for two years in Germany. On October 9, 1965, he married the love of his life, Joanna (Haefner) Weinberg. Together, they raised three children on that same farm which today is operated and managed by his son, Todd. Mel was a “people person” and had a natural love for farming, the farm community, his family and his church connections. He was a member of Lakeland Reformed Church for over 40 years and the Latecomers Farm Bureau Group of Kalamazoo County. His home farm was where he loved to be. Family vacations were usually short as he was always ready to get back home until daughter Molly and family moved to Hawaii where he didn’t mind a few extra days. In October of 2015, the three kids held a surprise 50th wedding anniversary that Mel and Jo very much appreciated. In later years, overcoming health issues began to take their toll, physically and mentally. But he always looked forward to the kids and grandkids coming home through the summer months. Mel leaves his wife of 54 years, Jo; children Molly (Weinberg) Schake, of Mililani, Hawaii; Todd H. Weinberg, of Scotts and Chad R. Weinberg, of Alexandria, Va., a son-in-law Mark Schake, and daughter-in-law Therra (Ebwe) Weinberg; grandchildren Emily Schake, Wendy (Schake), Daniel Lyons, Nathan Schake, Brooke Schake, Ryna Weinberg, Corban Weinberg, and Phoebe Weinberg. He was preceded in death by his sister, Ellie (Weinberg) Fitzgerald, and brother, Stanley Weinberg. Visit Mel’s page at mccowensecord.com.

New Fulton Pastor Started Preaching March 17

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Pastor Ralph Ackley. Photo by John Fulton.

By John Fulton

Fulton Christian Church welcomed a new Pastor, Ralph Ackley this past spring. Pastor Ackley’s first day in the pulpit was Saint Patrick’s Day, March 17. He dressed as Saint Patrick delivering a message about Saint Patrick’s life.

Pastor Ralph moved here from Lynchburg, Virginia with his wife, Amy. Two of their three children also live in the area. Their daughter, Adrianna attends Western Michigan University. Their youngest son, Taylor will be attending Kalamazoo Valley Community College in the spring. Their eldest son, Aaron still lives in Maine where the family resided before moving to Lynchburg.

For Amy Ackley this is a homecoming. She is originally from Plainwell. Her parents now reside in Oshtemo Township. Pastor Ralph and Amy met in college at Evangel University. He was a junior and Amy a freshman.

They both graduated from Evangel University in Springfield, Missouri. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in Bible and a minor in art and philosophy in 1985. She graduated in 1988 with a double major in elementary education and special education.

Ackley went on to be a licensed Assembly of God pastor from 1989- 2017. He pastored two churches in Maine for thirty years. One was an Assembly of God church and the other a Congregational Holiness church. His career has been bi-vocational, meaning that while pastoring churches he has also had secular careers in education, radio, clam harvesting and blueberries.

Just prior to moving to Michigan Ackley had been employed at Patrick Henry Family Services in Lynchburg, Virginia. This is a place where troubled children can grow and come to know the Lord, he said.

Pastor Ralph is employed by Climax-Scotts Elementary school as a paraprofessional and Amy is a kindergarten teacher in Colon Community Schools.

Pastor Ackley said, “My vision is to build a church and a community. The community for Fulton Christian Church includes Fulton, Scotts, Colon, Athens, and Vicksburg. I envision breaking down denominational barriers where churches don’t compete but cooperate to build the Kingdom of God.”

This vision comes from a calling from God he felt many years ago. He felt God told him that his calling was not to a particular denomination, but rather to religion. He hopes to work with other local churches to make a difference in this community and see the Lord move in the community.

Fulton Christian Church began in 1866 when a small group of believers from the German Reformed Church when it was established as the First Evangelical Reformed Congregation of Wakeshma. Earliest records show that these pioneers possessed a firm and unshakable faith that led the church with a deep sense of commitment toward spreading the gospel in their community and the surrounding towns.

For years they were affiliated with the Church of Christ but about 18 years ago, they divested their ties with this denomination due to doctrinal tenets and moral issues.  The church is independent now and has had several pastors over its 153-year old history.
Pastor Ackley welcomes and invites all to join him and the congregation on Sundays for Worship Service at 11 a.m. Come early for 10 a.m. Sunday School. There is also a Wednesday evening Bible study at 6:30 p.m. at the church, 14108 East W Ave. For more information contact the Church at 269-778-5033 or visit its Facebook Page, Fulton Christian Church.

Superintendent Rusty Stitt Given Golden Apple Award

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On the left is Dr. Brett Geier, president of the CEHD Society of Alumni and Friends. On the right is Dr. Ming Li, the Dean of the College of Education and Human Development.

By Travis Smola

Schoolcraft Superintendent Rusty Stitt was recently one of two persons selected to receive the Golden Apple award from Western Michigan University (WMU).

This award goes to graduates of WMU’s College of Education and Human Development who show great enthusiasm for education and have a distinguished service record, with a history of developing good relationships with students.

Stitt was nominated for the award by Teresa Belote, superintendent of St. Joseph County Intermediate School District, who was a principal in Sturgis with Stitt in 2006. She said Stitt also received letters of recommendation from other supporters, including former Sturgis Superintendent Rob Olsen, State Representative Aaron Miller and Von Washington, executive director of the Kalamazoo Promise.

Belote said it was easy to nominate Stitt after seeing the way he worked with students. “I was really just impressed with the way he built relationships with students,” Belote said. “He really knew how to support and scaffold for success. He understood the importance of knowing your students.”

“I remember him standing at the curb waving at families as they pulled in. I’ve seen him high-five,” Belote added. “Lots of fist bumps and chatting with students about what they did the evening before. He knew his kids.”

She has continued to work with Stitt through the Michigan Association of School Administrators where he served as president. Belote credited Stitt for his work there with the targeted intervention program called the Reading Now Network. He also helped to get a grant that has provided for school library improvements and money for instructional leaders across the region.

The news of the award came as a complete and overwhelming surprise to Stitt. “I certainly was blindsided when I got the call from the Golden Apple committee chair,” Stitt said. “I did not know someone put my name in for it.”

At the awards ceremony, Stitt was quick to give credit to anyone but himself. Belote noted he handed the award off to his father during the ceremony. “He always recognizes the value of the team and I think his priority is building and maintaining relationships,” Belote said. “It comes across in his ‘It’s not me, it’s we’ attitude.”

At the October school board meeting, board President Jennifer Gottschalk took a moment to recognize the significance of the award. “Congratulations on your Golden Apple. That was a fantastic night for everybody and a great celebration for all your hard work,” Gottschalk said.

Finance Director Rita Broekema agreed with that sentiment. “It was fabulous. It was well-deserved and definitely just goes to show the power of education when done right because he’s a product of public education,” Broekema said.

Stitt credited the entire staff for the award at the meeting. “It’s a collective. So, while it says Rusty Stitt, it’s the work of the folks, great admin, great staff, great board,” Stitt said.