Monthly Archives: May 2015

Boy Scouts 75th Anniversary Celebration Thinks Big

best scout picBy Sue Moore

Roughing it is nothing new to Boy Scouts.

But some roughing it is rougher than others. Weather was the challenge for the troop’s 75th anniversary camporee, Saturday, April 25 at the Vicksburg Historic Village, according to Kevin Borden, Vicksburg’s Troup 251 Scoutmaster.

Cold, rain, and wind greeted the 150-plus campers when they crawled out of their tents after sleeping overnight on the ground in pup tents. They cheerfully gathered for flag raising and breakfast, then launched into their service project for the morning. The scouts were dispersed to the many areas of the Historic Village where they were met by members of the Victorian Garden Club. Members guided the boys in weeding, raking, and cleaning up the grounds during their annual spring clean-up. Later in the day, Borden promised to make this one of the community projects for the scouts as they recognized how much their help was appreciated by the ladies who do this work every year.

The usual roughhousing that boys from ages seven to 17 experience in the out of doors was guided by adult scoutmasters from all over this area. Troops from Schoolcraft, Richland, Battle Creek, Portage, Kalamazoo, and Vicksburg’s Troop 253 sponsored by Lakeland Church, joined in to celebrate the 75th anniversary. One highlight for the scouts was a visit from British Revolutionary War reenactors. They came from Kalamazoo, Indiana and Ohio in costume to educate young and old on what camp life was like in the 1870s. They represented the British Army’s 84th Regiment of Foot that served at Fort Michilimackinac on Mackinac Island.

Capping off the day was a tug-o-war, outhouse races, hatchet toss, branding station, marshmallow shooting, and fire truck display. A dedication ceremony for a scout silhouette and unveiling beside the historic township hall in the village brought all the troops together. The sculpture was created by Landscape Forms in Kalamazoo. It has a flagpole coming out of the extended arm of a scout in silhouette. Jim Willoughby of Kalamazoo, and a legendary scoutmaster in his own right, portrayed Robert Baden-Powell in uniform, including the campaign hat featured in the sculpture, as the founder of Boy Scouting. The scouts and their guests listened with rapt attention to his recitation of how scouting was born and its focus on outdoor activities and survival skills.

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Leaders of Boy Scouts Troop 251 and Cub Scouts 251, assemble by the sculpture that was installed at the Historic Village during their camporee in April.

The evening featured roast pig for all the campers, a Dutch oven cobbler competition and finally a movie in the Historic Village Pavilion. By Taps and lights out at 11 p.m., not many were stirring anywhere on the camp grounds, according to Kip Young, one of the primary organizers of the event. Leaders of Troop 251 vowed to move the camporee to the Historic Village permanentlyS after seeing how well it was received by campers and the community.

Hearty Hustle Celebrates 28 Years on May 9

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Kim Kline of the Vicksburg Community Schools Foundation holds the sign directing the runners in the 2014 Hearty Hustle.

By Sue Moore

Come Saturday morning, May 9th, you will see people swiftly running and briskly walking through the streets of Vicksburg as the 28th Annual Hearty Hustle 5K Walk/Run takes off. The race begins at 9 a.m. at the high school, loops through the village of Vicksburg and back to the stadium where Athletic Director, Mike Roy announces participants.

“It’s an enduring event that sets the standard for 5K races. This event is the hallmark of fun, health, and fellowship,” says Tonya Nash, the chief organizer of the event, as the community education director for the district. She heads a coalition of partners including Vicksburg Community Schools Foundation, Bronson Vicksburg Outpatient Center, the Village of Vicksburg and the Vicksburg Community Schools.

“All participants enjoy the community vibe of the race. The runners appreciate the professionalism of the race; family members and friends cheer on participants; and the Baby Bolters (4 years and under) always bring a smile.”

The 5K walk/run course winds through the scenic streets of the Village magically missing the railroad tracks. The fun walk is approximately one mile in length and invites folks to just get out and get moving, according to Nash. The entry fee is $11 ($9 for senior citizens and elementary students) if registering online before May 7. It goes up to $25 on race day, so it pays to think ahead and register now at

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Every child was a winner in the Baby Bolt.

New this year, nine registration scholarships have been donated to the three elementary schools as rewards for amazing effort and perseverance in Physical Education. The recipients this year are: Keyana Szabo, Anthony Holleran, Avram Lipford, Olivia Curtis, Lucy Glerum, Dylan Zemitans, Reed Tassell, Katara Rosol, and Anna Meschke.

The Tina Hayward Inspiration Award recognizes a male and female runner in the master class, sponsored by Leon Hayward. Always a surprise is the Hollenbeck Volunteer award winner as well as the Carl Bennett Photo Moment award, which is given at the end of the race to someone who has run the race in creative attire or has a light-hearted attitude. Mac Sports Timing will be ensuring everyone has a posted time, and the 36 top and divisional winners are acknowledged.

All proceeds from the race will go toward the Vicksburg Community Schools Foundation for the many functions it sponsors during the school year. It is going to be a great event – the Vicksburg Hearty Hustle – one race.

Carl Tackett Closes Antique Store in the Bell Building

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Carl Tackett displays an original sign that points to Bell’s Garage which was located in the wooden building to the north of his current home.

By Sue Moore

After celebrating twenty-eight years as an antique dealership in the Bell Building on Grand Street in Schoolcraft, Carl Tackett, owner of T & W Coin store and Norma’s Antiques, is closing up shop. The store has occupied three buildings that were built by Lewis Bell in the 1890s and over the years have housed a meat market, a telephone exchange, and a movie theater.

The Tacketts moved from a store front in Portage to Schoolcraft when the owners of Portage Plaza raised the rent beyond what Carl was willing to pay. With the help of friends, all the stock was moved in one day to Schoolcraft; just one dish was broken. When Norma, Carl’s wife of 45 years, passed away in the fall of 2014, her antiques occupied all corners of the vast Opera House upstairs, the basement, and the main floors fronting on Grand Street. Carl is selling all the antiques at auction in Illinois. It has taken 12 truckloads so far to move these valuable antiques without making much of a dent in the remaining stock. The auction house will not let him help with anything in the moving and packing of the inventory.

Norma was known worldwide for her knowledge of antiques, drawing customers from as far away as Europe and Japan. Together, the Tacketts put Schoolcraft on the map as a center of antique shopping with help from employees who will also be retiring. The couple started the Christmas Walk in Schoolcraft that brought shoppers from far and wide to enjoy the small town atmosphere and the warmth of Christmases past.

Soon after they moved into the store fronts, they remodeled the store next to Loving Ewe to be their residence. All of the buildings were vacant when he purchased them from Kalamazoo County State Bank. “They were a mess. Birds had taken over the upstairs. It took six weeks with 12 people helping, to clean it all up. We found 36 deer heads piled up on the floor in the Opera House area. There was an elevator going upstairs and after I messed up my shoulder, I fixed it and its still operating today.”

Melvin’s Hardware was there for many years in the middle of the 20th century…..oldies remember this fondly.  Folks would gather there to watch the first TV in town sitting on washers, dryers and whatever was near…old and young alike!

Carl has been active in the community too, having served nearly 20 years on the village council. He personally oversees the village-sponsored garage sale every spring. He is very proud of the sidewalk program the village instituted years ago.

He now spends three days a week on dialysis at the Three Rivers hospital, so his health has been a concern for the many people who stop by to chat each day and try to keep him from being lonely. He will meet with coin collectors by appointment but doesn’t plan to keep his portion of the shop open for walk-ins.

Tackett moved from Marion, IN in 1966 to work at the GM plant on Sprinkle Road. He has three children from a previous marriage. He met Norma who had two children but was single when he hired her to do accounting work for the UAW local; he served as the local’s financial secretary. They started the antique business when a business in Detroit closed. They purchased the inventory and moved it to a flower shop they owned in Battle Creek. Carl kept his day job at GM until he retired in 1986.

“I’ve always liked coins. Like a lot of kids, you start collecting the Lincoln penny. It’s hard to get kids interested in collecting these days but I still have a lot of loyal customers. I love the business, so I want to keep that going in my spare time.”

Blast from the Past

Blast PastThe building to the right is the oldest wooden building in Schoolcraft. Constructed in the 1840s, it survived a devastating fire that took all the other buildings south of it. When they were rebuilt by Lewis Bell around 1896, they were constructed from brick. Schoolcraft’s post office was located here and later moved to Hayward St. Before the building was known as Norma’s Antiques it was called “Bell’s Opera House”. A stage was located on the second floor and many balls, dances, high school senior plays and operettas occurred in it. There were stores on the first floor and the public area on the second floor even saw high school basketball games until 1938. There were two posts in the middle of the floor; players dribbled around them to get to the support posts on either end to score a basket. No cars, but electric lights and either telegraph or telephone poles can be seen in the photo. The stone for the Bell Block is still at the corner of Hayward and Cass in the grass area owned by the Kalamazoo County State Bank.

Photo and content courtesy of the Schoolcraft Historical Society. If you have an old photo to share, email it to

Vicksburg Farmers’ Market Opens May 22

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Marilyn Pagels found the flowers she didn’t actually grow in her own beautiful garden on Spring Road, at the Vicksburg Farmers’ Market in 2014.

By Sue Moore

The “open for business” sign goes up for a second year at the new pavilion on Richardson Street for the Vicksburg Farmers’ Market from 2:30-6:30 p.m., May 22. It’s the market’s sixth year as a purveyor of locally grown fruits and vegetables along with specialty items such as baked goods, coffee beans, granola bars, handmade soaps, and mushrooms.

There are some new vendors for market visitors to inspect, along with many who have been with the market since its inception located at the former Bobby’s drive-in restaurant. Carol Meyer-Niedzwiecki has been recruited to become the co-market manager, taking Stella Shearer’s place for the 2015 season.

The market has been graced with area musicians each week, coming to play for the customers as the browse. They are from the Kalamazoo Folk Life Society and offer their services for free, but do put the hat out for contributions. June Kucks, a Vicksburg member of the society, is handling all the arrangements. Charlie Burgstahler will do the honors on May 22. He plays guitar and Harmonica. Jim Jager will be holding forth on May 29, playing guitar and singing in his easy listening style.

Kids Plate, organized by Carol LaFrance and Penny Allen will be back again on the third Friday of June, July and August. She is also planning a presentation in partnership with Rise and Dine entitled “Eating Healthy on a Budget.” LaFrance is president of the nonprofit market.

A new parking arrangement has been drawn up by Don Wiertella and John Polacek, former MDOT engineers. It was approved by the village, the Market Board, and the Lions Club in April. Customers will continue to enter from Spruce Street, though at a new entrance stretching directly east and west close to the Heritage Garden. Parking will be off the newly graveled road and on Spruce St., with the hope that grass will take hold on the east side of the pavilion where the Lions Club usually conducts its volleyball tournament in July. Over 225 cubic yards of donated top soil has been trucked in from the Allen Edwin building development to cover the east side, replacing gravel and broken glass shards following construction of the pavilion.

The first year in the pavilion saw a large increase in the number of customers and vendors who liked to be under cover in the pavilion. The Vicksburg market is one of the largest in the area and has gained a stellar reputation among those who love fresh vegetables and fruit each week. The variety of offerings has been a big draw, with the market hitting over 950 customers on a warm day in August of 2014. It is a nonprofit organization, run by volunteers who have put in countless hours to help make it run efficiently. SNAP, Double Up Food Bucks, Senior Fresh, Project Fresh, WIC, and Generous Hands coupons will be honored again in 2015.

Volunteer Recognition Week

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Faye Van Ravenswaay, library director, and Debra Christiansen, president of the Friends of the Library, greet people at their volunteer appreciation event.

Volunteers form the heart and soul of the Schoolcraft community work force in many special ways, according to one who knows–Faye Van Ravenswaay, director of the Schoolcraft Library. Her organization plans to recognize its many faithful volunteers during the week of April 12-18.

The Friends of the Library (FOL) hold several annual events to raise money for the library and plug for the recognition of the library in the Schoolcraft community. They sponsor the Jubilee of Trees, the Book & Bake Sale in April and a summer family-friendly program in July that is usually held in Burch Park. Their dedication, commitment, and fundraising expertise enable the library to provide programming for all ages, such as the popular summer reading program, as well as purchase books, materials, and other exciting technology that benefit the community, according to Van Ravenswaay.

The library staff and its board wish to publicly express gratitude for the volunteers many years of service in support of the library with this public recognition.

Laura Howard Honored as Rotary Club Hero

Laura Howard
Laura Howard.

By Sue Moore

Laura Howard, a two-time past president of the Vicksburg Rotary Club, was nominated as its Rotary Hero of the year. She will be honored at the District 6360 annual meeting along with 46 Heroes from other clubs in Southwest Michigan at the district’s May gathering.

One of the criteria is length of service in the club and the impact that service has had on the club. In that, Howard excels according to Warren Lawrence, the only other two-time past president. “She is task oriented, accepts jobs readily whenever given an assignment. I know they will always be carried through in complete detail, with the task accomplished perfectly. She is a multi-faceted person, with lots of enthusiasm for giving back to her job and the community,” he commented.

Howard was the first women admitted to the club after Rotary International lifted the ban on women members in 1990. She moved up through the chairs to become the first woman president of the club in 2000, then served a second term in 2001/02. “There were a lot of changes at that time in the officers of the club, so they asked me to stay on one more term. The job was bigger than I anticipated but enjoyable, she said. She was selected as a Paul Harris Fellow in 2007, an honor the club bestows once a year on its most outstanding citizen.

She has been behind the scenes in the Rotary Showboat production every year since joining, serving on ticket sales, programs, advertising and ushering. For the last few years she has operated the spotlight for each performance.

Outside of Rotary she is the system director for Bronson Hospital’s ProHealth, Rehabilitation, and Vicksburg Outpatient Clinic. She started her career at Bronson Hospital 38 years ago and moved to its Vicksburg facility in 1985 as a social worker for the rehab unit, rising to oversee the entire Vicksburg operation.

As the face of Vicksburg’s United Way campaign for over ten years, she has steered the fundraising and allocations decisions, and served on the Greater Kalamazoo United Way board before it combined with Battle Creek. She also served on the Goodwill Board of Directors.

Nadia Steeby Photo Exhibition at Schoolcraft Library

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Nadia Steeby sets up her art display.

By Sue Moore

Reconstructing old photographs is a passion for Nadia Steeby, along with her love of photography. She will be showing her work at the Schoolcraft Library through June 10. She opened the exhibit with a meet-and-greet on April 29.

Besides the display at the library, Steeby will be teaching a course on photo restoration at the library as part of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) sponsored by Western Michigan University’s Extended University Programs. There are 30 spots set aside for the class with registration taking place on May 7 for members of OLLI and May 11 for non-members.

Steeby’s retouching expertise is on display in the examples she has chosen to exhibit at the library. “Preserving old photos that may be crinkled, torn, faded, or partially ruined and deteriorating is my passion in life,” Steeby explains. “It takes patience and practice, which I can teach others how to do in this course. We are stewards of this history and I like to pass along my enthusiasm for this bit of Americana to others.”

She doesn’t necessarily need to go far to get her photographs. “Some of my pictures on display were taken right out my backdoor of a beautiful sunrise,” she says. People in the big cities never see a sunrise from their back yard. She also has a sunset picture taken from her front yard that has brilliant lighting.

The name of her company is Picture Perfect, LLC which she runs while parenting two teenagers, and working part-time from home to schedule Borgess Hospital’s medical staff of nurses, LPN’s, CNA’s, and x-ray technicians. Steeby has lived in Schoolcraft for 20 years. Although she’s not a native, her husband Mark is. She appreciates the closeness of the families she has met since coming from Kalamazoo.

The Art of Living: The Liermann Family From Vicksburg

Kaleb, Mark, and Amy Liermann in their home in Vicksburg.

By Leeanne Seaver

It was a fateful time for Faithful, the play Mark Liermann was directing at Chicago’s Royal George Theatre in 1993. Amy Bash, the new stage manager for Liermann’s acting company, Renegade Theatre, joined Mark in a creative partnership that would eventually lead to an even more important role. More than 20 years later, the couple’s wedding rings are inscribed with the word Faithful. In their lovely Vicksburg Victorian home, they have made a life that remains focused on creativity and their love of the arts.

The Bash-Liermann collaboration has produced a number of successful endeavors over the years: a restaurant in Colorado; a custom furniture business in Michigan and Illinois; and theatre faculty appointments for Mark at Colorado State University, his alma mater and, currently, at Western Michigan University (WMU) where he is an associate professor. Although he didn’t set out to be a teacher, “It’s in his blood,” Amy points out.

Mark is very much to the manner born—a third-generation professor from a family of teachers. “My love of teaching is in great part due to the encouragement of my wife. I thought I was done with theater when we left Chicago and disbanded the company. But as it often happens, life proves us wrong.” Colorado State recruited him to cover some acting classes. That grew into full-time faculty status. Teaching came easy to Mark, but it was never anything he thought he would have a passion for. “When I started teaching and directing, I discovered that what I love is the rehearsal process. For me, teaching is about making those connections and discoveries with the actors,” he explained.

For Mark and Amy, their favorite collaboration has been parenting sons Alex and Kaleb. Both boys have inherited their parents’ artistic natures and are pursuing film and theatre studies. Alex is a third year communications student at WMU with his sights set on film school. In May, Kaleb will graduate a year early from Vicksburg High School. He’s already signed up for WMU’s “New Play Project” that will be taught this summer by his dad.

When she’s not directing the Tobey Elementary Kid’s Club, a before- and after-school program, Amy Liermann can usually be found with a paintbrush in her hand. Her custom furniture painting business, The Cobblestone Market & Zillion Acres Furniture, is an online business. They also have retail space inside Consigned Design, located across from Erbelli’s on Portage Road. Along with friend Sheree Beardslee and sister Meghan Bash, who runs their Illinois store, Amy designs and custom paints all kinds of furniture. “I’m not doing theater anymore,” Amy explained. “I was in it for years and studied it in grad school, but what I’m doing now is also a different kind of creative outlet. I love it.”

Amy’s unique style is apparent throughout the house they bought in Vicksburg in 2005. When they moved here from Colorado, Mark and Amy wanted a solid education for the boys, and then “it came down to where we’d find the right house,” Amy said. Vicksburg was an ideal fit—great schools that came with a big bonus: the Big Red Machine. Mark is grateful for what the VHS band experience did for their sons. “For me, that’s the number one thing our boys got from high school. Alex got to go to New Orleans and Kaleb traveled to Orlando with the band. They worked hard, and I watched how they changed and became young men in that process.”

Kaleb nods—his experience with the band gave him friends who were there for him during some hard times. Amy said, “The band kids made a safety line around him” that kept Kaleb going. “I was a bit of a nobody,” he explained. A seminal event came when he was tutoring another student in math—the same kid who had once posted “Who the H#ll is Kaleb Liermann?” on Facebook. Wrapping up their final session, Kaleb declared, “By the way, I am Kaleb Liermann.”

There can be no mistake that the Liermanns have made a name for themselves. Mark’s most recent WMU production, “Tony & Tina’s Wedding” was staged at the Epic Center to sold-out crowds. “We’ve been able to be our artistic selves here. We feel very connected and have found good people,” Amy said. Mark agrees. “I certainly have grown to appreciate the things that are around us. We have fantastic neighbors. The house is a lot of work but it’s been a good important holding place. This town is full of the memory of our children growing up. It will always be that for me. Vicksburg has served us well.”

The Kalamazoo Air Zoo Honors Schoolcraft and Vicksburg Area Residents

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Abby Chapin of Schoolcraft accepts her award at the Science Innovation Hall of Fame Gala at the Air Zoo from Troy Thrash on the left and Susan Bowers on the right.

By Sue Moore

Abby Chapin a Schoolcraft High School senior, received a Student Excellence Award in a ceremony from leaders of the Kalamazoo Air Zoo. David Blough, a Vicksburg area resident who teaches math at Parchment High School, was given an Educator Excellence Award at the same event. They were feted as part of the Air Zoo’s Science Innovation Hall of Fame Awards in late April.

Chapin, a senior who studies at the Kalamazoo Area Math and Science Center (KAMSC), plans to be an engineer. In her application for the honor, she wrote that her interest lies in alternative energy—solar power for example. Developing sustainable and eco-friendly items for individuals in third-world countries where these devices can save lives will be her concentration in college.

“These types of ideas are changing the world, and that is exactly what I plan to do with my life,” she wrote. “I have a passion for learning concepts but also diving deeper to learn how and to understand why. I want to make the world a better place for us to live.”

She also earned a $1,500 scholarship based on her performance during Michigan State University’s engineering camp last summer. She is the daughter of John and Cyndie Chapin.

David Blough, a Vicksburg High School graduate in 1983, a Hope College grad in 1987, and Peace Corps volunteer in the 1980s in the Philippines, was honored for his passion for teaching. “For much of his career David has taught classes for students who struggle with math,” said Shani Walton, a Parchment math teacher who nominated Blough. “He works very hard to find problems and projects that will pique their interest and keep them engaged when it comes to applying the mathematics with which they so often struggle.”

Blough created a “trebuchet” project, requiring a lot of math lessons to create such a catapult. The students research how they work, design and build their own variation where they see the living math equations in action. They have fun with a battle between the teams at the end of the school year, shooting targets in a big open area at the school. They score points on their accuracy. One of the targets is Blough.

“There are different ways to teach math,” Blough said. “It takes patience, energy, time, tough love sometimes, but when young people start to get it, there is a real sense of accomplishment. I had Dan Briggs at Vicksburg High School as my math teacher and I learned a lot from him.”

Blough is the son of Janet and Mike Blough, who is a retired teacher from Vicksburg High School. He lives in the Tobey School area and has six grandchildren, two of which attend Indian Lake elementary school.

The Air Zoo also honored five aviators from the state of Michigan who had made special achievements in aviation.

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David Blough, Vicksburg area resident and Parchment teacher, accepts his “Educator Excellence” award from Troy Thrash on the left, Jon Bowers to the right of Blough, and Don Parfet.