Monthly Archives: December 2017

Bednarski-Sinclair to Wed

Sinclair engagement
Adam Sinclair and Michelle Bednarski.

Michelle Bednarski and Adam Sinclair and their families are pleased to announce their engagement.

Michelle is a 2004 graduate of Posen High School and attended Grand Valley State University, where she completed her bachelor’s degree in education. She currently works at an optometrist’s office in the Hudsonville area. Bednarski is the daughter of proud parents Michael Bednarski of Mackinaw and Donna Bednarski of Posen, Michigan.

Adam graduated from Vicksburg High School in 2003. Moving to Grand Rapids, he received his Bachelor of Science in Health Professions and in Psychology in 2009 followed by a Master of Business Administration in general business, receiving both degrees from Grand Valley State University. He is employed at Spectrum Health as a Senior Quality and Safety Improvement Specialist. Sinclair is the son of Robert and Barbara Sinclair, lifelong Vicksburg residents.

The couple will wed in March and then reside in Dorr, Michigan.

Kristen Stanford Promoted

Kristen Stanford.

The Buckham Agency, a Portage insurance firm, recently promoted Vicksburg resident Kristen Stanford to the position of Senior Customer Service Representative at the organization. The promotion follows Stanford’s successful completion of Farm Bureau’s Certified Insurance Representative (FB CIR) designation.

“We are so blessed to have Kristen as part of our office team,” said Agent/Co-Owner Stephanie Buckham. “She is kind, hardworking, and cares deeply about the people in the community we serve.”

Stanford has been with the agency for three years. She lived in the Vicksburg area as a child before moving away and eventually earning her bachelor’s degree from McKendree University in Lebanon, Illinois. She returned to the area to start her family. Along with her dedication to her customers, she is also active in the community as a member of Lakeland Reformed Church in Vicksburg. She enjoys canoeing and spending time with her family.

The Buckham Agency is located on 450 W. Centre Ave., Ste. A, Portage. It is owned and operated by Jeff and Stephanie Buckham, Jr. of Schoolcraft.

From Russia With Love Part Two

Jim and Natasha Moscow 1996
Jim Butterfield and Natasha Yakimenko in Russia 21 years ago when they were dating.

By Sue Moore

Continued from November –

Jim Butterfield and Natasha Yakimenko, now Vicksburg residents, met in Moscow, he as a Western Michigan University professor, she is a freelance translator. They carried on a three-year long-distance romance after he returned to Michigan until Natasha came to the U.S.

Butterfield, from Mishawaka, Indiana, had graduated from Indiana University, then from Notre Dame with a Ph.D in 1989. He sent applications to universities all over the U.S. and the first interview he got was at Western Michigan University. He has risen to become a full professor in the political science department. His specialty is Russia but he is interested in civil society, and transitions and development, especially in post-communist societies. As a specialist in the former Soviet Union and several of the successor states, he has been to the region over 40 times. He has traveled extensively throughout provincial Russia, including to many cities that were formerly closed to foreigners.

Before the collapse, he was accompanied by “handlers” who oversaw his activities. “If you build trust, speak the language, act like a human and ask questions, you can learn and barriers come down so quickly. As a grad student in my early 30s, I was the first American many Russians had ever met.”

His initial interest was in Communist reforms in agriculture and why they had never worked. “There was over-centralization with too many decisions made at the top. There was a risk aversion by farm managers to change things.

“Loyalty was more important. Ag production was inefficient with lots of waste. Ideally, Marx thought that people would do the work out of the goodness of their heart, meaning the worker would have moral satisfaction, but that didn’t evolve into meaningful productivity.” The common saying in the USSR: “The government pretends to pay us and we pretend to work.”

This year, Butterfield is teaching a new course on terrorism and political violence at WMU along with Russian and Central Asian politics.

He has twice been a visiting associate at the University of Cape Town’s Centre for African Studies and in 2013 was a visiting faculty member at the Kazakh Agro-Technical University in Astana, Kazakhstan. In 2009-2010, he received a Fulbright Scholar award and spent the academic year at Saratov State University in Russia. He returned there as a Fulbright Specialist Scholar in May 2014. He received another Fulbright Scholar award in 2016-2017 and spent a semester as a visiting professor at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam.

His first home in Vicksburg was a rental on Vine Street. He thought it would be a good place to raise his daughter, Sarah, who graduated from Vicksburg High School and now lives in Kalamazoo. He later purchased the Chuck Varker home on Park Street where Natasha visited, then took up residence in 1997 when they were married. She moved her son, Ivan, to Vicksburg when he was in middle school. After graduation, he attended George Mason University and then returned to Moscow where he has a job in the newsroom of Russia Today ( as an editor and personnel trainer.

Meanwhile, Natasha became a U.S. citizen and has been working as a freelance translator. Her first job here lasted more than 10 years with the Center for Citizen Initiatives, an organization aimed at promoting dialog between American and Russian citizens. The Center brought thousands of Russians to the US; Natasha accompanied them on their travels. She spent many a breakfast, lunch or dinner at Rotary Club meetings along the way. Rotarians often hosted the visitors.

Yakimenko loves to garden. She found her place to grow things in the Vicksburg community garden near the Leja Industrial Park eight years ago. She regularly exchanges gardening techniques and best practices with others and still keeps her plot in tiptop shape.

What language do they speak at home? “When Jim is tired, he speaks English and when I am tired, I speak in Russian. We understand each other perfectly. Jim loves to travel and I’m more content staying put because I like continuity. We have two homes as I inherited my parents’ small dacha outside of Moscow so I’m happy with just that,” Yakimenko said. Natasha’s mother died at the age of 88. She traveled to the U.S. a number of times and loved it here, her daughter said, although did she not speak any English.

Vicksburg Postmaster Thinks Ahead to Winter Weather

The sun may be shining and the weather cooperative, but winter is coming soon. It’s not too early to think about the hazards presented by snow and ice and stay ahead of them, reminds a press release from the U.S. Postal Service.

“The snow and ice always seem to know when we have plans, special things we need to do, or just when we want to stay inside where it’s warm and toasty,” said Vicksburg Postmaster Travis Graham. “Making sure that property is safe and accessible is important for the letter carriers is good preparation for winter.”

Graham wants to remind customers to make sure to keep pathways, stairs, walkways and the approach to mailboxes free and clear from snow and ice. This will prevent injuries and allow postal employees to provide the best possible service, even in the worst weather. In addition, Graham cautions to be sure mailboxes can withstand the conditions of heavy snow and snowplows all winter long.

Mail delivery in rural areas and on private and secondary roads can be especially challenging for rural carriers; snow removal occurs less often than on primary roads. Most carriers on these delivery routes drive their own vehicles and often get stuck or cannot access the mail boxes due to snow and ice buildup. Removing the snow from around these mailboxes is definitely appreciated, he said.

Customers in rural areas can benefit from renting a post office box at their local post office. Boxes can be rented for 6- or 12-month periods and provide consistent delivery, even in inclement weather.

Plaque Dedication Takes Place in Oswalt Park

A small crowd gathered in Oswalt Park on a rainy Sunday in November to dedicate a plaque erected as an historic marker in the park. It illustrates the buildings that were formerly a part of Vicksburg’s downtown but torn down in the early 70s. Kristina Powers Aubry and members of the Historical Society’s plaque committee were the primary participants. The sign is two-sided with the front showing an artist’s drawing by Mike Hardy of what the buildings looked like in 1938. On the back side are actual photographs of the buildings and some of their occupants in the early years.

The Last Person to Turn Out the Lights at the Mill

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Dick Moyle returned the paper mill in November to check out the redevelopment taking place in the east wing. As he was leaving he spotted a pile of scraps that had been uncovered by the workmen from Frederick Construction. He just felt the need to run his hands throughout the loose strips of paper as a fond remembrance of his years at the mill.

By Jef Rietsma

Dick Moyle is in an exclusive group when it comes to former workers at the Simpson Paper Company. But it’s a dubious distinction.

“I was a part of the last group of people who were there until the day the place was locked up for good,” the 62-year-old Vicksburg-area resident said. “I wish my final memory of the mill was a better one, of better times, but I’ll never forget what it was like to be there after everybody was gone.”

Moyle, who spent 23 years at the Vicksburg landmark in a number of capacities, from union steward to management, attended a meeting at which a select number of higher-ups were told about the mill’s fate.

This many years later, he even recalled the date: Jan. 11, 2001.

“Well, I remember it pretty well because it’s my wedding anniversary,” he said with a laugh. “But beyond that, just because of the life-changing magnitude of it all, it’s just one of those dates you don’t forget.”

The fateful day came about five years after Simpson was bought by its biggest competitor, Fox River Paper Co. A Mattawan native, Moyle was the assistant converting superintendent when the transaction was completed. He worked under Gary Vandlen, a supervisor for whom Moyle has the utmost respect.

“A very intelligent man and one of the best bosses I’ve ever worked for … a really good guy,” Moyle said. “He ended up moving on and then I got his job the last three years or so. That was my job title to the end.”

Moyle said his recollection of Jan. 11, 2001, includes a team of people showing up in Vicksburg, a squad that included Fox River representatives and other people whom Moyle assumed were attorneys. Moyle said there was little small talk ahead of the words: “We are closing the mill over a matter of time.”

“You could have heard a pin drop … my heart stopped, and all of the people who worked for me at the time knew something was up when I came back down because you couldn’t smoke in our offices but I just lit up anyhow and thought to myself, ‘What are they going to do, fire me?’” Moyle said. “They asked us not to tell the hourly people until they made the announcement publicly that same day, but I went ahead and told my people, the supervisors and clerical.”

The closure was gradual. Moyle said he remembers operations in various departments would cease as the inventory of materials were exhausted. Eventually, a drop-dead date in March 2001 was identified as the last day.

“They said, ‘OK, we’re done with all operations, we’re going to ship out the rest of the paper to our other facilities and we’ll have them take care of it.’” Moyle said.

He recalled Tom Crockett who served as liaison between Fox River and its Appleton, Wisconsin executives and the few who remained to the end, including Moyle.

“They contracted out millwright workers to come in and move the equipment, so I worked with them until I was done in mid-June and they probably were the last ones out with a guy named Gary Jones.” Jones was the shipping superintendent at the time, “so I’m guessing he was the one who probably locked the doors not too long after I was done.”

As a member of the last group of employees at the mill, Moyle said he recalls being asked why he didn’t stick it to Fox River and just not show up anymore. He explained that he had nothing else lined up between the end of operations and closing the building for good.

Moyle, like many of his mill workers, wound up working at what was then Pharmacia, the successor to the Upjohn Co. He said the pharmaceutical company sent a representative to the mill to conduct interviews.

“A guy who worked for me, by the name of Steve Shaw, was an hourly employee and I used him as a fill-in supervisor when people went on vacations … he was a good guy and did a really good job,” Moyle said. “He left the company long before Fox River came in, but he had a pretty good offer from Pharmacia and I encouraged him to take it. I couldn’t guarantee him a supervisor’s position at the mill.”

He never confirmed, but Moyle speculated Shaw convinced Pharmacia to hire as many mill workers as it could.

Moyle provided an anecdote that he said speaks to the character of the
mill’s employees.

“You know, all the paper mills in the area were closing at the time and when we were next to close, I always had this fear that there would be some really blatant animosity, anger that the production people would throw at management,” he said. “When it came to our mill, though, I never saw any of that. I had hourly people tell me it wasn’t our fault, they said it was all on Fox River, and I was very relieved. I don’t feel I left any hard feelings there.”

Moyle’s last day was uneventful. He said he showed up on time. He, Jones and the millwrights loaded semi-tractor-trailers destined for Appleton or other mills, and they even went out to lunch together.

In his final moments, Moyle said he sat in what used to be his office and did a lot of reflecting. He thought of his earliest days on the job as a paster helper and trimmer operator.

“It was tough to walk out of there having the feelings that I had, knowing this place was my life for 23 very good years, I poured everything I could into it, and knowing the friendships and relationships that I had in there were now over,” Moyle said. “It was a hollow feeling. So many thoughts went through my mind, the people who crossed my life and so many who influenced my life and shaped me into the person who I am today. I say that and two guys in particular, Chet Dombrowski and John Bolhuis, come to mind; that’s how close-knit we were. It was a great 23 years.”

Moyle would go on to work 15 years for Pharmacia/Pfizer. He retired in 2016.

Mending for the Community of Schoolcraft

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Anita Balganorth at her sewing machine repairing some blue jeans that were brought in to the mending marathon at Schoolcraft United Methodist Church.

By Sue Moore

Who has time to mend clothes these days when they spring a rip or tear? The Schoolcraft United Methodist Women’s group gave a nod for working families in such situations and held its second annual Mending Marathon the end of October.

They were willing to work on clothes that needed repair, to be hemmed or patched or had buttons that needed replacing for no charge. There were plenty of takers and some challenges, said Judy Oliphant, who worked at the event in the church’s activity room. Linda Greenhoe was the chair person.

“We asked what we could do for the community and this is what we came up with,” said Sheila Nichols. “The seamstresses were all volunteers and organized along the lines of hand sewing, sewing machine operators, and intake coordinator,” she pointed out.
It was all free but they did receive some donations for the church that will be used in the future for their children’s camp scholarships. They expect to be back at this much-needed sewing exercise next spring, according to Oliphant.