Monthly Archives: May 2019

Girl Scout Cookies Donated to Local Kids

girl scout cookiesGirls from Scout Troop 80826 in Schoolcraft regifted boxes of cookies that customers bought and gave back to the girls. The 15 boxes of cookies, worth $75, came from the 2018-19 cookie season. The girls donated the cookies to the Eagles Nest Food Pantry and the teachers and staff at Schoolcraft Elementary School. The girls decided those were the two places they wanted their troop’s donated cookies to go to this year, said their leader, Nikki Hulinek. While at the Eagles Nest, the girls helped pack Friday snack packs for local kids. Shown in the photo, from left, are Kennedy Beaghan, Aubrey Tuesley, Lucy Spell, Dilynn Burson, Andersen Brown, Lula Stull and Jackie Hulinek.

Local Volunteers Reach Out to Ministry with Community

Ministry with community
Bill Oswalt, Maureen Dobbie, Mike Hardy, Kaye Bennett and Jean Philport help serve lunch at Ministry with Community honoring Chuck Corella.

When Vicksburg resident Kathy Corella wanted to honor the memory of her husband, Chuck, who had died in 2009, she decided to sponsor a lunch at Ministry with Community (MwC), a daytime shelter and resource center in Kalamazoo.

Since the date she chose to sponsor that lunch was a Thursday, much of the volunteer crew serving it was also made up of Vicksburg residents, including Bill Oswalt, Jean Philport, Maureen Dobbie, Mike Hardy and Kaye Bennett, a large part of MwC’s lunch volunteers known as the Thursday Group. (Other Vicksburg people, like Dee Dee Hoy and Jim and Madonna Nimmo, volunteer on other days.) On Thursday, April 11, Corella’s donation and the Thursday Group’s toil served a three-course fried chicken dinner to 245 members.

Members is the term MwC uses to refer to the people they serve, upwards of 2,500 individuals a year, who are struggling with challenges such as homelessness, poverty and mental illness. The organization provides breakfast and lunch every day of the year, and offers daytime shelter and services such as laundry, showers and phone access. Staff social workers help members with issues ranging from domestic violence to obtaining birth certificates and ID.

The staff of Ministry with Community could not do all it does without volunteers and community support. That’s where South County people like Corella and the lunch volunteers come in.

“Chuck used to talk to homeless people to find out their pressing needs,” Kathy Corella says. Then he’d go shopping and deliver the purchases to people living on the streets. Supporting Ministry with Community in his name was a natural step. Like Corella, many people sponsor a meal at MwC to remember a loved one; others do it to thank someone or to celebrate a milestone. A $300 gift provides a full lunch that day; the daily lunch count is usually between 200 and 250 people. For more details on meal sponsorship, call Janet Karpus at 269-343-6073, ext. 138, or email

Once you’ve got the meal ready to serve, you need people to plate it and deliver it, family style, to diners. That’s where volunteers like Bill Oswalt come in. Not long after Oswalt’s wife, Pat, died, in 2015, he agreed to ride along with other Vicksburg friends for their weekly trip to MwC. He found that he really enjoyed the work. “There’s obviously a need,” Oswalt says, “and it’s good to be a part of meeting that need.” Like others from Vicksburg who volunteer at MwC, Oswalt has a long history of community involvement in South County. Among his many activities, Oswalt is a trustee of the Vicksburg Foundation, where he’s been on the Board for 40 years and was president for 29.

Dobbie, too, is a long-time Vicksburg volunteer, with involvement in Generous Hands, South County Community Services, the community gardens and more. She’s been a Ministry with Community volunteer for more than a dozen years, providing services to members including chair massages and foot and nail care. She says she keeps coming back to MwC “because of the wonderful people there – staff and members.” Then she adds, “But I receive so much in return.”

Serving lunch is not the only way volunteers contribute to Ministry with Community. A wide variety of volunteer opportunities is available, ranging from stocking and sorting donated items or wrapping silverware, to leading art and activities groups, providing music during the lunch hour, gleaning (picking up food donations from local restaurants and grocery stores), and working the front desk. For information on how you might help, either as an individual or as part of a group, call Megan Stull at 269-343-6073, ext. 134, or email

Avink Funeral Home Purchased by McCowen & Secord

avink 1
Tim Secord on the left and Steve and Jenny McCowen on the right are the proud new owners of the Avink Funeral Home in Schoolcraft.

By Sue Moore

A year ago, Steve McCowen and partner Tim Secord and their families purchased Vicksburg and Portage funeral homes from Marilyn Durham and her family. In mid-March, the partners made another big move, purchasing the Avink Funeral Home & Cremation Society in Schoolcraft.

“We plan to be very active in the Schoolcraft community,” McCowen said. “We want to give families a funeral home with full-service capabilities. John and Liz Avink were pioneers in adopting the Cremation Society and we will continue that as well as providing options to meet the needs of any family who comes to us.”

The partners also own the Marshall & Gren Chapel in Plainwell. “For many folks, Avink’s means fair and affordable, and for that reason we plan to keep the name of the business the same. People will say they don’t want anything, and our job is to find out what that means to them,” said McCowen. “People have services all the time without it being at the funeral home.

“It’s about honoring the life and meeting the needs of the family. We can provide both right here in this building at 129 S. Grand Street in Schoolcraft or find the right location to meet their needs and size of the event. We have many partners in the community to help with larger events.

“For years the funeral home was the family home of the Avinks and really didn’t have business hours where you know you could stop and visit with someone about your wishes. Now it will be open and staffed from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. where we can meet to make plans with family members. We will write the obituaries with help from the family, take care of the many details such as pre-planning, social security and veterans’ benefits.”

Cremation has been the most used option for a family using Avink’s services in the past. At the other three locations run by McCowen and Secord, cremation is utilized about 50 percent of the time, Secord said. “When most people come in for a visitation they are rather guarded,” McCowen said. “They are truly out of their comfort zone. We tell them that just being there is what matters. The majority who attend don’t know the deceased very well, they come for the relatives. For us, it’s part of being a small-town funeral director and serving your community and their needs.”

Secord began his career in the funeral business after stints as a firefighter, minister, author and speaker. He lives in Otsego with his wife, who is a schoolteacher. They have two children. His mother lived at Barton Lake near Vicksburg and his sister Terri Secord teaches at Vicksburg High School. His real calling in life has turned out to be serving people in the time of their greatest loss, he said.

McCowen became part of a blended family when he married Jenny McKillop last year. Together they have five children and live in Schoolcraft. Jenny’s son attends Portage Central and daughter attends Kalamazoo Valley Community College, and Steve’s two sons are at Vicksburg High School, while daughter Mackenzie attends Western Michigan University. Since coming to Vicksburg 16 years ago, McCowen has been very active in the community, participating with the DDA, the Chamber, the School Foundation and sports programs.

Together the partnership employs four full time people and two apprentices working to become funeral directors. They also employ around 20 part-time staff to be used for funeral services. They have purchased a new hearse to be used at any of their four locations.

“We like to have local members of the community be a part of our operation as we believe it’s better when someone is grieving to be comforted by someone they might know. All of our family members help out when needed,” McCowen pointed out.


Thomas Earl Cook, Jr., 60, Schoolcraft, died unexpectedly April 11 at the University of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor. He was born on June 26, 1958 to Thomas Sr. and Virginia (Rutz) Cook. Tom obtained an engineering degree from WMU and was in sales at Durametallic/Flowserve for 40 years. He played bass guitar and often hosted parties with his band providing entertainment. With quiet faith, Tom also served as an elder at Westminster Presbyterian Church for the past 10 years. He and his Therese, his wife of 10 years, were involved in the music ministry at church – he played bass guitar while she played percussion. They also served their community. Theresa was appointed clerk of Prairie Ronde Township where Tom served as deputy clerk. Members of his family include his wife, Theresa (Rosneck) Cook; daughters Kaylee (Jeremy) Trinkle and Kendra Cook; grandchildren Leland and Naomi and another grandson expected in August; his parents, siblings David (Cheri) Cook, Linda (Jeff) Dehn and Carrie (Matt) Selbee; his aunt, Phyllis Hall and his uncle Marshall Rutz; his former wife, Judith Joubert; in-laws Leo and Ellen Rosneck; brothers and sisters-in-law Cathy (John) Robertstad, Jim Rosneck, Patty (Jim) Wood and Leo (Stacey) Rosneck and many nieces, nephews, and cousins. He was preceded in death by uncles Larry Hall and Jack Cook. Cremation has taken place. Services were held Saturday, April 20, at Westminster Presbyterian Church. Please visit Tom’s personal web page at where you can share a favorite memory or photo and sign his online guestbook. Memorial contributions may be made to Westminster Presbyterian Church.

Allan Ray Decker, 82, Vicksburg, died April 23, at his home following a long illness. He was born in Colon on Jan. 16, 1937, the son of Clair and Frances (James) Decker. He graduated from Colon High School with the class of 1955. Allan enlisted in the U.S. Army and served in Korea with the Signal Corps. He was married to Geraldine Spealman on April 5, 1959 in Leonidas; they moved to Vicksburg in 1962. Allan worked for Lakeside Refining Company in Kalamazoo for 35 years. He earned his associate’s degree from Kalamazoo Valley Community College in 1975. He was a member of the Disabled American Veterans. Allan is survived by his children, Tammy Decker of Fulton, Karla (Bill) Hodge of Huntersville, N.C., Rod (Christina K.) Decker and their family, and Mark Decker both of Vicksburg; grandchildren Thomas (Rebecca) Decker, Jessica (Jeremy) Shepherd, John Tiller, Ed, and Joe Hodge; a brother, Bruce Decker of Athens; two sisters, Susan Glass of Selina, Ohio and Linda Cubbernuss of Mendon. He was preceded in death by his parents; his wife, Jerry in 2011; and by brothers Lewis, Wayne and Ronald Decker. Visitation will be from 5 to 8 p.m. Monday, May 6, 2019 at the Eickhoff Funeral Home in Mendon. Funeral services will be 11 a.m. Tuesday, May 7, 2019 at the Crossroads Missionary Church in Mendon with Pastor Bryan Balasa officiating. The family will receive friends for one hour prior to services at the church. Burial will be in Leonidas Cemetery. It is suggested that memorials be directed to the Deacon’s Fund at Crossroads Missionary Church. Condolences may be expressed to the family at

Mary Martha Denney, 98, Sherwood, died April 6, at Drew’s Place in Coldwater where she had resided the past 18 months. She was born in Grant County, Ind. on Jan. 22, 1921, the daughter of Frederick and Goldie Mae (DeHoff) Denney. She was a graduate of Athens High School and attended Augerbright Business College. Mary had been employed at Hillsdale Manufacturing, where she made uniforms for the Army. Later she worked at Eaton Manufacturing, polishing valves for aircraft engines. After the war she worked at Lamb Knit in Colon and after its closing, worked at Boyer Lumberyard. Finally, she worked at the Haas Corporation in Mendon where she retired after 24 years. Mary was a member of the Fulton Christian Church. She is survived by four sisters, Bertha Smith of Fulton; Patricia Shepler Carter of Athens, Mable (Elwin) Holtz of Fulton, and Delores (Bruce) Loker of Vicksburg; sisters-in-law Doris Denney and Darlene Denney; many nieces, nephews, and great-nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by sisters Alma Guthrie and Doris Denney; and brothers Arthur, Frederick, William, and Pete Denney. Donations may go to the Fulton Christian Church, 14108 East W Avenue, Fulton, MI 49052. Visit her page at

Stanley Ray Gose, 63, Vicksburg, died April 10, at Bronson Methodist Hospital. He was born in Sturgis on June 18, 1955, the son of James M. and Leona R. (Gorsline) Gose. Stanley graduated from Vicksburg High School with the class of 1973. He was employed at Simpson Paper Company in Vicksburg for 23 years. He enjoyed hunting, fishing, and golf. He was a big Detroit Tigers fan and always looked forward to trips to the ballpark. Stanley was married to Susan Elizabeth Abbott on Aug. 6, 1977 in Vicksburg. She survives along with three children, Michael Gose, Michele (Dan) Ochko, and Melissa Gose, all of Vicksburg; and special friend Joe (Cecilia) Fritz. Stanley was preceded in death by his parents; baby brother, Robert Gose, and close friend, Art Schultz. Graveside services were held Monday, April 15 in Vicksburg Cemetery with Rev. Chris Salter officiating. Memorial donations may be directed to the American Cancer Society or a charity of one’s choice. Arrangements were by the Eickhoff Funeral Home of Mendon. Condolences may be expressed to the family at

Donald O. Lash, 89, Vicksburg, passed away April 12. Don was born on November 4, 1929 in Vicksburg. He was the son of Earl and Nora (Lunger) Lash. He served his country during World War II in the Army Air Corps for three years. After he returned from the service, he married the love of his life, Doris Eilene McClish. Don is described as a generous, strong-willed, good and endearing man. In his spare time, he enjoyed being outdoors, deer hunting and mushroom hunting. He also loved to play cards and enjoyed woodworking. Don is survived by his wife of 69 years, Doris Eilene; children Patricia (Phillip) Prichard, of Centreville; Betty (Rick) Mayo, of Scotts; Gerald Lash, of Vicksburg; Ron (Pam) Lash, of Vicksburg; Terri Simmons, of Vicksburg; 13 grandchildren, 30 great grandchildren, and four great great grandchildren. He is also survived by his sisters, Rose (Floyd) Moore, of Vicksburg and June Potter, of Vicksburg. He is preceded in death by four brothers and one sister. Funeral services were held at Chapman Memorial Church of the Nazarene, Vicksburg, on Tuesday, April 16. Visit Don’s page at Donations may go to Reverence Hospice.

Ronald J.E. “Ron” Myers, 86, Scotts, died April 9, at his home. He was born in Comstock on April 5, 1933,c the youngest of three children born to Ralph and Alison (Spealman) Myers. After high school, Ron served in the National Guard. He was married to Marian D. “Pete” Homan on May 29, 1952 in Leonidas. Ron was a carpenter at Miller Davis in Kalamazoo for 7 years. He later became a millwright at the General Motors plant in Kalamazoo where he worked for 27 years. Ron was a Mason and life member of the Portage Brady Lodge #34. He enjoyed hunting and fishing throughout his life. When his children were young, he was a 4-H Leader and taught woodworking and coached softball. Ron is survived by a daughter, Pamela Borsodi of Osceola, Ind.; a son, Philip Myers, of Pampa, Texas; grandchildren Mary (Todd) Franks, Rachel (Ian) Hamilton, Jonathan (Isabella) Borsodi, Emily (Ashton) Anthony, Adam Borsodi, and Matthew Borsodi; great-grandchildren Leah Franks, Reed Hamilton, Gavin Franks, Kayleigh Hamilton, Mia Borsodi, Ania Borsodi, Emerson Anthony, and Braxton Anthony; daughter- in- law, Judy Myers; friend and caretaker, Sue Porter; and several nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents; his wife, sons Jerry Eugene Myers and Glenn Myers; brother James Myers; and a sister, Virginia Dunn. A graveside service was held Saturday, April 13, in Leonidas Cemetery. It is suggested that memorial donations be directed to either Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan, 222 N. Kalamazoo Mall, Kalamazoo, MI 49007 or to Shriner’s Hospitals for Children, 1502 USF Pine Dr., Tampa, FL 33612. Condolences may be expressed to the family online at

Richard Eugene Nielsen, 82, loving great-grandfather of 16, grandfather of 17, father of five and husband of one, went to be with his Savior on March 30. Richard was born on July 6, 1936 in Vicksburg and graduated from Vicksburg High School and Western Michigan University. He taught business at Vicksburg High School, was Dean of Business at Glen Oaks Community College, and served as Assistant Superintendent of Business for the Vicksburg school system. He moved to Reston, Virginia in 1984 to help pastor a church. He used his business and fatherly skills to counsel countless people in both finances and life. He was a member of the Vicksburg and Reston Rotary Clubs for 45 years, and led teams of Rotarians on several medical trips to help the people of Haiti. On September 4, 1954, he married Ardith Barnes, a marriage that lasted 56 years until Ardith’s passing in 2011. They raised two daughters and three sons. Richard loved to travel and visited many countries. He frequently visited his out-of-state children and grandchildren. He hosted many guests in his Washington DC area home. Of utmost importance to Richard was his faith. He leaves a great spiritual legacy, as his children and grandchildren love the Lord. Richard was proceeded in death by his wife, Ardith, and his grandson, Benjamin. He is survived by his children, Rodney (Jeannie), Cindy Champion (Bruce), Bradley (Tonya), Deanna Sturgeon (Craig), and Kent, his sister, Sandy, his niece, Michelle, and nephew, Daniel.Donations may go to KARIS (

Janet L. Noonan, 80, Vicksburg, passed away April 14. She was born on March 30, 1939 to David and Hazel (Mandoka) Mackety. The family was proud of being members of the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of Potawatomi Pine Creek Reservation. She graduated from Athens High School and went to nursing school for her career, working in several hospitals in the area. She loved her women’s Bible study groups, her flowers and gardening. She is survived by her husband of 31 years, Vincent; children Leah (Curt) Wiser of Kalamazoo, Albert Sprague of Kalamazoo, Scott (Mary) Sprague of Wayland, Marilyn (Larry) Schmidt of Portage; three grandchildren and four great grandchildren. She is also survived by stepchildren Anthony (Carrie) Noonan, of Florida; Jo (Terry) Heath, of Vicksburg; Ron (Vicki) Noonan, of Marcellus; Polly Noonan, of Florida; sisters Ann Mackety, of Tekonsha and Lynne Guess, of Athens; and several nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by parents David and Hazel Mackety and a brother, Jim Mackety. Visit her page at Donations may go to the National Kidney Foundation of Michigan.

Clarence “Bernie” Root Jr., 80, Vicksburg, passed away March 18. He was born on June 16, 1938. Bernie was one of seven children born to Clarence Root Sr. and Helen Ames. He graduated from Kalamazoo Public Schools, joined the Army and was stationed in Germany. Bernie is survived by his sons, Jeff and Brian; a daughter, Jennifer; grandchildren Johny Foote, Sara Foote, Andy Foote, Ryan Root, Bobby Root, Jerry Root, Erica Root, Jesica Miner, and Gabby Miner; and several great grandchildren. Bernie is preceded in death by his parents; and his oldest daughter, Kelly Root. Bernie was married to Sharon Lewellyn for over 40 years. He enjoyed hunting, fishing, and living the farm life until his later years, when he resided in Vicksburg on Sunset Lake. A memorial service will be planned in May at Ft. Custer National Cemetery. Visit Bernie’s page at The family is being assisted by McCowen & Secord Funeral Homes.

Martha Taylor, 72, formerly of Marcellus, passed away March 25. She was born in Albion on January 31, 1947, the daughter of Rev. Kenneth Jacobs, Sr. and Louise Owen Jacobs. Martha graduated from Marcellus High School in 1965 and resided in Marcellus until she married Ronald Taylor on March 28, 2001. Martha worked for Cass County Sheriff Department and Three Rivers Police Department, then retired from St. Joseph County Central Dispatch in 2012, after 20 years. She was a member of the Fraternal Order of the Eagles Women’s Auxiliary in Portage/Schoolcraft. She and her husband were snowbirds for the last four years in Destin, Florida. Along with her loving husband, Martha is survived by her son, John (Kathi) Carney of Sturgis, daughters Amy (Brian) Taylor Johnson and Jennifer Johnson, both of Vicksburg; sister Faith (Mike) Harris of Marcellus, brother Andrew (Pam) Jacobs of Niles, grandchildren Jayson Wallace, Dru Carney, Kristopher Leeder, Sam Carney, Benjamin, Cloe, Lucas, Jaidyn and Brady Johnson, 14 great-grandchildren, and many cousins, nieces and nephews. Martha was preceded in death by her parents, brothers James Jacobs and Kenneth Jacobs, Jr., and a sister, Ruth Jacobs. Donations may go to the Eagles Club 3531 – Ladies Auxiliary in Portage/Schoolcraft. Visit her page at

LeRoy VanMaanen, 80, Portage, passed away suddenly at Bronson Hospital on March 27, sadly on his birthday. He was a firefighter for 35 years. LeRoy was the fire chief at Westwood Fire Station and also a fire fighter for the City of Kalamazoo. In addition, Leroy owned several side businesses, A1 Laminating and Roy’s TV. He also worked for Hoekstras Greenhouses and Long John Floral, delivering flats of flowers around southwest Michigan. He was very devoted to his church, Lakeland Reformed, and his family. LeRoy’s family includes Gloria VanMaanen, his wife of 13 years; his children Debra Comstock, Barbara VanMaanen, Nancy (Joe) Fink, Gary (Dawn) VanMaanen, and step children Sherri (Mike) Pence, Steve (Elva) Arend, John (Sue) Arend and Wendy (Robb) Rittner; 21 grand children and nine great grandchildren; a sister, Helen (John) Rishel; and cherished friend Dick Johnson. He was preceded in death by his wife of 35 years, Phyllis VanMaanen, his brother and sister-in-law Jack and Kathy)VanMaanen and his sister, Sondra Madsen. Funeral services were held on Saturday, March 30, at the Lakeland Reformed Church. Please visit LeRoy’s page at Donations may go to the family to help cover funeral expenses or to Lakeland Reformed Church in memory of LeRoy.

Gail Nadine Wade, passed away on March 28. She was born on Oct. 4, 1937 to Emily “Grace” and Fredrick Guy Phinney. Growing up in Detroit, she was active in Voice of Christian Youth and worked as a carhop in her teenage years. She graduated from Cass Tech High School with a major in nutrition. In 1955, she and her family moved to Lake City, Michigan where she began working at Mercy Hospital in Cadillac in the dietary department. She also met and fell in love with Bill Wade. They were married on May 18, 1957 and had three daughters. Besides raising a houseful of girls, she worked for a while part-time at Vicksburg Schools and eventually started working at Triple S Plastics in Vicksburg. She enjoyed riding motorcycles and was a member of the Gold Wing Association. In the aftermath of a serious motor vehicle accident almost a year ago, she was residing at Masonic Pathways in Alma, where she passed away. She had also been in the Long-term Acute Care unit at Pipp Hospital in Plainwell for a lengthy period of time. It seemed that no matter what was thrown her way, she would always have a smile on her face. Preceding her in death were her parents, sisters Jeanne Phinney and Patricia Phinney, daughter Beverly Taylor. Surviving are her loving husband, William Wade, daughters Kathleen (Greg) Yarworth and Tracey Wade, eight grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren and sisters Jo (Darrold) McKeown and Judy (Gordon) Lydic. Cremation has taken place. There will be a gathering for family and friends at a later date.

Laura Chang’s Big Year

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Laura Chang stands in front of a poster created for her visit to the United Arab Emirates.

By Sue Moore

A week’s trip to Dubai to consult with this city-state’s teachers is just one of the many activities that Laura Chang, Michigan’s Teacher of the Year from Vicksburg for 2018-2019, has experienced.

Dubai educators identified a need to do things differently in teaching science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) subjects in this global world, Chang said. They invited educators from the Teacher of the Year program throughout the states to come for a week and work with them on best practices. “I was happy to be one of the several teachers invited to attend. They are such extraordinary people who have the same concerns as educators as we do. It was very humbling,” Chang said.

That was just one of the many experiences she has had this school year that have broadened her horizons in the teaching profession. “I’ve learned so much. It’s like I’ve been wearing shoes that are too small and now they fit. I’m ready to run.”

She has been highly involved with reaching out to legislators in Michigan to discuss standardized testing requirements and their impact on students. “I’ve told a lot of teaching anecdotes to help them focus on the impact of their legislation when it comes to teaching the whole child and the laws they promulgate. Real stories from the classroom can make a big difference.”

“Meeting with the State Board of Education each month allows me a chance to share stories of Vicksburg’s successes which can serve to spotlight the inequities we face in education throughout the state. Kids don’t always have the same opportunities as they do here, so I volunteered to work on a state-level committee that studies equity in education,” she said.

“I have to use the voice I have as one size does not fit all,” Chang said. She has visited classrooms in other areas of the state where she will go in and read, teach a lesson and chat with students. “I learn as much from them as they might from me.”

Her team of Teachers of the Year met in San Francisco last summer for a week of sharing ideas with all 57 honored teachers, including those from the U.S. protectorates. “It was sponsored by Google and allowed our peer group to learn from one another. These teachers are solution seekers who value education above all others. We even designed a doodle for Google that will appear on their web site in May.”

She will attend a “space” camp in Alabama for a week in July where the participants pretend to be an astronaut for a week. The group will be honored during the college football championship playoff game in January 2020.

In May she will meet with a group of the Teachers of the Year in Washington D.C. with Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence to emphasize the importance of education.

“I wish that all of my colleagues could have this opportunity,” she said. “Teachers can learn so much from each other. “I have new best friends from all over the country. These are incredible people whose voices are powerful.”

New Band Trailer on View at Vicksburg High School

By Sue Moore

When the “Big Red Machine” semi-trailer rolls into a band competition, its going to be impressive, said Craig Rolfe, one of the Band Booster members who helped secure funds to purchase the trailer.

It’s meant to haul all of the band equipment in one big load rather than the three smaller trailers that accompanied the marching band at competitions. There will be room enough for instrument and uniform storage throughout the marching season for the band. The trailer represents the first band program north of Kentucky to purchase this state-of-the-art piece of equipment. Clubhouse Trailers, an Oklahoma company, put this together for the band. The trailer will be on display wherever the band travels and is practicing. The Band Boosters are working on possibilities for hauling the trailer.

The total cost is $100,000 minus a few pennies, with half of it paid thus far and the rest to be raised throughout the school year. A spring raffle is being held as a fundraiser with the top prizes $2,500, $1,000 and $500 in cash. Raffle tickets are available from any band parent, the high school office or Rolfe’s office at 328 W. Prairie Street in Vicksburg. The drawing will take place at the band’s spring concert on Tuesday, May 28.

The trailer makes a huge statement about the success of the band program in Vicksburg, Rolfe said. “It shows the community support of the band which boasts nearly 200 members each year. We need lots of folks to help raise the money to complete the purchase.”

Sunset Lake Air Quality Talk at School Board Meeting

Sunset school 1By Travis Smola

Sunset Lake Elementary school’s air quality was again questioned during citizens’ time at Vicksburg’s April school board meeting.

Stephanie Willoughby told trustees her daughter started getting sick in class in October 2017, beginning after she switched classes to a different side of the building.

Willoughby’s daughter was taken to a doctor and prescribed medication that helped with some sinus issues, but it didn’t end the problem completely. “She was still coming home with headaches,” Willoughby told the board.

Willoughby said a discussion in a community Facebook group on the issue generated 133 comments. Many of the commenters reported similar headaches with their own children. Willoughby said her daughter doesn’t have the headaches when she’s not in school or during spring or summer breaks. Willoughby and a friend started a petition to have old carpeting in the building removed and for more testing to be done in the building. She also felt the testing already done wasn’t adequate.

Last month Vicksburg officials worked with Ann Arbor-based Nova Environmental to perform inspections and two rounds of testing for mold, air quality and volatile organic compounds in one of the classrooms in the building. Nova made recommendations for improvements to the air quality, but the initial testing concluded there was nothing dangerous present in the classroom in question.

Assistant Superintendent Steve Goss told Willoughby the district is willing to bring in a second firm for another testing opinion. However, he said he also feels Nova is a reputable company. “The firm that we have is incredibly skilled and probably one of the best ones available,” Goss said. “Again, it’s not a fly-by-night operation. We try to be transparent and will continue to do that.” Goss noted he has two children of his own in the building, so he understands the concerns.

Board President Skip Knowles echoed that sentiment and said they are taking the issue seriously. “I’ve got a granddaughter in the building too,” Knowles said.

Trustee David Schriemer felt some of the evidence was anecdotal at this point because there are so many different causes of headaches. He noted one of his sons suffered from headaches while attending Sunset, but not at home. He further explained that the issue was mental as the child was trying too hard to be perfect. “In his case it wasn’t a contaminant, it was the stress of trying to be good,” Schriemer said. “When you have something with so many potential causes, that’s when you need public health people to sort it out.”

Trustee Rudy Callen said the ideal situation would be to have the testing reveal an actual issue that could be immediately addressed. But he also asked how long the district should keep testing if no issue is found.

Goss did announce they also have a meeting planned with the chief medical officer from the Kalamazoo County Health Department and the Department of Environmental Health on the matter. There are also plans to form an environmental safety committee to look further at the issue. Superintendent Keevin O’Neill thanked Willoughby for coming and invited her and another parent in attendance to be a part of the committee. “We’re 100 percent committed to solving this,” O’Neill said.

Schoolcraft Board OKs Athletic Trainer Fee for Students

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Schoolcraft athletic trainers (in the foreground) attend to a seriously injured player during a 2017 football game in Schoolcraft.

By Travis Smola

Trustees for the Schoolcraft school board approved a $50-per-family trainer fee with an amendment to look annually at finances for the full-time trainer.

The board previously sent the issue over to the Finance Committee to look at funding options for participating in a cost-sharing program with Bronson Hospital that would allow the district to hire current athletic trainer Jordan Love in a full-time capacity.

Treasurer Kathy Mastenbrook said the committee came back with a recommendation to set a fee for this year at no more than $50 per family, but also to re-assess the issue next year. Board President Jennifer Gottschalk estimates they might get half of the $25,000 needed from the fee. The rest will come from the general fund.

The board briefly discussed other ways of funding for the issue after Secretary Ryan Ledlow expressed concerns about asking parents for more money ahead of a looming potential bond project. Trustee Rachel Phelps agreed. However, Finance Director Rita Broekema said it would be difficult because it would require a lot of negotiating to alter the contract with Bronson.

The board also discussed educating parents on why the trainer is necessary. Previously, a trainer was provided free of charge to school districts as part of a program with Bronson and Western. But changes to educational requirements for trainers means that program will end in the next couple of years. The district would like to keep the current trainer in a full-time capacity now.

Superintendent Rusty Stitt suggested also educating parents on the trainer’s expanded role in the district as a full-time employee. The board ultimately decided to approve the fee. But it also added an amendment to look at the issue every year so potential changes could be made to the way the trainer is paid in the future.

Gottschalk also provided a brief update on the facilities study at the meeting. The facilities committee will be looking at data from the latest EPIC-MRA survey held in early April and will be bringing a recommendation on whether the district should pursue a bond issue in November at the May meeting.

The board also honored Tina Darling as the Soaring Eagle of the month award winner at the meeting. “She’s one of those individuals who sees a problem and does not rest until she sees a solution,” Stitt said. The problem was the addition of a crosswalk to the east and south of the elementary and middle school. Many drivers were failing to stop at the new crosswalk, presenting a danger to students.

Darling stepped up to volunteer her time as a crossing guard at the location and quickly developed a good relationship with the students who used it. “Even on the coldest, nastiest, dog days of winter, Tina was out there protecting our kids and building relationships,” Stitt said.

In closing the meeting, the board also thanked high school principal Ric Seager, who will soon be leaving to take on a new job as Superintendent at Watervliet Public Schools. “I just want to say thanks again, Ric, for all that you’ve done for us,” Gottschalk said. “We’re so excited for you to start your new opportunity, that’s awesome! We are definitely going to miss you.”

Vicksburg Honors Top 12 Seniors

By Travis Smola

The Vicksburg school board and principal Adam Brush honored the class of 2019’s top seniors at the school board’s April meeting.

“The top 12 GPA was all above 4.1,” Brush said. “This class of the top 12 took over a hundred AP courses, which to me, is like mind-boggling.”

The students:

Nicholas Armitage scored a 1350 on his SAT and took nine AP courses, played trumpet for seven years and was NHS treasurer. He plans to attend Kettering University in Flint where he will study electrical engineering and computer science.

Jacob Cleaver scored 1440 on the SAT and took 13 AP classes. He spent four years in the Big Red Machine. He was also an Excellence in Education Scholarship winner and chose Ben Rosier as his significant educator for his passion for teaching music to students. Cleaver plans to attend the University of Michigan next year.

Rachel Dick took 10 AP courses, was involved in model United Nations, theater and National Honor Society. She also works at the Vicksburg library and plans to attend Michigan Tech to study science and engineering. She plans to minor in Spanish.

Maia Fleck is a four-year student of KAMSC and was the winner of outstanding research project. Fleck wasn’t present at the meeting because she was at a tennis meet. She also participated in de-tasseling for four straight summers.

Madeline Geiger took 11 AP courses. She was involved in Student Senate and Aim Higher, a volunteer youth group at the high school. She was captain of the girls’ basketball team. She enjoys walking and running. Geiger also helped referee and coach youth basketball. She will attend WMU.

Salutatorian Casey Hall took 12 AP courses. He was a Presidential Award winner for WMU. He also ran track, played tennis and football. He was an Excellence in Education Scholarship winner and chose Rachel King as his significant educator because of the time she spent helping him figure out what he wanted to do with his future.

Kyle Kelly took 10 AP courses and was a four-year scholar athlete. Kelly was involved in National Honor Society, DECA an Ski Club. He also served as captain of the lacrosse and cross-country team. He also worked with the lacrosse youth program and helped with Alzheimer’s patients. He plans to attend Iowa State or Purdue.

Mia Mulhearn took 12 AP courses and was a four-year scholar athlete. She served as NHS President and was involved in marching band and drum major. She also earned eight varsity letters and was the YWCA Women of Achievement Award Winner for Vicksburg. Mulhearn plans to attend Ohio State next year.

Valedictorian Madeline Ritter earned many college credits via KVCC courses. She also volunteered at the animal rescue at Tobey Elementary, where she enjoys walking the dogs. She was also an Excellence in Education Scholarship winner and chose Virginia Ruimveld as her significant educator for pushing her academically. Ritter said she plans to attend WMU.

Vic Simmons: scored a 1400 on the SAT and took nine AP courses. Simmons served as National Art Honor Society president and helped with the mural in the library. Simmons also enjoys pet-sitting and plans to attend the James Madison Residential College for political science at Michigan State University next year.

Alexis Taylor is a member of National Honor Society and served as junior class president and senior class vice president. She also participated in many volunteer opportunities with Sunset Elementary students and planned prom last year. Taylor plans to attend KVCC for a year before moving to Florida to study veterinary science at the University of Central Florida.

Tyler Vallier took 12 AP courses and plays on the varsity baseball team. He also volunteered at Sunset Lake Elementary. Vallier was an Excellence in Education scholarship winner and chose Kristina Porter as his significant educator for the time she spent helping him plan his future. He plans to attend the University of Michigan next year.

The board also recognized Leah Pierce as the DAR Good Citizen Award winner. Pierce took seven AP courses and served on band leadership for four years. She also volunteered at the middle school and in library summer reading programs. Pierce plans to attend Grand Valley State University to pursue pre-veterinary studies before continuing her education at Michigan State.

Paxton Green: Cancer Survivor

paxton 3
Rod Green, Paxton Green, and Amy Green after a tennis event.

By Maycie Barker, Kaitlyn Clark, Dylan Outman, and Ella Stull,
Schoolcraft Sixth Graders

Cancer is a serious disease in which abnormal cells uncontrollably divide and destroy tissue in certain parts of the body. Paxton Green had this twice, and this is her story.

When she was just two years old, she had stage 2 rhabdomyosarcoma, and when she was 11, she had osteosarcoma. Rhabdomyosarcoma was in the soft tissue in her left tricep, and the osteosarcoma was in her right arm’s humerus, the upper arm bone.

Both times she had cancer, she was shocked and concerned. “When I found out I had cancer again after eight and a half years of being cancer free, I was shocked to say the least. It didn’t sink in right away until I was in the hospital undergoing my first treatment.” Paxton said. She just couldn’t believe it.

Along with cancer, there were many challenges that came with it. Her mom played basketball, and Paxton wanted to follow in her footsteps. But Paxton could not, for she was told she couldn’t participate in any contact sports after two intense surgeries. The first surgery involved an elbow replacement, and the second surgery involved replacing her humerus with a titanium rod.

Through all the negativity, there were also a lot of positives. Although she never thought she would, she fell in love with tennis. She played it from 7th grade through her senior year. Everything tried to bring her down, but she would just keep coming up. “In everything you do, whether it’s big or small, try to find a sliver of positivity. If you choose to approach things with hopefulness, you will find happiness.” says Paxton. Staying positive was a necessity in Paxton’s life.

Her supporters – friends, doctors, teachers and family – were shocked by her reappearing tumors. But her main supporters were definitely her parents. Both times when she was diagnosed with cancer, Paxton’s parents, Rod and Amy Green, were “in a state of shock”.

“We – her dad, Rod, and myself– were absolutely shocked when we found out that Paxton had cancer when she was just two years old,” her mom said.

We were really scared as we didn’t know anything about pediatric cancer, and we didn’t know she could survive.” Later on, when she was 11, her mom said, “This time she had another aggressive cancer, osteosarcoma. This was a bone cancer that was tough to beat.” As you can see, they had strong reactions.

At first, her proponents were scared just as much as Paxton was, but later on, they developed a sense of encouragement. “Trust in God that everything will be okay.” advised Paxton’s friend, Zoey Dubuisson, to Paxton. Motivation from Paxton’s friends and family helped her to stay motivated herself.

Paxton Green survived cancer twice, both at a very young age. Currently, she is attending Concordia University, where she’s studying to become a certified child life specialist. Through all the struggles, hardships, and challenges, she always chose optimism. She had many obstacles in her way, but that didn’t stop her from doing the things she loved most. “Negativity is easy to resort to. There is always light around the corner, even if that corner is a couple miles away.” To this day, Paxton is a strong believer in positivity, and in the end, many people will look up to her brave character.