Monthly Archives: March 2020

K. Redmond Photography Honored

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Katie Redmond of Schoolcraft, on the left, is congratulated by Sarah Petty, the founder of the Julie Awards for boutique photography.

Katie Redmond Photography, of Schoolcraft, topped the short list of award winners during Go Boutique Live 2020, in Dallas, Texas in February. She was acclaimed at the international event honoring accomplishments of boutique photography businesses worldwide. Redmond earned the Julie, Yay, and 1K Charity Awards.

The Julie Awards are presented by the Joy of Marketing, the leading international education organization which honors excellence among boutique portrait photographers. “Katie Redmond has set the standard for providing the highest level of boutique experience to her photography clients,” said Sarah Petty, founder of the Julie Awards and a New York Times best-selling author. “This award is a testament to the dedication, skills, creativity and service required to provide a second-to-none wall portrait experience to her clients.”

Redmond is a boutique photographer in Schoolcraft, specializing in couture portraits for high school seniors, families and women of all ages.  “She has a passion for empowering women through photography and enjoys helping them to discover their confidence and beauty. She isn’t your typical photographer. Not only does she provide a boutique experience from start to finish, but as a portrait artist, she is skilled at creating large signature wall art for her clients, to decorate their homes and offices,” according to the award presenter.

The Julie Awards acknowledge the upper echelon of boutique photographers who are dedicated to serving their clients at a higher level through the creation of custom photography artwork for clients’ homes.

Nathaniel Chiu a Finalist in Prestigious Trombone Contest

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Nathaniel Chiu is on the right.

By Sue Moore

Vicksburg High School graduate Nathaniel Chiu is a finalist in the International Trombone Association Festival to be held in Osaka, Japan, July 2-5. With 30 trombone students competing to be selected as one of three finalists, Chiu outpaced them all, said his Western Michigan University trombone teacher, Steve Wolfinbarger.

The other two finalists are majoring in music at the Curtis Institute of Music and Hochschule fur Musik in Hanover, Germany. The judges were from Louisiana State University, the US Marine Band and the US Army Field Band.

Chiu plays tenor trombone and is a senior at WMU. “He worked all fall semester on his video that was submitted to the judges who do not know any of the names of the contestants,” Wolfinbarger said. “Now he will travel to Japan in July to appear in person in front of three renowned international judges in the finals. I encourage my students every year to enter this contest for college-age students who come from all over the world.”

Ben Rosier, Chiu’s high school band director, was enthusiastic about his student. “While studying privately, Nathaniel was also a part of every ensemble here at VHS including all the concert ensembles, jazz bands, pep band, and marching band. He thrived in the concert setting but also improved his theory through the learning of jazz and its unique musical concepts. He had a lead role in the spring musicals as part of the theater department. Mr. Chiu was diligent in his preparation for solo and ensemble festivals, receiving exemplary ratings at all the festivals he attended. Nathaniel many times was the humble, confident, and quiet leader who knew the moments to be outspoken and always got work done.”

The International Trombone Association sponsors the contest in the name of Larry Wiche, a famous soloist with a military band. “I expect that Chiu will go on to work on his master’s degree in music after graduation this spring. He is an exceptional trombonist and has a great future either with an orchestra or as a university teacher,” Wolfinbarger said.

Obituaries

Andrew Donald Blodgett, 81, Schoolcraft passed Feb. 12. Andrew was born on October 17, 1938 in Kalamazoo. He was the middle son of Leroy and Sadie (Cook) Blodgett. On September 7, 1956, he married Joyce Ryskamp. They were married for 33 years and had six children together. He was part of the Schoolcraft community, from owning a local business, to serving the community on the village council and raising all six of his children there. He loved Schoolcraft and made it his home his entire life. He worked in the corporate world for Sears Roebuck and Company until he decided to follow his passion of working with plants. He opened the first Blodgett family business, Green Acres in 1967 on US 131 in Schoolcraft. He loved the nursery business and working with trees, flowers and shrubs. He later married Alicia Chavez Lopez on December 9, 2000. He and Alicia traveled back and forth from Schoolcraft to Alicia’s hometown of Los Reyes, Mexico. This became the headquarters for dispersing his goods to the indigenous people of Mexico. It became the focus of his life in creating his 501(c) 3, the Mission to the Poor that serves the poorest of poor in the inner regions of Mexico. During his travels, he dispersed thousands of shoes, clothing, and food. Andy is survived by his wife of 19 years, Alicia; children Terry W. (Cindy) Blodgett, Robin E. (Avery) Delaney, Kevin S. Blodgett, Pamela A. (Jerome Jonckheere) Blodgett and Anthony L. (Kristy) Blodgett; 25 grandchildren; 15 great grandchildren; and his first wife of 33 years, Joyce. He is also survived by his two brothers, Bud Blodgett and Dwight Blodgett; half siblings David and Caroline. He was preceded in death by his son, Andrew G. Blodgett, in 2010; granddaughter, Paige; half siblings Bertha and Dennis; and stepmother, Jean. Andrew will later be buried in Alicia’s hometown in Mexico. Donations may go to: Mission to the Poor or JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) and sent to: Pam Blodgett, 220 Lyon St., NW – Suite 540, Grand Rapids MI 49503. Visit Andrew’s page at avinkcremation.com.

Clyde M. Covell, 93, Vicksburg passed away Feb. 18. Clyde was born on October 23, 1926 and was the son of Charles and Mary (Burger) Covell. Clyde graduated from Vicksburg High School. After high school, Clyde bravely served his country in the United States Army in the Philippines and Japan. Once he returned from the service he worked for Michigan Bell in Kalamazoo. He was an amateur radio operator for many years. Most of all, he loved growing up on a farm and being outdoors. He loved his tractors and also watching the trains go by. He loved going to his cabin in central Alaska. He was a very independent, organized, and proud farmer. He is survived by his two sons, Danny Covell, of Three Rivers and Timothy (Nancy) Covell, of Alaska; three grandchildren; two sisters and numerous nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents and nine siblings. Visit Clyde’s page at mccowensecord.com. Donations may go to Generous Hands.

Sharon Eldred (nee Kudary), 70, Scotts, formerly of Vicksburg, passed away Feb. 21. She was born May 5, 1949 in Sturgis to the late Joseph and Clara (Ramsdell) Kudary. She is survived by her husband, Richard J. Eldred; son Shawn (Monica) Eldred; three wonderful grandchildren whom she loved dearly; brothers Jeff (Mary Ann) and Joe Kudary; sister Denise (Brian) Murray; nieces and nephews; and numerous lifelong friends. Private services will be held for the immediate family. Interment will take place in Gilson Cemetery. Memorial donations may be made to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital or a charity of one’s choice. Visit Sharon’s page at langelands.com.

Lloyd W. Harber, 94, Vicksburg, passed away Feb. 13. Lloyd was born on December 5, 1925 in Hannibal, Mo. He was the son of George and Ona (Boucher) Harber. Lloyd graduated from Vicksburg High School with the class of 1944. After high school he proudly served in the United State Navy during World War II. After the service he met Joyce Venhuis. They were married on November 7, 1947 in Vicksburg. He worked for over 30 years as a lead chemical operator for the Upjohn Company. He also worked hard helping laying cement blocks on various building projects around the community. For 16 winters he and Joyce enjoyed their time in Mission, Texas, where he learned the skill of wood carving. Lloyd is survived by his wife of 72 years, Joyce; children Norma Manley of Vicksburg and Jim Harber of Vicksburg; grandchildren Matt and Josh Harber, both of Kalamazoo; Jennifer (Shane) Cassel), of Grand Rapids; and Rich (Autumn) Mays, of Scotts; five great grandchildren and numerous nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his daughter, Nancy Mays; parents and three siblings. Lloyd will be cremated. No services are planned at this time. Visit Lloyd’s webpage at mccowensecord.com.

Elwin Earl “Bud” Holtz and Mable Alice (Denney) Holtz, passed away peacefully just 10½ hours apart at the family home in Fulton. Elwin, 92, died Feb. 4. He was born in Scotts, on June 24, 1927, the son of the late Earl Lewis and Melva Mae (Wilcox) Holtz and was a fourth-generation lifelong resident of Wakeshma Township. He attended Athens area schools and served in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers during the Korean War.He worked at the Lee Paper Mill, Oliver Aviation, Kalamazoo Stove Company and Checker Motors. He was a successful farmer. He loved the Detroit Tigers and Lions. Mable, 88, died Feb. 5. She was born in Mendon Township on March 5, 1931, the daughter of the late Frederick and Goldie Mae (De Hoff) Denney. She graduated from Colon High School, attended MSU, and earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from WMU. She taught 11 years in one-room schools, and 19 years at Union City Schools. She had also worked at Lamb Knit, Sutherland Paper Company, Burgess Seeds, and the Haas Corporation. Mable and Elwin were married in 1953 and enjoyed their 66 years together. The couple visited 49 states, England, France, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Australia. They led a successful fight against starting a landfill in Wakeshma Township. Mable believed in the inalienable right to stick your nose in the government’s business. Elwin and Mable are survived by a daughter, Mary Alice Searer of Grand Haven; granddaughter, Sara K. Searer of New Port Richey, Fla. And great-grandchildren Sophia and Benjamin. Mable is survived by sisters Patricia Shepler-Carter of Athens and Dolores Loker of Vicksburg.  She was preceded in death by brothers, Arthur, Frederick, William, and Pete Denney; and by sisters Alma Guthrie, Doris Denney, Mary Denney, and Bertha Smith. Elwin was preceded in death by a sister, Lucille Pierson, and a brother, Lee Jay Holtz. Condolences may be shared at eickhofffuneralhome.com

Myra Jackson, 72, was born on May 25, 1947. Myra passed away peacefully on February 7. Possessing a passion for working with children, especially those with special needs, Myra dreamed of becoming a teacher. Upon graduating from Western Michigan University, she taught at Waylee School from 1970-1975. After raising her daughter and son and many years of substitute teaching, she returned to the classroom at Climax-Scotts Elementary school from 1987 until her retirement in 2007, when she was named Teacher of the Year. Her students were her joy and kept her feeling young. She believed in each one and desired that her students learn important life lessons even more than academic ones in order to make a positive impact in the world. She was a long-time member of Lakeland Reformed Church in Vicksburg, volunteering for the library, nursery, and Sunday School for decades. Myra was an inspiration to everyone. Her struggles with multiple sclerosis, her defeat of breast cancer, and her fight against lung cancer taught us how important determination, ingenuity, and an abundant amount of spunk are to overcoming the disappointments and challenges life brings. Myra is survived by her husband, Len Jackson; her children Jon (Sherry) Erickson, Tina (Derek) Vande Slunt, and Jeffrey (Jennifer) Jackson; grandchildren Noah, Micah, Jenna, Payton, and Blake; siblings Judith (Alfred) Hoffmann, Kenneth (Joann) Swieringa, and Roger (Betty) Swieringa: as well as many nieces, nephews, great-nieces, and great-nephews whom she dearly loved. Cremation has taken place. Visit her page at avinkcremation.com.

Wayne C. Kucks, Vicksburg, passed away Feb. 15. Wayne was born December 8, 1928 in Detroit, the son of Karl Hein and Eliza Kucks. He served in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War. Wayne worked for more than 39 years with Durametallic, retiring in 1987 as plant supervisor. He co-owned Way-Ric Metallizing and ran a home machine shop. He played guitar in the Scottsburg Hometowner Band. Wayne worshipped at St. Michael Lutheran Church, was a life member of the Vicksburg VFW Post #5189, and volunteered at the Vicksburg Historical Museum. On November 27, 1982 he was united in marriage to his wife, June (Pangburn), who survives. Also surviving are children Elizabeth (Skip) Mangold, LuAnn Kucks, Christine Kucks, Eric (Becci) Kucks, Michelle Smith-Martin, Cheri Fether; 13 grandchildren; 16 great-grandchildren; brothers Edwin (Debbie) Hein, Larry (Sue) Myland; special friends, Barbara (John) Linder; and several nieces and nephews. Wayne was preceded in death by two sons, Paul H. and Ned R. Kucks; a brother, Karl, Jr; and a sister, Kathleen. Donations may go to St. Michael’s Lutheran Church Good Samaritan Fund or the Vicksburg VFW Post# 5189. Visit his page at langelands.com.

Julie Ann Middaugh, 61, Kalamazoo, passed away Feb. 17. Julie was born on October 22, 1958 in Kalamazoo. She was the daughter of Clifford and Nora (Skinner) Munn. She worked for a period of time as a certified nursing assistant for Tendercare and then for some home care businesses. Her family loved it when she made her mother’s recipe for date cookies. She enjoyed crafts and crocheting. Julie is survived by her children, Richard Middaugh of Kalamazoo, Sina (Sean) Kelly of Vicksburg, Eric (Beth) Ross of Lawton, Angela Middaugh of Vicksburg; grandchildren Grace Kelly, Nora Ross and Kylie Ross. She is also survived by siblings Mary (Douglas) Woodhams of Scotts and David Munn of Fulton; and her special dog, Crack Jack. She was preceded in death by her parents, daughter Becky Munn; and brothers John and Tom Munn. Visit her page at mccowensecord.com. Donations may go to Generous Hands.

Donald Arthur Rand, 85, Vicksburg, died Feb. 19. He was born on March 18th, 1934 in Melrose, Wis., the oldest of seven children born to the late Arthur and Veda (Nimmo) Rand. He grew up in the Comstock area and graduated from Comstock High School in 1953. Don served in the United States Army as a military policeman from 1956-1958. He was stationed in Fort Hood, Texas and in Hawaii. He also spent three years in the Army Reserve, attaining the rank of sergeant first class. Upon his return from service, he married his high school sweetheart, Ellen May Curtis, on October 11th, 1958. They were married for 55 years until her death in 2014. He is survived by his three children, Lori (Jim) Markus, Wendy (Don) Gillespie, Don Rand Jr.; four grandchildren; three great grandchildren; brothers Verl (Joanna) Rand, Terry (Gail) Rand, Keith (Bev) Rand and Jim Rand; sister Shirley Rand Wilbert. He was also preceded in death by his brother, Jack Rand and Jack’s wife, Bev Rand. Don worked for the Allied Paper Company for almost 20 years. He worked for H.J. Cooper and then M&M Motor Mall until his retirement. Don discovered running in his 50s and was hooked. A collector, he would carry a bag while running and pick up anything that caught his eye. His highest running achievement was completing a half marathon. Don donated 237 units (29 gallons) of blood to the American Red Cross. Don was also an active member of the Vicksburg Lions Club. Donations may go to the American Red Cross. A private ceremony will be held at a later date. Visit his page at mccowensecord.com.

Virginia Schuring, 77, Muir, formerly of Vicksburg, passed away Feb. 23. Virginia was born on December 13, 1942 in Vicksburg. She was the daughter of Ernest and Macella “Bid” (Mears) Erskine. She graduated from Vicksburg High School. On September 10, 1965, she married Robert Schuring and raised their kids in Vicksburg. In 1995, they moved to Muir. Virginia is survived by her four children, Gila (Bob) D’Agostino of Vicksburg, Charlie (Jodi) Schuring of Muir, Kimberly Schuring of Vicksburg, Christine (Joe Fouth) Mottor of Florida; grandchildren Nick Schuring of Muir, Lindsey Schuring of Muir, Justin (Vanessa) Tillison of Gobles;  Mitchell (fiancée: Lindsey) Mottor of Stanton, and Tyler (Bella) Mottor of Muir; great grandchildren Allison Mottor, Dean Mottor, Mason Tillison, and Eleanor Mottor. Virginia is survived by siblings Judy (Don) Hatfield of Ohio and John Erskine of Kentucky; special aunt Midge (Skip) Engelman of Portage; sister-in-law Bonnie Erskine of Scotts; best friends Mike and Lana Seiler of Muir; and nieces Stacy Erskine, and Shelly Hirdning. She was preceded in death by her husbands, Robert Schuring and Ronald Minnis, son Greg Schuring, brother Jim Erskine and her parents.

Phyllis Jean Simmons, 88, Climax, passed away Feb. 1. Phyllis was born May 23, 1931 on the family farm in Climax. She was the daughter of Sherry and Alma (Staffen) Baughman. She graduated from Climax High School in 1949. Phyllis was a member of the Scotts Elementary Mother’s Club for 11 years, Glowing Embers Girl Scouts for 15 years, 4-H leader for 10 years, Climax American Legion, Michigan Extension Service for 25 years, volunteered at the Fort Custer Post for the mentally challenged children, for many years did an Indian demonstration at Thanksgiving for various schools, authored a book on the experiences of her husband during the Korean War, member of Climax Volunteer Road Committee, Prairie Home Historical Society, member of Lucinda Hinsdale Stone Chapter DAR and National Society of the Daughters of the Union. Phyllis was also an elected official and served as trustee on the Climax Township Board for two years and supervisor on that board for six years. She was preceded in death by her husband, John P. Simmons, in 2003. She is survived by her children, John E. (Beth) Simmons of Caledonia and Sherry Low of Climax; grandchildren John Hollan (Danielle) Simmons of Wayland, Andrew Simmons of Caledonia, Justin (Sarah) Low, of Scotts, Nathan Low of Climax; great grandchildren Ruby, Teddy, Nico, Salinger, and Gerrit. Visit her page at avinkcremation.com. Donations may go to the Prairie Home Historical Society.

Violet J. Spence, 88, of rural Vicksburg, died Feb. 23 at White Oaks Assisted Living in Lawton, surrounded by her family. She was born in Knoxville, Tenn. on June 4, 1931, the daughter of John R. and Mary O. (Crowe) Gentry. She graduated from Mendon High School with the class of 1949. She was married to John W. Spence on Dec. 16, 1949 in the West Mendon EUB Church. She directed the Youth Choir and taught Sunday School at church. Violet is survived by four children and their spouses, Mary Ellen (Steve) Houts of Three Rivers, Bob (Kathy) Spence of Mendon, Norma (Jay) Dahl of Mendon, and Jimmy (Diane) Spence of Three Rivers; grandchildren Christopher Houts, Chad (Kelly) Spence, Angie Crotser, Cory (Cindy) Munn, Kandi (Troy) Torres, Travis (Cassidy) Munn, Karlie (TJ) Clark, and Kendra (Lane) Duell; 18 great-grandchildren; sisters Bessie Jones of South Bend, Mary Patterson of Lansing, and Sharon (Sam) Rial of Colon; brothers Doug (Pat) Gentry of Battle Creek and Terry Gentry of Kalamazoo; several nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her parents; her husband, John; daughter, Sandra; sister, Althea Gentry; and brothers Robert “Sonny” Gentry, and Ronald Gentry. Donations may go to either Grace Hospice or the Alzheimer’s Association. Visit her page at eickhofffuneralhome.com.

Leona “Elaine” Stephens, 76, Vicksburg, passed away Feb. 5. Elaine was born on March 11, 1943 in Sault Ste Marie. She was the daughter of Clifford and Leona Belle (Riley) Niskala. On September 8, 1959, she married her first husband, Ernest Bruseau in Newberry and had three children. On August 26, 1992 in Gatlinburg, Tenn., she married Gary Stephens. Prior to retiring, she worked as a department assistant and assembler for EPC Manufacturing. She was a member of the Ladies Library in Schoolcraft with her mother, making crafts for the bazaar, acting in a play, making cookies and any other activity that they had. She was a Girl Scout leader for many years and enjoyed every part of it. She was the keeper of the family history for many generations and loved to share this with others. Elaine loved going to zoos, camping and going back to her roots by visiting the Upper Peninsula. Elaine will be cremated, and the family will have a gathering at a later date. She is survived by her husband of 27 years, Gary Stephens; children Greg (Linda) Bruseau of Virginia and Teresa (David) DeYoung of Mattawan; grandchildren Derek (Haley) Bruseau of Montana and Kyle DeYoung of Kalamazoo. She is also survived by siblings DeLoryce Niskala-Bigrow of Kalamazoo, John Niskala of Allegan and Linda Niskala of Kalamazoo; and numerous nieces, nephews and cousins. She was preceded in death by her parents, her husband, Ernest, her brother, Clifford and her daughter, Brenda (deceased prenatal). Visit Elaine’s page at mccowensecord.com. Donations may go to the American Lung Association.

Vicksburg School Board Hears Band Boosters Report

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Tabitha Farnham, president of the Vicksburg Band Boosters, Inc., made a presentation to the Vicksburg School Board. Band Director Ben Rosier is on the right.

By Sue Moore

In a report to the Vicksburg School Board, Tabitha Farnham, president of the Vicksburg Band Boosters Inc. said her organization’s operating budget for 2020 is $72,300. “What money we raise to fund band programs is necessary to keep our band program top notch. It has helped to keep the band competitive with surrounding schools that are much bigger than us. With improved equipment, it has even encouraged some students to come to Vicksburg schools to be a part of our award-winning band program,” she told the board.

The group has maintained the instrument repair program for middle and high school bands to the tune of $3,100 each year. “We have covered what the three directors call their wish list and needs of the program that wouldn’t be funded otherwise,” she said. The organization purchased a whole new set of uniforms six years ago at a cost of $90,000. It also raised funds for the huge travel trailer that houses the band’s instruments on site and other items when they go to perform, such as the holiday trip to New Orleans.

With the help of the Vicksburg Foundation, they have been able to purchase $100,000 in band instruments. The program has grown to include one third of the student body in the Middle School and one fourth of the students in the High School.

Don Puckett reported on the technology advances the district has made over the last six years, especially with the funds from the technology bond issue of 2014. He cited the following:

A total of 5,000 outside devices connected in any one day.

2,000 Chromebook laptop computers in use.

Over 180 phones.

Over 300 desktops and laptops in use.

236 wireless access points.

302 security cameras installed.

41 door and door entry systems.

115 printers and copiers, a number which has actually decreased over the years by utilizing bigger and more efficient copiers.

Over 150 presentation systems.

18 servers on the network.

Countless software platforms.

Google for education has been used over the last six years because it is free. It was a hodgepodge all over the district. Now each building has wireless coverage.

Plans for the future include rolling out new teacher computers, updating and replacing Chromebook laptop computers which are nearly eight years old. Replacing the network infrastructure will be the big expense, he said.

Dawn Simpson, math teacher in the Middle School, demonstrated the use of Chromebook software that allows her to see what every student in her classroom is doing on their device.

Matt VanDussen, Middle School principal, spoke to the board about data on student performance. Math compares well to other schools in the area, he said. It points to a lot of things the teachers and staff have been working on the past few years.

While social studies scores were lower than expected, teachers have worked hard to transition to the new social studies standards, which haven’t been tested by the MSTEP yet.  Students showed a very high level of achievement in English Language Arts, according to the PSAT, with 83 percent of 8th grade students demonstrating college readiness.

He described Walkin’ the Dawgs as the one and only fundraiser the Middle School now uses. “This means that parents only have a one-time donation to make rather than all the little requests for dollars that typically came home with students. They raised $17,000 the first year they tried this approach and $19,000 in 2019. The money supports band, social studies program, teachers’ supplies, Civil War Days for the 8th grade, student council, athletics, fall musical, podcast equipment purchase, anti-bullying presentation, student incentives, respect rewards and principal’s awards to students.

Irving Berlin Musical to Come Alive on Vicksburg Stage

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Dancers in Holiday Inn strut their stuff.

By Sue Moore

Irving Berlin’s all-time classics, “Shakin’ the Blues Away,” “Heat Wave,” “Blue Skies,” “Cheek to Cheek,” “It’s a Lovely Day Today,” “Easter Parade,” and, of course, “White Christmas,” will be staged by Vicksburg High School’s theater group this month.

Under the directions of the dynamic Melissa Sparks, the teenagers will be performing the “New Holiday Inn Musical“ at the Performing Arts Center on Saturday, March 14 and 21 at 7 p.m. There are two Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. on March 15 and 22.

There are 13 large-ensemble musical numbers featuring a cast of 50 student performers. Every number has some dance in it from ballroom to jazz and, of course, tap. One number, “Shakin’ the Blues Away,” includes tap dancing while jump roping. Sparks said the day her students perfected that, she cried. “We actually have more students who can accomplish this than there is room on our stage for them to dance. It’s incredible to see how much our students’ skills have grown in this amazing show. Not to mention, it’s just a beautiful old-fashioned musical with the Irving Berlin songs, the glorious costumes, and magnificent sets. It’s going to be a feast for the eyes, the ears, and the heart,” Sparks exclaimed.

“Students began learning these dances in January and have been working hard on the technique necessary to pull it off. Thankfully, a few have learned the basics on these dance styles in previous productions so the rest have a few leaders to follow,” Sparks said.

“I loved this musical since I saw the Broadway production on PBS just a few years ago. While it’s the same title and basic premise as the old film, it has been reinvented for the 21st century. I love how it keeps the style of the classic golden age of musicals but feels fresh and modern,” she said.

“I believe all students can accomplish great things, if you believe in them. I love to challenge our students. They are doing Broadway level choreography in this show. It’s incredible! As our program grows, so does the capability of our students. I knew this was the year to tackle our most challenging show yet, by far!” Sparks said.

There are almost 400 costumes in this production. Sparks’ mom has usually helped with costumes in the many plays that her daughter has directed. Last year her mom had a heart attack right in the middle of the last rehearsal. “This year, I felt not only for her sanity but for mine as well that the best choice was for us to order many of the stunning costumes you will see. We have carefully selected and created a spectacular show for the eyes as each holiday has a different look, different costuming and different feel. She’s busy tailoring what we ordered and putting her touches on everything that makes it look so special. In the meantime, I’m thankful she’s here with me for another production,” Sparks said.

Schoolcraft Drama Club Stages Popular Musical

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Pictured, left to right: Juniors Beth Pavlak and Isabella Parker and freshman Kelsei Rossman.

Schoolcraft High School is proud to present “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying”, Thursday March 19 at 7 p.m., Friday March 20 at 7 p.m., Saturday March 21 at 2 and 7 p.m. and Sunday March 22 at 2 p.m.

The show tells the story of ambitious window washer J. Pierrepont Finch, as he schmoozes his way up the company ladder with the help of a very special little book. Madcap 1960s-style hijinks ensue as he climbs through the ranks, falls in love, falls from grace, and then ultimately reminds us that we are all one brotherhood of man in a show-stopping finale. This show requires a large cast, featuring many roles for all types of performers and a great opportunity to showcase a male ensemble.

“I picked this show for its lighthearted fun and swinging music,” Director Leigh Fryling explained. “After the transformative but heavily emotional fall play ‘She Kills Monsters’, we all needed a goofy palate cleanser. That’s not to say that the show doesn’t have important messages to share, especially in the age of #MeToo, but that those messages are candy-coated with a lot of fun and a lot of laughs. It will be a nostalgic turn for a lot of grandparents in the audience who might remember the movie.”

A new sound board and sound equipment purchased through a grant from Midwest Energy and Communications will be put to use for the first time in this play. “We can’t wait to utilize them in the coming seasons and want to take this opportunity to thank MEC for helping us make our space better for the future, one element at a time,” Fryling said.

Schoolcraft Board Says Goodbye to Broekema

By Travis Smola

Schoolcraft public school’s Finance Director Rita Broekema made her last presentation to the board of education at its February meeting.

After 18 years in the district, Broekema revealed she has taken a new position at Watervliet schools where she will re-join former high school principal Ric Seager, who left to become superintendent there last year. Her decision to leave, she said, wasn’t based on anything going on in the district. She saw the opportunity as good timing for a “new adventure.”

“I was not job hunting,” Broekema said. “I was not intending to do anything but retire from Schoolcraft schools and this was one of those opportunities.”

The board members all thanked her individually in their closing remarks of the meeting.

“I just want to say Rita, thank you very much for all you do for us and we wish you well as a board,” President Jennifer Gottschalk said. “We’re sad to see you go, but we understand.”

Superintendent Rusty Stitt echoed those thoughts.  “We’re truly going to miss Rita and we thank her for her 18 years of service,” he said. “She has been my go-to gal for my nine years here.”

Middle School Principal Dave Powers also chimed in at the meeting’s close, saying Broekema is the best finance director he’s ever worked with.

“You are incredible at what you do. What makes it even more incredible is who you are,” Powers said. “I could not do what I do without Rita Broekema and she extends so much grace; it’s unbelievable the way she holds our hands and gets us from point A to point Z.”

Broekema thanked the board and staff for their kind remarks. She also noted this was where she raised her children and said she wasn’t planning to leave the village. “I thank you for allowing me to grow up in Schoolcraft,” she said. “It’s just been an amazing ride and so thank you.”

The board also recognized three people for their monthly “Soaring Eagle” awards ceremony. The first was SHS staffer Chris Kato; the second, States Golf Course. The most notable honoree of the meeting was high school senior Karson Leighton. It marked one of the first times the district has honored a current student with the award.

Leighton was recognized for being involved with the superintendent’s advisory committee and student council. Stitt said the dual-enrollment student has remained heavily involved in the goings-on at the school despite his heavy schedule, even giving input on the district’s plans for 2020 and its strategic plan.

Stitt also noted that Leighton has even returned to the school during free time between his dual-enrollment classes at KVCC, just so he could interact with fellow students.

Schoolcraft Schools Bond Issue on March Ballot

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Many of the volunteers who are going door to door in Schoolcraft in support of the Yes SCS campaign are pictured here.

By Sue Moore

Schoolcraft schools’ $39.9 million bond issue is again up for a vote in the March 10 election. Michigan voters will also choose a Democratic party presidential nominee in the election.

This is the third time a bond issue for the school has been put to a vote in the past six years. The earlier two were defeated. The most recent one in 2019 was close, thus encouraging the Yes for Schoolcraft committee and the school board to try again. Opposition has largely centered upon the large amount, unchanged from last year’s proposal, plus plans to build new elementary and middle school structures and some improvements to the athletic facilities.

A new committee of parents has come together to spearhead the push for the proposal, going door to door with a message that the current buildings are beyond the point of fixing, that the middle and elementary buildings raise huge structural concerns.

Lloyd Peterson, an opponent to the bond issue, has been at school board meetings claiming that the amount of money being sought is too much. “It’s a big chunk, but I’ll live with it either way.” He has a daughter who is a sophomore in Schoolcraft. The family lives in a tiny corner of Texas Township that is in the Schoolcraft school district. He is semi-retired from being a professor at WMU and moonlights as a behavior analyst.

“I support an addition to the high school for the middle school, as I compare including grades 6-8 together to a one-room schoolhouse where each grade was taught according to their skill level. Good teaching is good teaching wherever it may be. I taught in a one-room school in Texas. I believe the people told the school board ‘no’ twice in a row, so having this third election during the primary season is going around the public. We would have had a bigger turn out in November.” He believes that a capital expenditure fund for the school should be set up to save for future construction.

The citizens team in favor of the bond issue say the heating systems are outdated, inefficient and failing. To renovate would cost an estimated $32 million and the buildings would still not have enough space, enough storage, or serve the needs of today’s methods of instruction and learning for students.

The middle school and elementary have small, cramped classrooms that are overcrowded, according to the Yes for SCS campaign literature. Some voters have objected to athletics being included in the bond issue. No major changes are anticipated but it will make improvements to athletic facilities that are deemed unsafe. It will bring these areas up to code, repair serious damage and make them safe, the literature said.

“The bond is the solution to the building problems and a critical part of the school’s long-term plan,” the citizens committee said.

Homecoming Courts at Schoolcraft and Vicksburg Schools

Here are the Homecoming Courts for Vicksburg and Schoolcraft High Schools.

Schoolcraft Boys Basketball Undefeated Through February

By Mark Blentlinger

Coach Randy Small and the rest of the Schoolcraft boys’ varsity basketball coaching staff, including Adam Sziede and Caleb Eustice, led the talented Eagles team to the first undefeated conference record since 2013, going 12-0 and 19-0 overall. On February 25, the Eagles made their way south to face off against the Falcons of Constantine. The first meeting in January between these two teams saw the Falcons keep the Eagles to their lowest score of the season, 45-31, only allowing the Eagles 45 points on their home court.

Schoolcraft was not going to allow that to happen again. This time on the Falcons home court, the Eagles topped the Falcons 74-29.  Bryce VanderWeire was the Eagles’ leading scorer with 20. Trevor DeGroote followed VanderWiere with 17 and Kobe Clark had 15. The next team that might stand in the way of an undefeated regular season: the Panthers of Penfield, when they visit the gym at Schoolcraft High on March 3.  If the Eagles are able to hold off the Panthers, it will be their first undefeated regular season since 2010-2011, when the Eagles won the class C state championship, topping McBain 73-59.

In the month of February alone the Eagles have outscored their opponents by 270 points, scoring 554 and only allowing 284. Schoolcraft will be hosting the boys’ basketball district 79 tournament, starting on March 9 at 5:30 p.m. Competing  teams will be Galesburg-Augusta, Kalamazoo Christian, Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic Prep, Marcellus and Schoolcraft.