On the Corner

By Sue Moore

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” so said Charles Dickens in the opening line of A Tale of Two Cities.

People are dying because of the novel coronavirus pandemic all over the world. Yet kindness and empathy are being displayed everywhere.

Right here in our small towns of Schoolcraft and Vicksburg, we experience school being called off, athletic contests cancelled, yet teachers are doing great work with assignments and communicating wherever it is needed. Breakfast and lunch programs have begun at each school with pickups taking place once a week for any family that wants it.

So many in the service industry are out of a job, many thousands in the state of Michigan applying for unemployment insurance this week. Yet people are trying to help, purchasing gift cards from stores and using take-out from our restaurants to keep them at least treading water.

Our health care workers are bearing the brunt of the disease and risking their lives to keep us all alive. By observing the quarantine edict from the Governor, we can help them all.

Is There a Silver Lining?

There seems to be a lot of respect shown to the “elderly”. Although I’ve resisted being put in that category, I really had to face up to it when Vicksburg’s village manager politely requested that I not attend the village council meeting, as he didn’t want me to be exposed to any possible virus. Fortunately, I was able to cover the meeting via the new streaming service the village started in January.

It actually worked very well and I would recommend that anyone interested in how our village government functions plan to watch on the first and third Monday night of each month at 7 p.m. The April meeting will only take place on the 20th. There were 10 people watching it including me and probably Bill Adams, village president, whose wife Carolyn, insisted that he stay home too.

Personalizing the News

It’s been a long two weeks while trying to get the paper out without ever meeting anyone face to face. It’s been a challenge to say the least. I never recognized how much news I gathered just by going to meetings. People often ask me where I get the news and my answer is always there is so much going on, it’s easy. This week, it hasn’t been so easy because I haven’t been out of the house for 17 days. I’ve had to email and call (I don’t like being on the phone a lot) and because you can’t look people in the eye, it’s hard to gauge the tenor of their responses. With lots of help from Sheri Freeland, our advertising sales representative and our reporters, we’re getting the job done.

An Apology to Kalamazoo County State Bank (KCSB)

In my column last month, I thought I chastised PNC Bank for closing up shop in Vicksburg. Instead the board members of KCSB felt that I was throwing their bank under the bus with my comments. That was certainly not my intention as they have proven their durability over the years, having been in business in Schoolcraft for 112 years and in Vicksburg for 24 years. “We have given back to our communities in so many ways,” said Scott Hines, bank president. My comments made it look like they hadn’t done much in the villages over these years, which is not what I meant at all. They are a community bank and as such, have given back ten-fold to our population, in personal ways and public contributions, especially with the 4th of July celebration in Schoolcraft.

It’s a Fine Life – Well Wishes

beaverBy Kathy Oswalt-Forsythe

A few weeks ago, when the late winter temperature climbed to a breezy 60, a post appeared on my Facebook feed. Traffic had stopped for a pair of beavers who were casually crossing a major street, heading towards the mill pond, just a block from our little downtown. This makes me smile.

A few years ago, I scoffed at a news story about a kayaker being attacked by a beaver. Seriously? Couldn’t the guy just slap his paddle on the water to frighten it? We often see them on the river up north, and their industry and hard work is evidenced by the sticks and logs felled by their gnawing. But I gained some new respect for their size last summer as we watched one swim past the pontoon, glide towards the shore, and climb from the water. It was huge – like a good-sized Labrador retriever. It glared at us and began snacking on the reeds in the sand. Suddenly, I was glad I wasn’t in a kayak near this incredible hulk!

According to the National Geographic’s website, beaver colonies are present in nearly all areas of the country, mate for life, and can weigh 60 pounds. Beaver parents produce two to four kits annually and nurture them for two years. And my favorite fun fact: the early Native Americans described them as “playful and affable.” How lovely: good-natured beavers.

The Wonderful World of Disney, appearing every Sunday night of our childhood, occasionally featured engaging documentaries of animal life: black bears, raccoons, and wolves entertained and educated us. We watched a fascinating hour about beavers, complete with underwater shots of the tunnels into their lodge, the sounds of their communication and the images of their family life within the twiggy mound.

I have never seen one around the village, but perhaps I’ve never really looked. Is this current couple leaving the damp and darkness of their winter lodge to begin early construction on their summer place? More likely they are newlyweds, fresh from honeymooning in their parents’ adjoining apartment, ready to set up housekeeping. Are they eager to greet their first brood of young? Do they study chapters of their parenting books? How to sooth a fussy kit? How to encourage bark sharing? How to introduce fibrous food? And I can just imagine the young pair sending their first brood off to their neighborhood school to attend classes so important for their survival. With only two years to adulthood and independence, their coursework would be intense: alarm sounding and the proper slap of the tail; establishing life-long tooth care and sharpening; lodge and dam design and maintenance.

I’ve been watching for the duo on my many drives around the village and lake. I suspect they have settled comfortably in the wetlands near the mill project. Perhaps they are enjoying some fresh air and early spring sun as their young splash and dive around their new home place.

I wish them well.

It’s a Fine Life
You can follow Kathy on her blog: itsafinelife.com

Pastors, Funeral Directors Face Challenges Amid COVID-19

By Sue Moore

Pastor Dave Downs, Chapman Memorial Church of the Nazarene

“We are not able to visit our folks who are confined to nursing home and hospitals.

“However, I did record a video Bible study this past Wednesday that was used at the Bickford Senior Living facility in Portage. Also, last Sunday my sermon was recorded in my office and posted to our Facebook page and website. This Sunday we are starting to use Facebook live for our morning worship service. These will be live on Facebook each Sunday at 10 a.m. until further notice. We will have very limited music. And no one in attendance.

“Our children’s director, Kelly Downs, is communicating with the children via Facebook and encouraging them with activities they are able to do at home with their families.

“Our youth pastor, Brian Robbins, is communicating his weekly message to our middle and high school students via Facebook. Our young adult pastor, Rob Lash, is also staying in touch with our young adults via Facebook.

“Our senior adult pastor, Wes Bittenbender, is communicating regularly with our elderly folks. When they have needs, we have people ready to respond. People have offered to pick up groceries and prescriptions if needed.

“We have also reached out to our schools and Generous Hands. Our people responded this week to some pressing needs at Generous Hands. Superintendent Keevin O’Neal told us he would reach out to us with ways we can be of assistance when something comes up.

“These are very trying times as we are social people. We love to be together! Thankfully, we are also hopeful people. We know that one day we will again be able to meet together. We trust these days to God and pray for healing!”

Pastor Ed Schmidt, Lakeland Reformed Church

Historically churches were designed to respond to humanity’s need to be “social” – be part of a family, community, social distancing in many ways fractured our attachments. But it also forces us to become creative for the “family of God” to remain connected. So Social media – using the internet through emails, Facebook & Facebook Live, Skype, and other platform have emerged as essential to sustain our connections. We are also encouraging a “re-emphasis” by connecting through one on one phone conversations, or walk over and give a greeting with a post it note on your neighbor’s window. Individuals have started calling each other, maybe one a week or every other week because they missed seeing each other at church. When our leadership is calling the members we are asking for what do you need? And what can you give/do?

For most churches I heard the Sunday connection for worship was through a log-in worship through Facebook Live or a recorded message on YouTube. I know of a church who used a phone “party line” or conference call connection for members to dial up the Pastor and 9 others in the sanctuary to share their prayers of joys and concerns.

No great insights or unusual examples. But something we are all trying to learn from one another and apply as we are able. But as churches we will keep working through this new normal, because Church operations “sure aren’t the same as they used to be.” But we will continue to figure out how to share our good news of comfort, hope and faith to a community that’s anxious, afraid and uncertain. It’s still down to showing God’s love to our neighbor.

Pastor Greg Culver, United Methodist Church of Vicksburg

“I think the thing for the church is that while our people experience social distancing, we do what we can to make sure the feeling doesn’t digress into social isolation. For many legacy (aka elder) members, the church is their primary connection with others. The church is also highly symbolic in that it represents Christ to many people – and as pastor, that makes my role symbolic as someone who will keep steady hand on the keel of the ship. People need to hear from their church family and their pastor. I email frequent pastoral messages to be of encouragement. The congregation has been included in the caring. Everybody in our email database was forwarded an up-to-date church directory inviting them to make at least three contacts daily with someone else – not necessarily someone they know well. Never underestimate the offering of ‘small-talk.’

“An order of worship for the missed Sunday is sent out along with a prepared manuscript of the pastor’s sermon as a witness that, yes, the pastor is discerning Scripture on their behalf. We’re moving into video-production to put worship on our website as well as utilizing our social media (Facebook and Instagram).

“Coronavirus social distancing will probably extend beyond Easter. The church has never experienced anything like this and we anticipate contingencies in our approach to ministry. Mortality, viral or not, and how to care for folk in the face of death raises some questions. We might end up “live-streaming” a funeral or two.

“What an under-appreciated blessing we had when we were able to physically gather together. A more robust understanding of gratitude could come from it being taken away by circumstances beyond our control.

“All in all, I think that our people are coping well, thus far. It’s gonna take a lot of Jesus to get us through, but He’s totally faithful even in the difficult times.”

In his letter to the Catholic faithful, Bishop Paul J. Bradley of the Diocese of Kalamazoo has temporarily suspended all public Masses effective Friday, March 20 through Palm Sunday, April 5, 2020. Additionally, the annual Chrism Mass on Tuesday, April 7th has been relocated to St. Augustine Cathedral, Kalamazoo, and will be limited to attendance by priests only. The Mass will be live-streamed and details will be posted on the diocesan website. The Diocesan Pastoral Center will be closed to the public from March 20th through April 5th; employees will be working remotely. In his letter, Bishop Bradley wrote:

“Being unable to come to Mass and receive the Gift of the Eucharist is a huge sacrifice that we must make to protect the health and well-being of all those with whom we come in contact. While this restriction is temporary, and I pray, short-lived, our faith life continues. We must stay strong in the practice of our faith through our individual times of prayer, as well as increased family prayer times; our own spiritual reading and reflection on God’s Holy Word; the praying of the rosary, and other important devotions and spiritual practices. I have asked our priests to keep our churches open/unlocked as much as possible during this time of crisis, and I invite you to come to spend time of prayer and reflection with Jesus Present in the Blessed Sacrament, following all the other proscribed precautions of social distancing. I also want you to know that all our priests will continue celebrating Mass every day privately; I have asked them specifically to offer Masses regularly for the intentions of the Faithful of their parishes and our Diocese, especially those who are sick, alone, and suffering in other ways during this time of crisis.”

Dale Eickhoff, owner of Eickhoff Funeral Home in Mendon

“Funeral homes have always practiced universal precautions, since we are confronted with some type of outbreak or epidemic every five to 10 years. Infection control is nothing new for us. What is new are the restrictions on the size of any gathering – currently limited to 50 people –, by the Governor. Suggesting that we limit attendance to 50 family members is going to be a challenge. In small rural communities, we are all related! At this point we are forced to have a small intimate ceremony (perhaps by invitation only) with the hope of having a larger gathering or luncheon when restrictions have been lifted.”

Steve McCowen, co-owner of McCowen & Secord Funeral Home

“The funeral industry is unique because we handle every deceased person with Universal Precautions and treat as if everyone has a contagious disease. We have training with our staff annually to make sure they are on top of the care for themselves as well as the people we bring into our buildings. I always like to tell the staff to remember if they don’t protect themselves they put their family and our staff at risk. So, I live my life this way every day. I’ve always probably been seen as a germophobic person but I was just always taught to wash my hands a ton in our profession with all the people we come in contact with. My first year as a funeral director I was sick nonstop.

“As far funerals for the public knowledge, we are business as usual. The CDC has guidelines that our National Funeral Directors Association sent out this past week. So, we can make sure our embalmers like myself understand the illnesses like this one and others we could be facing. It also lets us know what extra precautions to take when handling a deceased. This illness doesn’t seem to stay with the body after death like some. At least not what they have found so far. We trained our staff that goes to the hospital and homes what to expect and how to handle this situation and others.

“We have asked all of our staff, much like we do during cold and flu season, to stay home if they have any symptoms. We understand we work with the ‘at-risk’ community on a daily basis.

“We do have extra hand sanitizers at our locations and it’s really hard not to shake a hand but I noticed today people were cautious at the service [we just had]. I don’t live my life in fear, maybe because of all the diseases I’ve had to work around in my career. It also says in my faith 365 times in the Bible to ‘Fear Not’. So, I still give hugs to those that need one and offer to help families when they need someone. It’s what we do. I’m don’t fear getting sick and if the good Lord ask me to come home today I have no fear in that either.”


Ronald (Ron) Bruce Avis, 84, Vicksburg, passed away March 7. Ron was the son of Donald “Bud” and Wenona “Nona” Avis and was born on September 19, 1935. Ron was a Cedar Springs High School graduate and received his electrical license by International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in Chicago. He joined the army and served during the Korean War. He married Nelly Sweet June 28, 1959 right after Nelly graduated from MSU. They resided in Chicago while she taught and he finished electrical school. They then moved to Vicksburg, becoming lifelong residents. He served on the Schoolcraft Township Planning Commission for many years and was a member of the Vicksburg United Methodist Church. He was most involved in the Kalamazoo County 4-H Horse Project. His favorite thing in life was to watch children blossom through their 4H projects. He was also a Freemason and a member of the IBEW Local 131. During Ron’s time as an electrician and project manager for R.W. Leet Electric, a sub-contractor of the Upjohn Company, he was in the lead on many projects. He is survived by Nelly Ann Avis after 61 years of marriage, daughters Amy Avis, Portage and Molly (Kevin) Ball of Carmel, Ind. and grandchildren Lucas, Lauryn and Griffin Ball; a brother, Norwood (Janet) Avis of Cedar Springs and several nieces and nephews. Donations may go to Generous Hands of Vicksburg, generoushands.org or the Vicksburg United Methodist Church.

Anna Burson, 94, Schoolcraft, peacefully passed away March 21 at Rose Arbor Hospice. Anna was born on August 17, 1925 to Kenneth and Irene (McClain) Nichols. She is survived by her children, David (Linda Sue) Burson of Schoolcraft, Vikki (Denny) Plothow of Portage, Stephen (Linda Jean) Burson of Schoolcraft, Jeff Burson of Schoolcraft; grandchildren Tammy (Todd) Thayer, Todd (Melissa) Burson, John Burson, Melissa (Chris) Carpenter, Kathy Jako, Joshua (Mary) Burson, Lance (Gail) Strome, Tracie Burson, Tina Burson, Michael (Mimi) Burson Jr., Billy Burson and Candy (Paul) Graham; 20 great grandchildren; 6 great-great grandchildren and several nieces and nephews. Anna was preceded in death by her husband of 46 years, Max; her children, Ronald, Michael Sr. and Theresa and her six brothers and a sister. Visit mccowensecord.com. Donations may go to Rose Arbor Hospice.

Sue Ann Hanna, 66, Scotts, passed away March 20, surrounded by family. Sue was born to George and Betty (Leversee) Srackangast on January 18, 1954. Sue is survived by her husband, Colin Hanna; children Christopher (Kelly), Dennis, and Kyle (Holly); grandchildren Nate, Ally, and Isabella; siblings Jim Srackangast and Beth Jackson; and several nieces and nephews. Sue was preceded in death by her parents and a sister, Sharon Kooyers. Sue has been cremated and a service may be held at a later date. Visit her page at mccowensecord.com. Donations may go to Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan or Talons Out Honor Flight.

Theresa (Coffinger) Huntington, passed away March 20. She was born to Ernest and Marilda (Hopkins) Coffinger on May 22, 1924. At the age of 18, she was joined in marriage to Marion (Babe) Huntington on April 24, 1943. They later welcomed nine children. Theresa loved crocheting Christmas ornaments, and making quilts for her family and friends. She spent countless hours enjoying nature and feeding the birds. Family was very important to her. Over the years the staff at the West Michigan Cancer Center had become a beloved part of her family. Theresa was preceded in death by her husband of 36 years, Marion Huntington, on December 21, 1979; infant daughters Sharon Lee in 1946 and Edith May in 1959; her parents; a brother, Norman Coffinger; sisters Sally Terry and Dora Roberts; daughter-in-law Linda (Loosier) Huntington; son-in-law John Overton; and grandson Ed Miller Jr. Surviving are sons Leslie (Angel) and David Huntington of Vicksburg; daughters Marilyn (Ed Sr.) Miller of Coldwater, Rosemary (Raymond) Weller of Coldwater, Alice (Mike) Bockstanz, of Portage, Lorie Overton, of Three Rivers and Brenda (Robert) Piper, of Vicksburg; grandchildren Shannon (Mike) Lashbrook, David (Brandi) Huntington, Raymond Weller Jr., Theresa (John) Cleckner, Jessica (Hunter) Weller, Alicia (Ron) Crandall, Michelle (Brian) VanderBor, John (Sarah) Overton, Mike (Lisa) Overton, Steve Overton, Sierra (Eric) Piper and Natalie (Jesse) Piper; great grandchildren Eddie, David and Jonathan Miller, Tyler Weller, Lindsey, Logan and Ashlyn Cleckner, Yazmene and Trenton VanderBor, Collin Crandall, Hannah and Mackenzie Overton, Camron and Jordan Overton, Laine, Aubree and Addison Overton, and James Vance. Donations may go to the West Michigan Cancer Center.

James (Jim) Lafler, passed away March 13. He was born on Sept. 12, 1935, in Leonidas. He was raised and attended school in Fulton and Vicksburg. Jim resided in Vicksburg and Portage. He worked as a lumberjack, enjoyed fishing, hunting, and catching snapping turtles. Jim was also known for hauling junk and scrap metal and cleaning out apartments and homes. Jim married Theresa Weinberg, with whom he had five children. Jim has two stepdaughters with his partner of 51 years, Beverly Ridenour. He was preceded in death by his parents, James Lafler Sr. and Neva Lafler, sons James Lafler III and Jack Lafler, brother Tom Lafler, and sister Joann Sleeman. He is survived by Beverly Ridenour, his children Rita (Doug) Diamond, Dale (Junita) Lafler, Scott (Amy) Lafler, Linda (Warner) Connor-Offord, Vickie Muncy, brother Willard (Mazy) Lafler, brother Butch (Robin) Lafler, several grandchildren, great grandchildren, nieces and nephews. A memorial service will be held at the Word for Life Church of God at a future date. Officiating at the service will be Pastor Jeffery McNally.

Marjorie June (Peggy) Zonyk Lambert, 91, passed away February 3 in Mecosta, Mich. She was born in Battle Creek on June 26, 1928, the eldest child of Raymond and Ethel (Daniels) Brown of Vicksburg. Peggy graduated Vicksburg High School in 1945. She received a certificate in medical dictation from Elkhart Business School. Peggy went to work as a clinic secretary at Bronson Hospital in Kalamazoo. On July 7, 1948, Peggy married Joe Zonyk. She served as the Brady Township treasurer. Her last job was with Gilmore Advertising in Kalamazoo. She retired in 1988. She also enjoyed old sayings she collected and eventually published them in a book she called “Grandma’s Sayings.” That book has been sold in every state in the U.S. On July 14, 1983, Peggy married John (Jack) Lambert. They were married for 27 years. Peggy is survived by her children, Dan (Caryn) Zonyk of Vicksburg and Susan (Ron) Reardon of Canadian Lakes, Mich. She is also survived by her step-children, John (Lisa) Lambert of Carmel, Ind. and Nancy Lambert, Arcadia, Kan. She was a proud and loving grandmother to her grandchildren, Angela Verwey of Plainwell, Michael (Melissa) Zonyk of Grand Rapids, Michelle (Dave) Malito of Portage, Joshua (Emily) Reardon of Shelby, N.C., Jeffrey (Lauren) Reardon of Westland, Mich., Jeff Lambert of Denver, Col. and Ryan Lambert of Indianapolis, Ind. Peggy was also blessed with seven great-grandchildren. She leaves behind two siblings, Kay Warner of Warren, Mich. and Ray Brown of Three Rivers as well as many cousins, nieces, and nephews. She was predeceased by her parents and spouses. Visit her page at mccowensecord.com. Donations may go to Royal View Assisted Living. Staff there considered her part of their family for the last 10 years of her life.

Kathleen Ruth Lange, 78, Vicksburg passed away March 22. Kathy was born on September 22, 1941 in Allegan. She was the fifth child of eight to Theodore and Josephine (McGeath) Lange. She graduated from Allegan High School with the class of 1959. Kathy completed beauty school and enjoyed being a beautician for many years. Later on, her love for flowers lead her to design floral arrangements for Shafer Flowers in Kalamazoo, and she also for a period of time had her own business called Silk Creations. Her hobbies included working in her flower garden and painting. She raised her children on Long Lake and enjoyed the lake life with pontoon rides, fishing, and many sunsets. While her children were younger, she was a leader for both Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts and active in the Vicksburg Athletic Boosters. While her boys were in high school, she organized spaghetti dinners for the football team that is now a tradition in the community. Most important to Kathy was her faith and her family. She loved when her family was all together and supported her children’s and grandchildren’s many endeavors. She will be remembered by her family for being giving, helpful, generous, spunky, faithful, strong willed, and very family-oriented. Kathy is survived by her three children, Kelly (Dan) Oswalt, of Vicksburg; Scott Swope, of Vicksburg; and Matt (Debbie) Swope, of Vicksburg; grandchildren: Megan (JT Neel) Oswalt, Emily (Andy) Foster, Katie (Derek) Debiak,  Amanda Swope and Nick Swope, all of Vicksburg; great grandchildren Grady and Addy Foster, both of Vicksburg. She is also survived by her brother, Thomas Lange, of Allegan; sister Gretchen (Ron) Wedge, of Allegan; brother-in-law Ken Washburn, of Hopkins; and many nieces, nephews and cousins. She was preceded in death by her great granddaughter, Josie Neel; siblings Grace Ann (Gerald) Richardson, Sue (Joe) Huguelet, Barbara Jo Washburn, Mary Joan Lange, Ted (Wanda) Lange; special cousin Edna “Skip” McDonough; and sister-in-law Sue Lange. Kathy will have a Celebration of her Life on her birthday, September 22, 2020 from 5-8 p.m. at R&R Weddings and Events. Visit her page at mccowensecord.com. Donations may go to Birch Meadows.

Rose Elizabeth Moore, 104, Vicksburg passed away March 24. Rose was born on November 13, 1915 in Leonidas, MI. She was the daughter of Earl and Nora (Lunger) Lash. Rose married Floyd Moore on December 21, 1960. She worked as a cook for over 25 years at the State Hospital before retiring. Her hobbies included cooking and crocheting. Rose will be remembered by her family and friends as: amazing, fun to be around, loving, caring, giving, and having a joyful heart. Rose is survived by her husband of 59 years, Floyd; five grandchildren: Robert R. (Diana) Siscoe, of Albion; Floyd A. (Stacy) Siscoe, of Mattawan; Craig Siscoe, of Bronson; Elizabeth A. (James) Moore, of SC; Vicky Muncy, of Kalamazoo; and many great and great great grandchildren. She is also survived by her sister, June Potter, of Vicksburg, and several nieces and nephews. She is preceded in death by her son: Robert E. Siscoe. Rose has been cremated and no services are planned at this time. Visit her page at mccowensecord.com.

Virgene Rae Price, 79, Portage, formerly of Vicksburg, passed away March 17. Virgene was born on January 14, 1941 in Weidman, Mich. She was the daughter of Clare and Ruth (Hart) Oberlin. On December 17, 1988 she married Leonard Price and blended their families together. Virgene is survived by her children, Lori (Allen) Shedd; Mark (Melissa) Kuepfer; Paul Kuepfer; Kristin (Scott) Watkins; and 11 grandchildren and three great grandchildren.  She was preceded in death by siblings Richard (Carol) Oberlin and Sharon (Orlo) Johnson and by her husband, Leonard Price. A memorial service will be planned for a later date at St. Michael Lutheran Church in Portage. Please continue to check Virgene’s webpage at mccowensecord.com where you can get updated service information, sign the guestbook, and share a memory with the family. The family is being assisted by the McCowen & Secord Funeral Home, Rupert-Durham Chapel, Vicksburg.

Julia Marie Smith, 53, Vicksburg, passed away March 18. Born to William and Phyllis (Watson) Smith on May 24, 1966, in Vicksburg. She was the older of two as she was joined in her family by her brother, Jeff. She attended local schools including Vicksburg High School. There, Julia was an avid softball player, was in track, and also played the clarinet in the marching band. She was thrilled to welcome three children, Adam, Stephanie, and Makenna, into her heart and home. Later, she was blessed to add two grandchildren, Sophia and Mia, into the family. It was easy to see that Julia’s granddaughters were her greatest source of pride and joy. For more than 20 years, she was blessed with the companionship of Chris Pillars after meeting him at a New Year’s Eve party. She spent more than 16 years working at Linden Woods Dental, and she also worked at Main Street Pub in Vicksburg for over 10 years. Julia loved Keno and traveling, and when at home she loved a good Lifetime movie. Julia is survived by her companion of 20 years, Chris Pillars; three children: Adam (Ryan) Phillips, of Canton; Stephanie (Michael Alexander) Phillips, of Kalamazoo; Makenna Pillars, of Vicksburg; two grandchildren: Sophia and Mia Alexander, of Kalamazoo. She is also survived by her mother: Phyllis Smith, of Scotts; and brother Jeff (Kim) Smith, of Vicksburg. She is preceded in death by her father, William Smith; grandparents: Edward and Betty Smith and Richard and Evelyn Watson. A memorial service is being planned for a later date. Visit her page at mccowensecord.com. Donations may go to the family c/o Stephanie Phillips.

Doug Truckey, 80, Vicksburg, passed away with family by his side on March 1. Doug was born on February 15, 1940 to Francis and Helen (McElevain) Truckey. Following his wishes, cremation has taken place. Doug is survived by his wife of 62 years, Jan; his children, Scott (Susan) Truckey, Jeff (Jean) Truckey, Brian (Karen) Truckey and Lori (Jacob) Bittle; 14 grandchildren; 16 great grandchildren with 3 more on the way, as well as several nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents; his son, Dennis, his brother, Frances Jr., and his sister, Sandra. Doug enjoyed woodworking and watching westerns on TV. He loved spending time with his family and lived for his grandchildren. He enjoyed farming, hunting and fishing as well as trap shooting. Doug retired from Fox River Paper Company after 17 years. He served his country proudly in the United States Air Force for 6 years. He was very patriotic all his life. Please visit Doug’s memory page at mccowensecord.com where you can leave a memory for his family.

Government Shutdown and Communications

By Sue Moore

The Vicksburg Village Hall is closed to the public until further notice due to COVID-19.

All essential services of the Police Department and Department of Public Works remain available.

Utility payments may be made via the lockbox in the door at Village Hall, by mail or online via the Utility Payments link on the website http://www.vicksburgmi.org. Phone numbers: emergency: 911; Vicksburg Police Department: 269-649-1144; Vicksburg Village Hall: 269-649-1919;

The Village Council will hold its scheduled meeting on April 20, The April 6 meeting had been cancelled due to spring break. However, the village will be cancelling all other governmental meetings throughout the months of March and April.

The village manager will be scheduling one-on-one contacts via telephone with members of the Village Council and Planning Commission throughout the week.

From Cheri Lutz, village of Schoolcraft manager

“We have instituted safety precautions for our staff in accordance with CDC recommendations. Last Tuesday (March 17), we closed our doors to the public, and I am getting updated information out to the general public as quickly as it comes in via social media and our website. We are able to work remotely from home and will begin doing that March 24. The Police Department will be open but they are requesting that people call with questions, complaints, etc. I think that we are as prepared as we can be under the circumstances and will modify our operations as needed.”

Vicksburg Post Office, Travis Graham via SaBrina Todd in the Lansing office.

The Postal Service is an essential service for purposes of its compliance with state or municipality shelter-in-place orders or other social distancing restrictions. The Postal Service delivers medications, social security checks, and is the leading delivery service for on-line purchases.

To reduce health risks, we also are temporarily modifying customer signature capture procedures. While maintaining a safe, appropriate distance, employees will request the customer’s first initial and last name so that the employee can enter the information on the electronic screen or hard copy items such as return receipts, PS Forms 3811 and 3829. For increased safety, employees will politely ask the customer to step back a safe distance or close the screen door/door so that they may leave the item in the mail receptacle or appropriate location by the customer door.

From Brady Township Supervisor, Tracy Locey

Brady Township has postponed its regular meeting from 4/8/2020 to 4/22/2020. The office is closed to the public, however the Supervisor, Clerk and Treasurer are going to the office to complete statutory duties with only one person in the office at a time. They are available by email which they are monitoring daily or by voice message.

From Schoolcraft Township Supervisor, Don Ulsh

“We are not allowing the public in the township hall, however we have manned all our offices for our usual hours, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. We are considering going to 9 a.m.-1 p.m. because we really don’t have any folks coming by after that time. Our contact numbers will be available if someone really needs to talk to one of us. We will be having a special meeting on March 31 at 10 a.m. to approve our 2020-2021 budget. In addition, we will be having our regular meeting on April 14.”. We will have the door unlocked and anyone that wishes to attend can. However, we will be insisting on everyone, including the board, be seated 6 feet apart. There will be a notice on our door and on our website.

From John Speeter, Pavilion Township Supervisor

“Pavilion Township has closed our office to the public in compliance with the Governor’s EO 2020-2021. Our elected officials are working in shifts to offer services to Pavilion residents. E-mails and phone messages are being returned promptly. Going forward, our Board meetings will be held using telecommunication technology. Residents are asked to monitor our website for notices and cancellations. (www.paviliontownship.com)”

Vicksburg Village Council OKs Funds To Buy Property

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Tom Ham, owner of Renaissance Management Company that oversees Angels Crossing Golf Course, speaking to the Vicksburg Village Council.

By Sue Moore

Following a closed-door meeting, the Vicksburg Village Council approved a $13,300 expenditure to purchase an unidentified property and do soil borings on it. In the past, Village officials have discussed building a new village hall but have not definitely identified a site.

“It’s just one possibility as a place to build a new and enhanced village hall,” Jim Mallery, village manager, explained to the Council. The timing is such that we wanted to know if the land would support a building there. That’s why we need to get the testing done.”

The village has put away $800,000 over the last two years for a new building estimated to cost over $1.2 million and be similar in size to Schoolcraft’s village office.

In other business, the village Council heard an annual report from the Renaissance Management Company’s director, Tom Ham, about the village-owned Angels Crossing golf course. Ham said the golf course was profitable in 2019 but could be even more so in the coming year with some of the improvements he has proposed. He had received approval in February to rent a machine that would grind up much of the brush and small trees on the edges of the fairways. That work has been completed, he said.

“We are trying to expose this beautiful piece of property to the golfing public. There were lots of features on the course that no one could see as Mother Nature took over, growing plenty of scrub and brush. With the village’s DPW help and the forestry equipment we were able to grind up the small trees and brush to expose all these natural wetlands. It is now totally different. It’s not an overgrown piece of property. Golfers will see different vistas when teeing off,” he explained.

It will also improve the sunlight and air movement to critical points on the course for the greens and tees. That will improve the turf. It’s a two-pronged approach with another agronomic advantage, he pointed out.

He mentioned in a later interview, that EPA-approved products, safe for the environment, will help to keep the brush down in the future. “What golfers see and how they play the course will increase the esthetics and pay off in the long run. That word of mouth is better than any magazine could do for us. It’s a manual clean up now. It will take time to get it all cleared as its not meant to be a playable area but will be helpful for golfers to find [their errant] golf balls,” Ham said.

“We are watching the Governor’s executive order on food and beverage and special events that will keep us from reopening the restaurant facility. It was clarified recently that people could still play golf in consideration of the virus edicts. It might be the first of April before we open and we are closely monitoring the situation. We do not want to endanger our employees or guests,” Ham said.

“Kalamazoo is a really good golfing area. The better we get, the more business we will do,” Ham said.

Keeping Sunset Lake Water Clear

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Summer weed growth on Sunset Lake pond.

By Rob Peterson

Spraying in Sunset Lake to contain invasive plant species and algae will continue this summer if the existing special assessment district is renewed.

At its March meeting, the Schoolcraft Township board set a public hearing for 6 p.m. April 14 to renew the assessment district. If approved, each parcel that fronts the lake will pay $400 annually from 2020 through 2024 to pay for weed control.

Andy Tomaszewski of PLM Lake & Land Management explained that his company will likely apply six or seven treatments of spray throughout the summer. The primary target is starry stonewart, though they are also concerned about exotic weeds such as cabomba, milfoil and curly-leaf pondweed.

Starry stonewart creates a dense mat that disrupts the natural fish habitat, according to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Sunset Lake is a popular fishing spot with a boat launch at the south end of Sunset Lake Park.

The spray that they plan to apply “will not eliminate all plants,” according to Tomaszewski. “Typically, most of the native and naturally occurring species are unaffected by the spray.” It is also safe for people, he said; none of the treatments have more than a one-day swimming restriction.

Without the treatments, Sunset Lake would likely be overcome with these invasive plant species, as well as algae. “As a flowing system, the lake is prone to “bursts” of nutrients which fuel excessive (algae) blooms,” Tomaszewski said. “Sunset Lake tends to be a little more volatile compared to your typical inland lake.”

In Other Township News

The millage request to become a Charter Township, failed by a vote of 1,171 no to 842 yes.

Little League will be on hold until at least May 11, and Ryan LaPorte indicated that they have not ordered uniforms yet. In the event that the season is canceled due to COVID-19, they are prepared to refund fees to families who have already paid.

Also due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Township Clerk Virginia Mongreig is considering a mail-in election for the May ballot, which will include a new millage request from Vicksburg Public Schools and a millage renewal from KRESA.

New Timeline for Schoolcraft Sewer Decision

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Schoolcraft village council members from left to right seated: Russell Barnes, President Keith Gunnett, Mike Rochholz. Standing in back from left: Sy Spears, Kathy Mastenbrook, John Stodola, Todd Carlin.

By Rob Peterson

The Schoolcraft Village Council at a March 2 meeting outlined a new timeline for a decision regarding a possible wastewater treatment system project.

Trustees also noted three areas that could be added to the project: the south end of Sugarloaf Lake, Barton Lake and the Canal Zone south of Gourdneck Lake.

The village of Vicksburg, however, is not able to buy into the project because it has an outstanding loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for past sewer upgrades. Only one loan is allowed from the USDA at a time. To participate, Vicksburg could either buy services from a Schoolcraft system or pay off its existing loan. Neither of these options are under consideration at the moment, Schoolcraft was informed.

According to the timeline presented, the Schoolcraft will hold a May 18 public hearing, then decide if it will proceed with the project. If a decision is made to move ahead, the village will petition the County Drain Commission to establish the project. This is a critical juncture; after that point there are few contingencies that could stop the project and costs will start adding up.

At issue is that the USDA does not set bonding rates or grant amounts until after the decision to move ahead has been made by the village Council. “This is all backwards in my thinking,” complained Village President Keith Gunnett.

The Council has no information yet on past projects in other municipalities to compare what the potential USDA grants might be.

“This is not an emergency,” said Trustee John Stodola. “It’s important that we do this right. I won’t be voting for the project unless we have final numbers, including the grants and the interest rate.”

Because the current method of funding the project is through the county Drain Commission, there will be no petition or vote by village residents; the decision rests entirely on the Council.

“Only nine percent of residents wanted sewers last time,” claimed village resident Sam Andres, “So why are we doing this? Doesn’t majority rule?”

“We are still in fact-finding mode,” said Trustee Rochholz. “We don’t like the process we have, but we are the final decision-makers and we will do what is best for the Village.”

Schoolcraft Wrestlers Compete at the State Level

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Mark Fox wrestles in the state championship finals for Schoolcraft. Photo by Stephanie Blentlinger, Lingering Memories Photography.

By Mark Blentlinger

Four Schoolcraft Eagle wrestlers made their way to Detroit’s Ford Field on March 6 and 7, to compete in the MHSAA state Individual wrestling championships. They were senior Caden Sukich, 119 lbs, 47-4 record; junior Hunter Martens, 125 lbs, 47-4 record; junior Gary Cramer, 130 lbs, 25-7 and senior Mark Fox, 160 lbs, 34-5.

First up was Sukich, facing off against Darren Gostlin, 24-9, of Evert. Caden was able to dominate his match, getting a pin at the 4:52 mark. The win would put Sukich back on the mat in the winner’s bracket against Jayden Williams, 46-4, of Kent City. That match went the entire six minutes; Caden came out the victor once again with a score of 15-11. Caden’s next match was in the semifinals. A win would have put him in the state championship. Despite his best efforts, it was not to be. Sukich’s match against Zack Hall, 50-4 of Byron, would go the distance with Sukich coming out on the wrong end of the deal, losing a decision match 2-7. Caden found himself wrestling in the 3rd place match against Williams of Kent City again. Sukich just couldn’t get things rolling and lost the match 1-9, placing him in 4th place for the second straight year.

Hunter Martens would start his first two matches just like Sukich, winning against Michael Mausolf, 37-17 of Ubly, with a pin at the 2:38 mark. His next opponent would be Connor Fitzpatrick, 36-12 of Jackson Lumen Christi. Hunter took the match the distance and beat Williams with a nailbiter, 6-5. That win sent him into the semifinal. His competitor for that match was the number one seed for the tournament, Jaron Johnson, 41-0 of Carson City. Although Martens would take it the whole match, he still fell short, losing 2-6. Martens took the mat again for 3rd place, where he would face off against Drew Gebhardt, 54-4 of Manchester. Hunter just couldn’t seem to accomplish anything he tried and lost 0-8. That loss sent him into competition for 5th place against Bradley Russel, 47-13 of Union City. The match went back and forth. In the last 45 seconds, Martens earned one point for an escape, tying the match, 4-4. Both wrestlers vied for the elusive one point for the win. With 2 seconds remaining, Martens was able to escape Russel’s hold, giving him the one point to win the match, 5-4, and a 5th place finish.

Gary Cramer made his first appearance on the big stage of Ford Field. His first match him pitted against Jordan Koetje, 36-12, from Pine River. Although Cramer did his best, he just couldn’t seem to get any advantage and lost his first match 0-2. Gary wasn’t out of it just yet. Next, he would face off against River Robertson, 36-13 from Hesperia. Cramer would take this match by a score of 3-2. He then faced off against another Hesperia wrestler, Mack Baird, 41-8. Unfortunately, this match would end as one of the shortest in the tournament, at 29 seconds into the first period, ending Cramer’s experience at the 2020 state tournament.

Last up for the Eagle Grapplers was Mark Fox, in the 160lb division. Fox first wrestled Nick Phillips, 35-9 of Manchester. The match went the entire distance, but Fox came up shy on points and dropped that one, 4-6. In the consolation bracket, he faced off against Jacob Gribbell, 32-14 from Newberry. Fox easily handled his wrestler and won 16-6. Mark needed to keep up the intensity to get back into contention for a podium spot. Next up, was Cole Hopkins, 38-6 of Evert. The match did not fall in Fox’s favor. He found himself in a position that he rarely experienced and was pinned at the 3:15 point in the match. Mark ended his high school career with over 150 wins.

Bulldogs Advance to District Finals – Everything Cancelled

Jacob Conklin brings the ball down the court with Kyle Rose, number 54 in the lead against Three Rivers. Photo by Travis Smola.

By Travis Smola

The Vicksburg varsity boys’ basketball team found themselves in a shootout with rival Three Rivers in District semifinal play on March 11.

The Bulldogs were able to rally and pad out their lead late for a 63-58 victory over the Wildcats. It was their third win of the year over their rival. The difficulty of doing that wasn’t lost on Head Coach Josh Noble.

“Every game they have a late lead,” he said of the Three Rivers team. “It’s getting to the point where I’m glad we can move on from them because that is a good team,” Noble said. “They have two players that are at the top of their conference, their coach has done a good job with those guys.”

The teams were evenly matched in the contest. Three Rivers jumped out to a 14-8 lead after the first period. The two teams traded the lead back and forth 12 times in the contest as each team struggled to gain momentum over the other. At the end of two periods it was 33-31 Vicksburg and at the end of three it was 40-42 in Three Rivers’ favor.

In the end, it was the incredible three-point shooting of Jacob Conklin and Levi Root that was the difference-maker. Each sunk five threes on their way to 21 and 20 points respectively. Most of Root’s shots came very late in the game to seal the victory and help deflate the hopes of the Wildcats.

“My job was easy. I looked at the guys and said, ‘Just get it done,’ and they did,” Noble said. “Between him (Root), Conklin and Kyle Rose, we’ve got as good of a chance as any.”

Rounding out the scoring for the Bulldogs was Rose with nine points, Dillon Shook with five and Parker Wilson with three. Ethan Buscher and Lucas Hatridge both had two and Chase Myers had one successful free throw.

“We’ve just matched in three days the amount of playoff wins we’ve had in the last 15 years,” Noble commented.

The Bulldogs will not now play in the District Final on Friday. It was cancelled. “I feel very blessed, I’m looking forward to celebrating with the guys (tonight),” Noble said. “It’s one of those games where I don’t celebrate often, but that was fun.”