By Jef Rietsma
Early last year, South County News turned to its readers for help with launching a new feature.
We were interested in learning about people and their collections. There was no way of knowing how strong a response we’d receive, or if there would even be any response. In a matter of days, however, emails started pouring in.
One by one, we were contacted by people eager to share their collections. The items were as diverse and interesting as the collectors themselves. Names, phone numbers and emails subsequently were compiled, and collections were featured in the order responses were received.
Over the next 13 months, we followed through on every tip. The first profile was in the May 2021 edition and focused on Jeffrey Kik, who floored us with a mind-boggling collection of more than 20,000 logo golf balls. Perhaps more impressive than the collection itself was Kik’s knowledge of his inventory and his meticulous manner of display.
Kik told us that just a few dozen golf balls had eluded him. One in particular was a Godfather’s Pizza logo golf ball. Through the magic of the internet, company representative Susan Hartmann saw the story and reached out to the newspaper from her Nebraska office. Hartmann was kind enough to send Kik a three-ball sleeve of the long-sought logoed balls.
Die-hard NASCAR collector Scott Phillips, a Schoolcraft-area resident was also included in the column debut. His finished basement served as more of a shrine to the sport than a place to relax.
Aviation enthusiast Patrick Burnham was next, featured in the June edition. Burnham mentioned his longtime desire to secure a full Delta Airlines uniform. A local commercial pilot read the article and jumped into action hoping to help Burnham. In the end, though, Delta had to quash the idea due to security concerns, according to company officials.
Over the next 10 months, we had the pleasure of showcasing a variety of collections and their proud keepers.
Kline’s Resort resident Grace Bond shared her small but special collection of ceramic and toy seals. Vicksburg’s Richard White walked us through his immense Lego collection, displayed on a number of tabletops and arranged to create a dazzling Lego city.
Ken Franklin reminded us you’re never too old to play games. His massive collection of board and card games was too large to include in a single photograph. The youngest collector so far, Vicksburg Middle School student Sawyer Sutherland, awed us as much with his World War II collection as he did his impressive historical knowledge of the event.
Mary Ritter, who lives just outside Schoolcraft, debated whether her collection of porcelain angels was worthy of being profiled. In a word: Yes. Ritter’s clear admiration toward her collection and their beauty were a reminder of the joys that come with collecting and why people collect things in the first place.
Another Kline’s Resort resident, James Gleason, took us back in history with his priceless collection of Native American artifacts. In January, we visited the home of Jon and Bri Neddo in Vicksburg. In addition to their collection of Dungeons and Dragons miniature figures, we were treated to visuals of Bri Neddo’s superior talent as a painter of the pieces.
Vicksburg’s Susan Harper has had a life-long love for horses. We took a look at her collection, which is spread over portions of four rooms and her basement, and felt there was no need to further convince us of her unrelenting affinity toward equines.
Leigh Fitzgerald has spent years exhaustively searching for memorabilia related to the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. We were thrilled to share the fruits of his labor. Area resident Leonard Darling, in fact, read the article and has an item to contribute. We are in the process of arranging a meeting between the two.
The most-recent profile centered on Kathy Hiemstra and her collection of Strawberry Shortcake dolls, figures and memorabilia.
Now, our inventory of collectors to profile has been exhausted. Consider this a call-out to anyone who wouldn’t mind sharing their collections with us and our readers. No matter the size, regardless if it’s an item already profiled, it doesn’t matter how odd.
Please let us know what you have to offer. We hope to return in May and for several months that follow.
By Jef Rietsma