By Kathy Oswalt-Forsythe and Kristina Powers Aubry
Each year, the Rotary Club of Vicksburg nominates a club member for a Rotary Hero Award. Each club in district 6360 has this opportunity. Selection is based on many factors, including participation in club events and volunteerism and activity in the community. This year’s winner, Jim Bird, is an example of a Rotarian who has made a difference and continues to make a difference in the club and the area.
Jim started his teaching career in Muskegon where he taught for five years. Jim and his wife, Peg, came to Vicksburg in 1979 so that Peg could go to graduate school at Western Michigan University. Jim took a teaching job in Constantine. After five years of teaching in Constantine, he was hired in Portage where he taught special education and vocational education for the remainder of his 36-year teaching career. In 1987, the Birds moved to Vicksburg, and John Hill invited him to take part in Showboat. Jim increased his involvement through various boards at Vicksburg United Methodist Church and later at Pathfinder United Methodist Church. He also volunteered with South County Community Players and then the Vicksburg Historical Village Committee.
“I was always impressed with the civic mindedness of so many local people and wanted to do my part,” says Bird. After retirement in 2010, Warren Lawrence invited him to join the Rotary Club of Vicksburg, where his heart for community, volunteerism, and active involvement have been a great fit for thirteen years.
The local club has been an excellent opportunity for Bird to use his many talents. He helped build props and scenery for Showboat and continued to sing in the chorus. He served on the scholarship committee and was part of the Rotary summer painting crew at the Vicksburg Historic Village for many years. Bird served as club president in 2016-17. He continues to volunteer as a Strive mentor and is a part of the scrap metal crew.
Bird says, “I really enjoy being a part of the multigenerational spirit of service in our amazing community!”
Mercer Munn Award
Each year the Vicksburg Rotary Club identifies a resident from greater Vicksburg, a non-Rotarian who has made a major commitment to improving life in the Vicksburg area, to become a Rotary Mercer Munn Fellow.
In the 62 years that Mercer Munn spent in the Vicksburg club, he exemplified all that is best in Rotary. To him, “Service above Self” was not a slogan, it was the way he lived his life. The Mercer Munn Fellow award continues to honor his leadership and legacy.
This year’s recipient, Margaret Kerchief, came to Vicksburg in 2008 with her husband, Karl, who joined the Family Doctors of Vicksburg practice. Having moved 17 times, following her Navy father and her husband’s Army career, she has mastered the art of adapting to new places and faces.
Even as a teacher and busy mother of four, she always found time to participate in the communities in which she found herself. The couple’s settling in Vicksburg was meant to be their forever home, so Margaret dove right in. In her 14 years in Vicksburg, she has left an indelible mark on the area.
She began a long career in the St. Martin Catholic Church choir and supporting Karl in the Knights of Columbus activities. She assisted with the doctors during sports physical seasons. She joined the Generous Hands Board of Directors. Interested in history and learning about her new home, she joined the Vicksburg Historical Society and soon became its president. During her tenure she oversaw the building of the Community Pavilion. Her mastery of building techniques and ability to track nuts, bolts, board feet of lumber and schedules – skills honed during the building of their own home – were critical to the success of the project. Her loyalty and integrity led her to service in these roles even during personal health issues.
Margaret has left her mark in beautifying Vicksburg as an active member of the Victorian Garden Club working on gardens in the Historic Village and other village gardens, as well as gardens at their Brady Township home.
The results of her research and writing are evident on the permanently mounted bronze plaques on historic sites throughout the village from her six years serving on the Historic Footprints Project for the Historical Society. She has served as secretary of the Vicksburg District Library Board of Directors.
Unfortunately, Vicksburg is about to lose this valuable adopted daughter as she and Dr. Kerchief will be making move number 18 to live closer to their son in Virginia. But her stay here will be evidenced for many years to come by the friends who will miss her and the sites on which she has left her mark.
The club will invest $500 in her honor into its endowment fund held with the Kalamazoo Community Foundation.