All posts by justingibson

Go, Little Plant, Go!

By Marilyn Jones, Schoolcraft’s Poet Laureate

Friends gave me an amaryllis bulb
With a pot, directions and soil.
I’ve planted it with loving care
(They didn’t know how many plants
I’ve managed to spoil).

My green thumb never got the message.
I love flowers, but don’t do something right,
Each time I have high hopes for them
Maybe this one will be a beautiful sight.

It’s scheduled to bloom the end of January.
Perfect timing . . . when the world is gloomy and gray,
If I get a gorgeous red blossom, I’ll dance a jig
And you’ll hear me shout . . . “What a great day!”

Cultivating gratitude in the new year

By Danna Downing

After seven-plus decades of living and learning, I know for certain that finding gratitude is not just a mental exercise. It involves the whole body and soul, the people you love and the community you live in. Not to mention never, never giving up. It is also a daily habit. What follows is not a recipe for happiness; rather it is a collection of tools I use to make a good day. Perhaps it will be useful to you also.

Calculate the reality.

No amount of wishful thinking can change reality. But reality can always be tempered. I find it helpful to face the facts of the day head-on in the morning and surrender to what cannot be denied or changed. Sometimes it is easy to do this. Sometimes it is extremely hard. More often than not, the reality changes once I start to take action. It is always an unexpected gift when it does.

Do the next right thing.

Especially when things look too hard or I do not know where to begin, I begin the morning by doing the next right thing. Usually this involves taking the dog out to do his business and a nice ice-cold Diet Coke for me. Add to that a raisin-cinnamon English muffin and I am well on my way to a comforting morning routine.

Sometimes doing the right thing involves keeping a promise I made to someone else, no matter what. It can also be a matter of re-negotiating a promise I made to myself to simplify the day. This technique is even more helpful when you are trying NOT to do something or change a long-time self-defeating habit. This technique comes from the fine folks at Alcoholics Anonymous and other support groups who work hard to live one day at a time. It has saved lives and can be used by anyone who is under stress.

Create what order you can, wherever you can, in the present moment. Let go of the rest.

I find sorting my piles and creating clear spaces in my physical domain allows me to think more clearly and gain momentum on the day. I often do a brain dump of things on my mind which eventually evolves into a list that gets prioritized. Now that I am retired, it also involves taking things off the list, either for another day or because it really does not even have to be done today. Tomorrow or never is simply fine, too.

Look for harmony and synergy.

Whether in relationships or for efficient use of time and energy, life always works better. Enjoy loving and being loved.

Be of service.

It is a win for whomever you serve and makes you feel good too. Little or big acts count the same. It is one of the reasons I belong to Rotary.

Be active.

This spring and summer, I set a goal of doing a 5K dog walk at Prairie View Park most days of the week. We walked 538 miles to date and burned 57,615 calories. I treasure all the adventures and beautiful surroundings we enjoyed. I worried much less. I have never felt better.

Be mindful. Find beauty and joy.

Increased awareness is a gift from heaven and works miracles on a challenging day.

Feel the gratitude.

It comes more readily when you work with the grace in the universe, support from others, and the reward from your kind habits to yourself and others. Wishing you a Happy New Year! You deserve it!

Schoolcraft volleyball team receives honors

The varsity volleyball team. Front row, left to right: Lilli Curtis, Hannah Grochowski, Abbi Curtis. Middle row, left to right: Allie Goldschmeding, Cassidy Bruner, Kayla Onken, Sophie Ridge. Back row, left to right: Allison Bailey, Anna Schuppel, Maggie Morris, Kelby Goldschmeding, Camden Bruner. Photo by Visual Sports Network.

Schoolcraft Coach Erin Onken proudly shared recent Eagles varsity volleyball stats, marveling at the focus her team displayed despite the challenges from COVID-19. The team maintained a 35-3 record on the season and a No. 2 in Division 3 ranking all-season. The Eagles are SAC Champions, District and Regional Champs and won the Niles Quad. The team will compete in the state quarter finals in January. It earned Academic Team All-State honors for the 9th straight year. In addition, six seniors were awarded Academic Individual All-State honors. Five players received SAC 1st Team All-Conference and one player received Honorable Mention All-Conference.

Five players earned All-Region honors and received recognition at the state level: Kayla Onken and Maggie Morris were recognized as 1st Team All State; Anna Schuppel earned 2nd team; Kelby Goldschmeding earned 3rd team; and Allie Goldschmeding earned honorable mention.

The girls worked hard all season long, maintaining their positivity and high expectations for training and competitions. Coach Onken said the uncertainty of the season has been difficult, but added, “Their love and support for one another is inspiring and is what makes this group truly unique.” Practice resumes Monday, Jan. 4, with quarter finals scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 12. “It will be nice to get some closure on our season!” Onken said.

MHSAA fall tournaments to conclude in January

Concluding rounds of Michigan High School Athletic Association postseason tournaments in football, girls’ volleyball and girls’ swimming and diving will be completed during January, the association said in the following press release issued Dec. 26:

The MHSAA continues to follow all emergency orders from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS). 

Football teams may begin two days of outdoor, non-contact conditioning and drills, wearing helmets and shoulder pads with physical distancing, on Monday, Dec. 28, in advance of the first round of testing Dec. 30 as part of an MDHHS rapid testing pilot program. Schools will test players, coaches and other team personnel, with full-contact practice then allowed after a first round of negative results. The testing program will utilize BinaxNOW antigen tests that produce results within 15 minutes.

For football, 11-player regional finals and 8-player semifinals will be played Saturday, Jan. 9. the 8-player finals and 11-player semifinals will be played Saturday, Jan. 16; and 11-player finals will be played during the weekend of Jan. 22-23.

The MDHHS’s current epidemic order – which paused activity beginning Nov. 18 – is set to expire Jan. 15, and if restrictions on non-contact sports are lifted, then volleyball and swimming and diving could practice and compete at that time outside of the required rapid testing program. If the [state’s] epidemic order continues, volleyball and swimming and diving could begin practice, but those teams and individuals will have to follow all requirements of the MDHHS rapid testing pilot program to be eligible to participate.  Specific plans and dates for volleyball and girls’ swimming and diving practice resumption and MHSAA tournaments will be finalized and shared with competing schools in early January.  

Volleyball competition will restart with Quarterfinals, and Lower Peninsula girls’ swimming and diving has advanced to its Finals. The championship events in both sports would be completed no later than Jan. 30.

No spectators will be allowed at the events.

Kelly Fellows wins regional coach of the year award

Coach Kelly Fellows.

By Travis Smola

In a year filled with challenges, winning sub-varsity volleyball coach of the year for Division 1 and 2 was the last thing Kelly Fellows expected. But it came at just the right time.

“I feel honored that my name was nominated from other coaches and our district as well as head coach Katrina Miller of our Vicksburg program,” Fellows said. “This year was really different and difficult for everyone with COVID and being a coach through all of it was a huge learning experience,”

Miller was the one who put Fellows’ name forward for the award. The year 2020 is going down as a doozy for high school athletics as teams struggled with strict health guidelines related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Volleyball players were required to wear masks in competition. Aside from being an adjustment to how they normally play, the masks sometimes caused communications problems between coaches and players on the court. It wasn’t just hard for student athletes, but coaches too.

“Putting her (Fellows) up for coach of the year was the easiest decision I made this year,” Miller said. “She gives one hundred percent of herself to our program, and to her team, and it’s has just always been committed to everything we do at Vicksburg and everything we stand for.”

Miller cited Fellows’ work ethic and her usefulness to the program, saying that it felt like they have been working together forever. Fellows started off in the middle school volleyball program before making the jump over to the high school.

“I think she’s well-deserving of it and I’m excited for her because she works very hard,” Miller said.

Court challenges aside, Fellows said she was already facing numerous pressures from starting a new business and making sure her own three children were educated at home in a virtual environment.

“It gets busy, so when she (Coach Miller) told me I had won this award, I was in complete surprise. I didn’t even know this type of thing existed and so it was very overwhelming. I feel very honored I was given it and it came at a great time,” Fellows said.

Fellows also said she feels she’s grown as a person and coach under Miller’s leadership, especially this year where, for a while, coaches and athletic directors were uncertain if there would even be a season due to the pandemic.

“I always go out on the court to coach the girls and give them the direction that they need and then also push them a little more each day in every practice,” Fellows said. “That’s what makes them better. They don’t always love me for it, but when they see the success individually and as a team, I know that I’m doing my job as a coach.”

Schoolcraft board preps for superintendent hiring

By Travis Smola

The Schoolcraft Board of Education at a December meeting proposed a timetable for hiring a new superintendent and discussed results of surveys of staff and residents about the qualities they want in the new hire.

Supt. Rusty Stitt during the summer told board members he’ll resign at the end of the 2020-2021 school year.

Vice President Jason Walther described a timeline of events to replace Stitt during a Zoom meeting. The entire plan is currently on the SCS website for school district residents to review.

The board is hoping to involve the community as much as possible in the search. It approved posting the job listing and will soon start contacting possible candidates. The plan calls for the search to be closed by Jan. 15 and a review of candidates to start Jan. 22. The hope is to conduct final board interviews by March 12, make an offer by March 19 with final board approval by April 9, 2021.

The plan includes district team and community interviews around February 19, although board members didn’t describe what those interviews would entail.

The board has already done some homework with the survey of district staff members, parents and students about what they’d like to see from the next superintendent. Out of 385 responses, the majority, 71 percent, were from parents.

The survey asked for the most important leadership qualities: “Strong communicator and listener” was the top choice, closely followed by “trustworthy,” “not afraid to address problems,” “team and culture builder” and “collaborative.”

“Reading through a lot of the comments, I think we’ve been able to get to a point here where I’m really excited that we have a tremendous amount of consistency in what was said in the various formats,” Walther said.

Trustee Jill Hunt approved of the proposal, especially including the involvement of staff and community members’ input in the decision-making process.

“I just want to say thank you for pulling this all together. I think it was very thoughtfully done and you’ve tried to include as many stakeholders as we could get to partake in this,” Hunt said. “I appreciate your hard work.”

Secretary Ryan Ledlow also acknowledged that this plan was unique compared to the usual way districts hire a new superintendent. He also expressed great enthusiasm with the idea.

“This is a little bit different way to go about finding a leader, but I like it, a lot,” Ledlow said.

Walther said the enthusiasm of the community and the belief in the work they are doing has showed through this process. He didn’t hear from anyone who felt the district had to change anything drastic in their search for the next superintendent. The board should find someone to work with the groundwork that’s already in place.

“We’ve got the gears in place. We’ve got to get someone who will oil them a little bit,” Walther said. “Just to make it get that much better.”

New Vicksburg teaching staff introduced

Hugh Thiel, new math teacher.

By Jef Rietsma

Six new members to the Vicksburg Community Schools family were introduced at the board of education’s Dec. 14 meeting.

Superintendent Keevin O’Neill said it’s traditional to introduce the district’s new hires at the board’s final meeting of the calendar year.

The new employees are Jay Bennett, music instruction at Vicksburg middle and high schools; Shannon Reed, interventionist and English as a second language at the middle school; Hugh Thiel, middle school math; Amber Cousins, third grade at Sunset Lake; Nikki Taplin, Begindergarten at Sunset Lake; and Kim Parsons, virtual first grade at Indian Lake Elementary.

High school principal Adam Brush said Bennett, who fills a retirement position, did his student teaching in Vicksburg. He has also worked with the district’s marching band. “Very positive, an extremely hard worker and very personable,” Brush said.

Bennett said he went to high school in a building that had 2,500 students. Working in Vicksburg provides a close-knit feeling in a district that values the fine arts. He added that he is especially eager to see the district’s middle school students grow from young teens to young adults.

Middle school principal Matt Vandussen introduced Reed and Thiel. He said Reed, who came to Vicksburg from Centreville, brings 21 years of teaching experience and did her teaching internship at Tobey Elementary in the late 1990s. “She’s knocking it out of the park … I love having her here,” he said, musing that Reed came from one Bulldog family to another.

Vandussen said Thiel is a seventh-grade math teacher who is a first-year teacher. A Hope College graduate in 2020, Thiel has “hit the ground running,” Vandussen said. “He brings a great attitude every day … Hugh has not disappointed,” Vandussen added.

Amie McCaw, Sunset Lake principal, said she had the good fortune of landing a pair of high-quality teachers who bring extensive experience to the classroom. She said Cousins served at Indian Lake during a long-term maternity leave this past spring before taking a long-term post at Sunset Lake this fall. Cousins, a VCS graduate, fills a retirement position at the third-grade level. “She’s done a phenomenal job,” McCaw said. “She helped us with some supervision and whenever we needed something, Amber was the one who said, ‘Sure, I can do that.’”

McCaw said Taplin started as Begindergarten teacher during remote learning last spring. McCaw said with a few exceptions, Taplin has not met face-to-face with most of her current students.

Supt. O’Neill, whose 50th birthday was acknowledged earlier in the meeting, said he taught Taplin while a chemistry instructor at Portage Northern High School.

Ruth Hook, Indian Lake principal, said Parsons “turned on a dime” without much advance warning. Parsons has taught in Battle Creek and Kalamazoo.

“It means a lot to me to be finally working for Vicksburg and to be a Bulldog,” Parsons said. “I love my families, I love this community and the support has been huge.”

Board president Skip Knowles said he is proud the six joined the district and he appreciates the strengths they bring to Vicksburg.

In a separate matter, board members acknowledged Wil Emmert, who joined the board in 1993 but fell short in his bid for re-election. Knowles said Emmert has been a great resource to the board and the school district. Other board members, meanwhile, gave accolades to Emmert and said his contribution to the district will be missed.

“Your commitment to VCS and the students has not gone unnoticed, Wil,” O’Neill said. “Thank you for your 27 years of service.”


Patricia Rene Aldrich, 92, Schoolcraft, passed away peacefully Dec. 4, 2020 at White Oaks Assisted Living Center. Patricia was born Sept. 13, 1928 to Emerson and Bernice Houts. She was married to Neal C. Aldrich Sept. 24, 1948. Pat grew up and lived in Schoolcraft her whole life. She loved her little town and being active in her community. She retired from Kalamazoo County State Bank after 30 years, and worked at Norma’s Antiques for 25 years. For many years, she enjoyed volunteering at the Schoolcraft Community Library and was also a member of the Order of the Eastern Star. Pat loved music and ballroom dancing with her husband. Her family includes her children, Timothy Aldrich and Larry (Patsy) Aldrich; grandchildren Amy (Jeff) Triplett, Gabriel (Kari) Aldrich, Benjamin (Lisa) Aldrich and Jeremy (Kelly) Aldrich; great grandchildren Zackary Triplett, Henry Aldrich, Mason Aldrich, and Maylee Aldrich; sister Norma Whybrew; sister-in-law Jeanette Houts and many nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her parents, Emerson and Bernice Houts; her husband of 55 years, Neal Aldrich; her daughter-in-law, Elisabeth Aldrich; and her brother, Errol Houts, Sr. Donations may go to Schoolcraft Community Library or to Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan. Visit Patricia’s page at

Julia (Julie) Susan Beran, 77, Schoolcraft, passed away Dec. 14, 2020. She was born Sept. 1, 1943 in Kalamazoo to Louis C. and Camilla A. (Hatley) Berky. Julie met John Beran, the love of her life, before her senior year in high school. They were voted “Couple Most Likely to Stay Together” and they did for over 60 years. She was a loving wife, mother and grandma and enjoyed preparing holiday meals at her house and surprising everyone with a handmade felt ornament each Christmas. She also enjoyed sewing, embroidery, word searches, gardening, bird feeding and her grandchildren’s school functions. Julie was preceded in death by her parents and two brothers. She is survived by her husband, John; daughters Diana Beran, Kathy (Kevin) Richards, and Cindy Beran; and grandchildren Emily (Cody) Marshall, Alysia Stozicki, Ethan Richards and Nicholas Richards. Visit Julie’s page at

Steven L. DeHaan, 70, Schoolcraft, passed away at home on Dec. 27, 2020 after a courageous battle with cancer. Steve was born in Kalamazoo, a son of Steven and Laura (Kannegeiter) DeHaan. He graduated from Parchment High School, served in the US Army and was a deputy with the Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Department for 37 years. On July 1, 1988, he married Debbie (Adams) DeHaan, who survives. Also surviving are his children, Zach (Robin) DeHaan, Stephanie (Jeff) Blaskiewicz, Megan (Josh) Knight and Alan Cherette; grandchildren Lauren, Morgan, Gracie, Tyler, Adelih, Sophia; great-granddaughter Alaïa; brother and sisters Kathy Hoeksema, Pat (Ed) Doorlag, Larry (Ruth) DeHaan and sister-in-law Cheryl DeHaan; brother-in-law and sister-in-law Dave and Dawn Llewellyn and sister-in-law DeAnn Adams; as well as several nieces, nephews, cousins, extended family members and friends. Steve was preceded in death by his parents, Steven and Laura DeHaan, brother Jack DeHaan, brother-in-law Edwin Hoeksema and mother-in-law Helen (Wylie) Adams. Visit his page at

Cheryl Ann Derrick, 72, passed away Nov. 14, 2020. She was born in Kalamazoo July 30, 1948, the daughter of Loyd and Loyola Wilson, and was a lifelong resident of the Kalamazoo area. She married the love of her life, Donald Derrick, Jan. 20, 1968. They raised two wonderful sons that she was immensely proud of, David (Kim) and Matthew (Shelly) Derrick. She leaves behind grandchildren Dillon Smith, Jenna Derrick, Bailey Ann Derrick, Nathan and Morgan Jackson,and Kelsey and Max Meyers; and four great grandchildren. Cheryl was an advanced antique collector and dealer; she always enjoyed the thrill of the hunt for the next prize. If you ever met Cheryl, she would never forget your face or your name and you were friends for life. Due to COVID concerns, a memorial service to celebrate Cheryl’s life will be held on a later date. The family asks that when you are having a cocktail on the back porch, patio, deck, fire pit, dock or the pontoon boat to raise your glass in remembrance of Cheryl. Visit her page at

Paul “Champ” Eisenhardt, 80, formerly of Scotts, died Nov. 21, 2020. Champ was born in Kalamazoo and raised in Comstock, where he graduated in 1958, receiving awards in track, football, basketball, and baseball. In adulthood, Champ played fast pitch softball, bowled, and fished with his buddy, Jimmy Vanloo. Champ retired from General Motors after 30-plus years. Champ loved spending time with his family in Bradenton, Fla. Champ will be dearly missed by Sharon, his wife of 38 years; children Catherine (Ed) Nyberg, James Dekker Jr. and Julie Dekker, all of Michigan, Scott Eisenhardt of Florida; grandchildren Amber (Ben) Hammon, Shalyn (Jordan) Bourdo, Rachel Nyberg, Kyle Nyberg, Emilee (Devon) Jones, Chelsea (Jesse) James, Mareea Dekker, and James Dekker III; great grandchildren Nolan, Madysen (Payton), Holland, Everly, Julianah, Carson, Brecken, Wyatt, Dakota Rose, Matthew and Baby Jones, due in 2021; sister-in-law Pat DeBoer and brother-in-law David Leedy, as well as many nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents, Virginia and Paul; siblings David, Bob and Ruthann; nephews David and Jeff; niece Rhonda; daughter-in-law Tracy Dekker and brother-in-law John DeBoer. Visit Paul’s page at

James Edward Fess, Jr., Scotts, passed away Dec. 19, 2020. Jim was born on Nov. 21, 1955 in Vicksburg, the son of James Sr. and Kathryn Jean (Jennings) Fess. Jim graduated from Vicksburg High School in 1974 and participated in football, shot put, and choir. After high school he joined the U.S. Navy. He married Sharon Darling in 1980 at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church. Together, they raised two sons, Robert and Matthew. Jim retired in 2012 after working over 30 years at Upjohn/Pfizer. Jim had the natural ability for building things “correctly” and was always there for his sons to help them with projects. He enjoyed ice fishing, softball and bowling. He loved the Detroit Lions, car shows, going to the races with his friend, Virgil Hopwood, and traveling with Sharon. Jim was preceded in death by his mother, a sister, a brother and his special dog, Rufus. He is survived by his wife of 40 years, Sharon, and their sons, Robert Fess of Scotts and Matthew (Brittney) Fess of Vicksburg; granddaughter Clara Marie Fess; and his cat, Fluffs. Also surviving are his father James Sr. (Diana) Fess of Vicksburg; sisters Pat, Nancy, and Melanie; and several nieces and nephews. Visit his page at Donations may go to the American Cancer Society.

H. Arlene Forsythe, 83, Vicksburg, was called home to join her Lord and Savior Dec. 19, 2020 at The Laurels of Coldwater. She was born May 6, 1937 in Bancroft, Michigan, the daughter of William E. and Estella May (Morgan) Self. Her early life was spent in Corunna, where she was a 1955 graduate of Corunna High School. On Aug. 17, 1957 she married Richard Forsythe. She worked at Redmond Motors in Owosso, managed the Hallmark House in Midland, was the librarian at John Wesley College in Owosso, and was a pastor’s wife. Arlene resided in Vicksburg for the past 26 years, retiring from the Michigan District office of the Church of the Nazarene in Vicksburg following many years as office manager. She enjoyed cooking, sewing and playing the organ. Arlene found the most joy when she was surrounded by her family, especially her grandchildren and great grandchildren. She is survived by her husband of 63 years, Richard; daughters Sheryllynn (Roger) McBride of Brighton and Teresa (Rod) McBride of Rockford; son Richard Forsythe of St. Augustine, Florida; grandchildren Mark, Jeff, Amanda, Brooke, Joshua, Clorissa and Elizabeth; six great grandchildren and expecting her seventh; sister Lila Wright of Owosso and many nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her parents, three sisters and one brother. Donations may go to Sturgis Church of the Nazarene. Visit her page at

Etta Josephine Gould, 100, Vicksburg, passed away surrounded by her loving family Dec. 21, 2020. She was born in Kalamazoo on July 21, 1920, the daughter of Charles Gleason and Gertrude May Truax. She married the love of her life, Bramwell Kenneth Gould, on November 15, 1940. Together they raised six children in the Vicksburg area. She devoted her entire life to the care of others and spent 20 years working as a home health aide before embarking on her nursing career at Bronson Methodist Hospital as an LPN, retiring in 1995 after 35 years of service. During her retirement, she spent time traveling with her son, James, and her daughter, Wanda, until James passed away in 2010. She was preceded in passing by her husband; children James, John and Bonnie; siblings Perry, Harold and Dora; and her parents. Left to cherish her loving memory are her children, Wanda, Marvin and Betty (Lee) Hambright; four grandchildren, six great-grandchildren, two great great-grandchildren and several nieces, nephews and cousins. Donations may go to Elara Caring Hospice, Senior Services or the American Cancer Society. The family would like to thank both Elara and Senior Services for the care and support they provided. Visit Etta’s page at

Joyce D. Hoeksema, 83, Portage, passed away Dec. 6, 2020. Joyce was born May 19, 1937 to Raymond and Lettie (Canavan) Snook. She graduated in 1955 from Vicksburg High School. She married Jim Hoeksema on June 29, 1956, and they became partners in the family business, Jim Hoeksema Greenhouses. As hard as the family worked, they always made time to travel as a family. In retirement, Joyce and Jim enjoyed traveling, especially to golf destinations. She also followed baseball and was engaged in politics. She is survived by three daughters, Kathy Hoeksema-Aivars of Schoolcraft, Cindy (Andy) Medema of Mattawan and Lori Hoeksema of Schoolcraft; grandchildren Andrea Medema, Nathan (Jamie) Medema, and Bailey (Jeffrey) Witt; great grandchildren Andrew and Lily Medema, Peyton and Gage Witt. She is also survived by sisters Rayletta Boone and Jeanne Watson; brother John Snook; brothers-in-law Don (Nancy) Hoeksema, Dale (Marilyn) Hoeksema, and Harold Vlietstra; sisters-in-law Sue Snook, Nancy Snook, Kathy Hoeksema, and Carol Hoeksema. Joyce was preceded in death by her husband; parents; brothers Emanuel, James and Eugene Snook; sister Marveta Calhoun; sister-in-law Doris Vlietstra; brothers-in-law Gerald Hoeksema, Carl Hoeksema, Ed Hoeksema, Orville Boone and Paul Calhoun. Services have been held. Visit her page at Donations may go to Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan.

Barbara Jean (Dorey) Kissinger, Kalamazoo, passed away Dec. 11, 2020 at home. The daughter of Marvin and Betty (Weinberg) Dorey, she was born April 21, 1958 and grew up in Vicksburg, graduating in 1977. When Barbara was in high school, her 7-year-old nephew Peter Leja passed away from cancer, influencing her decision to go into the medical field. She became a certified nurse’s aide and devoted 42 years of working in nursing homes, adult foster homes, and for the last 15 years in the homes of patients with brain injuries. On Sept. 18, 1982, Barbara was married to Timothy L. Kissinger, who preceded her in death. She was also preceded in passing by her parents. Barbara was a past member of Mid-Lakes Chorus of Sweet Adelines International. and a member of St. Monica Catholic Church. Barb loved to travel. She is survived by her siblings Walter (Patricia) Dorey, Darlene Leja, LouAnn Laurence, Maxine Haywood; sister-in-law Christina Dorey; in-laws Sharon (Greg) Kilburn and Susan VandenBerg; and many nieces and nephews. She was also preceded in death by a brother, Robert Dorey; brothers-in-law Henry Leja, James Laurence and David Haywood; nephew Peter Leja and great niece Alexis Peterson. Donations may go to West Michigan Cancer Center, Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan or St. Monica Catholic Church.

Clare Gene Seaburg, 93, Schoolcraft, passed away on Dec. 15, 2020. Clare was born on March 16, 1927 in Cassopolis, the son of Frank and Aletha (Sutherland) Seaburg. He graduated from Hartford High School and served in the United States Army during the Korean War. He married Yvonne “Tee” Avery on Sept. 15, 1950, together raising three children, Cherie, Cindee and Ty. Clare owned and operated Hydraulic Concrete Corp and enjoyed fishing, bowling, playing cards and helping others. Clare was a member of the Schoolcraft United Methodist Church, Shriners, the Kalamazoo County Masonic Lodge and the West Street Poker Club. Clare and Tee spent 24 summers at Gravel Lake and traveled to Arizona for the winters. Clare was preceded in death by his wife; siblings Harry Seaburg and Ruth Klein. He is survived by his children Cherie (John) Thorp and Cindee (Garry) Moore of Gobles and Ty (Missy) Seaburg of Schoolcraft; 11 grandchildren and 32 great grandchildren with one more on the way. He is also survived by his sister, Linda Miling of Comstock Park, and numerous nieces and nephews. Visit his page at Donations may go to Schoolcraft United Methodist Church and/or Elara Caring Hospice.

Jack Charles Smith, 69, died Oct. 26, 2020 after an eight-month battle with cancer. He was born Jan. 18, 1951 to Jack and Betty Smith of Portage. On Oct. 28, 1972 he married Gretchen Klauss. Jack was employed Upjohn/Pfizer for 32 years as a journeyman pipefitter. After retirement, he worked at Vicksburg Hardware as the Stihl mechanic. Jack was an avid sportsman looking forward to hunting season each fall. He took much pleasure in retelling his hunting escapades. He also enjoyed fishing and time spent with his hunting and fishing buddies. He was admired by many and passed on his knowledge to all who showed interest. His biggest delight was his family. Jack and Gretchen were married 48 years and were devoted to each other. He was proud of daughters Regan (Pete) and Lauren (Jesse) and delighted in his grandchildren, Claire, Willem, Charlie and Alora, and step grandchildren Tucker and Annabelle. His greatest heartache was that he would not be here for them as they grow up. He is also survived by his sister, Diane. Visit Jack’s page at

Ruth Anna Smith, 78, Vicksburg, went home to be with her Lord unexpectedly yet peacefully Nov. 13, 2020. She was born to Harville and Leona (Kuenke) Campbell Oct. 29, 1942, in St. Louis, Mo. She was united in marriage to Carl Joseph Smith June 18, 1960, and soon began a family of seven children. Ruth and Carl were married for 54 years. She was a grandmother to 21 grandchildren, 22 great grandchildren and an aunt to several nieces and nephews. Ruth’s biggest joy was spending time with her family. She is survived by her children, Angela (David) Wilson of Scotts, Deborah Smith of Galesburg, Carl “Sonny” (Jamie) Smith II of Jackson, Karla (Bill) Vroman of Vicksburg, Darla (Jack) Smith-McNett of Vicksburg, Merton Smith of Vicksburg and Wendy (Terry) Smith-Walker of Galesburg; siblings Tom (Diane) Campbell, Marge Lamb, Francis Pennington and Martha “Marty” Thompson, 20 grandchildren and 22 great-grandchildren. She was preceded in death by her parents, beloved husband, a brother, four sisters and a granddaughter. Visit her page at

Major 131 reconstruction coming to Schoolcraft

Look for construction signs on and near US-131 next year.

By Rob Peterson

Major reconstruction of US-131 through Schoolcraft is planned during 2022, if state finances permit. Village staff described the project to council members at a December meeting.

The project will begin at M219/Marcellus Road and run through town and up to the U Avenue/Shaver Road intersection north of the village limits. The project is intended to improve traffic flow and safety. Key elements include left turn signals at Lyon Street and a redesign of the way traffic enters 131 from Shaver Road.

The signal at 131 and U Avenue has already been updated as part of the project.

Other planned safety improvements include an extension of sidewalks and a reconstruction of the railroad intersection near South Street; a narrowing of some driveways leading on to the highway; and elimination of the southbound merge lane near U Avenue.

Council members asked Village Manager Cheri Lutz about providing windbreaks to prevent snow drifting across the highway. Lutz indicated that she would discuss the matter at her next meeting with Michigan Department of Transportation officials.

Since the center of 131 will be torn up, council member Kirk Bergland suggested it would be good timing to install a sewer main, if that project is approved.

Another report to the council came from Mike Presta from the engineering firm of Prein & Newhoff. He presented information about funds from the State of Michigan under a new Drinking Water Asset Management Grant program.

The grant will provide money for the Village to assess its water supply lines to determine where lead pipes exist, and to put together a plan for replacing them. The maximum grant for a community the size of Schoolcraft is $1 million, and it does not require a local match. The council authorized the staff to apply for the grant.

In other action, the council approved a “bonus” to staff amounting to 1.5% of each staff member’s salary. It also set the village garage sale dates for May 21 and 22, 2021.

The council also set aside approximately $2,000 to support Eagles Nest, an organization that provides food for families in need. In 2020, the organization provided food for 70 children in the Schoolcraft area, according to a report from Jill Strake. Village support comes in the form of quarterly payments that cover utilities.

Staff reported on the matching gift card program. The council purchased gift cards to area businesses and sold them to the public for half price. The purpose was to drive sales at local businesses at the end of a difficult year.

The Village sold 47 of the 66 available gift cards on the first day, selling out their inventory of cards from seven local businesses. Staff was grateful to the support that residents provided to local merchants.

Lutz reported that there is an opening on the Planning Commission. This is a vital position to fill, as the Village is in the final phase of a rezoning process. She asked any resident interested to contact her.

Christmas Card Lane to return in 2021

Alex Lee, Vicksburg’s Director of Community Engagement, displays the 2020 Christmas Card Lane.

By Jef Rietsma

Vicksburg officials are declaring the inaugural Christmas Card Lane a success.

In the absence of a parade and other Christmas traditions the village had to put on hold this year, Christmas Card Lane proved to be a hit – and a solid backup option.

Alex Lee, Vicksburg’s Director of Community Engagement, said there’s no question in his mind that he witnessed the start of a new Vicksburg tradition.

“Now that people have seen Christmas Card Lane, they understand what it involves, how it’s presented and what it’s all about. We now have a long list of people and businesses who want to be a part of this in 2021,” Lee said.

Set up in the Vicksburg Historic Village, Christmas Card Lane featured 34 “cards” that, in most cases, are mounted on 4-by-8-foot sheets of plywood. Sponsors were able to share their name and a design on their card.

Christmas Card Lane started Dec. 5 and was to continue through the first weekend in January. The cards could be viewed at any time and were set up in a drive-thru format.

Lee was part of the village’s three-person Christmas Committee, whose members also featured John DeBault and Natasha Hanichen. Lee said the feedback he’s seen via the village’s Facebook page has been overwhelmingly positive.

“When we started, the plan was a piece of plywood, everybody paints it, and then we put it up,” Lee said. “Feedback we started getting was some people didn’t have the time or the talent to paint, and they were asking if there was a quicker way to do this.”

Lee found The Sign Company of Kalamazoo, which introduced him to an aluminum composite panel with a high-density corrugated core called Alumilite. Images can be applied to the surface, which retains color that does not run or fade.

The panels were secured by a pipe bracket to metal poles and illuminated by spotlights.

Lee said the project was a great partnership between the village and the Vicksburg Historical Society. He said Christmas Card Lane would not have been possible without the cooperation of the Historical Society.

“I liked how they would turn on the lights inside the old buildings … it was a nice touch that just added something to the experience,” Lee said.

He said the village will store the panels during the offseason, though a few companies have asked to have theirs back for year-round display.

Lee added that DPW officials placed a traffic counter at the entrance and the total number of cars that passed through will be tallied when the display is taken down.

With more card entries expected next year, Lee said there’s a chance the cards will have to be displayed on both sides of the drive rather than along the passenger’s side as they were this season.

“We couldn’t be happier … the reaction has been tremendous and we look forward to another strong lineup in next year’s display,” Lee said.