When the movies came to Vicksburg: In the 1920s, residents could take in the latest movie at the Sun Theatre on North Main Street, where the old PNC Bank parking lot is now. At the beginning of the decade, patrons watched the silent movies of Charlie Chaplin, but by the end of the decade, the “talkies” were introduced. Thanks to Vicksburg Historical Society.
Who remembers the school-sponsored summer recreational programs housed at the Old El (the current administration building) in Vicksburg? During the 1970s, school personnel offered arts and crafts activities and supervised sports and games for upper elementary and middle school students. Send your memories to email@example.com
By Craig Rolfe
Like no doubt every member of the Vicksburg-Schoolcraft community who knew anything about Sue Moore, I was initially consumed by a sense of disbelief, and perhaps denial, when I heard of her death. How could this be so, I questioned? How could this epitome of the Vicksburg Energizer Bunny on Steroids have so suddenly just left us?
Having had a few weeks now to reflect on Sue, and my experiences with her, I’ve finally been able to compose a few of my thoughts and actually write them down for Kathy Forsythe to share with others, if she wishes to do so. Here goes:
Sue the Journalist. I likely first became aware of this Sue on a professional level when Sue was covering area township meetings at which I was serving as legal counsel. I remember being quite taken aback the first time Sue sent me her actual draft copy for an article and requested I offer any pertinent suggestions or corrections. After first resisting this invitation, and thinking “Gee, Sue, isn’t this YOUR job”, I eventually realized this was merely part of Sue’s determination to “get the story right”. Upon accepting the strive for perfection as her motivation for allowing the subject of a story to check her work before the story was buttoned-up for publication, it was easy to work with Sue the Journalist. More recently she might ask me to actually write the copy for an article on something involving The Big Red Machine, which I would happily do, but with some apprehensions about HER editing of MY story!
Sue the Photographer. You may initially think this is just a variation of Sue the Journalist; but I beg to differ, especially after Sue discovered that new-fangled invention — DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY! I dare say that new technology was made for Sue. I would often watch her at local athletic, band, or other events, such as Showboat rehearsals (yes, I mean ShowBOAT), and wonder, sometimes aloud: “Geez, Sue, how the heck how many pictures do you need to take of the same thing?” Of course, in reality all of her seemingly endless clicking of that shutter button captured many often slightly different shots, from which she would deliberately and thoughtfully choose just the “right” photo to visually complement the narrative part of her SCN story.
Sue the Historian. I only came to know this Sue quite recently, in the context of the efforts of the Vicksburg Historical Society to reach a new arrangement with the Village to continuing operating and administering the Historic Village. As part of those efforts Sue produced an extremely detailed roster of all the various buildings, structures, and railroad rolling stock the Society has either acquired or constructed, complete with dates, exact itemized costs incurred by the Society, and the history of the original historical buildings the Society brought to the Historic Village as part of its mission to preserve and celebrate the history of our community. Sue the Historian had an incredible breadth and depth of knowledge about the Vicksburg area, which we can now only hope was sufficiently recorded so as to be perpetuated for the benefit of all of us alive now and those who will join this community years from now.Lastly,
Sue the Vicksburger (yes, that IS a real word). In my lifetime the Vicksburg area community has been fortunate to have enjoyed the talents, energy, and special gifts contributed by several individuals whose love for this community was expressed in so many ways. For Sue, as with Mercer Munn before her, Vicksburg was indeed “the center of the universe”. However, in so many respects Sue Moore was the very CENTER of that universe. Her life is a shining example of how much of a difference one individual can make in the history of a community, and the lives of the people comprising that community, through commitment, dedication, skill, and an abiding endless love for what they do.
Sue may have had some sense of her contributions to this community, through the founding of and operation of the South County News, and otherwise, but I lament the utter loss of the opportunity for this entire community to actually TELL HER just how beloved she was. So, in closing, I challenge each of you to look around and see the other individuals who always seem to be “the doers” in our community, and thank them — while you can. You know who they are. Better yet, honor Sue by offering to dig in and help do the things that need to be done.
By Leeanne Seaver
A small-town newspaper is an increasingly rare and wonderful thing in this age of digital communication. It contains more than news; it reflects the culture of a place through stories and photographs.
No one knew this better than Sue Moore, whose passion for her hometown and region was evident in everything she did, especially as founder, editor, and publisher of the South County News.
After Moore’s recent passing, the board of the newspaper met to discuss how publication would continue without her life force. Her shoes would be hard to fill, but she left a clear path to follow.
Sue’s admiration and respect for Kathleen Oswalt Forsythe spanned decades. A contemporary of Gordon and Bonnie Oswalt, Moore knew Kathy’s parents and their daughter well.
As community leaders, Moore and Forsythe crossed paths in numerous ways. They worked together on the Hearty Hustle 5K each year, and sat on the Vicksburg School Foundation Board together. Moore secured Kathy as a regular feature writer for the SCN. A fourth-generation Oswalt of Vicksburg, Kathy’s reflections on growing up on the family farm in Brady Township and life in this small town are curated in her popular column, “It’s a Fine Life”.
With equal measures of nostalgia and currency, Kathy Forsythe’s natural talent and literary chops were honed with a bachelor’s degree from MSU and a master’s degree from WMU. She’s taught English at VHS since 2004, and is a founding member of a group of local wordsmiths comprising The Lake Effect Writers Guild. She and husband Dennis have three children, two sons-in-law and two grandkids. Kathy’s love of family, reading, entertaining, writing, and gardening shines through everything she does. And her deep devotion to this community is apparent to all who know her, a qualification Sue Moore would have required.
On June 4, the SCN board invited Forsythe to assume the role of publisher/editor. Kathy accepted with the understanding that “I’ll have to operate differently than Sue – my background isn’t in journalism. But I’m so motivated to keep our local paper going. I’ll need patience from the readership, and lots of help!”
That’s a given from a great team: Justin Gibson, graphic designer; Bob Ball, copy editor; Wes Schmidt, secretary and treasurer; Sheri Freeland, advertising sales; and Steve Ellis, ad consultant.
Forsythe is excited to take on the challenge. “The South County News helps make this a great place to live. I’m looking forward to this opportunity, and to hearing from readers. Send her your story ideas at Kforsythesouthcountynews@gmail.com.
By Kathy Oswalt-Forsythe
At five o’clock, Tuesday, June 2nd, traffic stopped in Vicksburg as a funeral procession passed through town: a tribute to Sue Moore, a woman whose life’s work was documenting and helping residents remember the beauty and uniqueness of little hometowns.
The motorcade’s route passed many of Sue’s important places: school buildings where she attended, eventually serving on the school board and helping form the Vicksburg Community Schools Foundation; the streets of her neighborhood where she grew up and began her own family; the Vicksburg Historic Village for which she was a continued mobilizing force; the covered pavilion and site of the Farmer’s Market, a pet project of hers.
Last on the path, her beloved downtown: the former community center and meeting site of the Rotary Club; the former Vicksburg Commercial Building and print shop where she worked side-by-side with her parents publishing the paper; and the renovated store fronts and buildings along Prairie and Main Streets. How proud she was of the improvements! How much hope she expressed for the future!
Several hundred people gathered along the streets. Those faces were loved and familiar to Sue. How many lives had she touched in her eighty-two committed years here? How many people were touched and inspired by her tireless work and kindness?
And let’s not forget her ever-present Canon camera and her constant arranging and rearranging for photos we are suddenly so thankful for.
She felt the pulse of this village, its people, its “goings on.” She possessed a deep love of this place and people who call Southwest Michigan home. She was like a favorite auntie who made every effort to come to all the events and parties. She was every event’s welcomed guest.
She cared by showing up and documenting life in this little corner of the world.
Yes, her shoes are impossible to fill, yet their imprint on area lives and communities remains forever.
The Vicksburg Farmers’ Market opened for the season June 5 with a special recognition of Sue Moore and her dream of a successful market.
Activities beneath the Pavilion stopped as Sue’s sons, Scott and Chris, joined Kim Klein, treasurer of the Farmer’s Market, as she read a eulogy:
“The Vicksburg Farmers’ Market has lost a very dear friend. Sue was our matriarch and a visionary who encouraged us with her hard work and determination.
“Sue Moore was that rare individual who lived her life with a ‘giving’ heart. Sue gave to her family, her friends and more importantly to her community. Sue’s imprint on the farmers’ market will be lasting and we will miss her beautiful smile and boundless energy as she greeted vendors, customers and volunteers each Friday afternoon during the market season.
“It was Sue’s vision and dream to establish a farmers’ market in our community. Sue’s mission was to create a gathering place for friends and families to enjoy fresh quality fruits and vegetables grown and harvested by our local farmers.
“Sue developed close relationships with our farmers, our vendors, and our customers. In many ways, the market was her ‘home’ and she greeted and welcomed everyone in to share the music, the laughter, and a wonderful selection of foods.
“We will honor Sue’s memory by growing and expanding the market in the coming years.
“Thank you, dear friend, for your vision, your leadership, and your spirit.”
Chris Moore voiced the hope that the group could take what his mother helped create and work to make it even stronger and more sustainable.
The ceremony ended as Scott and Chris turned on the overhead lights, a job Sue did each week, reminding everyone present of Sue’s bright energy.
By Rob Peterson
Sue Moore worked on Vicksburg’s future by focusing on its past.
Her nearly 20-year history with the Vicksburg Historical Society was marked by constantly finding ways to increase its relevance to the greater community.
The Society manages the Historic Village on the east side of town. If you haven’t visited, it is a collection of a dozen buildings that are a combination of relocated historic buildings and newly built replicas – like a mini Greenfield Village. The village is anchored by the original train station, which houses most of the Society-owned historic artifacts.
“Sue helped to make the Historic Village a human-based experience rather than a collection of dusty old objects,” said current Society President Don Wiertella.
She accomplished this by involving other organizations to put on events that take place at the village. The site is the location of recurring events that include Summer Festival, Harvest Fest, the Revolutionary War Reenactment, and the Historic Speaker Series. It is also home to the Farmers Market.
Her first involvement came in the early 2000’s when the society was dedicating a replica of the original print shop. Some of the equipment installed inside was donated by Sue’s family, who owned the Vicksburg Commercial, predecessor to the South County News.
“I invited her to get involved, but Sue had a full-time job in Marshall,” said Kristina Powers Aubry, who was president of the Society at the time. “As soon as she retired, she took off like a bullet train.”
Her first order of business was to reinvent the newsletter, turning it into an 8-page full-color brochure that included information about the Society and the Historic Village. “It looked professional and should have won an award,” said Aubry.
She was one of the people responsible for the first Harvest Fest, which grew from 300 to over 4,000 attendees in its first 11 years. It has been successful, according to Aubry, because “Sue chose such good people to lead each part of the festival.”
Partnering with other people and organizations was a hallmark of her involvement in the Society over the years. She was a creative idea person and was often the instigator of new projects, but she rarely acted alone. “She would ask people to participate and would keep looking until she found someone,” said Aubry.
Sometimes, though, the need to innovate came from outside the Society. In 2019, Vicksburg Village Manager Jim Mallery requested a clearer, written agreement between the Village and the Society on how operating costs of the Historic Village are divided.
Society president Don Wiertella worked with Sue to negotiate with Mallery. Don and Sue didn’t always have the same opinion, but she always supported the people she worked with. “She would never communicate behind anyone’s back, even if she didn’t agree with them,” said Wiertella.
In the end, the Society is now covering a larger share of the Historic Village operating costs, but that is causing it to be more creative. Wiertella is not worried because the Society is in a good place, in part because of Sue’s involvement. She would faithfully collect email addresses, growing its contact database to thousands of people.
This list has helped them increase membership to around 150 people, each paying $30 to $60 a year. Some are able to be more generous, giving annually at the $250 Supporter level.
The Society has an endowment at the Kalamazoo Community Foundation to help defray the new costs, and it has an army of volunteers who collectively provide thousands of hours of work each year. Volunteer groups include the Victorian Garden Club whose members maintain the gardens onsite, the Thursday Guys who built many of the replica buildings, and those who help organize fundraisers and events at the village.
The newest event to be put on by the Society was started by Sue just last year. The May Meander event had over 100 attendees in its first year, and as is typical for a Sue Moore-inspired event, it brought many organizations together.
One example of this collaborative spirit was how Sue involved Vicksburg Community Schools, which happened to be holding a History Day at the same time. Because she was aware of what other groups were doing, Sue was able to incorporate the school community into the May Meander event.
The Society was also aided by Sue’s efforts to involve younger generations of Vicksburg residents, like Ryan and Dana Wagner, who moved here when Ryan took the job of managing the local PNC branch.
“She would see me at village council meetings and started asking me questions about my interests,” said Ryan. “She learned that I have an appreciation for history, and she wanted a fresh set of eyes on the Historic Society board.”
Her energy put Ryan in the mindset to do more in the community. “She was engaged and enthusiastic,” he said. “She didn’t do anything half-heartedly.”
Sue’s recent work has included a presentation that will be used to educate people on both the history and the future of the Society. “The Historic Society will be the economic engine for the Village of Vicksburg,” according to the presentation. It can be viewed on their Society’s website, VicksburgHistory.org.
Just like Sue, the presentation honors the past with an eye towards the future.
By Marilyn Jones
It was the summer of 2018 when a few friends decided to go to Martell’s for lunch and celebrate the day that the South County News went to press. We ordered wine and delicious entrees. It was so enjoyable that we decided to do it each month. We named our small group “The Wild Women of Schoolcraft.”
I loved meeting them each month at a nice place and have missed them during the stay-at-home pandemic. We had intelligent and knowledgeable discussions but there was plenty of laughter and camaraderie … just what everyone needs.
Sue was usually a bit late, but we were happy, sipping our wine and waiting patiently for her big smile to come rushing in. When the articles went to the press each month, Sue said she had that one day to relax before starting on the next issue. Sue told me on the phone that when she died, she hoped to be working on the paper.
She had just finished the last item for the June issue. How appropriate was that?
We are sad because we will miss her, but why should we mourn? She didn’t have to suffer or linger with a long illness. She lived an interesting and full life. She told me that “Trooper” kept her company and made her laugh every day.
Our “Wild Women” don’t feel very wild today. We may continue to meet but we will feel her absence. I can imagine her, taking pictures in heaven.
By Danna Downing
Years of substitute teaching in the Vicksburg Community Schools inspired our family to relocate to Vicksburg in 1975. As a stay-at-home mom I was able to jump into the community via the local cooperative nursery school and Sunset Elementary. I was sent to the Village Council meeting by our newly formed Sunset Parent Club to inquire about hiring a crossing guard for Sunset students. There was Sue, covering the story for the Vicksburg Commercial Express. Sue’s connection to the VCS School Board and the Commercial Express cemented the foundation for a 40-plus year stretch of community engagement and a deep friendship.
School funding was a perennial problem in those days too, of course, and a group of community members started an advocacy group called KEEP GOOD SCHOOLS FOR KIDS (KGSFK) to provide information and encourage voters to learn about the importance of the 1980 school millage election. At one of those meetings I volunteered to meet with Sue to discuss having an ad in the Vicksburg Commercial Express about the upcoming election. It was a Wednesday when I popped into the office with my request. Sue told me it was deadline day and I was “just in time.” I was asked to come back that evening so she could help me create the ad. We worked long into the evening to get the job done. Gratefully, I asked what I could do to show my appreciation. “Come back next Wednesday night and help us put the paper together,” she quipped with a smile. I did come back and got hooked on helping with the publication.
Fortunately, the millage passed with a record turnout in favor of the proposal. It truly was a learning experience for all involved and as a result KGSFK decided to continue its advocacy with the schools and legislators to look for more secure funding for Michigan schools. This was the genesis of the Vicksburg Community Schools Foundation that we know and appreciate today. Sue changed my life forever as a friend, mentor, activist and collaborator. She helped change this community forever.
By Jef Rietsma
With misty eyes and heavy hearts, members of the Vicksburg Village Council saluted Sue Moore at their June 1 meeting. Moore, a Vicksburg icon and founder of South County News, passed away just days before the seven-member council assembled.
Board president Bill Adams offered his comments at the start of the meeting. “Late last week, the village of Vicksburg suffered a great loss. We lost a cheerleader, a visionary, a historian. We lost a writer, an editor, a photographer,” Adams said. “We lost a leader, a volunteer, a relentless positive force. We lost a proud mom, a wonderful neighbor and a very dear friend. God rest your kind and gentle soul, Sue Moore.”
The praise continued as other council members offered tributes.
Council member Colin Bailey shared, “I don’t know too many people that radiate the happiness that she did … somebody that’ll stick in your head forever.”
Carl Keller, a member of the Vicksburg Lions Club, offered his own appreciation of Sue and noted that the civic group’s members via teleconference agreed to donate $500 to the South County News in Moore’s memory. “[South County News] was her baby and we thought that would be a fitting gift,” Keller added. “Even though she wasn’t a Lion, Sue was a friend of the club, so we wanted to do that.”
Julie Merrill continued the accolades. “I’m just so sad to see her gone because there’s nobody that would ever step up and do all the things that she did; she was so involved [at] so many levels and I’m really going to miss her.” Tim Frisbie concurred.
Council member Gail Reisterer said she gained much from Moore’s friendship. “Sue and I were really good friends. We were sorority sisters … it’s really hard for me to talk about her because she was such a good friend.”
Rick Holmes closed the tributes, saying he met Moore in 1979, going over to her house to play football with her son, Chris. “Forty years later, I can say that Sue has been involved in my life more than most people know.” Holmes said he is grateful for all the advice she offered. “She showed us all how to live our lives, and that is live it with passion, grasp every opportunity you can, never say no when someone comes knocking and more than anything else, love your neighbor more than you love yourself. And that’s Sue Moore.”