Category Archives: On the Corner

On the Corner

sue col 4By Sue Moore

Senior Millage Proposition Gets a Hearing

“A senior millage to augment services for Kalamazoo County’s aging residents, batted around for some time, has been placed on the county’s Aug. 6 ballot. That was approved by the county Board of Commissioners in a 6-5 vote, with this area’s commissioner, John Gisler, opposed. The board discussed several options: approving letting voters decide the millage – .35 mills for six years – looking for other funds or taking no action.” South County Community Services (SCCS) sent a large delegation to the board meeting, all of whom were in support of giving voters the choice.”

The issue was whether to place the decision on the August ballot and let the greater community decide if it wanted to be taxed .35 for six years or try to find the funds from some other pocket or not fund services to seniors at all. South County Community Services (SCCS) sent a large delegation to the board meeting, all of whom were in support of giving voters the choice.

Danna Downing and her associate, Diane Durian, work to help seniors in every way possible with the limited funds they have available at SCCS. They see the need up close and personal. It was clear that the support split down party lines with the six Democrats in the yes column and the five Republicans voting no after an honest and thought-provoking debate on the issue.

Now the real work begins for the supporters of the senior citizen millage. Kalamazoo County is one of only 10 counties in the state of Michigan without some sort of millage for seniors. The campaign will need to begin with leadership from Downing and her team at SCCS. Stay tuned to one of the biggest challenges of Downing’s life in public service.

I would lay odds that with Downing and the many she will muster to the cause, it will be successful. When Downing’s two boys were in grade school in Vicksburg, she walked into the Vicksburg Commercial-Express office in 1979 with a gleam in her eye. She wanted to get a plug in the paper for the school millage campaign that she was in charge of. This effort along with many others, yielded the first big successful millage campaign in many years. All millage requests since then have passed, allowing the schools to grow and prosper.

The dedication to this community has been Downing’s greatest contribution and I for one would not want to let her down, nor will any of the others that she has helped in this way down through the years.

Reaching the Century Mark

A good example for seniors is Ann (Matz) Linton who turned 107 in February. She graduated from Vicksburg High School in 1930 and is known to be the oldest living graduate of the school. Her parents owned a homemade candy and ice cream shop in downtown Vicksburg in the 30s, 40s and 50s. It must have been good for her health, consuming all that chocolate. Her daughter Mary Ann Hayward does a lot to take care of her but acknowledges that she has been failing a little more with each passing year.

Simmons Ford Has New Owners

Gene Simmons announced that he has sold the family dealership to DeNooyer in Kalamazoo in February. His father, Rovelle, began to sell cars in Vicksburg after World War II where the Dollar General store is today on E. Prairie Street. He moved to a new building at the corner of Boulevard and W. Prairie Street in the early 1950s. The community will really miss this local ownership but with the full knowledge that DeNooyer’s has been a standup dealership in Kalamazoo equally as long.

On the Corner

Bill Christiansen On the Corner insert pic
Bill Christiansen a Schoolcraft resident and retiree, took up photography and won a nice prize.

By Sue Moore

Nobody knows for sure how long they have to live on this earth. Recently, I spent quality time with my sister Kay in South Carolina where she had been residing after learning that she had terminal cancer. Her wishes were to not receive treatment for the malignancy that was traveling throughout her body, thus assuring that it wouldn’t be long for her to say goodbye. She passed away on December 30 after a short stint in hospice care.

I witnessed her steely determination to end things in this way, allowing her family to come to terms with this decision. She showed me her quiet dignity and her strength to say enough is enough, as she had already undergone two bouts of breast cancer five years ago.

We haven’t seen very much of each other since we were in college together at Michigan State. She and her husband have lived all over the world, particularly in third world countries where his urban planning firm had contracts with the U.S. Agency for International Development. His job was to oversee the building of roads, hospitals, water systems and who knows what else as money was poured in by the United States. The countries included Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Nigeria, Egypt and even Russia.

It was amazing to me during this short visit, after all these years apart, how similar we were in mannerisms, voice intonation, values and even housekeeping chores. Must have had some parental training there that actually stuck. Even with this worldly viewpoint, she wanted to be buried back here in her hometown, the one place where she has roots.

It was a humbling experience to watch her deal with the pain while keeping up with everything going on around her. She was clear as a bell when telling her newest oncologist that she didn’t want any intervention even though he offered some possibilities to lengthen the ordeal. He had never met her before, as her specialist was in Florida where she had made her home after retirement.

Although we went our separate ways for the last 50 years, it felt like being together at the end was the most natural thing we could do as sisters now and forever.

Honor for Bill Christiansen

Michigan History is a beautiful magazine, published by the Historical Society of Michigan each month in a glossy format that I have subscribed to for many years. A photo taken by Bill Christiansen of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is featured on the back cover in its January edition. He took first place in their annual photo contest with an image of the shoreline at dusk. A large bird flew into the shot just as Bill snapped the shutter. He is seen here holding the framed photo that he submitted as the contest winner.

Schoolcraft’s Changing Business Face

For over 20 years the Grand Street of downtown Schoolcraft was known for its antique stores, anchored by Norma’s Antiques that took up three buildings at their upstairs and downstairs location. Since Norma passed away some three years ago it seemed to take the heartbeat out of the downtown. This month’s newspaper features two new antique businesses on the outskirts of U.S. 131 that could bring back some of this type of commerce to the village. Next month we will feature Sue Cooley’s operation in Norma’s old location which should bring the antique business full circle in Schoolcraft. There is also Abby’s Antiques and the Mall Antiques to round out the offerings. Although Tim Brown told me these types of businesses were not thriving because millennials aren’t exactly thrilled about using the findings in Grandma’s attic, there still seems to be a place for them, at least in Schoolcraft.

Typo Correction

In the December issue of the South County News, John Speeter’s name was misspelled in an article about Pat White’s retirement as Township Supervisor. Speeter has assumed the duties of supervisor beginning January 1.

Postal Rate Increase

On January 21, 2018, the cost of a first-class letter will go up a penny to .50 cents and a postcard from .34 to .35 cents. Fortunately, the increase did not hit this newspaper. USPS was given permission to speed up its pricing increases over the next five years. I just wish I would have purchased a lot of Forever stamps when they were .30 cents!

On the Corner

By Sue Moore

Behind the Scenes 

Both Schoolcraft and Vicksburg have a new group of volunteers helping to inspire the early Christmas celebrations in each community. This has sparked new life into each event, making them a “must see and do” for the residents of South County.

The Christmas Walk in Schoolcraft was the brainchild of Norma Tackett nearly 30 years ago. As it grew, it brought many visitors to the community. Upon her passing, it was hard to find someone to step into her shoes but now they have. Thanks to Deb Christiansen and Kelly Bergland with some encouragement from their husbands, there is renewed purpose and plenty of great ideas.

Christmas in the Village was initiated three years ago by Kathleen Hoyle in Vicksburg to showcase what the Downtown Development Authority could do to attract visitors. Previously, the Vicksburg Community Association had been organizing Santa’s visit and a parade. Upon Hoyle leaving to head up parks and recreation for the city of Portage, Mary Ruple, Stella Shearer and John DeBault have stepped in with new ideas and plenty of energy.

There is something for everyone between the two villages with only a few overlaps in timing, so folks will be able to experience both village’s celebrations with kids and family for this most hallowed of holidays.

Boy Scouts Newspaper Collection 

Remember that Troop 251 will be collecting newspapers for the last time on Saturday, December 2, along with all the other activities going on in the village. It’s sad to see this fundraiser for the scouts go away but it does represent a sign of the times with the cutback in newspaper circulation. The South County News is doing its best to help out with its 10,500 circulation each month but there was not enough newsprint coming in to pay for their upfront expenses, according to Kevin Borden, the head scoutmaster.

Sprinkle Road Tree Slaughter

Most folks know I’m a tree hugger. It makes me very upset to see the Sprinkle Road harvest of the beautiful trees that once lined the roadway but are no more. According to Aileen Greanya who had two silver maples cut down in her front yard, it was at the behest of the Indiana Michigan power company. They claimed the trees were dangerous in a wind storm because they were too close to the power lines. “We practically had a wood war over the felled trees as the contracting tree cutting company didn’t want the wood. Somebody had scooped up the wood from my yard the very day the trees were cut down.”

Schoolcraft’s Undefeated JV Football Team

Coach Terry Haas’ varsity football team in Schoolcraft suffered one of its down years (5-5), largely due to injuries to many starters. It looks like he will be able to reload for the 2018 season because the junior varsity team went undefeated in the SAC conference. Ted Manning was the head coach of the JV team with assists from Tracey Branch, Joe Thole and Brian DeVries. Even with four of their JV players suiting up on the varsity, the team posted this impressive record. “They were a hard working group with some games being tight but with their backs against the wall, they managed to find a way to win,” according to Jeff Clark the Schoolcraft athletic director.

Vicksburg Had an Undefeated Freshman Squad

The freshmen football team went 9-0 for the year with head coach Sean Mulhearn ably assisted by George Thompson, Sawyer Duncan and Kyle Owen. The sophomore squad had some exciting moments but didn’t fare as well. The varsity will lose some stellar seniors on a team that went 7-4 on the season and qualified for the District playoffs once again. Edwardsburg the top team in the Wolverine conference represented the league in the finals of the state playoffs.

On the Corner

on the corner 1
On 103 E. Prairie Street, the paint is coming off the galvanized steel cornice, the cement trim above the windows, and the cast iron columns beautifully. The workers are using corn husk, walnut and soda blasting to be more effective, said project manager Jackie Koney.

By Sue Moore

It would be hard to top last month’s column with any kind of follow up personal story. For the last four and a half years of writing this column, I’ve assiduously avoided writing anything personal. My parents, who owned the Vicksburg Commercial-Express when I was growing up, insisted that we would never write stories about our family or any of its accomplishments or failings.

I breached that admonition by writing my personal experience about the trauma of an injury and its accompanying fault lines. It was very hard for me to do that, but I felt it could serve as a good way to bring the issue of the fear of falling to the attention of the public.

What I didn’t realize was how much compassion and concern people had for this editor and all of her foibles. So many people have expressed their concern and offered to help in any way. It was so heartwarming and I thank you all for sharing and caring. The recovery has been complete and I’m back to normal, whatever that may be.

The Winds of Change

Redevelopment is taking place at an accelerated clip in both Schoolcraft and Vicksburg. It is very exciting to see the vision of Windy and Jamie Clark for the school building on Cass Street that they will repurpose into residences, condominiums and event space. We will have a more in-depth story about this in a later issue. The village officials have also stepped up to look at future development and enact plans to help make it happen.

The Bad News in Vicksburg

In Vicksburg, the downtown merchants were shaken by the forfeiture of the Hill’s Pharmacy buildings, leaving a big hole for retailing on the west side of S. Main Street. The assumption is that Bob Dornbos’ building next door would be for sale once Dr. Ford moved into his new building on E. Prairie Street. Plus, the empty building that Skip Knowles owns next to Dornbos leaves the whole block in jeopardy. It will take a lot to revitalize this block.

The Good News in Vicksburg

At the same time, the façade of the former Doris Lee Sweet Shop at 103 E. Prairie is being gently sandblasted and repainted as will the adjacent building at 101 E. Prairie.

Progress is being made on the sale of the derelict Krum-Hallam car dealership at W. Prairie at Boulevard with the hope that this brownfield property can be redeveloped.

Rumor has it that The Dek, formerly The Vault, has been sold to a restaurateur from Portage with plans to reopen in the spring.

On Highway Street, the old flower shop at 108 has been sold and soon the mill at 300 W. Highway Street will be getting a facelift starting in the spring of 2018.

AVB has started building its second condo at Bridgeview next to Angels Crossing golf course. Its first one didn’t sell for several years but the company has come through with a promise to keep building upscale condos in that neighborhood.

Over at Centennial on 22nd Street, the houses are going up in the blink of an eye. It’s amazing to drive by one week to see new houses where vacant lots stood and the next week see several more frames being erected next door. These starter houses are bringing young children and families to the community that could be the key to revitalizing the downtown – but only if the marketing gurus can figure out how to attract them to Main and Prairie street stores, rather than going north to Portage or Kalamazoo.

That’s where the Downtown Development Authority and the Chamber of Commerce can play a much bigger role, should they choose to do so.

On the Corner

sue injury cropBy Sue Moore

In the last week of July I finished writing a story about “Fear of Falling” for the August edition of the South County News, thinking it certainly doesn’t apply to me, being 79, in good health and still doing daily exercise routines.

Then, on a sleepy Sunday afternoon on August 6, it all came crashing down. I’m outside surveying my flower gardens, not watching out for rock steps on the hillside when I trip and go face down on the stone steps, hitting my forehead with a crash. I’m a wuss, I see blood streaming out of somewhere and run for a towel to stop the bleeding. OK, just lie down and it will go away, I think. Some ice would be nice. I go for the fridge and bleed all over it. But I achieve my objective.

A half hour goes by, I’m bored, I listen to the radio as I’m trying to decide what to do. Calling for the ambulance is not an option. I’m a wuss. Another half hour and I think the bleeding from my forehead has stopped. I go to the bathroom sink for a fresh washcloth and suddenly blood is spurting all over the mirror, the walls, the sink and I’m mopping it up with one towel after another.

I go back, lie down, and can’t get it stopped. I fear the ER, the ambulance service, the attention. These are people I know because I’ve been writing stories about the ambulance service for the past three months. I grab the phone, no, it will stop, no it won’t, I will call 911.

A calm voice at the sheriff’s department asks me to stay on the line while she contacts the Vicksburg EMS service. I hear Jesse answer while instructing the car to leave the station. No lights, no sirens, I want to say. That’s not an option.

In walks Amber in full triage mode. I know her well and now am grateful for her calm voice as there is so much blood in my eyes, I can’t see who has come to assist. I hear Tracy McMillan too. Who could miss his voice, urging me to go to the ER. I decline. Not an option they tell me. Well, I just wanted them to stop the bleeding and I’ll be ok. They look at the bathroom and decide it won’t be ok until I get treatment. They carefully bundle me on a stretcher (they are so kind and attentive, my fears have somewhat subsided).

I’ve never had to be the patient in an ambulance, so it was a new experience. Christian the paramedic hooks me up to all the vitals. I say no, not necessary. She insists. Which ER do you want to be taken to? Eh, I don’t know. Then I remember that Bronson advertises in the newspaper, so off we go up Sprinkle Road because of the construction. They want to start IVs and I say no, I’m still a wuss.

They deliver me to the ER door with care and concern, I’m whisked into a private cubicle with nurses, PA’s and others looking after me. The bleeding has subsided and I want out, right then and there. Too bad, I’m admitted. Kind doctors check in and out, there are others in greater need for sure. The decision is made. I’ll need some stiches. Now I really want out. I wait for what seems an eternity but it’s only about a half hour when the doc comes back with a long needle and some thread. He is from North Dakota State’s Medical School, serving his residency in the WMU Medical School program. He has a calming, voice and good bedside manner. Seven stitches later, I’m demanding to have them let me go.

I didn’t remember to bring my purse with me, so no phone, no glasses, no ability to remember local phone numbers because they are all locked up in my phone at home. I want out. I call back to SCEMS. Can you give me phone number for Wes Schmitt, the president of the ambulance service and my friend?

Yes. Wes had another commitment so he provides me with Steve Ellis’ phone number who serves on the board of this newspaper with Wes. Fortunately, the phone the ER has let me use has large digits on it or I never would have gotten a ride home as my family is all in the backwoods of Canada.

Steve is there and arrives just 30 minutes later to spring me. But alas, they need a CAT scan for concussion possibilities. We wait for the results. Negative. I’m on my way. It’s not a pretty sight, my forehead, that is. I’m thinking of all the possible stories to be told to explain why we should all have a healthy fear of falling. I’ve learned my lesson. Take precautions for exactly that and possibly enroll in the balance class offered by South County Community Services and the Area Agency on Aging.

On the Corner

By Sue Moore

There are lots of moving parts in our two villages’ downtowns to report on this month.

Schoolcraft Vision Plan Nears Completion

Schoolcraft is wrapping up its Vision plan for downtown with a final public session scheduled for August 29 during the school’s open house from 5-8 p.m. at the Roy Davis football field.

It’s a hugely ambitious plan for Schoolcraft that is being presented to the public by Jordan Parker of Wightman & Associates. The company has been the guiding light behind what has been called “Reroute”. The next step will be in the hands of the Planning Commission as it takes the next five to six months to update the Master Plan and the ordinances which accompany it. Revision of the ordinances are the keys to implementation of the Vision plan, Parker said.

Changes in Downtown Vicksburg

It isn’t exactly musical chairs but several buildings have been bought and sold over the last few months. Brian Pitts is moving his insurance office from E. Prairie Street to 123 S. Main in a building he purchased from Evie Hall, owner of Home Again Consignments.

Across the street at 120 S. Main, Matt Bolton’s Edward Jones Investments has leased and remodeled a large space from Rudy and Fawn Callen. The building on 328 W. Prairie Street that had been the home of Bolton’s business has been purchased by Attorney Craig Rolfe with plans to move his practice from Kalamazoo.

The sad announcement that Hill’s Pharmacy at 110 S. Main closed at the end of June has left the first block of Main Street on the west side with a gaping hole. For the time being, Dr. Aaron Ford is occupying Dr. Bob Dornbos’s dental office at 102 S. Main for six months and then it will become available for lease or purchase. Next door to that is Ruthie’s art shop which closed last year. The owner, Skip Knowles, has a rental sign out and expects to possibly open it as a resale furniture store.

The Dek, formerly The Vault on W. Prairie looks forlorn this summer as owner Bonnie Granado closed it up in January. The liquor license has been sold and the building itself has a big for sale sign tacked out front.

Some good news is that the Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center (VCAC) will be moving to 101 E. Prairie for a short time and thence to 103 E. Prairie in the former Doris Lee Sweet Shop.

Julie Oswalt Makes a Move to WMU Medical Center

Brett Grossman of Grossman Law said goodbye to his long-time assistant Julie Oswalt recently as she has accepted a position in Kalamazoo as the Pediatric Residency Coordinator of Western Michigan University’s Medical School. She will fit very well into this new and exciting challenge for her, now that her two daughters are off to college.

John Fulton Has Surgery for Cancer

John Fulton, this newspaper’s religion writer for the last four years was diagnosed with his fourth form of cancer, this time in the lung, on his annual visit to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. The doctors took out a portion of his lung and he is back in Vicksburg, riding his motorcycle and promising to beat this enemy, yet another time.

On the Corner

2017-06-25 01.02.16By Sue Moore

Once again, members of the greater Vicksburg community members stepped in to volunteer their time and talents to make a big event succeed.

The Vicksburg Historical Society was the official sponsor of the Battle of Sunset Lake, the Revolutionary War re-enactment. It took place on the grounds of the Prudential Nursery, the Historic Village and the community pavilion, but that hardly tells the complete story.

It could not have happened without the many volunteers who put in countless hours before, during and after the event. Hopefully, you will know the efforts were much appreciated by the organizers.

The Vicksburg Department of Public Works, the police department, Stella Shearer, Renee Hawkins (Boy Scouts) and Stefan Sekula did much of the initial planning. Robin Maple, Marian Steffens, Pam Garrett, the ladies of St. Martin’s Catholic Church, the Chapman Memorial Nazarene Church, the Vicksburg United Methodist Church, all helped to prepare the food for the 200 plus re-enactors. It is said that an army needs to march on a full stomach and this certainly was the case for the re-enactors as they loved the home cooked meal more than anything.

A dedicated group of volunteers called the “Gophers” worked tirelessly to help setup, take down and fetch needed items. They were headed by Donna Cratsenburg-Scott, Kevin Scott, Kathleen Greaver, Jennifer Grace, Allison Ring, Mary Ruple, Brian Freiberger, Steve, Kim and Jonathon Warner, Mike Hill, Chad Brady, John Polasek, and April Bryan.
Ron and Carol Wilson handled the parking duties as they have done for several years with the Harvest Festival so Ron brings tremendous experience to the job. Jason Gatlin and Skip Knowles for volunteering the use of their sound systems and the Vicksburg schools for the chairs that made the visitors much more comfortable than sitting on the ground.

The whole event would not have happened without Cindy and Charlie Krill allowing the use of their property as a campsite and the ice cream gift from Apple Knockers.