Category Archives: Schoolcraft

Schoolcraft Schools Facilities Study Identifies Problems

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Schoolcraft High School’s track, stadium and tennis facilities were singled out by the facilities advisory committee in need of upgrades.

By Travis Smola

Results of a 2017 study of the Schoolcraft school district’s facilities were presented to the public at two meetings in April by a committee including the school board, a facilities advisory committee, Brian Crissman of Christman Construction and two architects from architecture and engineering firm C2AE.

One thing they sought to make clear: There is no project. Right now, they are just presenting their findings to the community. “We are not going to be ready for a project next year,” Secretary Jennifer Gottschalk said. “We’ve got to come up with a process. This is going to be painstakingly slow.”

Trustee Jill VanDyken-Hunt said one of the options is to do nothing at all.

C2AE and Christman worked together with architects, mechanical and electrical engineers to walk through all the existing facilities at Schoolcraft schools. They looked at everything, including interior and exteriors, mechanical and electrical systems. They also looked at food services and education technology and adequacy.

The group gave each facility a score on a scale of 0-100 with higher being better. The high school fared the best, scoring 83 in part because it was built just 19 years ago. The older elementary building scored 61 and the middle school got a 53.

“While they are well-maintained, we are talking decades old,” Steve Jurczuk, project manager and architect at C2AE said.

Jurczuk said things like mechanical systems are either at or beyond their end of life spans. In particular, the boilers at the middle school are of great concern. “Those are getting near end of life,” Jurczuk said. “We’re well beyond where we should be.”

Also a big concern is security. In all three buildings, once someone is through the main entrance, the person can go anywhere without interacting with office staff. One possible solution: Creation of a security vestibule at the middle school where visitors would have to interact with office staff before being able to roam the building.

For the elementary and middle school, C2AE took photos during school dismissal times that show safety issues of children having to enter or cross into an active street to get to their parent’s vehicles.

C2AE also said the middle school cafeteria creates scheduling issues. Because of the size of the room, there is only room for approximately 100 students at a time to eat lunch. This results in four different lunches, which cuts into class time. It also means lunch staff must work longer hours.

Other issues with the elementary and middle school include a flooding problem in the back parking lot, old windows that are not energy-efficient, storage issues in many classrooms and doors to classrooms that are not fire rated.

C2AE Buildings Group Leader and architect Bob McGraw said the stadium, track and tennis courts all have problems that need to be addressed, especially the courts. “The tennis courts are in very poor condition and those need to be reconstructed,” McGraw said.

The track surface has divots in many places in the surface. McGraw said the standard now is an eight-lane track, while Schoolcraft’s is only six. The extra lanes allow more events to be run quicker and in shorter time.

The press box also has ADA issues and the wood bleachers are in rough shape. There are also areas where the concrete is deteriorating.

For now, the groups will work to collect feedback from the community on how to proceed before their May board meeting where the results will be discussed further.

Community Provides Feedback on Facilities Study

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Audience member Jenny Sportel in the center, commented on the facilities study. Seated on her left is Tracey Branch and Doug Ryskamp on the right.

By Travis Smola

After presenting their findings to the public at the two April meetings, the Schoolcraft school board and facilities advisory committee immediately began looking for feedback from the people in attendance.

Surveys put out by the board and committee showed many residents believe the elementary and middle schools are in good shape. But consultants said the results of the study have shown otherwise. That’s why the meeting was held – to show members of the public the exact conditions at the schools. “We as board members thought it was really important to bring the community along with us,” Trustee Jill Vandyken-Hunt said.

One of the biggest concerns immediately expressed concerned the middle school boiler issue and why maintenance has not been kept up on it. Board Secretary Jennifer Gottschalk said there isn’t enough money to address the issue. A new boiler will cost approximately $1 million.

She said the district spends approximately $500,000 a year on maintenance already and other money that they have on hand is often already slated for things like teacher salaries.

“We need to think about a long-term goal and band-aids are not fixing the long-term problems we have,” facilities committee member Wade Rutkoskie added.

Schoolcraft village Trustee John Stodola said he was struck by the age of the buildings and noted they weren’t really designed for the larger classes and technology of today. “A new boiler won’t fix that,” Stodola said. He said his opinion was to build new because he hopes his grandchildren will have children in the district one day.

Several parents in the audience with young children agreed and said the issues brought up were of major concern because they planned to be in the village for the long haul. One mother said she is willing to make some extra sacrifices to pay more for the good of the community.

Kelli Brussee, a kindergarten teacher at the elementary school, spoke about handicap accessibility within the elementary and middle schools. “I have a student in a wheelchair. It’s hard,” Brussee said.

Gottschalk addressed a question about a possible location of new buildings, noting the district owns a piece of land near the high school that might be suitable.

More than one audience member expressed concern that school-of-choice parents aren’t paying taxes that would cover any project. The board acknowledged this is true, but elementary principal Matt Webster said those students bring along federal and state funds that go into programming.

“It’s not that they’re walking in free of charge and we’re just burdened with this debt to educate them.”

Before the meeting ended, those in the audience were handed community support surveys asking what specific projects they would support and what they would not. The survey also asked their level of support for the formation of a committee to develop a bond issue proposal.

A bond issue isn’t the only possible option. Another is a sinking fund. But trustees noted a sinking fund would probably be used to address existing options. A bond issue would be needed for new buildings.

The board continually emphasized there are no plans of yet, and one option is do nothing at all. They urged those in the audience to talk to neighbors, family and friends about the issue. A final report and committee determination will be made at the May board meeting.

Jesse and Sandy Rochholz’ 60th Wedding Anniversary

Rochholz 60A nice dinner at Fisher Lake Inn with family is how Jesse and Sandra (Sandy) Rochholz celebrated 60 years of marriage. They met in fourth grade in Schoolcraft schools when Jesse’s family moved from Mattawan. Sandy was a Schoolcraft native, the daughter of Paul Sims, who owned PS Tavern. They were married at the Schoolcraft United Methodist Church on April 20, 1958.

Both attended Kalamazoo Valley Community College to become accountants. He worked for Custom Farm Services south of Schoolcraft; Sandy spent 26 years with Quality Films. She did volunteer stints as an accountant for Little Lambs Nursery School and Schoolcraft Ambulance Service before it was combined with Vicksburg. She also spent 14 years as Schoolcraft Village treasurer.

They are very proud of their adult children who also volunteer in the community. They are Mike and Brenda Rochholz, Roy and Rosie Rochholz, Dena and Steve Holman, all of Schoolcraft. Paula and Bob Beckman live near Cincinnati, Ohio. They have produced seven grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren.

Big Food Drive Set for Saturday, May 12

By Sue Moore

Why is food scarcity prevalent in the United States? Or Kalamazoo County, or south Kalamazoo County? It doesn’t seem possible for individuals and families to be without food.

But Danna Downing, executive director of South County Community Services (SCCS) is on the front line in the battle to help those in need. She knows about the struggles. She sees them every day.

To combat the food scarcity, her agency and many others across the nation – with help from a huge corps of volunteers whose jobs take them into every neighborhood in the nation – conduct an annual food drive on the second Saturday in May.

Letter carriers in more than 10,000 cities and towns across America collect the goodness and compassion of their postal customers, those who participate in the Stamp Out Hunger National Food Drive. It’s the largest one-day food drive in the nation.

Led by letter carriers represented by the National Association of Letter Carriers, with help from rural letter carriers, other postal employees and other volunteers, the drive has delivered more than a billion pounds of food the past 24 years.

Carriers collect non-perishable food donations left by mailboxes and in post offices and deliver them to local community food banks, pantries and shelters.

Last year alone, nearly 6,700 pounds of goods were donated within the three post offices represented by Vicksburg, Schoolcraft and Climax-Scotts. A bit of competition developed among the three postmasters. The breakdown of amounts collected was 3,098.5 pounds of usable food for Vicksburg and 3,099.2 pounds for Climax-Scotts. Since the Climax-Scotts routes are smaller than Vicksburg’s, that represents quite an outpouring of support from that area.

Schoolcraft has a much smaller area for its carriers. Yet they still managed to bring in 490 pounds and are looking to do even better this year.

The most important thing for donations is that the food must not have reached an expiration date; otherwise the food must be discarded. Collection bags are provided by the letter carriers several days in advance of the food drive. Residents are asked to will fill them up and place the bags by the mail boxes by Saturday, May 12 before the carrier gets out to deliver mail. The carrier will do the rest.

The food will be sorted by volunteers at South County and placed in their pantry, where it is available for needy families. With one in six adults and one in five children struggling with hunger county-wide, the drive is one way you can help those who need help the most.

Obituaries

Dayton P. Baker, 83, Kline’s Resort, died April 3 at Borgess Medical Center. He was born in Lawton on Aug. 30, 1934, the son of Donald J. and Vera E. (Pierson) Baker. He was a graduate of Kalamazoo Central High School. Dayton started his employment at Eckrich Meats. Later he joined the Upjohn company as a chemical operator, retiring after 27 years of service. After retirement, he went to work for his son, Jerry, at the Canopeum. Dayton was married to Betty Jane Allen on Aug. 27, 1955 in Oshtemo. Betty died in 1997. He married Maxine (Romer) Philbrick on July 25, 1998 in Englewood, Fla. They attended the Englewood Methodist Church, and Dayton enjoyed many rounds of golf in the winter months. He was a former member of the Mendon Kiwanis Club. Dayton is survived by his wife, Maxine; sons Gerald (Karen) Baker of Lawton, Michael Baker of Kalamazoo, and Randall Baker of Colon; step-children Russell (Melissa) Philbrick of Venice, Fla., Phillip (Melanie) Philbrick of Syracuse, N.Y., and Janet (Heath) Hedden of Kalamazoo; 13 grandchildren; seven great-grandchildren; and several nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents; a son, Craig Baker; and by siblings Eunice Baker, Pierson “Bud” Baker, Bonnabelle “Bonnie” Grate, Lura Vining, Donnadene “Donna” Bonnell, Donald J. Baker, Jr., Jack Baker, and Jacqueline “Jackie” Laymon. A memorial service was held on Saturday, April 14 in the West Mendon Community Church. A private interment of ashes will take place in Mendon Cemetery. Memorial donations may be directed to the family, or to the Englewood United Methodist Church. Condolences may be expressed at eickhofffuneralhome.com.

Elmer L. Baker, 89, Vicksburg, passed away February 26. He was born to Benton and Carrie (Orr) Baker on February 7, 1929. Like many young men, Elmer was drafted, where he fibbed on his birth-date and began serving in the U.S. Army. He served as a heavy-equipment operator in the years between World War II and Korea. Elmer worked as a machine tender for Simpson Paper for 36 years prior to retiring. Whether at work or within his community, Elmer was a man who could be counted on and trusted. At home with his family, he enjoyed all different kinds of animals including cows, ducks, geese, chickens, and even a pair of raccoons. He also enjoyed tending to his huge garden and had a love for hummingbirds and various wildlife. Elmer spent time tinkering here and there and could literally fix anything broken. When his wife, Marie fell ill and developed dementia, Elmer lovingly cared for her for 10 years until she sadly passed away in 2004. He is survived by his children, Tim (Carol) Baker, of Colon; Larry (Virginia) Baker, of Florida; Beverly (Jim) Currier, of Sturgis; Lana Koole, of Portage; Janet (Daniel) Reitz-Galo, of Portage; Donald Ely, of Portage; Susan (Dann) Louis, of Three Rivers; 13 grandchildren and 36 great-grandchildren. He is also survived by siblings Larry (Dorma) Baker, of West Virginia; Marjorie (Floyd) McMinn; Mary Ann (Henry) Richards; Nancy (Brad) Crouse; Barbara (Phil) Tracy; and numerous nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his wife, Marie; siblings James Baker, Robert Baker, Wayne Baker; and Doris Jean Talkington; and an infant grandchild, Samantha. A memorial service was held Saturday, March 3 at the McCowen & Secord Family Funeral Home. Visit his page at lifestorynet.com. Donations may go to Generous Hands.

John R. Bonnema, Schoolcraft, passed away Friday morning, March 30. John was born December 16, 1927 in Kalamazoo to the late William and Anna (Kiel) Bonnema. John was owner and operator of Bonnema Masonry Construction until his retirement in 1993. He was a charter member of Prairie Edge Christian Reformed Church, where he served as elder, deacon and Sunday School superintendent. He was also one of the founding members of the Singing Crusaders and served on the Board at both the Gospel Mission and South Christian School. John enjoyed the outdoors, especially hunting and fishing with his grandchildren. On August 26, 1949, he was united in marriage to his loving wife of 68 years, Katherine “Kay” (Ritsema), who survives. Also surviving are his children, Robert (Beth) Bonnema, Don (Toni) Bonnema, Laurie (Dennis) Mulder, Joan (Tom) Brussee; 14 grandchildren and 28 great-grandchildren. John was preceded in death by his three brothers and two sisters. Services were held on Wednesday, April 11 at Prairie Edge Christian Reformed Church. Private family interment will be in Schoolcraft Cemetery. Memorials may be directed to Prairie Edge Christian Reformed Church or the Kalamazoo Gospel Mission. Visit his page at langelands.com.

Rex William Bragg, 88, Vicksburg, passed away April 12. He was born to John and Jenny (Weber) Bragg on February 6, 1930 in Greentown, Ind. Rex served in the military and was deployed to Korea during the Korean War. He worked as a tool and die maker for almost 32 years at General Motors. Rex began working at the Marion, Ind. Fisher Body Plant in 1954, and the Delco-Remy prior to that. In 1966, Fisher Body transferred him to the Kalamazoo area. There, he and his wife, Glory, set up roots and raised their family in a loving, close-knit home. He began a Boy Scout Troop in Fulton where he served as scoutmaster from 1967 to 1972, followed by a year in Vicksburg. In the late 1980s, Rex and Glory became members of Vicksburg United Methodist Church where they both grew in their faith. In 1985 they moved to Kline’s Resort. They were members of the Michigan Motor Home Club as well as the Happy Traveler’s Club. In addition, Rex was a member of the Vicksburg Lions Club, UAW Local 488, the DAV and a Masonic Lodge member. He also served his community as a Wakeshma Township firefighter. He is survived by his wife of 64 years, Glory; children Gary (Kathy) Bragg of Three Rivers, Paula (Randy) Lee of Kalamazoo, Tonya (Robert) Weiandt of Portage; grandchildren Trisha (Joseph) Howard of Greenville, Dawn (Kyle) Rice of Three Rivers, Kristen (Calvin) Klinger of Vicksburg, Jeremy Lee of Kalamazoo, Nicholas (Kelsey) Lee of Parchment; Elizabeth Lee of Kalamazoo, Karl (Elysia) Armstrong of Three Rivers, Katherine (Khanh) Dang of Caledonia; great-grandchildren Emily, Riley, Addison, Nathan, Colton, Collin, Karlie, Izzabella, Caden, Ryan, and Micah. He was preceded in death by two great-grand angel babies and his seven siblings. Visit his page at mccowensecord.com. Donations may go to South County Help A Vet Fund and Wreaths Across America at wreathsacrossamerica-braggfamily on Facebook. Arrangements by McCowen & Secord Family Life Story Funeral Home.

Anna Elizabeth Brown, 103, Vicksburg, passed away April 21. She was born Elizabeth Anna Multhaupt on December 8, 1914, in Kalamazoo, the daughter of Frederick and Elizabeth (Banziger) Multhaupt. Her early education was in Oshtemo before she continued on to graduate from the Kalamazoo Central High School class of 1931. Anna attended the Oshtemo Methodist Church, where she met a young violinist named Ralph David Brown. They eventually married, settled in Vicksburg in 1941 and made a home there for 77 years. Anna was one of the founding members of the Vicksburg Ambulance Service along with her husband, Ralph, and several other community members. She was an EMT, and loved it until she retired at 76. She was always sewing and repairing clothes. However, her greatest love was gardening. Anna was very patriotic and always flew the American flag, even on her car. She loved parades. She served on the Village Council. She was a member of the Scotts Elmwood Chapter 88 of the Pythian Sisters, serving as Grand Chief of the State of Michigan in 1972-73. In 1976, as part of the bicentennial celebration, she was chosen as one of 150 outstanding women of Michigan. At the age of 100, she was recognized by the South County Emergency Medical Service when it named the classroom in her honor. Surviving are six loving children: Nancy (Otto) Decker, Vicksburg; Patricia (Paul) Weber, Kalamazoo; Ralph David (Wendy) Brown Jr., Bay City; Elizabeth (William) Bushouse, Helen (David) Horn, and John (Laurie) Brown, all of Kalamazoo; 19 grandchildren, several great and great-great grandchildren, a sister, Wilma Cooper, Kalamazoo; many nieces, nephews and cousins, as well as many relatives in Germany and Switzerland. She was preceded in death by her husband, Ralph; a son, Robert; her parents; brother Arthur Multhaupt; sisters Cora Miller, Emilie Smith, and Mary Barnes; and grandchildren Sara Brown, Paul Decker and Diane (Bushouse) Evans. Donations may go to Hospice of Southwest Michigan or a charity of your choice. Visit her page at joldersma-klein.com.

Lyle R Davis (“Rube”), 91, Schoolcraft, passed away peacefully in his home on March 20. He was born on July 12, 1926 to the late Charles and Verle (Dooley) Davis. Lyle lived his entire life in the Schoolcraft area and graduated from Schoolcraft High School. Following in his father’s footsteps, he became a union carpenter, building area schools and apartments. He eventually went into residential building for himself. Lyle is a WWII Navy veteran. Until his mid-eighties, he marched in Schoolcraft’s annual 4th of July and Memorial Day Parades with the Drill Team or Color Guard. Lyle was preceded in death by his wife of 66 years, Geneva (Lance) Davis. They were married on April 27, 1946. He was also preceded in death by his brothers, David and Roy Davis; a brother-in-law, Donald Patnoude; sisters-in-law Pat Davis and Helen Lance; great grandchildren Garrick Roemer and Onika, Talon, and Landon Kessler. Lyle is survived by his children, Kay (Lou) Scohy, Wanda (Walter) Scott, Rod (Cynthia) Davis, and Logan (Craig) Roe. He was the beloved grandpa of 12 grandchildren, and 20-plus great grandchildren. Also surviving are his sister-in-law, Charline (Lance) Patnoude; brother-in-law Lyle Lance; and several nieces and nephews. A graveside service for Lyle was held on April 21 in the Schoolcraft cemetery. In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting donations to Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan, Schoolcraft American Legion or the American Red Cross of Southwest Michigan.

Virginia “Ginny” (Bent) Davis, 93, Schoolcraft, passed away peacefully at home April 9. Ginny was born on January 13, 1925, the daughter of the late Albert V. Kimball, Sr. and Isabelle Ann (Stevens) Kimball. She was preceded in death by her first husband, Gerald Bent, whom she married in 1945, and her second husband, Ralph Davis, whom she married in 1972. She was also preceded by her brother, Albert V. Kimball, Jr. Ginny worked at the Upjohn Company for 15 years. Ginny is survived by a daughter, Cindy (Richard) Shattuck, and a granddaughter, Marcy (Michael) Charvat. Also surviving are great-grandchildren Carson, Gavin and Gabrielle Charvat; a sister, Mary Purdham; nephew Albert (Debbie) Kimball III; niece Deborah Linden; and a sister-in-law, Mary Lou Kimball. In accordance with Ginny’s wishes, cremation has taken place. Donations may go to the Animal Rescue Project.

Alan Grauman, Vicksburg, passed away peacefully at his home April 16. He was born on August 24, 1948 to the late Allen and Mara (Morescalchi) Grauman. His parents met in Italy while his father was a young U.S. soldier following World War II. Alan attended school in Portage, Venezuela and Italy. He and his new wife Cecilia’s first home was on Main Street in Vicksburg, a home they purchased with another couple. A big old house, the other couple lived upstairs and they lived downstairs. In 1976 they moved into the rural area of Vicksburg making the country roads their forever home. Alan worked at Consumers Energy in engineering before transferring to the company’s IT department. Alan’s interests were far and wide, and after retiring in 2015, it gave him just the time he needed to enjoy them. He couldn’t resist anything that needed to be put together and programmed. He liked computers, and was good at working on them. Over the years he acquired quite a collection of used computer and electronic parts because he might have needed them someday. Alan’s family includes his wife, Cecilia (Reisterer); daughter Jaime (Chris) Payne; son Jesse Grauman; grandchildren Madeline, Linus, India, Amaya and Jesse; siblings Judy Grauman and Mila (Jim) Beck, and several nieces and nephews. Funeral services were held on Friday, April 20 at the Betzler Life Story Funeral Home. Please visit Alan’s personal web page at http://www.BetzlerFuneralHome.com, where you can archive a favorite memory or photo and sign his online guestbook. Memorial donations may be made to Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan.

Gracie Harber, 93, Vicksburg, went to be with the Lord on March 24, at her home with her family at her side. Gracie was born on February 19, 1925 to James & Josie (McCullah) Stokes. Services were held on Monday, April 2 at the McCowen & Secord Family Funeral Home. Gracie’s family includes her daughters, Sharon (Frank) Burr, Donna Cartwright and Vickie (Brian) Klassen; grandchildren Angela (Kristopher) Wilson, Joseph Cartwright, Wendy (Darin Frederickson) Burr, Tracy (Mark) Thomas, Scott (Nicole) Klassen, Lisa (Adam) Brewer; great grandchildren Stephen, Josh, Hannah, Sydney, William, Stevine and a baby on the way, as well as several nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her parents, her husband of 50 years, George, and six siblings. Visit her page at mccowensecord.com. Donations may go to Community Baptist Church of Vicksburg or Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan.

Andrew H. Lewis, Kalamazoo, formerly of Vicksburg, passed away at his home April 9. He was born on June 15, 1933 in Kalamazoo, a son of Gilbert and Bertha (Dykehouse) Lewis. He was a life-long area resident. Andrew entered the US Army just before his 20th birthday and served in the Korean War before being honorably discharged in 1955. He returned home and worked for the Upjohn Company until his retirement in 1990. Andrew was a member of Saint Martin of Tours Catholic Church, a life member of VFW Post 5855 and a member of American Legion Post 207, Eagles Aerie 3531 and Moose International. Andrew was preceded in death by his parents; a brother, Albert Lewis; a sister, Adeline Lewis; and a brother-in-law, Marvin “Luke” Lukomski. In 1962, Andrew married the former Marlene Lukomski, who survives. Also surviving are five children and their spouses: David (Candy) Lewis of Portage, Carolyn (Brian) Kitzmiller of Vicksburg, Diann (Jeff) Roodbergen of Vicksburg, Gary (Karin) Lewis of Wake Forest, N.C. and Daniel (Lynette) Lewis of Kalamazoo; 13 grandchildren; two great-grandchildren; a brother, Lawrence (Beverly) Lewis of Vicksburg; sister-in-law, Patricia Lewis; many nieces and nephews; and his beloved dog, Princess. Cremation has taken place. Internment with military honors was held at Ft. Custer National Cemetery. Donations may go to VFW Post 5855, Paralyzed Veterans of America or to the American Heart Association.

A memorial dinner will be held in honor of Marilyn Lindley at the
Scotts Community Center on May 6th from 1-4:30.

Ann Linton of Vicksburg will be honored with a memorial service to be held at Lakeland Reformed Church, 10442 Sprinkle Rd., Vicksburg, on May 19. Visitation with the family begins at 10 a.m. and the service is at 11 a.m. She turned 107 on February 14 and passed away on February 24.

Marcia C. Meyer, Schoolcraft, passed away April 18. She was born to Wendell Millard and Roberta “Bert” Arndt on July 22, 1975. Marcia attended school in Luther, Mich., where she played volleyball, and was also a member of the National Honor Society. After graduating from Pine River High School in 1993, she attended college in the Kalamazoo area. Throughout her life, Marcia was always busy. Marcia worked for 14 years at Summit Polymers, the last six years as a purchasing coordinator. Marcia absolutely loved taking pictures, and she also enjoyed traveling and snowmobiling. Marcia Meyer was one of the funniest people around. She loved making others laugh, and she was outgoing, giving, and friendly. Marcia’s family includes her husband, Terry; daughter Andrea; parents Wendell and Bert Millard, of Wisconsin; siblings Sondra Smith, of Schoolcraft, Beth (Mike) Dennison, of Indiana, and Denny Millard, also of Indiana. Services were held Monday, April 30 at the McCowen & Secord Family Funeral Homes, Rupert-Durham Chapel, Vicksburg. Burial followed at Schoolcraft Cemetery. Visit her page at mccowensecord.com. Donations may go to the West Michigan Cancer Center or Schoolcraft Schools.

Barbara Northam, 65, Scotts, died April 2. Barbara was born June 9, 1952 in Berwyn, Ill., the daughter of Michael and Betty Piotrowski. Services were held at on Wednesday, April 4 at the Betzler Life Story Funeral Home. Visitation in Darien, Ill. took place on Friday, April 6 at the Modell Funeral Home. Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated on Saturday, April 7 at Our Lady of Peace Catholic Church, Darien, with interment in Clarendon Hills Cemetery. Barbara is survived by her husband, Jim; children Matthew (Laura) Northam and Angeline (Matthew) Anderton. Other members of her family include grandchildren, Ella, Julia, Claire and Andrew; and sisters Sandra Chereshkoff and Debra (Randy) Kieras. Visit her page at BetzlerFuneralHome.com. Donations may go to Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan.

Robin M. Shearer, Grand Rapids, died April 19. Robin was born on June 28, 1952 to Victor and Marjorie Girolami in Hamilton, OH. She was pre-deceased by her husband, Andrew F. Shearer, her son, Owen K. Shearer, and her parents. Robin spent her early childhood in Hamilton, Ohio and moved with her family to Michigan in 1965. She graduated from Vicksburg High School and attended Kalamazoo Valley Community College. She married the love of her life, Andy Shearer, on June 23, 1973. Robin and Andy helped run the Vicksburg Tastee Freeze for many years. Robin was very active in the Grand Rapids International Fellowship Church of the Nazarene. She is survived by seven siblings: Vicki Smith(Dan), Andrew Girolami (Rhonda), Chuck Girolami (Diana), Cathy Holden (Chris), Rick Girolami (Sandy), Lynn Baragar (Todd), and David Girolami. She is also survived by many nieces, nephews, great nieces, great nephews and great-greats. There will be a memorial service May 15, at the Grand Rapids International Fellowship Church of the Nazarene at 6:30 p.m. Her cremains will be interred with her husband, Andy Shearer, and next to her son, Owen.

Norma Jean Suess (Switzer), 81, passed away unexpectedly but peacefully in her sleep at her Fort Myers, FL, home April 8. Born May 16, 1936, to Alva and Helen (Hall) Switzer at their home in Kalamazoo, she was a 1954 graduate of Vicksburg High School and married Alan Suess of Plainwell on December 29, 1956. Her husband’s academic career took them around the Midwest, from the University of Illinois, to Ohio State University and finally to Purdue University in Indiana, where they raised their family.  It also took Norma around the world, living in India for a short stint and in Turkey for a few years, visiting a dozen countries in Europe and Asia in between. She owned her own interior design boutique for 30 years and was a lifelong painter in pastels, oil, and acrylics. She continued taking seminars at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts in her retirement as she summered in Portage on West Lake. She formed several groups for golfing, going to movies, book clubs and an art guild. She was active to the end, golfing to the last day. Norma is survived by her children, Theresa, Matthew (Bonnie), and Eric (Kimberly) and grandchildren Deric and Derin, and by her sisters Judy Lewis (Eli), Fran Rigney (Carl), and Patricia Bittenbender (Milan). She was preceded in death by her brother, Alvin (Sonny), and her parents. A celebration of life service will be held July 14 at 11 a.m. at Chapman Memorial Church of the Nazarene. The family will begin receiving friends at the church one hour prior to the service. Donations may go to the Alan Suess Scholarship at the Purdue Polytechnic Institute online at giving.purdue.edu.

Norma June Vargo, 79, Portage, passed away April 6. Norma was born on February 27, 1939 in Mishawaka, Ind. She was the daughter of Frederick and Irene (Landcraft) Boldt. On July 20, 1957, she married James Vargo at St. Ann’s Catholic Church. She owned and operated the Sale Barn in Schoolcraft. She is survived by her children, Mark (Mary) Vargo, of Three Rivers and Julie Shaffer, of Portage; granddaughter Jenna Courtney; siblings Fred (Marj) Boldt, John Boldt and MaryAnn (Art) Webber. She was preceded in death by her husband, Jim Vargo, in 2005. A private entombment for Norma will be held at the Mount Ever-Rest Memorial Park. Visit her page at mccowensecord.com. Donations may go to Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan. The family is being assisted by the McCowen & Secord Family Funeral Home.

Lynn D. Whyle, Vicksburg, passed away April 16, at home. Lynn was born August 10, 1946 in Kalamazoo, the daughter of the late Charles and Evelyn (Swan) Senne and a lifelong resident in the Kalamazoo area. She was employed for 30 years with the Upjohn Company and enjoyed doing crafts which involved quilting and needlework. She also enjoyed spending time on the computer and doing volunteer work in Lake Placid, Fla. for five years, just after her retirement. On October 25, 1985 she was united in marriage to her loving husband, Robert “Bob” Whyle III, who survives. Also surviving are her children, Julie (Ben) Glazebrook, Stephen (Sarah) Bauserman; grandchildren Kelsey Emery, Carly and Alexander Glazebrook; step-children Deborah Waite, Carla Harrington, and Robert Whyle IV; brother, Richard Senne; and several nieces and nephews. Lynn was preceded in death by a sister, Patricia “Patti” Capman. Services were held on April 21 at the Langeland Family Funeral Home. Interment was at Riverside Cemetery. Memorials may be directed to Grace Hospice.

Schoolcraft Ponders New School Safety Training Program

By Travis Smola

The Schoolcraft school board viewed a presentation from Portage police detective Bryan Taffee about a school safety program being considered for Schoolcraft schools next fall.

The program, called ALICE, is a training program designed to prepare students and staff in the event of an active shooter in the building. It has been taught at about 4,200 U.S. public schools. “Most of our students here shouldn’t have to worry about these things, Taffee said. His wife is a teacher and he said he never imagined a day he’d have to worry about the safety of her or their kids at schools. “Those days are gone.”

Board Vice President Ryan Ledlow had suggested bringing the program to Schoolcraft after he went through the training at Portage schools. “Having gone through it, it’s a really good program,” Ledlow said. “The training was phenomenal for the staff.”

ALICE is an acronym for alert, lockdown, inform, counter and evacuate, the steps that can be taken in the event of an armed intruder into the school, though not necessarily in that order.

“Hopefully you never have to get close to using them,” Taffee said. But the actions have been shown by research to make such situations more survivable. Evacuation is the preferred option and it’s fairly simple. The children are taught to run as fast and as far away as they can.

Options like lockdown teach students and staff to lock and barricade doors to prevent the intruder from entering. Counter is a last resort. Taffee stressed that this portion does not teach fighting. Instead, it teaches distraction techniques that can interrupt and disrupt a shooter.

He said the simple act of throwing something across a shooter’s view could distract them long enough to give time for people to escape.

Training is taken to an even more intense level for staff members. In a drill, a police officer begins the scenario by shooting blanks outside the building. Inside the building, a participant uses an airsoft gun to fire slow-moving pellets.

It sounds extreme. but Taffee said it helps empower people and helps them understand how they will react under the stress. He also said teachers can opt out of this scenario, noting that If they’re frightened, they won’t learn anything.

He compared it to any kind of emergency preparedness. “It’s like practicing at home for a fire,” Taffee said. “The more you do it, the easier it gets, the more efficient it gets.”

Ledlow said the training got him thinking about things he hadn’t considered before, such as what to do after barricading a door. “It brings a larger sense of comfort to know there are some options and you’re increasing survival,” he said.

The program isn’t the only thing that can be done to make things safer. Taffee said simple policy changes like locking classroom doors can immediately make the schools safer.

Superintendent Rusty Stitt said an informational meeting will be scheduled in the future so parents can ask questions. “We believe this is the right approach as we move forward,” he said.

Schoolcraft Softball is Undefeated

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A Schoolcraft softball player swings for the fences in a recent game against Saugatuck.

By Sue Moore

The Schoolcraft softball team is picking up right where the girls basketball team left off, notching an 11-0 overall and a 6-0 conference record. “Our toughest opponent is Constantine,” said Coach Jason Porter. “They are an opponent that will push us for the conference championship. They are a well-coached team with a core returning senior squad. We look forward to playing Constantine and look forward to the challenges they will bring us to make us a better program.”

Leading the charge, as she did in basketball, is Lydia Goble, said Porter. “Lydia’s bat is on fire right now. Our seniors in the infield, Brooke Crissman at third, Goble at shortstop, Kennedy Leighton at second are awesome leaders and role models! I would say defensively they are very strong as a core group.”

“I see a very tough road in the month of May.  We have some very tough tournaments and opponents that will hopefully push us to get better in time for district and regional play and a run at the state title.  We play in the Wayland Invite, the Coopersville Invite and the Michigan Challenge in Canton, Michigan,” Porter said. He has coached softball at Comstock and Kalamazoo College where he is an assistant football coach. He is in his second season at Schoolcraft.