Category Archives: Schoolcraft

Windy Clark Traces Her Path to Wind + James

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Windy Clark addressing the Schoolcraft Ladies Library Association meeting.

By Sue Moore

Windy Clark, the proprietor of Wind + James in Schoolcraft, told a February meeting of the Schoolcraft Ladies Library about building her events business in an old and decrepit Arco building.

“We were touring this building that my husband, Jamie Clark, had just purchased on Eliza Street with my dad. I was looking for a place to move my ideas for an event space from the Park Trades Building in Kalamazoo. I turned to my dad and said, ‘This is the spot!’ The roof was gone in some places, it was raining and the whole place was in really rough shape,” Windy chuckled as she spoke to the ladies in the club.

It took two years to redo the 10,000 square feet for her portion of the building that Jamie wasn’t renting out to other entities. Then she built a courtyard to add 15,000 sq. feet in back. The whole thing is a stunning place for events in Schoolcraft, said her sidekick, Marci Frederickson. “Windy is a visionary. I met her when I wanted to have a party there and realized how happy the place is. It has such a feeling of joy inside. I said to her, ‘I could work here,’ so she hired me on the spot. It’s just the two of us, learning as we go at every event because we have to pay the rent. We do fashion shows, Boss Day, Expos, photo shoots and even a prom this spring. There’s so much creativity going on, it’s hard sometimes to do the invoicing.”

The dream team got started when Windy was working as a marketing person at Harley-Davidson in Kalamazoo. Jamie came in to get a deal on a bike for a raffle he was heading up for the Three Rivers Chamber of Commerce. They married, settled down in Vicksburg and now have four children.

Windy started life with children, by making cakes for people. She wanted to run art classes and purchased a business that was headquartered in the Park Trades Building. When the building was open in Schoolcraft, she moved the art classes there. She’s no longer doing classes; the event space is taking up all of her time. “Now I have to pencil in my family time because this business has really taken off,” Clark said.

“My joy is feeling good in the moment,” Clark said. “A drive toward joy is a drive toward life. Still, Jamie thinks I should make money. This whole project brings me joy and also to my family. We are all involved.”

The Clarks purchased the old elementary school in Schoolcraft with the original idea of living there. “There are a lot of opportunities we didn’t foresee in the beginning. The Dome has been leasing the gym for sports space and artists have been renting it for studio space, so we have stepped back from the living space idea. I’m just a mom who wanted a place for my personal art and share it with family and friends. The colors, light and open space bring all of us great joy. Now we are looking to enlarge Wind + James to accommodate 900 people when we get the new bathrooms done and the parking figured out.”

Charter Township Concerns Expressed at Meeting

By Sue Moore

Sunset Lake weed control and the Schoolcraft charter township referendum both came under fire at the board’s February township meeting.

The issue of Schoolcraft becoming a charter township, on the March 10, 2020 primary ballot, was hotly debated by a few members in the audience. Some felt the township was overreaching its authority by placing the question on a ballot in March when, theoretically, fewer citizens would come out to vote.

“This is a classic example of a solution in search of a problem,” said Steve Fryling, a former township planning commission member. “There is no indication of where this proposal came from or its perceived advantages. It sounds like an attempt to prevent annexation, but chartering a township opens up residents to very large tax increases and the imposition of services that residents may not feel they need or want to pay extra for. We need a citizens group that can study the issue and find the best way to proceed. If chartering has advantages and fits with an overall plan, then I will be all for it in the future but I encourage voters to reject this current proposal.”

Also speaking against the ballot question was former township attorney Craig Rolfe. He lives in Brady Township but owns property in a part of the village of Vicksburg that is also under the taxing authority of Schoolcraft Township. Rolfe said a change to a charter township would mean more compensation for the board as it would increase from five to seven members with the potential to hire a superintendent to serve under the township supervisor and the expanded board. Other cost increases would involve further publication of ordinances.

Rolfe was especially concerned that becoming a charter township would expand the taxing authority of the Township by nearly 600 percent (from about 0.8 mills presently to 5.0 mills) without any further vote of the people, ever. He also noted that merely becoming a charter township would not even address the Board’s supposed underlying concerns about annexation, because the Township doesn’t meet all of the statutory criteria for a charter township to enjoy some protection from annexation.

Jack Wiley, a township resident, felt the issue had been pushed through without information given out to the public. Denny Olson thought the threat of annexation had come from the Mill who would want to ask for such consideration. It’s just a little chunk [of their land] but could lead to bigger types of request for annexation, he said.

Don Ulsh, township supervisor, offered to adopt a resolution that the board would not raise taxes if the vote passes. “We live here too. Do you think we want to raise our own taxes?” Township Clerk Virginia Mongreig cited what is done for the residents on .8 mills. “We have a balanced budget and have money in reserves. Our budget is out there so all can see what [taxes] pay for.”

Ulsh read from his prepared text about why the township wants to be a charter township. “It all started when the village of Vicksburg annexed the 400 acres that the Allen Edwin development company built on 22nd street in 2002 when sewer and water was extended to the property. In 2005 we were approached by the village for another development called the Renda property on V Avenue and 22nd street.

“We put together a 425 agreement with the village that was a first for Kalamazoo County. It allowed for anyone in the area to have sewer and water as long as they paid for it and the village would not require the property to be annexed to the village. It stipulated that the village and township would enter into a growth management agreement for 10 years that was signed by both entities. In 2015, the village got angry and said they wanted out of the agreement. The township was left with three options. The last one was to become a charter township, so here we are, at this crossroads.”

A 425 agreement under Michigan law, ordinarily between a township and an adjacent city, provides for a temporary transfer of control of specified functions without annexation.

Trustee Ken Hovenkamp said the two entities need to work together. He thought the village didn’t like that the township Planning Commission wouldn’t rezone the 80 acres west of the Mill for an industrial park in 2015. The request was denied when commissioners chose to keep the property as it was, a blue heron rookery. “We are a little nervous about what the village has in mind. What’s going to happen when the paper mill gets going again? If we have a chance to become a charter township, it moves us up a notch and makes people play a little harder,” Hovenkamp said.

“I applaud what you have done with your money,” said Vicksburg Village Manager Jim Mallery. “But a resolution is only as good as your word. You can pledge to not raise taxes and a majority of the people would trust you. However, a future township board could change a resolution just as easily as you could pass one here tonight, as a resolution is not binding on them. An ordinance would give me a lot more comfort than a resolution. You need to have a trust factor with citizens. I believe that your word is good. This nation was founded on the written word.”

Ulsh answered that it would take some time to develop an ordinance but he would be willing to delve into it with the township attorney. Mongreig said she would like to work together with the village.

Others in the audience are residents of the Sunset Lake Association, seeking to have the special assessment district for weed control renewed for 2020-2024. It would cost each homeowner $400, the same amount as before. The village of Vicksburg decided to discontinue the $6,000 it has put in each year. Instead, the village plans to treat the weeds in the ponds that have become unsightly in the summer. Mallery said it was rare that a governmental unit would make this kind of a donation to a waterway, saying it would pay the $1,200 assessment for its three parcels. “We are not going away from the problem.”

Township Treasurer Teresa Scott, who would have to make up the assessment rolls for the 48 residents around the lake, was dubious about doing this without more input from the residents. She said only 14 residents had sent her emails in support of the assessment package for 2020-24; she didn’t feel that was enough input. Perhaps the lake residents should start over with the petition process to indicate whether they wanted to be assessed as they have been since 2010. She said it would take up to four months to collect the signatures which the township needs to begin the treatment plan. “We need to collect the money for the treatment in advance and not afterwards as has been done previously,” she said.

Audience members felt that this approach would take too long; the lake wouldn’t be treated in the summer of 2020. This would set back the whole program of weed control as the permit to do the work needs to be applied for in March. Ultimately, the board voted to move ahead with a March public hearing, setting the assessment roll in April and collection of the fee by June 1.

Ulsh announced that J. Rettenmaier with manufacturing facilities in the township on U.S. 131, would be naming their offices there as its USA Headquarters. It will be investing $2 million to enlarge the headquarters and $7 million in a warehouse addition. “We are really happy about this,” Ulsh said.

Andrew Gustafson Wins Schoolcraft Pinewood Derby

Andrew Gustafson’s race car was proclaimed “King of the Hill” in Schoolcraft’s Pinewood Derby, held at the elementary school in February. He will forever have his name etched on the Pack 250 King of the Hill trophy. He is in first grade’s Tiger Den, shown here with his dad, Pete Gustafson.

The Pinewood Derby is an annual event that Cub Scouts have been taking part in for decades all over the country. Each scout, with assistance from a parent, builds a model car and races against other scouts in the pack. This is meant to be a project that parents and sons do together. The amount of effort put in by the scout vs. the parent depends on the age of the scout; 1st graders aren’t using power tools. As the scouts get older, they can do more on their own.

The body of the car must be from the official kit supplied by the pack in December. The body may be shaped, hollowed out, or built up from the original block as long as it meets the other specifications. Any additions to the body (weight, decals, steering wheels, etc.) must be firmly attached to the car. No shifting weight shall be allowed.

The track is equipped with a timer and race software. Each car will race four times. The software will total the times for each race to determine each car’s overall time.

Battle of the Books Winners

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Pictured above, from left, are Oliver Hammond, Adler Hammond, Matthew Peters, Jennie Taylor (their third-grade teacher), Isaac Sandelin, Caiden Caswell and Ian Triemstra.

The Star Readers from Vicksburg’s Sunset Lake Elementary captured their second Grand Battle of the Books title in the February contest held at Schoolcraft Performing Arts Center and sponsored by the Schoolcraft Library. The Stars were an experienced group of 5th grade boys: They had won as 4th graders  last year and since added one new member, Adler Hammond. Their coaches were Brenda Peters and Connie Sandelin.

The Star Readers and the three other teams squaring off in the Grand Battle had to answer 21 questions about the dozen books all were assigned to read and remember. The teams had 30 seconds to decide on the answer and then send their representative to the microphone to see if it was correct. Jennie Taylor, who had selected the books, judged the answers. The Star Readers won with an almost perfect score of 105 out of 110 possible points.

Andy Blodgett’s Legacy: The Mission to the Poor

Editor’s Note: Andy Blodgett passed away February 12. This article is the first of a two-part story which was drafted for the South County News but did not run until now, as a tribute to his memory. The second part to the article will run next month and will also feature information on a memorial service planned by the Blodgett family for some time in April.

By Linda Lane

“You’re going to think I’m kidding, and you’re going to ask how it is even possible to do it, but our jingle is, ‘We get a ton and a half into a half-ton van.’ And we do!”

That was Andy Blodgett, a former Schoolcraft resident, who dedicated himself to helping some poor villages in Mexico with a group he formed, “The Mission to the Poor.” And many trips literally had two tons loaded into that van. Preparations would take months for Blodgett to organize a large delivery of items he took to Mexico for children and adults for Christmas.

“We manage to get THAT much merchandise – shoes, clothes, school supplies, buckets of paint, candy and toys for kids, and many other things – stuffed into every crevice of that van,” Blodgett explained.

The seemingly impossible task was accomplished because Blodgett had his van heavily accessorized with 10-ply rated tires, two extra springs, a “Timbren” suspension system on the van which holds the back of the vehicle up (often used with a snowplow truck). If the van appeared to be too heavily loaded, they would have been “bandit bait.” Blodgett had many 3-4,000 pound weight-slips to prove that ton-and-a-half claim.

Blodgett and his wife, Alicia, then drove a 2,378-mile trek to the Mexican state of Michoacán, where they distributed food and merchandise to the poor. It was imperative for safety that the van appear to be just a normal van with the enhanced suspension system; dark sheets covered the windows to prevent people from seeing the boxes packed into the van. On the third day when they crossed the border into Mexico, they did not travel at night and stayed in a gated hotel. They traveled on toll roads, paying the “cuda” as an insurance policy to avoid small towns and bandits.

They first started distributing items in the Michoacán region because Blodgett’s wife, Alicia, was born and raised in a village of 70,000 people called Los Reyes. The region is a non-tourist area which grows avocados, sugar cane, and small berries, such as raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries. While they began distributing to the very poor in that area, they expanded to address the dire need of the poor in adjoining villages and up into the mountains. They made contacts through family members with a priest in the mountains and helped the congregation, and later added additional churches to distribute their donations. During one visit, they had 68 volunteers, provided by the church, helping to distribute food and goods to 1,027 families, totaling over 4,000 people. They have also given away, or used with the new school, 2-3,000 gallons of paint. In addition to the supplies they bring down, the Mission to the Poor also brings funds to purchase and give away 5,000 pounds of beans, a major staple for Mexican people. Alicia’s parents’ house became the storage facility for their ministry. Blodgett and his volunteers would scour major sales at U.S. stores, when items get discounted 90 percent or more and when companies like Meijer, Kohl’s, Walmart and Dollar General would clear shelves.

They took items to distribute to 101 people in a seminary in Zamora (a village close to Los Reyes) including 73 seminarians, 11 resident priests, three nuns and 14 kitchen and maintenance helpers.

Some years they managed to get in four trips (most years were three trips), bringing 15,300 pounds of merchandise to distribute to the poor. They have wired cash transfers of $12,000 for the school they built to teach the poor children who would otherwise have had no education. In addition to the seminary, there are 80 “street children” in the school that they’ve built in Zamora who also received goods from the Mission to the Poor. Some years, Schoolcraft Community Schools pitched in to help the Blodgetts repack and box 11,000 candy canes that they distributed to the Mexican kids at Christmas annually.

The need for the school was identified by a local woman at the church named Lupita. “She’s a saint in my mind,” Blodgett said. “She knew the kids had to be out in the fields picking strawberries with their parents and were not receiving any education.” With the Blodgett’s help, the school has included a medical doctor, plus her assistant, as well as a school psychologist. The school has expanded to include a trade school for the children with training for carpentry, plumbing, electrical, automotive repair, sheet metal and welding for boys, and home economics, weaving, sewing, family living and cooking for girls.

To raise the funding necessary to purchase the new goods that he and his wife delivered to Mexico, Blodgett drove all over Michigan purchasing nursery products and working US and Canadian trade shows. He was an independent sales rep for three Michigan nursery growers and three Tennessee nursery growers which helped provide a revenue stream for his mission. His business, Mission Gardens, has sold retail nursery products at wholesale prices, where growers gave him special prices to sell at that reduced price to help fund the mission as well.

Part 2 of this story will run in the April edition of the South County News.

K. Redmond Photography Honored

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Katie Redmond of Schoolcraft, on the left, is congratulated by Sarah Petty, the founder of the Julie Awards for boutique photography.

Katie Redmond Photography, of Schoolcraft, topped the short list of award winners during Go Boutique Live 2020, in Dallas, Texas in February. She was acclaimed at the international event honoring accomplishments of boutique photography businesses worldwide. Redmond earned the Julie, Yay, and 1K Charity Awards.

The Julie Awards are presented by the Joy of Marketing, the leading international education organization which honors excellence among boutique portrait photographers. “Katie Redmond has set the standard for providing the highest level of boutique experience to her photography clients,” said Sarah Petty, founder of the Julie Awards and a New York Times best-selling author. “This award is a testament to the dedication, skills, creativity and service required to provide a second-to-none wall portrait experience to her clients.”

Redmond is a boutique photographer in Schoolcraft, specializing in couture portraits for high school seniors, families and women of all ages.  “She has a passion for empowering women through photography and enjoys helping them to discover their confidence and beauty. She isn’t your typical photographer. Not only does she provide a boutique experience from start to finish, but as a portrait artist, she is skilled at creating large signature wall art for her clients, to decorate their homes and offices,” according to the award presenter.

The Julie Awards acknowledge the upper echelon of boutique photographers who are dedicated to serving their clients at a higher level through the creation of custom photography artwork for clients’ homes.


Andrew Donald Blodgett, 81, Schoolcraft passed Feb. 12. Andrew was born on October 17, 1938 in Kalamazoo. He was the middle son of Leroy and Sadie (Cook) Blodgett. On September 7, 1956, he married Joyce Ryskamp. They were married for 33 years and had six children together. He was part of the Schoolcraft community, from owning a local business, to serving the community on the village council and raising all six of his children there. He loved Schoolcraft and made it his home his entire life. He worked in the corporate world for Sears Roebuck and Company until he decided to follow his passion of working with plants. He opened the first Blodgett family business, Green Acres in 1967 on US 131 in Schoolcraft. He loved the nursery business and working with trees, flowers and shrubs. He later married Alicia Chavez Lopez on December 9, 2000. He and Alicia traveled back and forth from Schoolcraft to Alicia’s hometown of Los Reyes, Mexico. This became the headquarters for dispersing his goods to the indigenous people of Mexico. It became the focus of his life in creating his 501(c) 3, the Mission to the Poor that serves the poorest of poor in the inner regions of Mexico. During his travels, he dispersed thousands of shoes, clothing, and food. Andy is survived by his wife of 19 years, Alicia; children Terry W. (Cindy) Blodgett, Robin E. (Avery) Delaney, Kevin S. Blodgett, Pamela A. (Jerome Jonckheere) Blodgett and Anthony L. (Kristy) Blodgett; 25 grandchildren; 15 great grandchildren; and his first wife of 33 years, Joyce. He is also survived by his two brothers, Bud Blodgett and Dwight Blodgett; half siblings David and Caroline. He was preceded in death by his son, Andrew G. Blodgett, in 2010; granddaughter, Paige; half siblings Bertha and Dennis; and stepmother, Jean. Andrew will later be buried in Alicia’s hometown in Mexico. Donations may go to: Mission to the Poor or JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) and sent to: Pam Blodgett, 220 Lyon St., NW – Suite 540, Grand Rapids MI 49503. Visit Andrew’s page at

Clyde M. Covell, 93, Vicksburg passed away Feb. 18. Clyde was born on October 23, 1926 and was the son of Charles and Mary (Burger) Covell. Clyde graduated from Vicksburg High School. After high school, Clyde bravely served his country in the United States Army in the Philippines and Japan. Once he returned from the service he worked for Michigan Bell in Kalamazoo. He was an amateur radio operator for many years. Most of all, he loved growing up on a farm and being outdoors. He loved his tractors and also watching the trains go by. He loved going to his cabin in central Alaska. He was a very independent, organized, and proud farmer. He is survived by his two sons, Danny Covell, of Three Rivers and Timothy (Nancy) Covell, of Alaska; three grandchildren; two sisters and numerous nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents and nine siblings. Visit Clyde’s page at Donations may go to Generous Hands.

Sharon Eldred (nee Kudary), 70, Scotts, formerly of Vicksburg, passed away Feb. 21. She was born May 5, 1949 in Sturgis to the late Joseph and Clara (Ramsdell) Kudary. She is survived by her husband, Richard J. Eldred; son Shawn (Monica) Eldred; three wonderful grandchildren whom she loved dearly; brothers Jeff (Mary Ann) and Joe Kudary; sister Denise (Brian) Murray; nieces and nephews; and numerous lifelong friends. Private services will be held for the immediate family. Interment will take place in Gilson Cemetery. Memorial donations may be made to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital or a charity of one’s choice. Visit Sharon’s page at

Lloyd W. Harber, 94, Vicksburg, passed away Feb. 13. Lloyd was born on December 5, 1925 in Hannibal, Mo. He was the son of George and Ona (Boucher) Harber. Lloyd graduated from Vicksburg High School with the class of 1944. After high school he proudly served in the United State Navy during World War II. After the service he met Joyce Venhuis. They were married on November 7, 1947 in Vicksburg. He worked for over 30 years as a lead chemical operator for the Upjohn Company. He also worked hard helping laying cement blocks on various building projects around the community. For 16 winters he and Joyce enjoyed their time in Mission, Texas, where he learned the skill of wood carving. Lloyd is survived by his wife of 72 years, Joyce; children Norma Manley of Vicksburg and Jim Harber of Vicksburg; grandchildren Matt and Josh Harber, both of Kalamazoo; Jennifer (Shane) Cassel), of Grand Rapids; and Rich (Autumn) Mays, of Scotts; five great grandchildren and numerous nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his daughter, Nancy Mays; parents and three siblings. Lloyd will be cremated. No services are planned at this time. Visit Lloyd’s webpage at

Elwin Earl “Bud” Holtz and Mable Alice (Denney) Holtz, passed away peacefully just 10½ hours apart at the family home in Fulton. Elwin, 92, died Feb. 4. He was born in Scotts, on June 24, 1927, the son of the late Earl Lewis and Melva Mae (Wilcox) Holtz and was a fourth-generation lifelong resident of Wakeshma Township. He attended Athens area schools and served in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers during the Korean War.He worked at the Lee Paper Mill, Oliver Aviation, Kalamazoo Stove Company and Checker Motors. He was a successful farmer. He loved the Detroit Tigers and Lions. Mable, 88, died Feb. 5. She was born in Mendon Township on March 5, 1931, the daughter of the late Frederick and Goldie Mae (De Hoff) Denney. She graduated from Colon High School, attended MSU, and earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from WMU. She taught 11 years in one-room schools, and 19 years at Union City Schools. She had also worked at Lamb Knit, Sutherland Paper Company, Burgess Seeds, and the Haas Corporation. Mable and Elwin were married in 1953 and enjoyed their 66 years together. The couple visited 49 states, England, France, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Australia. They led a successful fight against starting a landfill in Wakeshma Township. Mable believed in the inalienable right to stick your nose in the government’s business. Elwin and Mable are survived by a daughter, Mary Alice Searer of Grand Haven; granddaughter, Sara K. Searer of New Port Richey, Fla. And great-grandchildren Sophia and Benjamin. Mable is survived by sisters Patricia Shepler-Carter of Athens and Dolores Loker of Vicksburg.  She was preceded in death by brothers, Arthur, Frederick, William, and Pete Denney; and by sisters Alma Guthrie, Doris Denney, Mary Denney, and Bertha Smith. Elwin was preceded in death by a sister, Lucille Pierson, and a brother, Lee Jay Holtz. Condolences may be shared at

Myra Jackson, 72, was born on May 25, 1947. Myra passed away peacefully on February 7. Possessing a passion for working with children, especially those with special needs, Myra dreamed of becoming a teacher. Upon graduating from Western Michigan University, she taught at Waylee School from 1970-1975. After raising her daughter and son and many years of substitute teaching, she returned to the classroom at Climax-Scotts Elementary school from 1987 until her retirement in 2007, when she was named Teacher of the Year. Her students were her joy and kept her feeling young. She believed in each one and desired that her students learn important life lessons even more than academic ones in order to make a positive impact in the world. She was a long-time member of Lakeland Reformed Church in Vicksburg, volunteering for the library, nursery, and Sunday School for decades. Myra was an inspiration to everyone. Her struggles with multiple sclerosis, her defeat of breast cancer, and her fight against lung cancer taught us how important determination, ingenuity, and an abundant amount of spunk are to overcoming the disappointments and challenges life brings. Myra is survived by her husband, Len Jackson; her children Jon (Sherry) Erickson, Tina (Derek) Vande Slunt, and Jeffrey (Jennifer) Jackson; grandchildren Noah, Micah, Jenna, Payton, and Blake; siblings Judith (Alfred) Hoffmann, Kenneth (Joann) Swieringa, and Roger (Betty) Swieringa: as well as many nieces, nephews, great-nieces, and great-nephews whom she dearly loved. Cremation has taken place. Visit her page at

Wayne C. Kucks, Vicksburg, passed away Feb. 15. Wayne was born December 8, 1928 in Detroit, the son of Karl Hein and Eliza Kucks. He served in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War. Wayne worked for more than 39 years with Durametallic, retiring in 1987 as plant supervisor. He co-owned Way-Ric Metallizing and ran a home machine shop. He played guitar in the Scottsburg Hometowner Band. Wayne worshipped at St. Michael Lutheran Church, was a life member of the Vicksburg VFW Post #5189, and volunteered at the Vicksburg Historical Museum. On November 27, 1982 he was united in marriage to his wife, June (Pangburn), who survives. Also surviving are children Elizabeth (Skip) Mangold, LuAnn Kucks, Christine Kucks, Eric (Becci) Kucks, Michelle Smith-Martin, Cheri Fether; 13 grandchildren; 16 great-grandchildren; brothers Edwin (Debbie) Hein, Larry (Sue) Myland; special friends, Barbara (John) Linder; and several nieces and nephews. Wayne was preceded in death by two sons, Paul H. and Ned R. Kucks; a brother, Karl, Jr; and a sister, Kathleen. Donations may go to St. Michael’s Lutheran Church Good Samaritan Fund or the Vicksburg VFW Post# 5189. Visit his page at

Julie Ann Middaugh, 61, Kalamazoo, passed away Feb. 17. Julie was born on October 22, 1958 in Kalamazoo. She was the daughter of Clifford and Nora (Skinner) Munn. She worked for a period of time as a certified nursing assistant for Tendercare and then for some home care businesses. Her family loved it when she made her mother’s recipe for date cookies. She enjoyed crafts and crocheting. Julie is survived by her children, Richard Middaugh of Kalamazoo, Sina (Sean) Kelly of Vicksburg, Eric (Beth) Ross of Lawton, Angela Middaugh of Vicksburg; grandchildren Grace Kelly, Nora Ross and Kylie Ross. She is also survived by siblings Mary (Douglas) Woodhams of Scotts and David Munn of Fulton; and her special dog, Crack Jack. She was preceded in death by her parents, daughter Becky Munn; and brothers John and Tom Munn. Visit her page at Donations may go to Generous Hands.

Donald Arthur Rand, 85, Vicksburg, died Feb. 19. He was born on March 18th, 1934 in Melrose, Wis., the oldest of seven children born to the late Arthur and Veda (Nimmo) Rand. He grew up in the Comstock area and graduated from Comstock High School in 1953. Don served in the United States Army as a military policeman from 1956-1958. He was stationed in Fort Hood, Texas and in Hawaii. He also spent three years in the Army Reserve, attaining the rank of sergeant first class. Upon his return from service, he married his high school sweetheart, Ellen May Curtis, on October 11th, 1958. They were married for 55 years until her death in 2014. He is survived by his three children, Lori (Jim) Markus, Wendy (Don) Gillespie, Don Rand Jr.; four grandchildren; three great grandchildren; brothers Verl (Joanna) Rand, Terry (Gail) Rand, Keith (Bev) Rand and Jim Rand; sister Shirley Rand Wilbert. He was also preceded in death by his brother, Jack Rand and Jack’s wife, Bev Rand. Don worked for the Allied Paper Company for almost 20 years. He worked for H.J. Cooper and then M&M Motor Mall until his retirement. Don discovered running in his 50s and was hooked. A collector, he would carry a bag while running and pick up anything that caught his eye. His highest running achievement was completing a half marathon. Don donated 237 units (29 gallons) of blood to the American Red Cross. Don was also an active member of the Vicksburg Lions Club. Donations may go to the American Red Cross. A private ceremony will be held at a later date. Visit his page at

Virginia Schuring, 77, Muir, formerly of Vicksburg, passed away Feb. 23. Virginia was born on December 13, 1942 in Vicksburg. She was the daughter of Ernest and Macella “Bid” (Mears) Erskine. She graduated from Vicksburg High School. On September 10, 1965, she married Robert Schuring and raised their kids in Vicksburg. In 1995, they moved to Muir. Virginia is survived by her four children, Gila (Bob) D’Agostino of Vicksburg, Charlie (Jodi) Schuring of Muir, Kimberly Schuring of Vicksburg, Christine (Joe Fouth) Mottor of Florida; grandchildren Nick Schuring of Muir, Lindsey Schuring of Muir, Justin (Vanessa) Tillison of Gobles;  Mitchell (fiancée: Lindsey) Mottor of Stanton, and Tyler (Bella) Mottor of Muir; great grandchildren Allison Mottor, Dean Mottor, Mason Tillison, and Eleanor Mottor. Virginia is survived by siblings Judy (Don) Hatfield of Ohio and John Erskine of Kentucky; special aunt Midge (Skip) Engelman of Portage; sister-in-law Bonnie Erskine of Scotts; best friends Mike and Lana Seiler of Muir; and nieces Stacy Erskine, and Shelly Hirdning. She was preceded in death by her husbands, Robert Schuring and Ronald Minnis, son Greg Schuring, brother Jim Erskine and her parents.

Phyllis Jean Simmons, 88, Climax, passed away Feb. 1. Phyllis was born May 23, 1931 on the family farm in Climax. She was the daughter of Sherry and Alma (Staffen) Baughman. She graduated from Climax High School in 1949. Phyllis was a member of the Scotts Elementary Mother’s Club for 11 years, Glowing Embers Girl Scouts for 15 years, 4-H leader for 10 years, Climax American Legion, Michigan Extension Service for 25 years, volunteered at the Fort Custer Post for the mentally challenged children, for many years did an Indian demonstration at Thanksgiving for various schools, authored a book on the experiences of her husband during the Korean War, member of Climax Volunteer Road Committee, Prairie Home Historical Society, member of Lucinda Hinsdale Stone Chapter DAR and National Society of the Daughters of the Union. Phyllis was also an elected official and served as trustee on the Climax Township Board for two years and supervisor on that board for six years. She was preceded in death by her husband, John P. Simmons, in 2003. She is survived by her children, John E. (Beth) Simmons of Caledonia and Sherry Low of Climax; grandchildren John Hollan (Danielle) Simmons of Wayland, Andrew Simmons of Caledonia, Justin (Sarah) Low, of Scotts, Nathan Low of Climax; great grandchildren Ruby, Teddy, Nico, Salinger, and Gerrit. Visit her page at Donations may go to the Prairie Home Historical Society.

Violet J. Spence, 88, of rural Vicksburg, died Feb. 23 at White Oaks Assisted Living in Lawton, surrounded by her family. She was born in Knoxville, Tenn. on June 4, 1931, the daughter of John R. and Mary O. (Crowe) Gentry. She graduated from Mendon High School with the class of 1949. She was married to John W. Spence on Dec. 16, 1949 in the West Mendon EUB Church. She directed the Youth Choir and taught Sunday School at church. Violet is survived by four children and their spouses, Mary Ellen (Steve) Houts of Three Rivers, Bob (Kathy) Spence of Mendon, Norma (Jay) Dahl of Mendon, and Jimmy (Diane) Spence of Three Rivers; grandchildren Christopher Houts, Chad (Kelly) Spence, Angie Crotser, Cory (Cindy) Munn, Kandi (Troy) Torres, Travis (Cassidy) Munn, Karlie (TJ) Clark, and Kendra (Lane) Duell; 18 great-grandchildren; sisters Bessie Jones of South Bend, Mary Patterson of Lansing, and Sharon (Sam) Rial of Colon; brothers Doug (Pat) Gentry of Battle Creek and Terry Gentry of Kalamazoo; several nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her parents; her husband, John; daughter, Sandra; sister, Althea Gentry; and brothers Robert “Sonny” Gentry, and Ronald Gentry. Donations may go to either Grace Hospice or the Alzheimer’s Association. Visit her page at

Leona “Elaine” Stephens, 76, Vicksburg, passed away Feb. 5. Elaine was born on March 11, 1943 in Sault Ste Marie. She was the daughter of Clifford and Leona Belle (Riley) Niskala. On September 8, 1959, she married her first husband, Ernest Bruseau in Newberry and had three children. On August 26, 1992 in Gatlinburg, Tenn., she married Gary Stephens. Prior to retiring, she worked as a department assistant and assembler for EPC Manufacturing. She was a member of the Ladies Library in Schoolcraft with her mother, making crafts for the bazaar, acting in a play, making cookies and any other activity that they had. She was a Girl Scout leader for many years and enjoyed every part of it. She was the keeper of the family history for many generations and loved to share this with others. Elaine loved going to zoos, camping and going back to her roots by visiting the Upper Peninsula. Elaine will be cremated, and the family will have a gathering at a later date. She is survived by her husband of 27 years, Gary Stephens; children Greg (Linda) Bruseau of Virginia and Teresa (David) DeYoung of Mattawan; grandchildren Derek (Haley) Bruseau of Montana and Kyle DeYoung of Kalamazoo. She is also survived by siblings DeLoryce Niskala-Bigrow of Kalamazoo, John Niskala of Allegan and Linda Niskala of Kalamazoo; and numerous nieces, nephews and cousins. She was preceded in death by her parents, her husband, Ernest, her brother, Clifford and her daughter, Brenda (deceased prenatal). Visit Elaine’s page at Donations may go to the American Lung Association.