Schoolcraft Sports Teams

MHSAA adjusts spring schedule

The Michigan High School Athletic Association has adjusted the spring 2021 schedule, delaying the start of practices in those sports by a week to March 22 and competition to March 26 to accommodate a later end to winter sports.

The calendar change should ease pressure on indoor facility usage and athletes changing seasons, with winter sports concluding up to two weeks later this school year after a delayed start due to COVID-19.

The association’s Representative Council based its decision in part on feedback from a survey of MHSAA member high schools, which saw 74 percent favoring a delay in spring sports activity of at least a week. State coaches’ associations for spring sports also were consulted. Generally, the great majority of Michigan schools are unable to begin consistent spring sports outdoor activity and competition until early April.

All spring sports tournament dates remain as originally scheduled, with MHSAA Finals in baseball, softball and girls’ soccer concluding the 2020-21 postseason June 19.

The entire spring sports season was canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19. However, the Council approved an allowance for spring teams to meet for voluntary practices over 16 contact days in September and October. General conditioning with an unlimited number of students is currently allowed, with other out-of-season training (four-player workouts, open gyms/facilities) allowed to continue through March 21, with the council having eliminated the preseason downtime restriction for spring sports this year.

Eagles bowling on a roll

By Mark Blentlinger

High school bowling was able to start up at the end of January since it is not considered a contact sport, though with masks mandated for competition. Schoolcraft bowling returned all underclassmen from last season’s teams; no new bowlers joined this season. Returning for the girls from last season is lone senior Maya Pearce, junior Brynleigh Macinnes, sophomores Alayna Meade, Catie Wright, Molly Pearce, Clair McIntyre and Haley Earles. Boys returning this season are seniors Max Desmond, Kyle Fleck, Zach McGill and Brian Crofoot; junior Simon Sheen; sophomores Shaun Sampsell and Ian McDonald.

With a shortened season – it would have normally started Nov. 16 and finished the first weekend of March for the State Championship – bowling began Jan. 25 and will end March 26-27 for teams that qualify for the state championships. The Schoolcraft boys’ team has a record of 5-3 overall, posting wins against Martin, Kalamazoo Christian, Burr Oak (twice) and Niles. Losses were to Niles, Bronson and Constantine. Leading the boys’ team in average is senior Max Desmond with 194, followed by fellow senior Brian Crofoot with 167. The girls’ team has a record of 5-2-1 with wins against Kalamazoo Christian, Burr Oak (twice), Bronson and Constantine, losses to Niles (twice) and a tie with Martin. Leading the averages for the girls is senior Maya Pearce with 150, followed by sophomore Alayana Meade with 124. The bowling teams will be participating in the divisional tournament on March 12 at Continental Lanes in Portage. They then will head to division 4 regional championships on March 19 and 20 with a location yet to be determined. If either team finishes in the top three places out of 16 teams, they will advance onto the Division 4 state championships on March 26-27. If any bowler ends the day in the top 10 out of 100 bowlers, they will earn a spot in the Division 4 Individual State Championship.

Wrestling season begins

By Mark Blentlinger

Schoolcraft wrestlers have been able to hit the mats finally, with their first contest Feb. 13 at the Allegan Quad match including Fennville and Coldwater. The Eagle grapplers were able to come away the first match of the season 3-0, posting wins against host Allegan 63-18, Coldwater 60-18 and Fennville 69-12. Four days later, they headed south to Constantine to compete against the hosting Falcons, Gobles and Fennville. Again, the Eagles posted wins against Fennville 66-18 and Gobles 70-11.

On the 20th, the Eagles made their way to Bronson High school gym to face off against the hosting Vikings and Bucks from Buchanan. After suffering the first loss of this shortened season to the Vikings, 38-58, they were able to bounce back and post a lopsided win against Buchanan 54-9, giving the Eagles a 6-1 record so far. The Eagles will be on the road again Feb 24th at Lawton High school against the Blue Devils and Rams of Galesburg. New guidelines for this season have the wrestlers able to compete twice a day. The Eagles’ next events will be in Delton, Parchment and Gull Lake before districts start March 17.

Basketball starting hot

By Mark Blentlinger

After the MHSAA cleared them to move forward with winter contact sports earlier than first planned, the Eagles picked right up where they left off last year. The Schoolcraft boys’ basketball team was the only team left in the state with an undefeated record, 21-0. On Feb. 11, it continued the undefeated streak, defeating Delton Kellogg 62-47. The Rams from Galesburg-Augusta were next to fall, 86-34. With Hackett Catholic prep, the Eagles were able to continue winning, defeating the Irish 70-54. The team’s record continued with a lopsided win 61-15 Feb. 18 against the Tigers from Gobels. Constantine was the next hopeful. The Falcons lost as well, 67-23. The team next traveled across town to Kalamazoo Christian High School , defeating the comets 63-53. The Eagles were scheduled to head to Parchment on the 26th, to Covenant Christian High on the 27th, and to Delton March 3.

Obituaries

Mark D. Barnebee, 58, Vicksburg, passed away Feb. 6, 2021. Mark was born on Dec. 26, 1962 in Kalamazoo, the son of James and Judith (Olin) Barnebee. Mark graduated from Vicksburg High School with the class of 1981. On July 25, 1998 he married Dawn Griffith and together they had one daughter, Ashley. For the past eight years Mark has worked for Pfizer as a chemical operator, and prior to that he worked at Harborlite Corporation. In his spare time he enjoyed grilling, playing golf, going to the casino, and spending time with family. He followed University of Michigan sports, the Dallas Cowboys and the Red Wings. Mark is survived by his wife, Dawn; daughter Ashley Barnebee of Portage; and one grandchild on the way. He is also survived by his mother, Judith Barnebee of Portage; brother Scott (Jenifer) Barnebee of Vicksburg; and several nieces and nephews. Mark will be cremated, and due to COVID restrictions, a gathering to honor his memory is being planned for a later date. Visit Mark’s page at mccowensecord.com. Donations may go to the Alzheimer’s Association or Generous Hands.

Joyce Elizabeth Blodgett, 82, Schoolcraft, passed away at her home Feb. 23, 2021. She was born on Sept. 6, 1938 in Kalamazoo, the daughter of Lester and Helen (Wright) Ryskamp. She graduated from Kalamazoo Central High School in 1956. On Sept. 7, 1957 she married the late Andrew D. Blodgett. They were married for 33 years and raised their family in Schoolcraft. Andy and Joyce opened the first Blodgett family business, Green Acres, in 1967, and later Andrea’s Flower Shop located on US-131 in Schoolcraft. She worked over 20 years at Hudson’s and retired from Macy’s. She was preceded in death by her son, Andrew G. Blodgett; granddaughter Paige Bilicke; and brother Lester Ryskamp. Surviving are her children Terry W. (Cindy) Blodgett, Robin L. (Avery) Delaney, Kevin S. Blodgett, Pam (Jerry Jonckheere) Blodgett, Tony (Kristy) Blodgett; younger sister Carol (Sam) Pilat and her baby sister Linda (Mike) Dunphey; 25 grandchildren and 21 great-grandchildren. Donations may go to Schoolcraft Assembly of God, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, or sent to Pam Blodgett, 220 Lyon St., NW – Suite 540, Grand Rapids, MI 49503. Visit her page at avinkcremation.com.

Randall (Randy) John Frakes, 66, Panama City Beach, Fla., formerly of Vicksburg, passed away Feb. 9, 2021, after a long illness. Randy, born on March 28, 1954, was a talented artist, and had a passion for cooking and entertaining. Wherever his home, it was a gathering place full of good times and friends. Even during his illness, he would prepare delightful dinners for guests. He was a nurturer of all, forever taking in stray cats, feeding and caring for them as well. During his earlier years, he enjoyed hunting, especially squirrel and deer with members of the family. It was a must to be in Sidnaw, Mich. on Nov. 15 for the opening of deer season. Randy is survived by his partner of 25 years, Richard King, sisters Barbara (Ted) Sanger and Karen (Steve) Marshall, sister-in-law Cyndi Frakes, niece Heather Frakes, nephews Jason (Missy) Sanger, Kell (Brittany) Sanger, Jonathan (Michelle) Frakes, Ben, Jake and Matthew Marshall, several great nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents, John and Marjorie (Baldwin) Frakes, and brother John L. Frakes. Donations may go to their local humane society in his name.

Barbara Jean (Munn) Griner, Vicksburg, passed away Feb. 6, 2021. Barbara was born June 6, 1922, the daughter of Mercer and Florence (Godshalk) Munn. Growing up in Vicksburg, Barbara’s early life centered on family, the community, and her church. She graduated from Vicksburg High School with the class of 1942, then attended business college and worked for her father’s insurance business. This business suited her well, and she eventually worked for Schuring Insurance, retiring in 1990. Friends introduced her to Donald Guy Griner, and they were married on May 15, 1946. They settled in Vicksburg and raised their three daughters, Lynn, Beth, and Karla. She encouraged all of her girls’ endeavors, often volunteering her time and talents. The family looked forward to their traditional events, including trips to their cabin in Lovells, Michigan, and attending the St. Joseph County Fair. Barbara enjoyed time spent with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Donations may go to Vicksburg United Methodist Church. Visit Barbara’s page please at mccowensecord.com.

Carol Ann Henderson, 80, Scotts, passed away Feb. 10, 2021. She was born May 3, 1940 in Parchment, the daughter of Peter and Ethel (Morris) Fish. She graduated from Vicksburg High School in 1958. Following graduation, she married the love of her life, Richard Henderson, on Dec. 6, 1958. They were together for 62 years, and together raised three wonderful children, Rebecca, Bradley, and Brent. She retired from Fidelity after 17 years of service and enjoyed traveling south during the winter months. She also loved camping, fishing, mushroom hunting, travelling to Canada and spending time with her grandchildren and her many cats. She was preceded in her passing by her parents. Carol is survived by her husband Richard; children Rebecca (Jerry) Dunklee, Bradley (Vonda) Henderson,and Brent (Joan) Henderson; several grandchildren and great grandchildren; and many nieces and nephews. Services have been held. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan. Visit her page at mccowensecord.com.

John Albert Hodgman, 77, Vicksburg, passed away Feb. 19, 2021. John was born on Jan. 31, 1944 in Kalamazoo, the son of Albert Theo Hodgman and Ruth Agnes (Kaiser). He was a lifelong resident of Vicksburg, graduating from Vicksburg High School in 1962. He honorably served the United States Armed forces until his discharge in 1965. His mother introduced him to the love of his life, Jacque, and they were married on April 1, 1966. John was employed with National Waterlift/Parker Hannifin from 1965 until his 2004 retirement. He was a man of few words who loved his family, friends, all things Harley Davidson and racing related, as well as the Detroit Lions and Tigers. He was preceded in death by his parents; sisters Lila Burgess and Joyce Phelps; and brothers George Hodgman and Roy Hodgman. He is survived by his wife of 54 years, Jacqueline (Havinga) Hodgman; children Cindy (Mike) Waldon and John (Martha) Hodgman; grandson Mike Waldon; sister Claudia Burgess; and many nieces and nephews. Cremation has taken place and a celebration of his life will be held on a later date. Donations may go to Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan and Senior Services Meals on Wheels. The family is being assisted by Avink Funeral Home and Cremation Society, Schoolcraft.

Jerry Houser, 93, Vicksburg, passed away Feb, 1, 2021. Jerry was born on Jan. 26, 1928 in Pontiac, the son of George and Ruby (Martin) Houser. Cremation has taken place per Jerry’s wishes. The family is being assisted by McCowen & Secord Family Funeral Homes, Rupert-Durham Chapel.

Robert “Bob” D. McCowen, 74, Clark Lake, Mich., passed away in Fort Myers, Fla. Jan. 31, 2021. Bob was born on Jan. 21, 1947 in Kalamazoo, the son of Robert H. and Vivian J. (Smith) McCowen. Bob graduated from University High in Kalamazoo with the class of 1965. He went to Michigan State University where he earned a degree in management. He got a degree in accounting at Western Michigan University and became a CPA. On May 21, 1994 he married Sue McCowen. He is survived by his wife Sue; children Steve (Jenny) McCowen, of Schoolcraft, Jeff (Melanie) McCowen of Virginia, Heather Cordell of Jackson, Michelle (Reggie) Chapa of Texas, and Andy (Kristen) Cordell of Kalamazoo; grandchildren Mackenzie, Joey, Stephen, Nicholas, Katherine, Morgan, Madelyn, Nathan, Dylan, Emma and Evan. He is also survived by his mother, Vivian McCowen, of Kalamazoo; sister-in-law Rose McCowen of Georgia; and nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his father, Robert H. McCowen and brother Tom McCowen. Visit his page at mccowensecord.com. Donations may go to Clark Lake Spirit Foundation, clarklakespirit.com.

Joseph E. Olney III, 66, Vicksburg-Schoolcraft area, passed away at home Feb. 12, 2021 of congestive heart failure/COPD. He was born Nov. 6, 1954, to Joseph E. Olney II and Patricia (Cousins) Olney-Ross. He was raised in the Fulton area and worked most of his life as a machinist/welder with various companies, retiring eventually on disability due to problems with heart and spina bifida. He married Christine Ludwig-Rodriquez in 1989 and helped raise her two daughters. He was an avid morel mushroom hunter and fisherman and loved cars. He was preceded in death by his wife, parents, a step-granddaughter, and a niece and nephew. Surviving are step-daughters Wendy and Heather Rodriquez; step-grandchildren Caleb Sugden, Jace and HarLeigh; step great-grandson Leigham Sugden; brother Michael (Kim) Olney; sisters Judy Noel, Beverly (Thomas) Compton, and Deborah (Charles) Rife; and step-brothers Terry (Karin Thorne) Ross and Thomas Ross. Donations may go to Seventh Day Adventist Church.

Sue A. Ripley, 78, passed away Feb. 6, 2021. Sue was born on June 16, 1942 to Lawrence and Elizabeth (Strait) Miller. Sue is survived by her sister, Jodie (Terry) Cripps; son Brian (Tamela) Campbell; daughter Kris Campbell; and grandchildren Brenda (Jim) Backoff and Rich Campbell. She was preceded in death by her parents, brother and sister-in-law Michael (Mick) and Caroline Miller; and her husband, Robert (Bob) Ripley. After graduating with the Central High School class of 1960 in Muncie, Ind., Susie attended Ball State University, earning her associate degree as a secretary. She worked as an HR technician for more than 25 years at the Upjohn Company. There she met Bob; they were married in 1988. Sue and Bob shared many interests including a love of water and boating, socializing with friends, traveling to warm, sunny destinations, and watching sports. Sue’s deepest happiness came from being surrounded by her family and the people she loved. Visit her page at mccowensecord.com.

Terry Marshall Smith, 68, Portage, formerly of Vicksburg, passed away on Feb. 4, 2021. He was born to Belmonte and Gloria (Gilley) Smith on Feb. 22, 1952, in Kalamazoo and grew up in Fulton. He was a 1970 graduate of Vicksburg High School, where he enjoyed playing sports, excelling in football and track. He also joined a band with some fellow classmates, playing the bass guitar. During the spring of his senior year in high school, he suffered a horrible head injury while pole vaulting. He dealt with the after-effects of that injury and many more physical ailments the remainder of his life. Through it all, he rarely complained and truly was, in his own words, “tough, just plain tough.” He worked at the Kalamazoo County Road Commission for 30 years, and his family was a great source of pride to him. Terry is survived by his three children, Jeff (Erin), Ben (Michelle) and Andrew; 14 grandchildren; and siblings Dan (Vicki) Smith, Steve (Judy) Smith and Donna (Dwight) Blodgett. He was preceded in death by his parents. Services have been held. Donations may go to the Vicksburg High School Athletic Boosters.

Ronald John Spiker, 83, Schoolcraft, passed away at Bronson Hospital Feb. 1, 2021 after sustaining injuries from a tractor accident on his farm. Ron was born and raised in Kalamazoo and was a graduate of Kalamazoo Central’s class of 1955. Ron joined the Navy and was stationed at the Naval Air Station in Kingsville, Texas, from 1955-1958. Ron worked as an air traffic controller with the FAA until 1981, forming many lifelong friendships. He worked in many busy control towers, including Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, Detroit, Hawaii and Oklahoma.  Ron was a proud member of the Operating Engineers Local 324 from which he retired in 1999. Ron enjoyed family, being outdoors, gardening, hunting, and Tiger baseball. Ron is survived by his children, John (Barbara) Spiker and Susan (Neil) Farrell; grandchildren John (Camilla) Herron, Myra (Nathan) Delaney, Jessica Farrell, Christina (Michael) Dimovski; and great-grandchildren Katelynn Delaney, William Delaney, Aleksandar Dimovski, Ivan Dimovski and Saoirse Herron. He was preceded in death by his parents, John and Stella (Fus) Spiker.

Richard Wayne Tully, 79, Schoolcraft, passed away Feb. 11, 2021. Richard was born June 24, 1941 in Charleston, West Virginia. His family moved to Mt. Pleasant, where he met Barbara Kay Johnston. They were married July 1, 1961. He joined the U.S. Army, serving from 1961-1964. He was stationed in Fort Benning, Georgia and was honorably discharged as a sergeant. The young family moved to Albion and eventually settled in Schoolcraft, where Richard started a driving career, hauling liquid oxygen for AGA Burdox (Gases), retiring in 1998. Richard was a devout Christian and loved music. Richard was preceded in death by his wife of almost 60 years, Barbara Kay Johnston; daughter Dyana Lee Johnson (Brett); granddaughter Eliya Monet Rain Hayward; parents Silas Edgar and Rebecca; and brother David Tully. He is survived by his daughters and sons-in law Angie (Russell) Hayward of Mattawan, Becky (Nathan) Volker of Allegan, Cindy (Bill) Hetrick of Vicksburg and Brett Johnson of Portage; grandchildren David (Katie) Hayward, Kerigan Hayward, Cole (Kate) Hayward, Molly Hayward, Seth Hayward, Randi (Frank) Salisbury, Jordan (Carissa) Hayward, Ben Hayward, Leah Hayward, Tatum Hayward, Daniel (Rochelle) Stroud, Jimmy (Deziree) Page, Bridgette (Gideon) Page, Emmaline (Kyle) Harvey, Jeremiah Johnson, Zechariah Johnson; and 21 great-grandchildren; brother Daniel Tully; sister Gloria Murphy; and many nieces and nephews. Donations may go to Schoolcraft Assembly of God Benevolent Fund. Visit his page at langelands.com.

Joel Lynn Ulsh, 73, Vicksburg, passed away Feb. 17, 2021. He was born Aug. 27, 1947 in Kalamazoo, the son of Eldon and Arlene (Richards) Ulsh. Joel attended Vicksburg High School before finishing his GED while serving in the United States Army. He moved from Michigan to California in the 1980s and began his lifelong passion of working with cars. One of Joel’s favorite hobbies was to track his family’s genealogy. He was very proud of following his family tree all the way back to 1300s Germania. He was preceded in passing by his parents; siblings Bill, Eldonna, and two baby brothers. Surviving are his wife of 35 years, Louella (Baptista) Ulsh; children Joel, Tracy, Toni, Jason, and Cassidy; siblings Don and Jerry; and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. In accordance with Joel’s wishes, cremation has taken place, and he will be laid to rest with his father and grandparents at Beard Cemetery. While visiting Joel’s tribute, please take a moment to light a candle and share a memory. The Ulsh family is being assisted by McCowen & Secord Funeral Homes.

Charles Van Ostran, 85, Climax-Scotts area, passed away Jan. 29, 2021 at Hospice of Kalamazoo. Charles was born Dec. 17, 1935 in Traverse City to Charles and Marie Van Ostran. Charles met his wife, Deanna Jean Brown, in high school. Charles proposed to Dee at the Cheery Bowl Drive-In Theater, and they were married on Oct. 19, 1954. They moved to Kalamazoo, where he worked for Rex Paper Company. Then in 1965, Charles was hired by General Motors, where he spent 30 years as a journeyman tool and die maker. He retired in 1995 and moved to Climax-Scotts where he enjoyed gardening, sports, fishing, and vacationing in Traverse City with Kathy and Neil. Charles is survived by his wife of 66 years, Deanna; brothers Bert (Pam) and Lyle; sisters Doris (Ed) and Ruth; sons Charles (Nancy), Scott (Carmin) and Doug (Dee); several aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren. Charles was preceded in death by his mother and father, his son Terry and his granddaughter Jennifer.

Michael Gale Voss, 54, Marcellus, passed away at home Jan. 26, 2021, surrounded by his family. Michael was born in Kalamazoo on May 2, 1966, the son of Gale Alden Voss and Patricia Ann Wdowicki. On Mar. 28, 1992, in Paw Paw, he married DeeAnn (Melville) Voss, who survives. Michael was a lab technician, working for many years at J. Rettenmaier USA of Schoolcraft. He also enjoyed his seasonal time working at Melville’s Campground in Marcellus. Michael most enjoyed spending his time outdoors fishing, boating and camping. Michael is survived by his father, Gale Voss of Schoolcraft; wife DeeAnn (Melville) Voss; brothers Brad (Korey Flick) Voss of Vicksburg and Jeff (Irene) Voss of Plainwell; sister Joni Voss of Kalamazoo; daughter Abigail Voss; and sons Alex (Kristi) Voss and Austin (Emily Nettie) Voss, all of Marcellus. Michael was preceded in death by his mother. Services have been held. Donations may go to West Michigan Cancer Center or to Elara Hospice Care. Visit his page at materralstonfuneralhome.com.

Marilyn June David-Irwin-Wilson, 90, went to be with her Lord on Feb. 11, 2021 at Country Living of Hillsdale. She was born in Mason on August 8, 1930, to William and Mary Benham, who predeceased her. An in-person and virtual memorial service was to be held at the Hillsdale Church of the Nazarene on Feb. 20 with Rev. Mike Prince officiating. The family is encouraging friends and family to join virtually in celebrating her life. Due to COVID-19 and family health conditions, the family is requesting all who attend in-person to wear a mask. Marilyn has been interred at Vicksburg Cemetery beside her first husband, Royal David. Marilyn had a passion for mission work. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Hillsdale Church of the Nazarene to be used for missions. Please make checks payable to Hillsdale Church of the Nazarene, 208 N West St. Hillsdale MI 49242. A full obituary can be viewed at http://www.mccowensecord.com.

Spring is just around the corner

By Kathy Oswalt-Forsythe

February draws to a close, and while we do enjoy the variety of our state’s seasons, we sure are ready for the warmth and sunshine of a Michigan spring! This morning, the sun is shining, the robins are at our feeders and the sandhill cranes are calling. Warm weather is nearly here!

Many thanks to our area’s snow removal crews. Winter’s snows were slow to arrive this year, but when the snows hit, it seems like our neighborhoods and villages were plowed in record time.

During January and February, local children enjoyed sledding down the hill near the Vicksburg Cemetery on W Avenue. Many children enjoyed sledding for years on a similar hill that used to stand between Vicksburg High School and Middle School which was leveled as Vicksburg Community Schools developed and expanded their sports complex. We spent a few hours at the new hill with our grandchildren in mid-February, and I am thankful that Caleb and Chloe could enjoy this free, timeless fun.

Schoolcraft and Vicksburg winter sports team pictures appear in this month’s issue. COVID restrictions and illnesses have offered many challenges for our schools and athletic programs. The South County News Team appreciates both districts’ athletic departments and Lisa Harbor for providing photographs to feature in the paper, a tradition our athletes and their families have appreciated for years.

Congratulations Taylor Dent of Vicksburg. Taylor is on the Deans’ List at Saginaw State University.

Area school staff members are receiving their second dose of the Coronavirus vaccine. This is encouraging and cause for celebration, as evidenced by science teacher Kim Armitage’s attire on February 25, the day of the second dose for Vicksburg Community School’s staff. Kim is known for her enthusiasm, creativity, and fun-loving nature. Students and staff enjoyed her “Vaccination Queen” outfit.

Thank you for your continued support of the South County News. If you have an idea for a story, please let us know. Wonderful people and opportunities exist in our area, and with your help, we can share events that otherwise might go unreported.

Thanks also for your financial support. If you are able, please consider contributing. Your donations make this publication possible.

Fishing at its best and coldest

By Kathy DeMott

There are those who love to fish. Then there are ice fishers. They face frigid temperatures bundled in layers of clothing, pulling a sled filled with supplies to sit on bucket seats for hours on a frozen lake in hopes of catching the next big one. For some, it is a way to enjoy the outdoors, time with friends, or “a place to go when I get on my wife’s nerves.” For many, it’s family tradition.

South County has a plethora of lakes to choose from, each with its unique draw. Sunset Lake is often one of the first lakes to freeze so fishers come early to catch blue gill. Hogsett Lake has pike and a sledding hill for the kids. Deeper lakes like Indian and Portage are great for perch.

Safety is critical. Proper clothing is required; the better insulated, the longer one can fish. Ice fishing float suits are designed to help you float until you can climb to safety if the ice breaks. If this happens, roll to safer ice before standing. Fishing with others is recommended.

Once suited up, bring an ice spud to check the thickness of the ice. According to the Michigan DNR, there is no reliable “inch-thickness” to determine safety. The strongest ice is clear with a bluish tint while weak ice appears milky. Slush on ice weakens it and snow-covered ice insulates it, which could slow the freezing process or weaken the ice. Avoid open waters or shores with water present.

Don Kinney, 72, has been fishing since he was five. “If there’s a fish to be had in Vicksburg, I know where it lives. I’m a fishing fool.” He likes the convenience of Sunset and Hogsett because they are close to the beaches and easy to access. Austin Nufer says, “ice fishing allows you to fish in places you can’t access with a boat.”

Scott Byers of Vicksburg enjoys making memories with his children. He admits it can be work, drilling holes, moving site to site, but says, “Ice fishing is like a fishing bonus.” Courtney Zuniga says the cold temps are worth the reward of fresh fish.

There are plenty of fish stories such as catching a 31-inch pike on Indian Lake, a six-pound bass on Sunset, and a 42-inch pike on Portage. It’s part of the thrill. John Kiel of Schoolcraft grew up fishing with his dad and brother and now is teaching his daughters. Once while tip-up fishing with friends they tried hotdogs as bait on half the lines. After an evening of cards, coffee, and camaraderie, they had caught just as many pike with hotdogs as with shiners.

Double L Bait and Marine on South Sprinkle Road tries to keep a variety of perch minis, shiners, wax worms, and suckers as well as ice fishing supplies. Owner Clarence LaComb said ice fishers like to “chat it up” when they stop in; he enjoys the interactions. Whether they’re an avid ice fisher or just getting started, he invites them to stop by for supplies, bait, safety tips and a few good fish stories.

Schoolcraft Eagle’s Nest, making a difference

Schoolcraft Food Pantry volunteers Peggy Crissman and Jan McNally.

By Kathy DeMott

An eagle’s nest is where the eagles prepare for and raise their offspring. Eagles mate for life and return to the same nest each year for shelter and protection. Appropriately named, the Schoolcraft Eagle’s Nest is nestled next to the elementary school and provides a home for programs that support families.

Schoolcraft Friday Pack is a 501c3 nonprofit organization operated by volunteers and donations. According to President Jill Strake, the mission is to provide nutritional weekend food packs for food-insecure students in their school district, similar to the Generous Hands program in Vicksburg.

Many volunteers, including students and retirees, collect and pack prepackaged food and snacks for weekends, summer and holiday breaks. The packs are then discreetly put in lockers weekly. Families are referred by school staff or can contact Friday Pack directly.

The Eagle’s Nest is also home to the Schoolcraft Food Pantry which began at the local First Presbyterian Church. It’s now a satellite of South County and part of Loaves and Fishes. According to Jan McNally, the mission is to provide monthly nonperishable food for at-risk families in the Schoolcraft school district. McNally, along with Peggy Crissman and Nancy Rafferty, coordinate the pantry. Rafferty, whose heart is to help others without judgment and with confidentiality asks, “Are you in need and do you want help?”

Crissman said, “No child or person should go hungry. We could feed everyone if we put our minds to it. It’s our community that makes this food bank successful.” The main source of food comes from the school food drives each year. In 2020, they reached out to the community through fliers and Facebook for their annual food drive, and the community responded generously.

Many churches, businesses, individuals, and clubs help financially as well as the volunteers that clean the building, pack and deliver food monthly to 19 families and 36 seniors and adults. Harding’s in Schoolcraft also helps with food and certificates, and has a donation bin at the store. The library has a bin and has donated books to families with children.

To learn more or receive benefits call Eagle’s Nest at 269-488-5847.

To donate, write checks to: Schoolcraft Friday Pack Inc. P.O Box 50, 629 E. Clay Street, Schoolcraft, MI 49087.

For food pantry: Schoolcraft First Presbyterian Church, P.O. Box 635, Schoolcraft, MI 49087 with “food pantry” in memo line. Contributions are tax-deductible.

Adams Kids, another organization aimed at helping the needs of infants, closed Dec. 31.

Penny Allen, Sue Kuiper and Brenda Bowers launched Adam’s Kids to help provide diapers, wipes and formula for infants. The name of the project was a tribute to Brenda’s son, Adam Worrall, a Vicksburg student who died unexpectedly of a heart condition. He was known as a giver of his time and heart for others.

For 12 years, Adam’s Kids provided the supplies to those in need. As it grew, it reached out to local churches to provide satellite locations for families. The churches began to handle the need, Kuiper said, and Adams Kids began to receive fewer requests. Most of those were coming from Kalamazoo and Portage residents.

Organizers decided needs were being met elsewhere and decided to close.Remaining supplies were donated to Twelve Baskets. For help, contact Maternal Infant Health programs for referrals at (833) MI4-MIHP (644-6447) or by e-mail at mihp@michigan.gov.