Category Archives: Schoolcraft

Community Caroling

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Schoolcraft residents gather in 2016 to sing their hearts out while caroling throughout the village. Photo by Stephanie Blentlinger, Lingering Memories Photography.

Caroling in Schoolcraft has brought happiness to shut-ins and carolers alike the last two years. Organized by Darby Fetzer and the Schoolcraft Community Library staff, the singers have gone from door to door to bring joy throughout the community.

Anyone who loves to sing is invited to join their neighbors on Tuesday, December 18th at 6:30 p.m. They will meet at the Schoolcraft Community Library, then travel to several choice Schoolcraft locations for caroling. Everyone is invited, even if they are not a resident of Schoolcraft. Please dress for the weather and bring a flashlight to read the provided printed carols. Kirk Bergland will be leading the singing. Afterwards everyone is invited to warm up with complimentary hot chocolate and cookies at the Library until 8 p.m. For questions, please call Darby Fetzer at 569-5557.

A Gift to Those Passing Thru Schoolcraft on Christmas Eve

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John Barnett displays the luminaria packets that the Presbyterian Church sells to decorate the streets in Schoolcraft.

By Linda Lane

Luminarias will again light the sidewalks of Schoolcraft on both sides of Grand Street (US 131) with 600 candles burning bright. Running from Lyons Street south to the railroad tracks on Grand Street, the Village of Schoolcraft will be aglow thanks to the dedicated members of the First Presbyterian Church of Schoolcraft and many volunteers from the Village.

John Bambacht, an elder with the Presbyterian Church in Schoolcraft, has been in charge of the luminaria project for over 20 years. “Each week of December we light one Advent candle which represents love, joy, hope, and peace, following in Christ’s tradition. On Christmas Day, we light the Christ candle. Our luminarias along Grand Street symbolize these Advent principles celebrating Christmas,” Bambacht said.

The project seems truly to take a village, with cooperation between the Presbyterian Church, the village of Schoolcraft, local businesses and many village residents. The endeavor requires three days of volunteers helping to organize the project. The Church calls upon families, kids and adults, to help fill jugs with sand and candles on December 23, load them onto a truck to light and distribute the luminarias on Christmas Eve, and return on Christmas morning to pick them up again. The public is welcome to lend a hand with the project. Volunteers will gather at noon on Christmas Eve at the First Presbyterian Church, 224 E Cass St. to set up. The candles will be lit at dusk.

Several local businesses such as Concept Molding donate jugs used for the luminarias and a big lighted arrow construction sign is donated by Rathco to narrow the traffic on US-131 into the center lanes to provide safety for volunteers putting out the luminarias.

The Presbyterian Church will again offer kits for the public to purchase for their own use at homes in town. Two nicely packaged kits including 10-hour candles, bags, and candle burn cup will be available: a kit of eight candles for $10 and a kit of 16 for $20. Residents will need to provide their own sand, kitty litter or dirt for the luminarias. Residents may contact the Presbyterian Church office on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday between 9 a.m.-noon at 269-679-4062.

Proceeds from the luminarias sale and support of area merchants go into the luminary fund to continue this Schoolcraft tradition. It supports the Presbyterian Church’s philosophy: “It is our gift to those passing through Schoolcraft on Christmas eve.”

Schoolcraft Retiree Holiday Dinner on Dec. 13

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Senior citizens have been invited to share a meal with the administrators of the Schoolcraft School system each year. It’s a chance for area residents to learn what is happening and ask questions about the facilities.

Schoolcraft residents can start their holidays gathering with Schoolcraft friends and neighbors at the high school cafeteria at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, December 13 for a complimentary Holiday Dinner. The menu includes salad, meatloaf, mashed potatoes, green beans, roll and brownies for dessert prepared by the school’s kitchen crew. The evening will feature special music, district updates with time for questions from the guests.

To make a reservation, call Darby Fetzer at 269-569-5557.

The Rally Call of the Schoolcraft Community

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The field was cleaned up just in time for the football players to get dirty.

By Mark Blentlinger

Overnight on November 10, the football field in Schoolcraft was blanketed with just over five inches of snow. The Schoolcraft Eagles football team would be facing the Montague Wildcats at 1 p.m. on Saturday for the Regional championship game and a chance to play on, with hopes of making it to Ford Field the day after Thanksgiving.

The Schoolcraft field crew knew what had to be done. At 6 a.m. the clean-up started. The call went out for anyone willing to help and to bring shovels, snow blowers and high-powered leaf blowers.

The call was answered. Community residents, parents of players, farmers and businesses showed up to do whatever they could. They did an amazing job of clearing the field by game time, according to Athletic Director Jeff Clark. All of the icy snow had been removed and piled high along the sidelines. Owners of Pine View Golf Course showed up with a tractor, pulling a huge leaf blower to help loosen the remaining ice. J & J Farms brought in heaters to be used on the Eagles sideline to help keep players and coaches warm.

Every single one of the volunteers deserve a huge thank you, Clark said. He credits the following and hopes that no one was forgotten. But in case any contributor was left out, he said, “Please forgive and know your help was deeply appreciated.” His list: Matt and Marc Fox, Wendy Fox, Jennifer Gottschalk, Jason Walther, Wade Rutkoskie, Kristin Flynn, David Knowlton, Michelle Hamlin, Jason Crouch, Jeff VanderWiere, Pat Wujkowski, Jason and Josh Jager, Jeff Clark, Bret and Teri Blalock, Lori Hart, Nick Perez, Eric McGehee, Tim Pastol, Dan and Jack Devries and were all there to help.


Jill Stacy (Puvogel) Adamski, 53, Hickory Corners, died Nov. 11, after a courageous battle against cancer. Jill, the daughter of Jeffrey P. and Jane C. (Lundy) Puvogel, was born in Royal Oak August 13, 1965 and was a 1983 graduate of Vicksburg High School. She graduated from MSU’s James Madison College in 1987 with a bachelor’s degree in political science. Jill was the Membership Director for the Sherman Lake YMCA beginning in 2008, she embodied the YMCA’s mission for supporting the community and particularly enjoyed coordinating the Y’s annual event “The Shermanator.” Jill served on the Gull Lake School Board from 2003 until 2014 where she was a past president and as a member of the Gull Lake Community Schools Foundation board from 2014 until recently. She worked tirelessly to ensure the most recent school bond issue passed. She was a proud supporter of Gull Lake athletics and never missed an opportunity to watch her kids play or to drive half the team to practices. Jill had also been a member of the Gull Lake Area Rotary Club and was a proud card-carrying member of the Democratic Party. Jill married David E. Adamski in Kalamazoo on June 26, 1991. Surviving are her husband of 27 years, Dave; two daughters, Haley J. Adamski (Mitchell Hickman) of Hickory Corners and Kelsey J. Adamski (Emily Lindsey) of Kalamazoo; their son, Jeffrey D. Adamski of Royal Oak; her parents, Jeff and Jane Puvogel of Vicksburg, her sister, Jennifer J. (Gregg Baustian) Puvogel of Maple City, MI. Donations may go to the Gull Lake Community Schools Foundation or the Sherman Lake YMCA. Visit her page at

Barbara Jean Bell, 92, formerly of Mendon and Vicksburg, died Nov. 20, at Sue’s Loving Care Home in Kalamazoo. She was born in Three Rivers on July 10, 1926, the daughter of the late John Henry and Zella Blanchard (Avery) Fenwick. She graduated from Vicksburg High School in 1944 and attended Western Michigan University and the Bronson Hospital School of Nursing. She was a nurse for over 40 years, working mostly at Vicksburg’s Franklin Memorial Hospital. Barbara was married to Richard Duane Bell on Feb. 16, 1947 in Three Rivers. She enjoyed crocheting and sewing and raised chickens every spring. She was a 4-H Leader for many years when her children were young. Barbara especially enjoyed camping and travel. She and her family were able to travel to all 50 states, Australia, and New Zealand. Barbara is survived by sons Darrell Bell of Mendon, Bruce (Bonnie) Bell of Portage, Duane Bell of Mendon, David (Kathy) Bell of Mendon, and Terry (Diane) Bell of Mattawan; 15 grandchildren; 30 great-grandchildren; six great-great grandchildren and a sister, Nancy Fenwick of Vicksburg. She was preceded in death by her parents; her husband, Richard; two grandchildren, Kimberly and Adam Bell; great-grandson Joshua Little; daughter in law Linda Bell; and her favorite pet, Rastas. Donations may go to Sue’s Loving Care. Visit her page at

Eleanor “Jeanne” Bogard, 94, Vicksburg, passed away Nov. 11. Visit her page at Donations may go to Vicksburg VFW Post 5189.

Samuel “Joe” Brockway, 82, Vicksburg, passed away November 23. He was born to Samuel and Julia (Everett) Brockway on April 5, 1936. He was raised on the Brockway Historical Farm in Brady Township. He attended local schools, graduating from Vicksburg High School in 1954. He was active in FFA and agricultural activities. He began working for American Wire Cloth Company in Parchment, supplying wires for machines used for the manufacturing of paper. He assisted in the invention of an ultrasonic welder to patch screens on paper machines. Joe continued working at American Wire Cloth Co. until 1989 when he bought the company and then continued to own and operate the business for 12 more years. The only time Joe set his work aside was to serve in the Army when he was drafted during the Korean Conflict, serving in that country. He spent his lifetime caring for his farm and tending to the needs of his cattle. Aside from farming, Joe’s passion was basketball. He coached junior basketball for four years and enjoyed seeing the athletes develop through their years on the varsity team. Joe and Maxine could frequently be found at many school activities, especially basketball games and band concerts when the grandchildren were involved. He is survived by his wife of 63 years, Maxine; daughter Anne (John) Boers; grandchildren: Joseph (Holly) Boers; Amanda (Kevin) O’Malley; great grandson: Henry O’Malley and another one on the way. He is also survived by his sister, Judy Foote and several nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents, a sister, Connie Welcherand and a brother, Milo “Pete” Brockway. Please visit Joe’s page at Those who wish may make contributions to the Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan and the Vicksburg Foundation.

Theora “Teddy” D. Karns, 61, Vicksburg, passed away October 27. Teddy was born on June 27, 1957 in Grundy, Va., and graduated from Loy Norrix High School in 1975 after her family relocated to Michigan. She was the daughter of Linden and Lois Edwards. On July 2, 2004, Theora married Thomas Karns. She worked for over 15 years at the Kalamazoo Psychiatric Hospital as an LPN. She was especially known for her arts and crafts. She is survived by her parents, Linden and Lois Edwards; her husband of 14 years, Thomas; children Tonya (Andy) Taylor, of Portage; Lyndie (Brian Tassell) Wall, of Fulton; Conor (Jenny) Schaub, of California, and their father, Terry Schaub; grandchildren Kasey, Morgan, Gracie Lue, Eric Thomas, Wyatt, Isla, and Oliver. She is also survived by sisters Pam (Jeff) Foy of Climax and Jenny Edwards of Vicksburg; brothers-in-law Larry (Julia) Karns, of Battle Creek and Michael (Ann) Karns, of Tekonsha; sisters-in-law Donna (Dennis) Wintersteen, of Marshall and Becky (Rich) Simpkins, of Mississippi; nephew Brendan Foy, of Climax and niece Alyssa (James) Green, of Vicksburg, and their children Jaxon and Jayne; many loving aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends; and a very special companion: her beloved dog Geno. Visit Theora’s page at

Elaine Leitch, 67, Vicksburg, passed away Nov. 22, after a large and enjoyable family Thanksgiving celebration. Elaine was born on May 29, 1951 in Kalamazoo, the daughter of James and Maxine (Eaton) Bacon. Elaine was a fun-loving person. Elaine enjoyed cooking, reading and gospel music. A cherished moment with her young children was turning down the lights, tucking them in bed and singing gospel songs until they drifted off to sleep. On April 12, 1969 in Vicksburg, she married John Leitch, who preceded her in death in 2015. Elaine will be sadly missed by her children, Kimberly (Christopher) McClain of Colon, Tracie Leitch of Portage and James Leitch of Vicksburg; seven grandchildren; three great grandchildren, sister Patricia (Walter) Dorey, Vicksburg, and brother Rocky Bacon, Vicksburg. Elaine will be forever remembered by her numerous nieces, nephews, extended family and dear friends. Besides her husband she was preceded in death by her parents, her son, Charles “Chuckie” and her sibling Sharon (Bacon) Gregg.

Allen Frank Middaugh, passed away Nov. 8 in Kalamazoo, surrounded by his family. Allen was born on February 14, 1948 in Vicksburg to Walter and Ellen (Allen) Middaugh. He was an engineer who installed sprinkler systems for industries. He is survived by his wife, Patty (Myers) Middaugh, his children, Angela Middaugh and Audrey Burton, step-children Terri (Mike) Lewcun of Texas and Rob (Charlotte) Meyer of Oklahoma, sisters Betty Witcher of Kalamazoo, Vicki (Jim) Worthington of Vicksburg, three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Allen was preceded in death by his parents.

Sharon K. Philipp, Vicksburg, died Nov. 13. Sharon was born Aug. 2, 1941 in Kalamazoo, a daughter of Edward and Leora (Whitlock) Kuiper. She was a former member of the Vicksburg United Methodist Church. She was loved by the children she took care of in her licensed daycare home. She often played the role of Mrs. Santa for Vicksburg’s Christmas gathering. Sharon was preceded in death by her parents; a brother, David Kuiper, a daughter, Becky Jones, and a granddaughter, Allison Sharon Jones. On September 9, 1967, she married Robert J. Philipp, who survives. Also surviving are a son-in-law, Greg Jones of Kalamazoo; five grandchildren; three sisters; a brother, Harvey (Susan) Kuiper of Vicksburg; and several nieces, nephews, and cousins. Donations may go to Kairos Dwelling or St. Andrews Community Church. Visit her page at

Donna Robertson, 84, Kalamazoo, formerly of Schoolcraft, passed away Nov. 28 with her family by her side. She was born to Harry and Hazel VanPutten on May 14, 1934. Donna and Carl Robertson were married on February 19, 1955. Since Carl worked as a carpenter, they built a few homes and moved around quite a bit. They spent some time living in a home he built on Crooked Lake in Mattawan, and when he built a home in Schoolcraft they moved there. Donna is survived by her children, Barb and Norm Constant, Deb Mathews, Brenda and Perry Stermer, Craig and Becky Roberston, Cathy and Bob Carey and Diane and Anthony Felicijan; 18 grandchildren and 34 great grandchildren. Donna was preceded in death by her loving husband of 30 years, Carl Gene Robertson; a son, Steve Robertson and brother and sister-in-law, Thomas and Evelyn VanPutten. Visit Donna’s page at Donations may go to Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan or Beechwood Hills Christian Camp.

Bryan M. Smith, Vicksburg, died Nov. 13. Bryan was born November 30, 1987 in Kalamazoo, the son of Robins and Kimberly (Parisi) Smith. During the Afghanistan War, he served with the U.S. Marines. He had been a lifelong Kalamazoo area resident and was employed with B&T Farms in Fulton. On August 6, 2016, he married Rachel J. (Smith) Smith, who survives. Also surviving are his parents; a sister, Rachel Smith of Lawton; a brother, Kyle Smith of Vicksburg; his in-laws, Douglas and Rhonda Smith (Rasler); and several aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and cousins. Memorials may be directed to the family. Visit Bryan’s page at

Steven Ralph Smith, 67, Scotts, passed away Nov. 26. Steve was born on March 11, 1951 in Kalamazoo, the son of Ralph and Marjorie (Morse) Smith. Steve was hardworking, social, caring, loving and dedicated. Steve worked for the Pavilion Township Fire Department for 45 years and served as fire chief for 23 years. Steve is survived by his wife of 43 years, Sandy; children Shannon (Abe) Northup, of Portage; Shaun Smith, of Scotts; Stuart Smith, of Scotts; Spencer Smith, of Scotts; and Stacia (Matt) Weaver, of Portage; grandchildren Christopher Smith, Tristin Northrup, Trinity Northup, Zackary Weaver and Phoebe Weaver. He is also survived by siblings Alan and Jane Smith. He was preceded in death by a son, Scott Smith, and his parents. Visit Steve’s page at Donations may go to Pavilion Township Fire Dept.

Kirby Sean Steil, 47, Marcellus, formerly of Schoolcraft, passed away Nov. 20 after a valiant battle with cancer, with his loving family and pastor at his side. Kirby was born to Lynn and Michael Steil in Kalamazoo on Sept. 16, 1971. At Schoolcraft High School, Kirby learned public speaking, history and drama – foundations for his career – from his father, who was on the faculty. He also honed his leadership skills as co-captain of the 1989 Schoolcraft state championship football team. A walk-on at Central Michigan University, he left football after an injury to focus on a communication major. Kirby was president of his fraternity, Phi Sigma Kappa, in his senior year, graduating in 1995. As a vice president of Insight Global working out of Chicago and Grand Rapids, he trained hundreds of people in leadership and sales. An avid power lifter and member of Triple River CrossFit, he lifted with his son, Tyson New, and helped coach the Three Rivers High School power lifting team to regional and state titles. Kirby lived on Cedar Lake, Marcellus, with his wife, Missy (Wiseman) Steil. In addition to his wife, his four children and parents, Kirby is survived by three sisters-in-law, many nieces and nephews and countless friends. He was preceded in death by his brother, Michael. Donations may go to the American Cancer Society, Three Rivers Church of the Nazarene or Gilda’s Club, Grand Rapids. Online condolences may be left at

Shark Tank Gets Real for Schoolcraft Business Students

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Jager Doorn, Seyanna Smith and Alana Reed work on their solution to the Shark Tank contest that they won.

Schoolcraft High School’s Business Management and Administration (BMA) classes traveled to Davenport University Nov. 14 to participate in its annual Shark Tank event.

Students are given a category and must come up with an innovative idea, according to their teacher, Lori Pelton. This year the category was food and beverage. Davenport University’s professors are the “sharks” and students pitch their idea, the target market and the need for the product to the sharks, similar to the format of the TV reality show of the same name.The sharks then quiz the teams about their ideas.

Teams pitched their ideas to a room full of contenders for round one. The top 10 teams made it to the final round. Schoolcraft sophomores Alana Reed, Seyanna Smith, Jager Doorn, Team ASJ, were the winners.

Their idea was a camp bowl that can be heated or chilled by using a gear attached to a tree. It didn’t seem to fit in the food and beverage category, Pelton said, but judges accepted it.

Students go in to the competition not knowing the category. “They watch a few clips from the show in class,” Pelton said. “We have them practice getting a category and doing a pitch the day before we go, but to have a level playing field for all schools, no one knows the category before we get there.”

About 250 students from Innovation Central, Kent County Tech Center, Hackett Catholic Prep, Kalamazoo Central, Schoolcraft, University Prep Academy competed. Schoolcraft came out the first-place winner.

Nonla Taqueria, The New Beginnings of 321 N Grand St.

nonlaBy Schoolcraft 10th graders Hannah Kelecava, Taylor Abfall, Aiden Gray, and Hunter Martens

A new and upcoming restaurant, Nonla Taqueria recently opened in Schoolcraft. “Nonla Taqueria has a warm, welcoming atmosphere,” said Brandon Newland who has eaten at Nonla Taqueria a few times.

“The food at Nonla Taqueria is all fresh If you are in the need for a Mexican homestyle meal. Nonla Taqueria is the place to go because of its authentic Mexican food,” Newland said. The new restaurant will bring new experiences to the community.

“Many businesses have failed in the small town of Schoolcraft,” Newland said. “I feel like this one will really take off, bringing others into Schoolcraft.”

The restaurant owners have their own twist on the place. They made it their own by decorating and having a welcoming sense inside. “It is a very welcoming place where everyone wants to talk and you always feel like you are being helped,” Newland stated.

Chef Nguyen said “We saw that Schoolcraft would have many opportunities. We saw that the building we are currently in was sitting vacant and needed some love. Also, it is right off a busy street, so we thought Schoolcraft would be a great place.” With Christmas coming along many people will be out and about in town and after a busy day will want a nice meal. Also, Nguyen said that they are trying to figure out a Taco Tuesday deal to have soon.

Schoolcraft High School’s Spanish teacher, Melissa French had some very positive feedback. French said “People are likely to visit this restaurant because they have really good food that will draw people in. The community and people outside of the community know the Nonla name because they have two other restaurants that are well known, this will push them to try the third.”

Being in a small town challenges restaurants to stay in business. For example, there have been many other, different companies and restaurants in that space. Some people are questioning how this restaurant will maintain its well-being in the small town. “It’s important for small towns like Schoolcraft to have restaurants other than chain restaurants. This allows for people to experience different kinds of food which makes this restaurant special to our small town,” stated French. Also, French said that Nonla will bring bright new energy to the community.

Nonla Taqueria has had good success in the community so far and the people here have been spreading the good word around. Hopefully Nonla can hold ground at the new destination and make a big positive impact on the people visiting and eating there. Don’t hesitate to pull in their parking lot and try something new.