Category Archives: Vicksburg

Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center Exposes Venezuelan Crisis

By Syd Bastos

The Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center created the Destination Series in 2016 to expose residents and visitors of Vicksburg to other cultures, using combinations of art, music, dance, storytelling, traditions, literature and, of course, food to bring these cultures to life. In the past, the center has featured Ukraine, Ireland, Italy, Scandinavia, Latvia, even rural America.

Where would the VCAC go next? Natalya Critchley provided the answer! Although Natalya is English-born, she had been a resident of Venezuela for over 40 years before she and Venezuelan-born husband Claudio Mendoza moved to Kalamazoo under political and economic duress in 2016. She has been creating her art in Vicksburg in the last year or so. After a few brainstorming sessions with this inspiring and well-connected duo, five unique events were created and scheduled between March 20 and March 28. They include an art exhibit, poetry reading, cooking workshop, panel discussion and concert.

While each of the events provides a sampling of the culture of Venezuela, the panel discussion is perhaps the most significant. The Tragedy of the Venezuelan Crisis includes a panel of Venezuelan journalists and scholars who will discuss the political and humanitarian crisis along with their perspectives of international involvement and support of the resolution of the crisis. The free event will be held at the VCAC at 105 S. Main Street in Vicksburg on Friday, March 27 from 6:30-8:30 p.m.

Journalist Marielba Núñez and scientist Dr. Vladimiro Mujica will be at the Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center for the event and sociologist-journalist Tulio Hernández and scientist Dr. Luis A. Núñez will be attending by videoconference.

These panelists will provide personal accounts of not only how the lives of Venezuelans have been impacted by the crisis, but also what each of these ardent Venezuelans are doing today to contribute to solutions, answer questions and offer suggestions for how audience members can help. VCAC Director Brian Berheide, explains, “We are fortunate to have internationally recognized panelists who can share current and thoughtful insight of the Venezuelan crisis and provide an opportunity for dialog as we seek to understand what role the United States may play in the resolution and potential aftermath of this crisis.”

This event is sure to capture the urgency of the Venezuelan crisis and demonstrate how a nation under siege continues to fight for its survival, unified in one purpose, for a united and free Venezuela, Berheide said.

For more information about The Tragedy of the Venezuelan Crisis panel discussion and others in the Destination Venezuela program, go to or call (269) 200-2223.

Art Exhibit: The Long Walk   

Fri, Mar 20, 6-8 pm at VCAC. Free event

An Evening of Venezuelan & American Poetry

Sat, Mar 21, 5-8 pm at VCAC. Free event

Cooking Class:  Venezuelan Cuisine—Hallacas USA

Sun, Mar 22, 2-5 pm at Main Street Pub, $15

Panel Discussion: Tragedy of the Venezuelan Crisis

Fri, Mar 27, 6:30 – 8:30 pm at VCAC. Free event

Concert: Cuatro Meets Banjolectric

Sat, Mar 28, 7-10 pm at 107 S. Main Vicksburg, $10, Cash bar

Prairie Ronde Artist Residency Begins Its Third Season

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The Prairie Ronde Artists Residency participants find beauty in the Mill, while they do their work. This photograph was taken by Joe Freeman, Jr., one of the residency artists in 2019.

By Sue Moore

The outside renovation of the former Lee Paper mill is work that passersby can readily see from Highway Street in Vicksburg. What isn’t as obvious are the Prairie Ronde Artist Residency members who have done their work inside the Mill at Vicksburg.

Since 2018, artists from all over the world have been invited to live in Vicksburg for one to two months and to create new work in the peace and quiet of the Mill and the village. Their finished work has sometimes been displayed inside the Mill for guests to delight in or, more often, in downtown Vicksburg at Prairie Ronde’s pop-up art gallery, located at 101 E. Prairie.

The Residency program was the brainchild of John Kern who came to Vicksburg four years ago to work with his wife, Jackie Koney, the manager of the Mill project. Kern taught middle and high school for over 25 years, first in Minneapolis and Seattle, then the Republic of Georgia and, most recently, in Kiev, Ukraine. He photographed the streets of Kiev when it was undergoing revolution in 2014 and has an interest in many kinds of arts expression. In 2017, he suggested to Chris Moore, the owner of the Mill, that it would be good for the area arts community to have a full-blown cohort of people who could make art in the Mill. Thus, the Prairie Ronde Residency was born.

The power to exchange ideas was a driving force in Kern’s thinking. He visualized the residency as a place that would provide artists with the space and time to work on their craft in a unique setting, namely Vicksburg and the Mill. The goal was to create a dialog between Vicksburg and the broader arts community where different views might be explored. It would be fully funded with a stipend of $2,000, a place to live while in the village, and $500 for travel expenses. One important stipulation is that participants should give back to the community with a gallery show and a piece of their artwork that would remain with the Mill.

The first 17 artists have offered a wide variety of work. There have been painters, photographers, musicians and visual artists. Pamela Hadley, a light artist from Chicago, will open the third season of artists beginning in April. She will be followed by Erica Ferrari, a sculptor from Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Last year, the Mill joined the Alliance of Artists Communities (AAC). “At first we joined them to stabilize our number of applicants. By joining this organization, we’ve been able to move away from our initial reliance on word-of-mouth applicants. Joining the AAC means that we’re included in a network of over 1,500 residencies around the world – that’s increased our reach into the artist community dramatically and has begun to create the Prairie Ronde Artist Residence, and Vicksburg, as a destination for artists from all over,” Kern noted.

“This is the power of art and culture,” Kern said. “The seeds are planted on some level and suddenly they germinate. We are planting ideas and looking for them to grow in the Mill and the greater Vicksburg community.”

If you’d like more information about the residency and their schedule of coming events, follow them on Facebook or Instagram (@prairierondeartistresidency) and on the web at

Chili Cook-Off Moves Back Downtown in Vicksburg

By Sue Moore

The Chili Cook-off, usually held in the cold and blustery month of March, has been scheduled for Saturday, March 28 in downtown Vicksburg from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sponsored by the Vicksburg Chamber of Commerce for the last 13 years, it has become a much-anticipated harbinger of spring, according to Chamber President Brian Pitts. It will also feature a 5K Chili Dash at 10 a.m.

A new location, in the parking lot of PNC Bank, has been chosen for these two complementary events. “We wanted to bring things back downtown after experiencing high winds and cold weather at the community pavilion,” Pitts said. “Even though we wrapped the pavilion entirely in plastic tarps the last several years, we couldn’t keep it heated enough for our hungry customers. This is not a money maker for the Chamber, just a good way to have a community event when not much else is happening.”

The Chamber invites local restaurants to compete in the Chili Cook-off and gives awards to the Peoples’ Choice and a Judges’ Choice at the end of the day. Last year Jaspare’s Pizza won the Judges’ award and the Vicksburg High School Pathways program took the Peoples’ choice.

The big white tent that has been used in the early days of the Chili Cook-off will be back and situated in the PNC Bank parking lot for the first time. That means the Chili Dash, which is a fundraiser for the high school track team, will also take place from the same location and return some time later for the runners to taste the 15-plus varieties of chili. Distant Whistle will also be offering refreshment with its winter beers on tap.

Tickets are 50 cents for each cup to taste the individual chili concoctions. They can be purchased upon entering the tent. Tables and chairs will allow guests to sit and enjoy, keep warm and vote for their favorite chili.

100 Year Milestone Celebrated by Doris Burr

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Doris Burr, now 100 years old.

Doris Burr was born in Kalamazoo on March 3, 1920. Upon her centenary she is eligible to receive a congratulatory letter from the president of the United States.

In those 100 years, Burr has seen 45 different presidents of the United States. She was around before the first motion picture with sound was produced in 1927 and for Amelia Earhart’s historic solo trans-Atlantic flight in 1932. A lot has happened in the last 100 years, and she has seen it all, said her granddaughter, Wendy Burr.

Her parents were Henry Metty and Bertha Dehoff Metty. She had one brother, Earl Metty. The family lived near the corner of XY and 32nd Street when she was born.

She attended one room schoolhouses growing up, including Harper School #3 at age 6. It was located on 32nd street between XY and YZ Ave. She also attended “Carney School” #2, in Climax Township on Q Ave between 38th street and 40th street. For third grade, the family moved further south, and in 1929 she attended “Bond School” #7 in Brady Township on the corner of U Ave and 34th Street. For 9th grade, she attended Vicksburg High School in 1934 and graduated in 1938. In high school, the family lived at the John Oswalt farm on 37th Street where they sharecropped. It was there that she met her next door neighbor, Merle Burr, and fell in love. They were married on May 1, 1943. Doris worked at the gas station on the corner of W Ave and 36th St. and would walk to work every day. She also attended many shows in Vicksburg at the theater with family and friends.

They sharecropped about 200 acres at the Burr farm on the corner of XY and 37th St. In 1948 the Burrs purchased the farm by logging off 22 acres of woods for the down payment. They raised three boys; Delbert, Frank, and Roy. After retirement from the farm, they moved to a home in Athens. They were active in the Athens Christian Center church and later attended Faith Christian Church. Burr now resides in Leonidas at the Birch, an assisted living facility. She has three children, Delbert, Frank and Roy; five grandchildren, Allen, Wendy, Matt, Tracy and Debbie; and six great-grandchildren. Happy Birthday, Doris!

Student Biliteracy Program

biliteracy certificate winners
The students and teachers are shown above from left to right: Miles Crawford, Kaitlyn Szydlowski, Megan Bresnahan. Back row, left to right: Spanish teacher Allie Lamers, Sophie Bradley, Mikayla Sands, Sarah Mitchell, Grace Taylor, Spanish teachers Jennifer Rodas, Mary Zemlick, and student Kelcey Cook.

Six of eight Vicksburg High School students who participated in a pilot biliteracy program a Global Seal of Biliteracy at the Functional Fluency level, according to French teacher Jennifer Teal. She petitioned the school board in January to add this test to the curriculum.

This certifies the students at an intermediate-mid level of proficiency in Spanish. They meet the literacy requirement for their native language, English, by earning a high school diploma. All of the students who earned the seal in the pilot are Spanish students at Vicksburg High School, but the seal can be earned by any student who meets the criteria in two or more languages. These six students earned the seal in January after passing a proficiency assessment to certify them at an intermediate-mid level in Spanish. The Global Seal of Biliteracy is a credential that allows recipients to verify their language skills to future schools or future employers.

Nathaniel Chiu a Finalist in Prestigious Trombone Contest

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Nathaniel Chiu is on the right.

By Sue Moore

Vicksburg High School graduate Nathaniel Chiu is a finalist in the International Trombone Association Festival to be held in Osaka, Japan, July 2-5. With 30 trombone students competing to be selected as one of three finalists, Chiu outpaced them all, said his Western Michigan University trombone teacher, Steve Wolfinbarger.

The other two finalists are majoring in music at the Curtis Institute of Music and Hochschule fur Musik in Hanover, Germany. The judges were from Louisiana State University, the US Marine Band and the US Army Field Band.

Chiu plays tenor trombone and is a senior at WMU. “He worked all fall semester on his video that was submitted to the judges who do not know any of the names of the contestants,” Wolfinbarger said. “Now he will travel to Japan in July to appear in person in front of three renowned international judges in the finals. I encourage my students every year to enter this contest for college-age students who come from all over the world.”

Ben Rosier, Chiu’s high school band director, was enthusiastic about his student. “While studying privately, Nathaniel was also a part of every ensemble here at VHS including all the concert ensembles, jazz bands, pep band, and marching band. He thrived in the concert setting but also improved his theory through the learning of jazz and its unique musical concepts. He had a lead role in the spring musicals as part of the theater department. Mr. Chiu was diligent in his preparation for solo and ensemble festivals, receiving exemplary ratings at all the festivals he attended. Nathaniel many times was the humble, confident, and quiet leader who knew the moments to be outspoken and always got work done.”

The International Trombone Association sponsors the contest in the name of Larry Wiche, a famous soloist with a military band. “I expect that Chiu will go on to work on his master’s degree in music after graduation this spring. He is an exceptional trombonist and has a great future either with an orchestra or as a university teacher,” Wolfinbarger said.


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.