Category Archives: Vicksburg

Tradition Ended with Last Senior Girls Tea at LLA

By Sue Moore

For 90 years the Vicksburg Ladies Library Auxiliary has invited the girls from the high school senior class to a tea at the library. Sadly, the tea will not go on for another 90. Officers of the association have decided it might not be as relevant anymore.

“There are so many events going on at this time of the year in seniors lives,” Sue Opalewski said. “We’ve had trouble scheduling the tea the last few years, plus it takes the young women out of school just when they most need to be present to finish up graduation requirements. There were 55 out of the 80 senior girls in attendance.”

The speaker for the day, Kenzie Pridgion, ended the tradition with words of wisdom culled from her own experiences growing up in Schoolcraft and becoming an aviator. “The race is long and in the end it’s only with yourself. Oh, and don’t forget to wear sunglasses!”

After graduating from Schoolcraft High School in 1999, Pridgion headed to Western Michigan University where she said she majored in “socialization” her first two years while still wanting to be an aviator. After she got serious about her major and graduated, she became a flight instructor, then took a job with a regional airline, Com Air, based at JFK airport in New York. “Commuting was hard but the flight benefits outweighed it as I got to travel the world,” she said. Then she was furloughed and had to cast about for the next job. She decided upon the military. The competition was highly competitive and challenging in the Michigan Air National Guard where she flew a C-47.

She now is flying for Stryker Corporation, one of its 10 pilots and its first female pilot. She is still training students on the MQ9 remotely-piloted aircraft in Battle Creek for the Air National Guard, which Stryker supports, she said.

“Don’t expect things to be handed to you. College doesn’t define you, it shapes you personally. You don’t always have to be the best, but you have to give your best,” she cautioned the audience. “Attitude and desire will carry you a long way.”


Thomas Earl Cook, Jr., 60, Schoolcraft, died unexpectedly April 11 at the University of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor. He was born on June 26, 1958 to Thomas Sr. and Virginia (Rutz) Cook. Tom obtained an engineering degree from WMU and was in sales at Durametallic/Flowserve for 40 years. He played bass guitar and often hosted parties with his band providing entertainment. With quiet faith, Tom also served as an elder at Westminster Presbyterian Church for the past 10 years. He and his Therese, his wife of 10 years, were involved in the music ministry at church – he played bass guitar while she played percussion. They also served their community. Theresa was appointed clerk of Prairie Ronde Township where Tom served as deputy clerk. Members of his family include his wife, Theresa (Rosneck) Cook; daughters Kaylee (Jeremy) Trinkle and Kendra Cook; grandchildren Leland and Naomi and another grandson expected in August; his parents, siblings David (Cheri) Cook, Linda (Jeff) Dehn and Carrie (Matt) Selbee; his aunt, Phyllis Hall and his uncle Marshall Rutz; his former wife, Judith Joubert; in-laws Leo and Ellen Rosneck; brothers and sisters-in-law Cathy (John) Robertstad, Jim Rosneck, Patty (Jim) Wood and Leo (Stacey) Rosneck and many nieces, nephews, and cousins. He was preceded in death by uncles Larry Hall and Jack Cook. Cremation has taken place. Services were held Saturday, April 20, at Westminster Presbyterian Church. Please visit Tom’s personal web page at where you can share a favorite memory or photo and sign his online guestbook. Memorial contributions may be made to Westminster Presbyterian Church.

Allan Ray Decker, 82, Vicksburg, died April 23, at his home following a long illness. He was born in Colon on Jan. 16, 1937, the son of Clair and Frances (James) Decker. He graduated from Colon High School with the class of 1955. Allan enlisted in the U.S. Army and served in Korea with the Signal Corps. He was married to Geraldine Spealman on April 5, 1959 in Leonidas; they moved to Vicksburg in 1962. Allan worked for Lakeside Refining Company in Kalamazoo for 35 years. He earned his associate’s degree from Kalamazoo Valley Community College in 1975. He was a member of the Disabled American Veterans. Allan is survived by his children, Tammy Decker of Fulton, Karla (Bill) Hodge of Huntersville, N.C., Rod (Christina K.) Decker and their family, and Mark Decker both of Vicksburg; grandchildren Thomas (Rebecca) Decker, Jessica (Jeremy) Shepherd, John Tiller, Ed, and Joe Hodge; a brother, Bruce Decker of Athens; two sisters, Susan Glass of Selina, Ohio and Linda Cubbernuss of Mendon. He was preceded in death by his parents; his wife, Jerry in 2011; and by brothers Lewis, Wayne and Ronald Decker. Visitation will be from 5 to 8 p.m. Monday, May 6, 2019 at the Eickhoff Funeral Home in Mendon. Funeral services will be 11 a.m. Tuesday, May 7, 2019 at the Crossroads Missionary Church in Mendon with Pastor Bryan Balasa officiating. The family will receive friends for one hour prior to services at the church. Burial will be in Leonidas Cemetery. It is suggested that memorials be directed to the Deacon’s Fund at Crossroads Missionary Church. Condolences may be expressed to the family at

Mary Martha Denney, 98, Sherwood, died April 6, at Drew’s Place in Coldwater where she had resided the past 18 months. She was born in Grant County, Ind. on Jan. 22, 1921, the daughter of Frederick and Goldie Mae (DeHoff) Denney. She was a graduate of Athens High School and attended Augerbright Business College. Mary had been employed at Hillsdale Manufacturing, where she made uniforms for the Army. Later she worked at Eaton Manufacturing, polishing valves for aircraft engines. After the war she worked at Lamb Knit in Colon and after its closing, worked at Boyer Lumberyard. Finally, she worked at the Haas Corporation in Mendon where she retired after 24 years. Mary was a member of the Fulton Christian Church. She is survived by four sisters, Bertha Smith of Fulton; Patricia Shepler Carter of Athens, Mable (Elwin) Holtz of Fulton, and Delores (Bruce) Loker of Vicksburg; sisters-in-law Doris Denney and Darlene Denney; many nieces, nephews, and great-nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by sisters Alma Guthrie and Doris Denney; and brothers Arthur, Frederick, William, and Pete Denney. Donations may go to the Fulton Christian Church, 14108 East W Avenue, Fulton, MI 49052. Visit her page at

Stanley Ray Gose, 63, Vicksburg, died April 10, at Bronson Methodist Hospital. He was born in Sturgis on June 18, 1955, the son of James M. and Leona R. (Gorsline) Gose. Stanley graduated from Vicksburg High School with the class of 1973. He was employed at Simpson Paper Company in Vicksburg for 23 years. He enjoyed hunting, fishing, and golf. He was a big Detroit Tigers fan and always looked forward to trips to the ballpark. Stanley was married to Susan Elizabeth Abbott on Aug. 6, 1977 in Vicksburg. She survives along with three children, Michael Gose, Michele (Dan) Ochko, and Melissa Gose, all of Vicksburg; and special friend Joe (Cecilia) Fritz. Stanley was preceded in death by his parents; baby brother, Robert Gose, and close friend, Art Schultz. Graveside services were held Monday, April 15 in Vicksburg Cemetery with Rev. Chris Salter officiating. Memorial donations may be directed to the American Cancer Society or a charity of one’s choice. Arrangements were by the Eickhoff Funeral Home of Mendon. Condolences may be expressed to the family at

Donald O. Lash, 89, Vicksburg, passed away April 12. Don was born on November 4, 1929 in Vicksburg. He was the son of Earl and Nora (Lunger) Lash. He served his country during World War II in the Army Air Corps for three years. After he returned from the service, he married the love of his life, Doris Eilene McClish. Don is described as a generous, strong-willed, good and endearing man. In his spare time, he enjoyed being outdoors, deer hunting and mushroom hunting. He also loved to play cards and enjoyed woodworking. Don is survived by his wife of 69 years, Doris Eilene; children Patricia (Phillip) Prichard, of Centreville; Betty (Rick) Mayo, of Scotts; Gerald Lash, of Vicksburg; Ron (Pam) Lash, of Vicksburg; Terri Simmons, of Vicksburg; 13 grandchildren, 30 great grandchildren, and four great great grandchildren. He is also survived by his sisters, Rose (Floyd) Moore, of Vicksburg and June Potter, of Vicksburg. He is preceded in death by four brothers and one sister. Funeral services were held at Chapman Memorial Church of the Nazarene, Vicksburg, on Tuesday, April 16. Visit Don’s page at Donations may go to Reverence Hospice.

Ronald J.E. “Ron” Myers, 86, Scotts, died April 9, at his home. He was born in Comstock on April 5, 1933,c the youngest of three children born to Ralph and Alison (Spealman) Myers. After high school, Ron served in the National Guard. He was married to Marian D. “Pete” Homan on May 29, 1952 in Leonidas. Ron was a carpenter at Miller Davis in Kalamazoo for 7 years. He later became a millwright at the General Motors plant in Kalamazoo where he worked for 27 years. Ron was a Mason and life member of the Portage Brady Lodge #34. He enjoyed hunting and fishing throughout his life. When his children were young, he was a 4-H Leader and taught woodworking and coached softball. Ron is survived by a daughter, Pamela Borsodi of Osceola, Ind.; a son, Philip Myers, of Pampa, Texas; grandchildren Mary (Todd) Franks, Rachel (Ian) Hamilton, Jonathan (Isabella) Borsodi, Emily (Ashton) Anthony, Adam Borsodi, and Matthew Borsodi; great-grandchildren Leah Franks, Reed Hamilton, Gavin Franks, Kayleigh Hamilton, Mia Borsodi, Ania Borsodi, Emerson Anthony, and Braxton Anthony; daughter- in- law, Judy Myers; friend and caretaker, Sue Porter; and several nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents; his wife, sons Jerry Eugene Myers and Glenn Myers; brother James Myers; and a sister, Virginia Dunn. A graveside service was held Saturday, April 13, in Leonidas Cemetery. It is suggested that memorial donations be directed to either Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan, 222 N. Kalamazoo Mall, Kalamazoo, MI 49007 or to Shriner’s Hospitals for Children, 1502 USF Pine Dr., Tampa, FL 33612. Condolences may be expressed to the family online at

Richard Eugene Nielsen, 82, loving great-grandfather of 16, grandfather of 17, father of five and husband of one, went to be with his Savior on March 30. Richard was born on July 6, 1936 in Vicksburg and graduated from Vicksburg High School and Western Michigan University. He taught business at Vicksburg High School, was Dean of Business at Glen Oaks Community College, and served as Assistant Superintendent of Business for the Vicksburg school system. He moved to Reston, Virginia in 1984 to help pastor a church. He used his business and fatherly skills to counsel countless people in both finances and life. He was a member of the Vicksburg and Reston Rotary Clubs for 45 years, and led teams of Rotarians on several medical trips to help the people of Haiti. On September 4, 1954, he married Ardith Barnes, a marriage that lasted 56 years until Ardith’s passing in 2011. They raised two daughters and three sons. Richard loved to travel and visited many countries. He frequently visited his out-of-state children and grandchildren. He hosted many guests in his Washington DC area home. Of utmost importance to Richard was his faith. He leaves a great spiritual legacy, as his children and grandchildren love the Lord. Richard was proceeded in death by his wife, Ardith, and his grandson, Benjamin. He is survived by his children, Rodney (Jeannie), Cindy Champion (Bruce), Bradley (Tonya), Deanna Sturgeon (Craig), and Kent, his sister, Sandy, his niece, Michelle, and nephew, Daniel.Donations may go to KARIS (

Janet L. Noonan, 80, Vicksburg, passed away April 14. She was born on March 30, 1939 to David and Hazel (Mandoka) Mackety. The family was proud of being members of the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of Potawatomi Pine Creek Reservation. She graduated from Athens High School and went to nursing school for her career, working in several hospitals in the area. She loved her women’s Bible study groups, her flowers and gardening. She is survived by her husband of 31 years, Vincent; children Leah (Curt) Wiser of Kalamazoo, Albert Sprague of Kalamazoo, Scott (Mary) Sprague of Wayland, Marilyn (Larry) Schmidt of Portage; three grandchildren and four great grandchildren. She is also survived by stepchildren Anthony (Carrie) Noonan, of Florida; Jo (Terry) Heath, of Vicksburg; Ron (Vicki) Noonan, of Marcellus; Polly Noonan, of Florida; sisters Ann Mackety, of Tekonsha and Lynne Guess, of Athens; and several nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by parents David and Hazel Mackety and a brother, Jim Mackety. Visit her page at Donations may go to the National Kidney Foundation of Michigan.

Clarence “Bernie” Root Jr., 80, Vicksburg, passed away March 18. He was born on June 16, 1938. Bernie was one of seven children born to Clarence Root Sr. and Helen Ames. He graduated from Kalamazoo Public Schools, joined the Army and was stationed in Germany. Bernie is survived by his sons, Jeff and Brian; a daughter, Jennifer; grandchildren Johny Foote, Sara Foote, Andy Foote, Ryan Root, Bobby Root, Jerry Root, Erica Root, Jesica Miner, and Gabby Miner; and several great grandchildren. Bernie is preceded in death by his parents; and his oldest daughter, Kelly Root. Bernie was married to Sharon Lewellyn for over 40 years. He enjoyed hunting, fishing, and living the farm life until his later years, when he resided in Vicksburg on Sunset Lake. A memorial service will be planned in May at Ft. Custer National Cemetery. Visit Bernie’s page at The family is being assisted by McCowen & Secord Funeral Homes.

Martha Taylor, 72, formerly of Marcellus, passed away March 25. She was born in Albion on January 31, 1947, the daughter of Rev. Kenneth Jacobs, Sr. and Louise Owen Jacobs. Martha graduated from Marcellus High School in 1965 and resided in Marcellus until she married Ronald Taylor on March 28, 2001. Martha worked for Cass County Sheriff Department and Three Rivers Police Department, then retired from St. Joseph County Central Dispatch in 2012, after 20 years. She was a member of the Fraternal Order of the Eagles Women’s Auxiliary in Portage/Schoolcraft. She and her husband were snowbirds for the last four years in Destin, Florida. Along with her loving husband, Martha is survived by her son, John (Kathi) Carney of Sturgis, daughters Amy (Brian) Taylor Johnson and Jennifer Johnson, both of Vicksburg; sister Faith (Mike) Harris of Marcellus, brother Andrew (Pam) Jacobs of Niles, grandchildren Jayson Wallace, Dru Carney, Kristopher Leeder, Sam Carney, Benjamin, Cloe, Lucas, Jaidyn and Brady Johnson, 14 great-grandchildren, and many cousins, nieces and nephews. Martha was preceded in death by her parents, brothers James Jacobs and Kenneth Jacobs, Jr., and a sister, Ruth Jacobs. Donations may go to the Eagles Club 3531 – Ladies Auxiliary in Portage/Schoolcraft. Visit her page at

LeRoy VanMaanen, 80, Portage, passed away suddenly at Bronson Hospital on March 27, sadly on his birthday. He was a firefighter for 35 years. LeRoy was the fire chief at Westwood Fire Station and also a fire fighter for the City of Kalamazoo. In addition, Leroy owned several side businesses, A1 Laminating and Roy’s TV. He also worked for Hoekstras Greenhouses and Long John Floral, delivering flats of flowers around southwest Michigan. He was very devoted to his church, Lakeland Reformed, and his family. LeRoy’s family includes Gloria VanMaanen, his wife of 13 years; his children Debra Comstock, Barbara VanMaanen, Nancy (Joe) Fink, Gary (Dawn) VanMaanen, and step children Sherri (Mike) Pence, Steve (Elva) Arend, John (Sue) Arend and Wendy (Robb) Rittner; 21 grand children and nine great grandchildren; a sister, Helen (John) Rishel; and cherished friend Dick Johnson. He was preceded in death by his wife of 35 years, Phyllis VanMaanen, his brother and sister-in-law Jack and Kathy)VanMaanen and his sister, Sondra Madsen. Funeral services were held on Saturday, March 30, at the Lakeland Reformed Church. Please visit LeRoy’s page at Donations may go to the family to help cover funeral expenses or to Lakeland Reformed Church in memory of LeRoy.

Gail Nadine Wade, passed away on March 28. She was born on Oct. 4, 1937 to Emily “Grace” and Fredrick Guy Phinney. Growing up in Detroit, she was active in Voice of Christian Youth and worked as a carhop in her teenage years. She graduated from Cass Tech High School with a major in nutrition. In 1955, she and her family moved to Lake City, Michigan where she began working at Mercy Hospital in Cadillac in the dietary department. She also met and fell in love with Bill Wade. They were married on May 18, 1957 and had three daughters. Besides raising a houseful of girls, she worked for a while part-time at Vicksburg Schools and eventually started working at Triple S Plastics in Vicksburg. She enjoyed riding motorcycles and was a member of the Gold Wing Association. In the aftermath of a serious motor vehicle accident almost a year ago, she was residing at Masonic Pathways in Alma, where she passed away. She had also been in the Long-term Acute Care unit at Pipp Hospital in Plainwell for a lengthy period of time. It seemed that no matter what was thrown her way, she would always have a smile on her face. Preceding her in death were her parents, sisters Jeanne Phinney and Patricia Phinney, daughter Beverly Taylor. Surviving are her loving husband, William Wade, daughters Kathleen (Greg) Yarworth and Tracey Wade, eight grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren and sisters Jo (Darrold) McKeown and Judy (Gordon) Lydic. Cremation has taken place. There will be a gathering for family and friends at a later date.

Laura Chang’s Big Year

Laura Chang 1
Laura Chang stands in front of a poster created for her visit to the United Arab Emirates.

By Sue Moore

A week’s trip to Dubai to consult with this city-state’s teachers is just one of the many activities that Laura Chang, Michigan’s Teacher of the Year from Vicksburg for 2018-2019, has experienced.

Dubai educators identified a need to do things differently in teaching science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) subjects in this global world, Chang said. They invited educators from the Teacher of the Year program throughout the states to come for a week and work with them on best practices. “I was happy to be one of the several teachers invited to attend. They are such extraordinary people who have the same concerns as educators as we do. It was very humbling,” Chang said.

That was just one of the many experiences she has had this school year that have broadened her horizons in the teaching profession. “I’ve learned so much. It’s like I’ve been wearing shoes that are too small and now they fit. I’m ready to run.”

She has been highly involved with reaching out to legislators in Michigan to discuss standardized testing requirements and their impact on students. “I’ve told a lot of teaching anecdotes to help them focus on the impact of their legislation when it comes to teaching the whole child and the laws they promulgate. Real stories from the classroom can make a big difference.”

“Meeting with the State Board of Education each month allows me a chance to share stories of Vicksburg’s successes which can serve to spotlight the inequities we face in education throughout the state. Kids don’t always have the same opportunities as they do here, so I volunteered to work on a state-level committee that studies equity in education,” she said.

“I have to use the voice I have as one size does not fit all,” Chang said. She has visited classrooms in other areas of the state where she will go in and read, teach a lesson and chat with students. “I learn as much from them as they might from me.”

Her team of Teachers of the Year met in San Francisco last summer for a week of sharing ideas with all 57 honored teachers, including those from the U.S. protectorates. “It was sponsored by Google and allowed our peer group to learn from one another. These teachers are solution seekers who value education above all others. We even designed a doodle for Google that will appear on their web site in May.”

She will attend a “space” camp in Alabama for a week in July where the participants pretend to be an astronaut for a week. The group will be honored during the college football championship playoff game in January 2020.

In May she will meet with a group of the Teachers of the Year in Washington D.C. with Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence to emphasize the importance of education.

“I wish that all of my colleagues could have this opportunity,” she said. “Teachers can learn so much from each other. “I have new best friends from all over the country. These are incredible people whose voices are powerful.”

New Band Trailer on View at Vicksburg High School

By Sue Moore

When the “Big Red Machine” semi-trailer rolls into a band competition, its going to be impressive, said Craig Rolfe, one of the Band Booster members who helped secure funds to purchase the trailer.

It’s meant to haul all of the band equipment in one big load rather than the three smaller trailers that accompanied the marching band at competitions. There will be room enough for instrument and uniform storage throughout the marching season for the band. The trailer represents the first band program north of Kentucky to purchase this state-of-the-art piece of equipment. Clubhouse Trailers, an Oklahoma company, put this together for the band. The trailer will be on display wherever the band travels and is practicing. The Band Boosters are working on possibilities for hauling the trailer.

The total cost is $100,000 minus a few pennies, with half of it paid thus far and the rest to be raised throughout the school year. A spring raffle is being held as a fundraiser with the top prizes $2,500, $1,000 and $500 in cash. Raffle tickets are available from any band parent, the high school office or Rolfe’s office at 328 W. Prairie Street in Vicksburg. The drawing will take place at the band’s spring concert on Tuesday, May 28.

The trailer makes a huge statement about the success of the band program in Vicksburg, Rolfe said. “It shows the community support of the band which boasts nearly 200 members each year. We need lots of folks to help raise the money to complete the purchase.”

Sunset Lake Air Quality Talk at School Board Meeting

Sunset school 1By Travis Smola

Sunset Lake Elementary school’s air quality was again questioned during citizens’ time at Vicksburg’s April school board meeting.

Stephanie Willoughby told trustees her daughter started getting sick in class in October 2017, beginning after she switched classes to a different side of the building.

Willoughby’s daughter was taken to a doctor and prescribed medication that helped with some sinus issues, but it didn’t end the problem completely. “She was still coming home with headaches,” Willoughby told the board.

Willoughby said a discussion in a community Facebook group on the issue generated 133 comments. Many of the commenters reported similar headaches with their own children. Willoughby said her daughter doesn’t have the headaches when she’s not in school or during spring or summer breaks. Willoughby and a friend started a petition to have old carpeting in the building removed and for more testing to be done in the building. She also felt the testing already done wasn’t adequate.

Last month Vicksburg officials worked with Ann Arbor-based Nova Environmental to perform inspections and two rounds of testing for mold, air quality and volatile organic compounds in one of the classrooms in the building. Nova made recommendations for improvements to the air quality, but the initial testing concluded there was nothing dangerous present in the classroom in question.

Assistant Superintendent Steve Goss told Willoughby the district is willing to bring in a second firm for another testing opinion. However, he said he also feels Nova is a reputable company. “The firm that we have is incredibly skilled and probably one of the best ones available,” Goss said. “Again, it’s not a fly-by-night operation. We try to be transparent and will continue to do that.” Goss noted he has two children of his own in the building, so he understands the concerns.

Board President Skip Knowles echoed that sentiment and said they are taking the issue seriously. “I’ve got a granddaughter in the building too,” Knowles said.

Trustee David Schriemer felt some of the evidence was anecdotal at this point because there are so many different causes of headaches. He noted one of his sons suffered from headaches while attending Sunset, but not at home. He further explained that the issue was mental as the child was trying too hard to be perfect. “In his case it wasn’t a contaminant, it was the stress of trying to be good,” Schriemer said. “When you have something with so many potential causes, that’s when you need public health people to sort it out.”

Trustee Rudy Callen said the ideal situation would be to have the testing reveal an actual issue that could be immediately addressed. But he also asked how long the district should keep testing if no issue is found.

Goss did announce they also have a meeting planned with the chief medical officer from the Kalamazoo County Health Department and the Department of Environmental Health on the matter. There are also plans to form an environmental safety committee to look further at the issue. Superintendent Keevin O’Neill thanked Willoughby for coming and invited her and another parent in attendance to be a part of the committee. “We’re 100 percent committed to solving this,” O’Neill said.

Vicksburg Honors Top 12 Seniors

By Travis Smola

The Vicksburg school board and principal Adam Brush honored the class of 2019’s top seniors at the school board’s April meeting.

“The top 12 GPA was all above 4.1,” Brush said. “This class of the top 12 took over a hundred AP courses, which to me, is like mind-boggling.”

The students:

Nicholas Armitage scored a 1350 on his SAT and took nine AP courses, played trumpet for seven years and was NHS treasurer. He plans to attend Kettering University in Flint where he will study electrical engineering and computer science.

Jacob Cleaver scored 1440 on the SAT and took 13 AP classes. He spent four years in the Big Red Machine. He was also an Excellence in Education Scholarship winner and chose Ben Rosier as his significant educator for his passion for teaching music to students. Cleaver plans to attend the University of Michigan next year.

Rachel Dick took 10 AP courses, was involved in model United Nations, theater and National Honor Society. She also works at the Vicksburg library and plans to attend Michigan Tech to study science and engineering. She plans to minor in Spanish.

Maia Fleck is a four-year student of KAMSC and was the winner of outstanding research project. Fleck wasn’t present at the meeting because she was at a tennis meet. She also participated in de-tasseling for four straight summers.

Madeline Geiger took 11 AP courses. She was involved in Student Senate and Aim Higher, a volunteer youth group at the high school. She was captain of the girls’ basketball team. She enjoys walking and running. Geiger also helped referee and coach youth basketball. She will attend WMU.

Salutatorian Casey Hall took 12 AP courses. He was a Presidential Award winner for WMU. He also ran track, played tennis and football. He was an Excellence in Education Scholarship winner and chose Rachel King as his significant educator because of the time she spent helping him figure out what he wanted to do with his future.

Kyle Kelly took 10 AP courses and was a four-year scholar athlete. Kelly was involved in National Honor Society, DECA an Ski Club. He also served as captain of the lacrosse and cross-country team. He also worked with the lacrosse youth program and helped with Alzheimer’s patients. He plans to attend Iowa State or Purdue.

Mia Mulhearn took 12 AP courses and was a four-year scholar athlete. She served as NHS President and was involved in marching band and drum major. She also earned eight varsity letters and was the YWCA Women of Achievement Award Winner for Vicksburg. Mulhearn plans to attend Ohio State next year.

Valedictorian Madeline Ritter earned many college credits via KVCC courses. She also volunteered at the animal rescue at Tobey Elementary, where she enjoys walking the dogs. She was also an Excellence in Education Scholarship winner and chose Virginia Ruimveld as her significant educator for pushing her academically. Ritter said she plans to attend WMU.

Vic Simmons: scored a 1400 on the SAT and took nine AP courses. Simmons served as National Art Honor Society president and helped with the mural in the library. Simmons also enjoys pet-sitting and plans to attend the James Madison Residential College for political science at Michigan State University next year.

Alexis Taylor is a member of National Honor Society and served as junior class president and senior class vice president. She also participated in many volunteer opportunities with Sunset Elementary students and planned prom last year. Taylor plans to attend KVCC for a year before moving to Florida to study veterinary science at the University of Central Florida.

Tyler Vallier took 12 AP courses and plays on the varsity baseball team. He also volunteered at Sunset Lake Elementary. Vallier was an Excellence in Education scholarship winner and chose Kristina Porter as his significant educator for the time she spent helping him plan his future. He plans to attend the University of Michigan next year.

The board also recognized Leah Pierce as the DAR Good Citizen Award winner. Pierce took seven AP courses and served on band leadership for four years. She also volunteered at the middle school and in library summer reading programs. Pierce plans to attend Grand Valley State University to pursue pre-veterinary studies before continuing her education at Michigan State.

VanderBor Thankful for Life, Three Years After Accident

Trenton Vanderbor 1
Trenton VanderBor displays his prosthesis on the bleachers of the school stadium. Photo by Travis Smola.

By Travis Smola

Nearly three years after a farm accident took his leg, Trenton VanderBor doesn’t think too much about the struggles it caused. “I don’t think it was a huge setback,” he said. “It’s become very regular to me now, it’s almost as if I have another leg. Normal.”

Nevertheless, the fateful accident forever changed the Vicksburg High School senior’s life in 2016. “If I would have played freshman year football, I wouldn’t be in this situation,” VanderBor said. “But I believe everything happens for a reason.”

He was 15 years old in 2016 and working his first job at a local farm just before his sophomore year one day when his right foot became caught in the drag belt to a conveyer system in a corn silo. “The belt ran on my foot for about two minutes before they were able to shut it off,” VanderBor said. The belt then had to be reversed so he could back himself out of it and be rushed to Bronson Trauma Center.

The next year proved to be brutal. He spent 18 days in a hospital. Trenton underwent five surgeries in the first five days in the intensive care unit before being transferred to the University of Michigan’s children’s hospital for three more surgeries to amputate his foot and remainder of his leg. After that came eight months of physical therapy.

“Learning to walk again was definitely the hardest,” VanderBor said. Other simple tasks like standing in the shower are made much more difficult when one must balance on one leg for eight minutes. “It’s harder than it seems.”

One thing that helped was the outpouring of love and support from his friends, family and the community – especially from the teachers, who gave him a lot of leeway in his assignments given the circumstances. “I’m very thankful for all my friends and family that have supported me through it,” he said.

If anything, the incident was harder on his family. “I think it was hardest for my mom to fathom that her son had just lost his limb,” VanderBor said. “But I think now she’s one of the most accepting people of it, and she knows now that nothing holds me back and I’m able to do anything anyone else can, maybe just not as fast.”

But one thing that couldn’t be changed was the injury’s effect on Trenton’s sports career. Three to four months after the accident he returned to school and supported the basketball team through the whole season at games and at practice. “It stunk a little bit to not be able to go back and play the sport that I loved, but I got a better understanding and a better outlook on life for it,” VanderBor said. “Things aren’t all about sports. I’m just happy to live and be able to see the next day.”

And Trenton’s sports career wasn’t done completely. It just shifted slightly to new things. Trenton threw discus and shotput in 2017 after being inspired to do so by head coaches Jon Kachniewicz and Dave Smith. He took his junior year off from sports before deciding to bowl this past winter.

“Some of my other buddies did it with me,” VanderBor said. “Kind of just for fun, but we took it more seriously than we probably should have. It was always a competition at practices and meets, but it was a good time.”

Through it all, he did keep up with his love for weightlifting; he even has a specialty prosthetic leg for it. It’s one of three; the others are for swimming and everyday walking and running.

As his senior year winds down, VanderBor is looking towards the future. He admits the accident did alter his plans a little. First, he plans to attend KVCC to major in mechanical engineering before transferring to WMU. But his accident also sparked an interest in helping other amputees and he is considering a minor in medical engineering. After that, he may transfer to Eastern Michigan University to work on a master’s degree in prosthetics and orthotics.

He already helped a young girl from the eastern side of the state facing an amputation by helping her prepare for the many challenges that were ahead. “No one can relate better than someone who’s been through it already,” he said.

Ultimately, he just hopes his story of overcoming adversity can help others, no matter what their struggles may be.

His advice? “Never give up, there’s light at the end of the tunnel,” VanderBor said. “Always get better and be thankful for what you have, just be thankful to see another day.”