Category Archives: Vicksburg

Vicksburg discusses alcohol on public properties

Outdoor seating at downtown Vicksburg’s Village Hide-A-Way.

By Rob Peterson

New state legislation that would allow alcoholic drinks to be served on public property was described to the Vicksburg Village Council by Manager Jim Mallery.

The legislation, which became law July 1, gives a municipality the authority to create a social district where patrons are allowed to consume drinks purchased from a local bar, restaurant or brewery. The law is intended to provide more space for social distancing and help stop the spread of COVID-19.

Vicksburg could, for example, designate a site downtown “commons area” where patrons could carry alcoholic drinks from an establishment into a space shared with other businesses. Currently, each establishment must have its own fenced-off outdoor space for serving alcohol.

The law requires that the municipality have a management and maintenance plan, including hours of operation and clearly marked signage that defines the common area. The legislation is open as to how large the area may be, but it must be adjacent to at least two restaurants, bars or breweries.

The drinks must be in plastic containers clearly marked with both the name of the common area and the establishment that sold the drink. The drinks may not leave the common area, nor are they allowed in another restaurant, bar or brewery.

Director of Community Engagement Alex Lee indicated that the staff is researching other communities that have created similar districts. “When we have carefully reviewed all these inputs, have business support, and have a workable plan, we will present to the council for additional review and input,” he said.

In other action, the Village Council approved event requests at the Pavilion including Harvest Fest, which is currently still scheduled for Sunday, September 27.

Mallery updated the Council on the sale of excess village-owned property on TU Avenue. The property was originally purchased by the village as part of a larger tract for the trail extension, but only a portion of the original tract was required for the trail.

The Council supported staff in its efforts to apply for federal funds as part of the CARES economic assistance act. Mallery indicated that he is still looking into allowable uses of the funds, but its purpose is to assist with payroll for essential employees such as police and Department of Public Works staff.

Mallery also updated the Council on the new public parking lot on Kalamazoo Avenue, adjacent to the post office. The Village has installed solar lights and has plans for bike racks and “free parking” signs. There will be a ribbon cutting, but no date has been set.

Council member Adams commented on the need for two additional Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee members. He reminded attendees that July 22 was the last day one can apply to run for office in the fall election.

Council members took a moment to remember active community member Bob Merrill, who passed away recently.

Attendee Jackie Koney expressed gratitude to Village staff for allowing local businesses to adapt to social distance requirements due to Covid-19. Staff provided “curbside pickup” locations for businesses and made arrangements for village-owned picnic tables to be used in outdoor service areas.

Vicksburg schools: More questions than answers

By Jef Rietsma

Editor’s Note: The Vicksburg school district by press time had published several options for reopening which depend on the trend of COVID-19 infections. They include all-virtual education and, if the trend of infections levels off and declines, giving parents and students a choice of virtual or in-person education. A draft chart of the options can be viewed at vicksburgcommunityschools.org. 

With more questions than answers, Vicksburg Community Schools Superintendent Keevin O’Neill in a mid-July board meeting said a clearer picture regarding back-to-school details should be available by the end of July.

During the July 13 meeting, O’Neill spent more than 10 minutes recapping the state of VCS. Additional information was provided during more than 20 minutes of audience questions and board responses following O’Neill’s update.

He restated the highest priority: the health and safety of the district’s students and staff.

“We’re not interested in opening up schools unless we know people will be safe,” he said. “No way would we ever want to put anyone in a situation where they didn’t feel safe or healthy.”

O’Neill made a number of references to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s 63-page MI Safe Schools Roadmap and the mandate that districts develop return-to-school plans. The district-created plans must take into account whether the state is in Phases 1 through 3, Phase 4 or Phase 5. A plan for each of those three levels is required.

He said the course of action the district took from April through the end of the academic year, where curriculum was administered online only, was an example of Phase 3.

“One of the big things that’s happening on the county level is what’s known as the Kalamazoo Virtual and Innovative Collaborative, and that is an online option for families that will choose their children to do their work 100 percent online and not come to school,” O’Neill said. “When we look at Phase 4, which we’re currently in, it allows for face-to-face instruction. That’s what we want to do and we want to make our plan robust as far as health and safety are concerned.”

He said Whitmer’s Roadmap includes options from required and strongly recommend, to recommended and considerations. He said the district will have to digest all options and figure out which will be applied under what circumstances.

Still, O’Neill sided with research that shows face-to-face instruction is most effective and anything less is just not as optimal. He remained optimistic that face-to-face instruction will be allowed.

O’Neill, beginning his third year as Vicksburg superintendent, said personal and collective responsibilities will be major components to the district’s back-to-school plan. Engaging all stakeholders, he noted, is paramount. Being flexible will be critical, too.

“We have to be nimble; we have to be able to pivot back and forth from plans,” he said, adding that a critical issue to come out of Whitmer’s Roadmap centers on masks. “I’m not going to lie, I’ve talked to parents who said ‘There’s no way I’m going to send my kid back to school if he has to wear a mask.’ We know that. We understand that. Everybody feels differently about this.”

O’Neill said at Phase 4, the state will require students and teachers in sixth through 12th grades to wear face covering, while elementary students will have to wear a mask in common areas. At Phase 5, masks are optional.

By the end of July, O’Neill expects the district will have on its website a draft of information related to each of the three phases, 1 through 3, Phase 4 and Phase 5. The district is soliciting feedback from all stakeholders in order to compile a final draft due to the state on or before Aug. 15.

“There’s lots and lots of little things that we’re going to look at every possible scenario, what ifs, possibly adding more lunches to every schedule to ensure that our cafeterias are safe, one-way lanes in hallways and walking in single file,” O’Neill said. “And we haven’t even got into athletics and extra-curriculars yet. Learning is number one right now and that’s what we’re going to focus on.”

In response to audience questions, O’Neill provided answers and clarification, noting that the district would provide only online learning if the region is in Phase 3. The Kalamazoo Virtual and Innovative Collaborative will be available only in Phases 4 or 5.

He also said cleaning protocols will be “robust” and could happen hourly, in some cases with student assistance.

“The protocols we’re going to have to look at in elementary rooms, we’re going to have to get rid of the reading carpet, we’ve got to get rid of all the fluff, we can’t have things shared,” he said. “We need to open up every classroom at every level so that we can space the best we can and then once we get all those protocols in place, then we may have to move some kids … there’s so many dominoes that are going to fall in place to make sure safety is number one and those are some of the things we’re going to have to do.”

In other action:

• O’Neill said the district is in a holding pattern as far as hiring or layoffs are concerned. The district is awaiting more information from the state regarding 2020-21 school-year funding.

• He noted that through online registration, the district has 263 students enrolled in kindergarten and pre-kindergarten for 2020-21.

• The board approved the services of Thrun Law Firm and auditor Plante Moran for 2020-21.

• Board members authorized bids for the following construction-related projects: flooring removal and abatement, $8,682; acoustical ceilings, $29,862; resilient floor coverings, $84,450; interior painting, $5,310; interior lighting, $18,022; tennis court resurfacing and repairs, $112,995; and stadium fencing and concrete repairs, $39,295.

• Bids for dairy and bakery were awarded to Country Fresh, $46,590, and Aunt Millie’s, $6,470.

• A request by Ravenna Kahler, Sunset Lake Elementary and Vicksburg High School band teacher, for 12 weeks leave starting Aug. 31 was granted.

VHS graduation ceremony held — at last

Jennifer Brown was the first of Vicksburg High’s class of 2020 to receive her diploma at the district’s graduation ceremony July 23. School board President Skip Knowles presented diplomas to graduates.

By Jef Rietsma

Vicksburg High School’s class of 2020 is now officially part of the district’s history. Finally.

The district-organized graduation ceremony July 23 was anything but traditional. Still, all that really mattered in the end was that a graduation ceremony for the school’s 170 seniors happened.

“I’m very happy for these kids today, but, gosh, I hope it’s the last time we have to hold a graduation this way,” school board President Skip Knowles said. “I do need to say, though, everybody worked hard and we were firmly committed to being able to pull a graduation off. And we did.”

Knowles said it took an extensive amount of coordination and planning in order to stay in compliance with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive orders regarding crowd sizes.

He noted the ceremony – staggered in small groups over the course of more than three hours – actually over-complied, as graduates and their family members gathered 10 yards apart then proceeded forward to the southwest end of the football field for a photo and for the graduate to receive a diploma.

Knowles conceded the 30-foot distance was easy to measure because graduates and their family members stood at every 10-yard interval, clearly marked on the turf.

He said one upside to the unprecedented ceremony was graduates being able to be pictured with family members prior to receiving their diploma. Knowles said family typically is in the stands while the procession takes place on the field.

“We did a virtual graduation too, so they actually have something they can look at for the rest of their life, as long as there’s the internet,” he said. “They can look at all the speeches and all the graduates and everything else. So, if you want to look at that as a positive. Classes before them didn’t have that.”

He said the class of 2020 will go down in history as a unique group that experienced unprecedented circumstances. He is optimistic the obstacles and setbacks will make the young women and men of 2020 stronger and show greater perseverance as they blossom into adults.

Knowles said he is proud how district administrators and staff worked together to make the event special for the graduates. He thanked all the volunteers and said he looks forward to a more traditional ceremony next year.

“Hopefully,” he said. “I’m crossing my fingers.”

100 years ago…

When the movies came to Vicksburg: In the 1920s, residents could take in the latest movie at the Sun Theatre on North Main Street, where the old PNC Bank parking lot is now. At the beginning of the decade, patrons watched the silent movies of Charlie Chaplin, but by the end of the decade, the “talkies” were introduced. Thanks to Vicksburg Historical Society.

Who remembers?

Youngsters played carom outside near the old elementary school.

Who remembers the school-sponsored summer recreational programs housed at the Old El (the current administration building) in Vicksburg? During the 1970s, school personnel offered arts and crafts activities and supervised sports and games for upper elementary and middle school students. Send your memories to remember.southcountynews@gmail.com

Obituaries

Charles “Charlie” Bartholomew, 74, Vicksburg, died June 26. The son of Henry and Mary (Hacker) Bartholomew, Charlie was born in Kalamazoo on January 4, 1946. He attended Otsego High School and MSU. On June 24, 1967 he married Judy, his high school sweetheart. He was preceded in death by his parents. Surviving are his wife, Judy; children Charles (Susan) Bartholomew Jr., Julia (Matthew) McKee, and David Bartholomew; grandchildren Courtney, Kyle, Emily, Madeline and Colin; a brother, Henry Bartholomew III; and nephews Henry (Tracy) Bartholomew IV and Phillip Bartholomew. Visit his page at BetzlerLifeStory.com. Donations may go to Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan.

Gary Dean Carpenter, 77, Vicksburg, passed away July 24. Gary was born on March 2, 1943 in Vicksburg, the son of Leslie and Glenna (Lamerson) Carpenter. He graduated from VHS in 1961. He was a skilled carpenter and golfer. Gary is survived by his children, Jill (Tony) Lindsley and Jason Carpenter; grandchildren Austin (Marcie Reynolds) Keiser, Madison (Scott) Krieger and Bella Carpenter; great grandchildren Kaiden Keiser and Avery Reynolds. Gary is also survived by his sister, Nancy (Craig) Miller; lifelong friends of over 70 years Rob and Dan Stroud; and nieces, nephews and cousins. He was preceded in death by his parents; a brother, Roger Johnson, and niece, Diane Coville. Visit his page at avinkcremation.com. Donations may go to Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan.

Deborah Rial Eckert, 70, died June 26. The daughter of Carmelita Carpenter and Robert Rial, Debbie was born in Battle Creek on August 29, 1949. During her primary years, she attended a one-room schoolhouse at Ellis Corners in Calhoun County. She graduated from VHS in 1967. She married Stuart Eckert in 1967 at Chapman Memorial Nazarene Church. She worked many years managing the cafeteria at James River. She loved living on Indian Lake and had many hobbies, including mushroom hunting, writing, painting, traveling, and vacationing on the motorcycle. Debbie is survived by her husband, Stuart Eckert; children Teresa and Troy Eckert; and grandchildren DJ and Devin Hettinger, Parker Essex, Auston Martin, and Amber and Trevor Eckert.

Margaret May McClish, 90, Portage, passed away June 27. Margaret was born on January 21, 1930 in Kalamazoo. Margaret graduated from Portage schools in 1948. She was married 60 years to her high school sweetheart, Maurice “Maury” McClish. She is survived by her children Mike (Doris) McClish and Matt McClish of Vicksburg and Mary (Robert) Ryan of Delton; grandchildren Ben (Lisa) McClish and Maria (Tony) Wharton of Vicksburg, Liam (Margo) McClish of TN, Thomas McClish of IN. and Michelle McClish, of IL.; great-grandchildren, and brother Max Crawford. She was preceded in death by husband, Maurice, brother David Crawford, and sister Louise Heller. Visit her page at mccowensecord.com.

Robert H. Merrill, 93, Vicksburg, passed away July 12. Robert was born on May 18, 1927 in Vicksburg, the son of Burl and Clara (Herrmann) Merrill. He graduated in 1945 from VHS. After graduation, he enlisted in the navy and attended MSU. He married Margaret (Peg) Rawlinson in 1951, and eventually owned and operated Rawlinson Appliance. He was a founding member of the Vicksburg Lions Club. He is survived by daughters Gwyn (Larry) Grubka of North Carolina, Beth (John) Foster of Portage, Sue (Dan) Cooley of Schoolcraft, Jeanne Sears and Julie Merrill, both of Vicksburg; 12 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren. He is also survived by his companion, Norma Simmons of Vicksburg; sisters-in-law Rita Brown of Portage and Elizabeth Parker of Arizona; and nieces and nephews. Bob was preceded in death by his wife Margaret “Peg” Merrill; grandson Eric Sears and brother-in-law Charles Rawlinson. Visit his page at mccowensecord.com. Donations may go to South County Community Services, American Diabetes, Vicksburg Historical Society and/or Vicksburg Lions Club.

Joseph Aaron Miller, 62, Schoolcraft, passed away unexpectedly July 6. He was born in Kalamazoo on May 5, 1958, the son of Glaydon and Lois Miller. Joseph graduated from Portage Northern. He was preceded in death by his father, Glaydon Miller. He leaves behind his mother, Lois Miller and a brother, Timothy (Angie) Miller, his niece, Barbara (Josh) Dunn, great-nephews Glaydon and Deacon Dunn and great-niece Josie Dunn. Donations may go to Kalamazoo Gospel Mission. Visit his page at langelands.com.

Timothy E. Price, 41, Vicksburg, passed away June 13 from cancer. Tim was born March 14, 1979 in Kalamazoo to Robert E. and Lynne M. Price. He married Jennifer A. Glaser November 15, 2019. Tim was a 1997 VHS graduate. He served in the Marine Corps, enjoyed hunting, fishing, camping, bonfires, and PBR. Tim is survived by his wife, Jen, his children, Ryan Price-Salazar and Paris Price, and his stepchildren, Delaney Glaser and Raymond Glaser, his parents, Robert and Lynne Price, a brother, Daniel (Trish Baker) Price, a sister, Genevieve (Jamie) Carter, his paternal grandmother, Katherine (Price) Finch, great aunt Nancee (Terry Newell) Beach, as well as many special aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, cousins and friends. Tim was preceded in death by his paternal grandfathers, Robert Price Sr. and Harry Finch, and his maternal grandparents, Merlin and Faye Hines. Donations may go to Glioblastoma Foundation or to Jen for an educational fund for the children.

Patricia Ross, 85, Vicksburg, passed away at home with family by her side June 29. Pat was born on June 9, 1935 to Wallace & Maxine (Stauton) Cousins. Pat was artistic and enjoyed sewing, lunches, and movies. Pat’s family includes her children, Michael (Kim) Olney, Judy Noel, Beverly (Thomas) Compton, Joseph Olney, Deborah (Charles) Rife, Terry Ross and Thomas Ross; 13 grandchildren; 15 great grandchildren; siblings Larry (Barb) Cousins, Allen (Betty) Cousins, Dennis (Lee) Cousins and Roberta Casselman as well as several nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her husband, Leroy; her parents, grandson Christopher Shipley and her granddaughter Gretchen Olan; brothers Donald Cousins and Kenneth Cousins. Visit his page at mccowensecord.com.

James H. Simonds, DPM, died June 29 with his family around him. Jim was born in Kalamazoo on November 28, 1930, the son of Walter and Eloise (Gay) Simonds. He was a graduate of St. Augustine High School, WMU, and Scholl College of Podiatric Medicine. He was an army veteran. Jim owned Simonds Foot & Ankle Clinic, where he practiced for over 60 years. He was a member of St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church and a 4th Degree Knight of Columbus. Jim was an Eagle Scout, hunter, fisherman, and outdoorsman. Nothing made him happier than time with family, a completed to-do list or a day on his tractor. He was inducted into the Hackett Athletics Hall of Fame and held many leadership roles. Jim was preceded in death by his sister, Shirley Ferrara, and his brothers-in-law Bud Ferrara and Art Redmond. He is survived by his wife Mary; sister Barbara Gay Redmond; the mother of his children, Elizabeth Simonds; children Nancy (Terry) Haas, Jim (Mary) Simonds Jr., Dave Simonds, John (Anita) Simonds, and Mary (Kent) Matthews; step-children Donald (Ann) Ulsh, Scott (Tesa) Ulsh and Lisa (Eugene) Lehman; grandchildren Justin (Rikki), Sara (Chad), Derek, Jack, Kevin, Dan, Shelby, Matthew, Aleks (Hunter), Erika, Luke, Jake, Elizabeth, Emily, Hunter (Brooke), David (Cassie), Rachel (Jacob), Melanie, Jonathan, Ella Grace, and Liam; great-grandchildren Nora, Landon, and Mason; and many nieces and nephews. Donations may go to Hackett Catholic Prep Athletics (women’s basketball, volleyball, and soccer programs), St. Martin of Tours, or St. Edwards of Mendon.

Kathryn (Kitty) Mariel Starbuck, 90, died June 27 of COVID-19. The youngest daughter of Forrest and Fannie (Rifenberg) Shick, Kitty was born July 9, 1929 and raised on the family farm. Kitty graduated from VHS in 1946. She met the love of her life, Marvin, at a dance hall in Glendale and wed October 23, 1950. They built their new home next door to the house Kitty grew up in, living there for 60 years. Her claim to crafting fame was the manufacture of toy dinosaurs for the Field Museum in Chicago. Kitty served as editor-publisher of two monthly geological publications for 40 years. Kitty was preceded in death by her parents and sisters Marilynn Shick and Marian Sperry. She is lovingly remembered by her husband Marvin; children Kay (Lynn) DeMoss and Dennis (Terri) Starbuck; grandchildren Nikki (Mike) Schnelle and Sara Folck; great-grandchildren Madalyn, Chandler, Stella, and Lilah; nephew Bob (Marcie Brown) Sperry; great-nephew John (Caitlin) Sperry. Dan, Jen, and Delaney VanderPloeg and Jeff, Heidi, David and Drew DeMoss join them in grief. Donations may go to Vicksburg United Methodist Church.

Howard James Steffey Sr., 77, Schoolcraft, passed away July 24. Howard was born on December 22, 1942 in Kalamazoo, the son of Harlow and Dorothy (Marlette) Steffey. Howard graduated from Loy Norrix High School in 1961. He served in the U.S. Air Force during Vietnam. On October 10, 1964, he married Sally Frazier. Together they raised their three children, Howard Jr., Bob and Susan. He worked for over 35 years as an electrician for Georgia Pacific. He loved to watch old western movies and singing along to a nice country song. Howard is survived by his wife of 55 years, Sally; children Howard Steffey, Jr, of Kalamazoo, Bob Steffey, of Vicksburg, and Susan Elhart, of Vicksburg; grandchildren Bryan Woodward, of Battle Creek, Austin Steffey, of Kalamazoo, and Elysa Elhart, of Vicksburg; great grandchildren Abigail and Bentley. He is also survived by his sister, Gail Leggett, of Kalamazoo. He was preceded in death by his brothers, Harlow and Douglas Steffey. Howard has been cremated and at this time no services are planned. Visit his page at avinkcremation.com.

Todd Harold Weinberg, 51, Scotts, passed away July 11. Todd was born April 12, 1969 to Mel and Jo Weinberg and grew up on a farm in Scotts. He graduated with honors from VHS in 1987 and was a drummer in the “Big Red Machine.” Todd was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at age 5. At 44, he had a double lung transplant. Four years later, he got cancer. He continued farming, reluctantly retiring this year. He is survived by his mom, Jo Weinberg, sister Molly (Weinberg) Schake of Mililani, Hawaii, a brother, Chad Weinberg of Alexandria, Va.; brother-in-law, Mark Shake; and sister-in-law, Therra (Ebwe) Weinberg. He was uncle to Ryna Weinberg, Corban Weinberg, Phoebe Weinberg, Emily Schake, Wendy (Schake) Lyons, Daniel Lyons, Nathan Schake, and Brooke Schake. Todd was preceded in death by his father, Milford “Mel” Weinberg. Visit his page at mccowensecord.com.

Carol A. Wunderlin, 86, of Portage, died June 29, 2020, at Rose Arbor Hospice, Kalamazoo, following a battle with dementia. The daughter of Milton and Pauline (Denner) Hillsburg, Carol was born September 28, 1933 in Kalamazoo. Carol attended St. Joseph Elementary and St. Augustine High School and Parsons Business College. On June 4, 1960, Carol married Walter Wunderlin. Carol was preceded in death by siblings Joan Haas and Robert Hillsburg. Surviving are her husband of 60 years, Walter Wunderlin; daughter Michelle Buist; grandsons Tanner (Amaira) Buist and Carter Buist; great-grandchildren Axel and Rebel; brother John (Jean) Hillsburg; and many nieces and nephews. Services have been held with burial at Mt. Olivet Cemetery. Visit her page at BetzlerLifeStory.com. Donations may go to the Alzheimer’s Association of Southwest Michigan or Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan.

Cottage care: love over logic

An old cabin on our property’s shoreline.

By Kathy Oswalt-Forsythe

For a week or so each summer, we are lucky enough to have a place to go to beat the heat and get away. It has always been the highlight of our family’s year.

When we were kids, the station wagon strained with the five of us children, a grandmother, two dogs, sleeping bags, fishing gear, and all kinds of caged energy and excitement. Once my dad’s tanned arm draped the driver’s side door, my mom’s sunglasses adorned her face, and we had wiggled into our places, we launched, listening to Ernie Harwell or the gravely voice of Merle Haggard. Inching along, we left the humid world of corn fields and wheat stubble; just past Mt. Pleasant, the air began to thin and the lovely smell of northern pine forests began.

Our old log cabin sits on a river and protected sandy bay on the Lake Superior Canadian shore. Our maternal grandparents purchased the vacant property in the late 1930s, and our families have enjoyed it ever since.

Currently, many third- and fourth-generation cottage owners struggle to maintain, finance, and agree on what to do with older aging properties. So far, the nine families involved have worked things out pretty well, but caring for an aging vacation home is an exercise in love, not logic.

Our grandchildren are the fourth generation of young ones whose lips turn blue in the clear, icy water, whose little eyes faithfully watch their bobbers, whose necks are lined with black fly and mosquito bites. I realize how fortunate we are.

Yes, times have changed. On many lakes in South County, cottages have been sold, demolished, and replaced with gorgeous year-round-homes. The modest vacation dwellings that remain look out of place, hidden in the shadows of their fine, fresh neighbors.

It’s hard to imagine a new place. Would I miss the mustiness? The brown bats that flutter in the rafters? The snap of the mousetraps once lights are out?

Absolutely not.

But I would miss the wash tubs nailed on the sagging exterior, the familiar creak of the steps and floorboards, the sweet smell of my grandmother’s spices in the old kitchen cupboard.

Family cottages are a nostalgic journey through the years: the cast-off dishes and jigsaw puzzles, the old record players and scratched vinyl. All reminders of our history.

At the cabin, I feel a connectedness to the past and an appreciation for the dear ones no longer here: My dad and grandfather’s favorite chair sits in the shady window, my uncle’s tools hang in the boathouse, my grandmother’s bread pans wait on a shelf.

We will miss the old place this year, but she will welcome our return next summer after we tame this pandemic.

And the discussions and plans for our family place will continue.

At least for now.

It’s a Fine Life.

On the Corner

By Kathy Oswalt-Forsythe

Summer

This summer was certainly unlike any summer we remember: the cancellation of the 4th of July parade and fireworks, the postponement and eventual cancellation of the Old Car Festival.

We are saddened by this loss of normalcy, but some things stay the same: the fireflies dancing during the July nights; the smiles of children as they hold their dripping ice cream cones; the produce proudly displayed at farmers’ markets and roadside stands. I hope we can all enjoy the seasonal bounty and beauty Michigan has to offer, despite the challenges we are currently facing.

Our Appreciation

Thank you, readers, for your response to our semi-annual fund drive and request for your continued financial support. We are grateful for your generous contributions which make possible this publication.

Thanks, also, for the emails we have received with story ideas or kind supporting words. The South County News team is navigating a new course without our Sue, and we all appreciate your patience as we lift some these new sails and gradually gain some speed and confidence.

Schoolcraft Visit

On a mid-July afternoon, I spent several lovely hours with “Sue’s Women” – formerly known as “The Wild Women of Schoolcraft.” I sat with this wonderful gift of new friends in the Bergland family’s gardens; the dappled shade and the light breeze was so kind, as was the conversation and fellowship. I continue to be thankful for the gracious people who occupy our part of the county.

Fire Truck Parade

On the 4th of July, the South Kalamazoo County Fire Authority vehicle parade honored our communities. Starting in Schoolcraft at 2 p.m., the procession began, proceeded to Vicksburg, then Fulton. With lights and sirens going, drivers and passengers waved at many smiling, surprised residents. Thanks to all who made this possible!

Craig Rolfe’s Tribute

Craig Rolfe sent a lovely note about Sue. (The letter in its entirety appears on our South County News website.) His words continue the praise of this remarkable woman. Thank you, Craig.
Enjoy the beauty of late summer and the anticipation of fall.

Musings About Sue

By Craig Rolfe

Like no doubt every member of the Vicksburg-Schoolcraft community who knew anything about Sue Moore, I was initially consumed by a sense of disbelief, and perhaps denial, when I heard of her death. How could this be so, I questioned? How could this epitome of the Vicksburg Energizer Bunny on Steroids have so suddenly just left us?

Having had a few weeks now to reflect on Sue, and my experiences with her, I’ve finally been able to compose a few of my thoughts and actually write them down for Kathy Forsythe to share with others, if she wishes to do so. Here goes:

Sue the Journalist. I likely first became aware of this Sue on a professional level when Sue was covering area township meetings at which I was serving as legal counsel. I remember being quite taken aback the first time Sue sent me her actual draft copy for an article and requested I offer any pertinent suggestions or corrections. After first resisting this invitation, and thinking “Gee, Sue, isn’t this YOUR job”, I eventually realized this was merely part of Sue’s  determination to “get the story right”. Upon accepting the strive for perfection as her motivation for allowing the subject of a story to check her work before the story was buttoned-up for publication, it was easy to work with Sue the Journalist. More recently she might ask me to actually write the copy for an article on something involving The Big Red Machine, which I would happily do, but with some apprehensions about HER editing of MY story!

Sue the Photographer. You may initially think this is just a variation of Sue the Journalist; but I beg to differ, especially after Sue discovered that new-fangled invention — DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY!  I dare say that new technology was made for Sue. I would often watch her at local athletic, band, or other events, such as Showboat rehearsals (yes, I mean ShowBOAT), and wonder, sometimes aloud: “Geez, Sue, how the heck how many pictures do you need to take of the same thing?” Of course, in reality all of her seemingly endless clicking of that shutter button captured many often slightly different shots, from which she would deliberately and thoughtfully choose just the “right” photo to visually complement the narrative part of her SCN story.

Sue the Historian. I only came to know this Sue quite recently, in the context of the efforts of the Vicksburg Historical Society to reach a new arrangement with the Village to continuing operating and administering the Historic Village. As part of those efforts Sue produced an extremely detailed roster of all the various buildings, structures, and railroad rolling stock the Society has either acquired or constructed, complete with dates, exact itemized costs incurred by the Society, and the history of the original historical buildings the Society brought to the Historic Village as part of its mission to preserve and celebrate the history of our community. Sue the Historian had an incredible breadth and depth of knowledge about the Vicksburg area, which we can now only hope was sufficiently recorded so as to be perpetuated for the benefit of all of us alive now and those who will join this community years from now.Lastly, 

Sue the Vicksburger (yes, that IS a real word). In my lifetime the Vicksburg area community has been fortunate to have enjoyed the talents, energy, and special gifts contributed by several individuals whose love for this community was expressed in so many ways. For Sue, as with Mercer Munn before her, Vicksburg was indeed “the center of the universe”. However, in so many respects Sue Moore was the very CENTER of that universe. Her life is a shining example of how much of a difference one individual can make in the history of a community, and the lives of the people comprising that community, through commitment, dedication, skill, and an abiding endless love for what they do.

Sue may have had some sense of her contributions to this community, through the founding of and operation of the South County News, and otherwise, but I lament the utter loss of the opportunity for this entire community to actually TELL HER just how beloved she was. So, in closing, I challenge each of you to look around and see the other individuals who always seem to be “the doers” in our community, and thank them — while you can. You know who they are. Better yet, honor Sue by offering to dig in and help do the things that need to be done.  

New SCN Editor Is an Old Friend: Kathy Oswalt-Forsythe

Kathy Oswalt-Forsythe. Photo by Leeanne Seaver.

By Leeanne Seaver

A small-town newspaper is an increasingly rare and wonderful thing in this age of digital communication. It contains more than news; it reflects the culture of a place through stories and photographs.

No one knew this better than Sue Moore, whose passion for her hometown and region was evident in everything she did, especially as founder, editor, and publisher of the South County News.

After Moore’s recent passing, the board of the newspaper met to discuss how publication would continue without her life force. Her shoes would be hard to fill, but she left a clear path to follow.

Sue’s admiration and respect for Kathleen Oswalt Forsythe spanned decades. A contemporary of Gordon and Bonnie Oswalt, Moore knew Kathy’s parents and their daughter well.

As community leaders, Moore and Forsythe crossed paths in numerous ways. They worked together on the Hearty Hustle 5K each year, and sat on the Vicksburg School Foundation Board together. Moore secured Kathy as a regular feature writer for the SCN. A fourth-generation Oswalt of Vicksburg, Kathy’s reflections on growing up on the family farm in Brady Township and life in this small town are curated in her popular column, “It’s a Fine Life”.

With equal measures of nostalgia and currency, Kathy Forsythe’s natural talent and literary chops were honed with a bachelor’s degree from MSU and a master’s degree from WMU. She’s taught English at VHS since 2004, and is a founding member of a group of local wordsmiths comprising The Lake Effect Writers Guild. She and husband Dennis have three children, two sons-in-law and two grandkids. Kathy’s love of family, reading, entertaining, writing, and gardening shines through everything she does. And her deep devotion to this community is apparent to all who know her, a qualification Sue Moore would have required.

On June 4, the SCN board invited Forsythe to assume the role of publisher/editor. Kathy accepted with the understanding that “I’ll have to operate differently than Sue – my background isn’t in journalism. But I’m so motivated to keep our local paper going. I’ll need patience from the readership, and lots of help!”

That’s a given from a great team: Justin Gibson, graphic designer; Bob Ball, copy editor; Wes Schmidt, secretary and treasurer; Sheri Freeland, advertising sales; and Steve Ellis, ad consultant.

Forsythe is excited to take on the challenge. “The South County News helps make this a great place to live. I’m looking forward to this opportunity, and to hearing from readers. Send her your story ideas at Kforsythesouthcountynews@gmail.com.