Category Archives: Vicksburg

New Vicksburg teaching staff introduced

Hugh Thiel, new math teacher.

By Jef Rietsma

Six new members to the Vicksburg Community Schools family were introduced at the board of education’s Dec. 14 meeting.

Superintendent Keevin O’Neill said it’s traditional to introduce the district’s new hires at the board’s final meeting of the calendar year.

The new employees are Jay Bennett, music instruction at Vicksburg middle and high schools; Shannon Reed, interventionist and English as a second language at the middle school; Hugh Thiel, middle school math; Amber Cousins, third grade at Sunset Lake; Nikki Taplin, Begindergarten at Sunset Lake; and Kim Parsons, virtual first grade at Indian Lake Elementary.

High school principal Adam Brush said Bennett, who fills a retirement position, did his student teaching in Vicksburg. He has also worked with the district’s marching band. “Very positive, an extremely hard worker and very personable,” Brush said.

Bennett said he went to high school in a building that had 2,500 students. Working in Vicksburg provides a close-knit feeling in a district that values the fine arts. He added that he is especially eager to see the district’s middle school students grow from young teens to young adults.

Middle school principal Matt Vandussen introduced Reed and Thiel. He said Reed, who came to Vicksburg from Centreville, brings 21 years of teaching experience and did her teaching internship at Tobey Elementary in the late 1990s. “She’s knocking it out of the park … I love having her here,” he said, musing that Reed came from one Bulldog family to another.

Vandussen said Thiel is a seventh-grade math teacher who is a first-year teacher. A Hope College graduate in 2020, Thiel has “hit the ground running,” Vandussen said. “He brings a great attitude every day … Hugh has not disappointed,” Vandussen added.

Amie McCaw, Sunset Lake principal, said she had the good fortune of landing a pair of high-quality teachers who bring extensive experience to the classroom. She said Cousins served at Indian Lake during a long-term maternity leave this past spring before taking a long-term post at Sunset Lake this fall. Cousins, a VCS graduate, fills a retirement position at the third-grade level. “She’s done a phenomenal job,” McCaw said. “She helped us with some supervision and whenever we needed something, Amber was the one who said, ‘Sure, I can do that.’”

McCaw said Taplin started as Begindergarten teacher during remote learning last spring. McCaw said with a few exceptions, Taplin has not met face-to-face with most of her current students.

Supt. O’Neill, whose 50th birthday was acknowledged earlier in the meeting, said he taught Taplin while a chemistry instructor at Portage Northern High School.

Ruth Hook, Indian Lake principal, said Parsons “turned on a dime” without much advance warning. Parsons has taught in Battle Creek and Kalamazoo.

“It means a lot to me to be finally working for Vicksburg and to be a Bulldog,” Parsons said. “I love my families, I love this community and the support has been huge.”

Board president Skip Knowles said he is proud the six joined the district and he appreciates the strengths they bring to Vicksburg.

In a separate matter, board members acknowledged Wil Emmert, who joined the board in 1993 but fell short in his bid for re-election. Knowles said Emmert has been a great resource to the board and the school district. Other board members, meanwhile, gave accolades to Emmert and said his contribution to the district will be missed.

“Your commitment to VCS and the students has not gone unnoticed, Wil,” O’Neill said. “Thank you for your 27 years of service.”


Patricia Rene Aldrich, 92, Schoolcraft, passed away peacefully Dec. 4, 2020 at White Oaks Assisted Living Center. Patricia was born Sept. 13, 1928 to Emerson and Bernice Houts. She was married to Neal C. Aldrich Sept. 24, 1948. Pat grew up and lived in Schoolcraft her whole life. She loved her little town and being active in her community. She retired from Kalamazoo County State Bank after 30 years, and worked at Norma’s Antiques for 25 years. For many years, she enjoyed volunteering at the Schoolcraft Community Library and was also a member of the Order of the Eastern Star. Pat loved music and ballroom dancing with her husband. Her family includes her children, Timothy Aldrich and Larry (Patsy) Aldrich; grandchildren Amy (Jeff) Triplett, Gabriel (Kari) Aldrich, Benjamin (Lisa) Aldrich and Jeremy (Kelly) Aldrich; great grandchildren Zackary Triplett, Henry Aldrich, Mason Aldrich, and Maylee Aldrich; sister Norma Whybrew; sister-in-law Jeanette Houts and many nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her parents, Emerson and Bernice Houts; her husband of 55 years, Neal Aldrich; her daughter-in-law, Elisabeth Aldrich; and her brother, Errol Houts, Sr. Donations may go to Schoolcraft Community Library or to Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan. Visit Patricia’s page at

Julia (Julie) Susan Beran, 77, Schoolcraft, passed away Dec. 14, 2020. She was born Sept. 1, 1943 in Kalamazoo to Louis C. and Camilla A. (Hatley) Berky. Julie met John Beran, the love of her life, before her senior year in high school. They were voted “Couple Most Likely to Stay Together” and they did for over 60 years. She was a loving wife, mother and grandma and enjoyed preparing holiday meals at her house and surprising everyone with a handmade felt ornament each Christmas. She also enjoyed sewing, embroidery, word searches, gardening, bird feeding and her grandchildren’s school functions. Julie was preceded in death by her parents and two brothers. She is survived by her husband, John; daughters Diana Beran, Kathy (Kevin) Richards, and Cindy Beran; and grandchildren Emily (Cody) Marshall, Alysia Stozicki, Ethan Richards and Nicholas Richards. Visit Julie’s page at

Steven L. DeHaan, 70, Schoolcraft, passed away at home on Dec. 27, 2020 after a courageous battle with cancer. Steve was born in Kalamazoo, a son of Steven and Laura (Kannegeiter) DeHaan. He graduated from Parchment High School, served in the US Army and was a deputy with the Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Department for 37 years. On July 1, 1988, he married Debbie (Adams) DeHaan, who survives. Also surviving are his children, Zach (Robin) DeHaan, Stephanie (Jeff) Blaskiewicz, Megan (Josh) Knight and Alan Cherette; grandchildren Lauren, Morgan, Gracie, Tyler, Adelih, Sophia; great-granddaughter Alaïa; brother and sisters Kathy Hoeksema, Pat (Ed) Doorlag, Larry (Ruth) DeHaan and sister-in-law Cheryl DeHaan; brother-in-law and sister-in-law Dave and Dawn Llewellyn and sister-in-law DeAnn Adams; as well as several nieces, nephews, cousins, extended family members and friends. Steve was preceded in death by his parents, Steven and Laura DeHaan, brother Jack DeHaan, brother-in-law Edwin Hoeksema and mother-in-law Helen (Wylie) Adams. Visit his page at

Cheryl Ann Derrick, 72, passed away Nov. 14, 2020. She was born in Kalamazoo July 30, 1948, the daughter of Loyd and Loyola Wilson, and was a lifelong resident of the Kalamazoo area. She married the love of her life, Donald Derrick, Jan. 20, 1968. They raised two wonderful sons that she was immensely proud of, David (Kim) and Matthew (Shelly) Derrick. She leaves behind grandchildren Dillon Smith, Jenna Derrick, Bailey Ann Derrick, Nathan and Morgan Jackson,and Kelsey and Max Meyers; and four great grandchildren. Cheryl was an advanced antique collector and dealer; she always enjoyed the thrill of the hunt for the next prize. If you ever met Cheryl, she would never forget your face or your name and you were friends for life. Due to COVID concerns, a memorial service to celebrate Cheryl’s life will be held on a later date. The family asks that when you are having a cocktail on the back porch, patio, deck, fire pit, dock or the pontoon boat to raise your glass in remembrance of Cheryl. Visit her page at

Paul “Champ” Eisenhardt, 80, formerly of Scotts, died Nov. 21, 2020. Champ was born in Kalamazoo and raised in Comstock, where he graduated in 1958, receiving awards in track, football, basketball, and baseball. In adulthood, Champ played fast pitch softball, bowled, and fished with his buddy, Jimmy Vanloo. Champ retired from General Motors after 30-plus years. Champ loved spending time with his family in Bradenton, Fla. Champ will be dearly missed by Sharon, his wife of 38 years; children Catherine (Ed) Nyberg, James Dekker Jr. and Julie Dekker, all of Michigan, Scott Eisenhardt of Florida; grandchildren Amber (Ben) Hammon, Shalyn (Jordan) Bourdo, Rachel Nyberg, Kyle Nyberg, Emilee (Devon) Jones, Chelsea (Jesse) James, Mareea Dekker, and James Dekker III; great grandchildren Nolan, Madysen (Payton), Holland, Everly, Julianah, Carson, Brecken, Wyatt, Dakota Rose, Matthew and Baby Jones, due in 2021; sister-in-law Pat DeBoer and brother-in-law David Leedy, as well as many nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents, Virginia and Paul; siblings David, Bob and Ruthann; nephews David and Jeff; niece Rhonda; daughter-in-law Tracy Dekker and brother-in-law John DeBoer. Visit Paul’s page at

James Edward Fess, Jr., Scotts, passed away Dec. 19, 2020. Jim was born on Nov. 21, 1955 in Vicksburg, the son of James Sr. and Kathryn Jean (Jennings) Fess. Jim graduated from Vicksburg High School in 1974 and participated in football, shot put, and choir. After high school he joined the U.S. Navy. He married Sharon Darling in 1980 at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church. Together, they raised two sons, Robert and Matthew. Jim retired in 2012 after working over 30 years at Upjohn/Pfizer. Jim had the natural ability for building things “correctly” and was always there for his sons to help them with projects. He enjoyed ice fishing, softball and bowling. He loved the Detroit Lions, car shows, going to the races with his friend, Virgil Hopwood, and traveling with Sharon. Jim was preceded in death by his mother, a sister, a brother and his special dog, Rufus. He is survived by his wife of 40 years, Sharon, and their sons, Robert Fess of Scotts and Matthew (Brittney) Fess of Vicksburg; granddaughter Clara Marie Fess; and his cat, Fluffs. Also surviving are his father James Sr. (Diana) Fess of Vicksburg; sisters Pat, Nancy, and Melanie; and several nieces and nephews. Visit his page at Donations may go to the American Cancer Society.

H. Arlene Forsythe, 83, Vicksburg, was called home to join her Lord and Savior Dec. 19, 2020 at The Laurels of Coldwater. She was born May 6, 1937 in Bancroft, Michigan, the daughter of William E. and Estella May (Morgan) Self. Her early life was spent in Corunna, where she was a 1955 graduate of Corunna High School. On Aug. 17, 1957 she married Richard Forsythe. She worked at Redmond Motors in Owosso, managed the Hallmark House in Midland, was the librarian at John Wesley College in Owosso, and was a pastor’s wife. Arlene resided in Vicksburg for the past 26 years, retiring from the Michigan District office of the Church of the Nazarene in Vicksburg following many years as office manager. She enjoyed cooking, sewing and playing the organ. Arlene found the most joy when she was surrounded by her family, especially her grandchildren and great grandchildren. She is survived by her husband of 63 years, Richard; daughters Sheryllynn (Roger) McBride of Brighton and Teresa (Rod) McBride of Rockford; son Richard Forsythe of St. Augustine, Florida; grandchildren Mark, Jeff, Amanda, Brooke, Joshua, Clorissa and Elizabeth; six great grandchildren and expecting her seventh; sister Lila Wright of Owosso and many nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her parents, three sisters and one brother. Donations may go to Sturgis Church of the Nazarene. Visit her page at

Etta Josephine Gould, 100, Vicksburg, passed away surrounded by her loving family Dec. 21, 2020. She was born in Kalamazoo on July 21, 1920, the daughter of Charles Gleason and Gertrude May Truax. She married the love of her life, Bramwell Kenneth Gould, on November 15, 1940. Together they raised six children in the Vicksburg area. She devoted her entire life to the care of others and spent 20 years working as a home health aide before embarking on her nursing career at Bronson Methodist Hospital as an LPN, retiring in 1995 after 35 years of service. During her retirement, she spent time traveling with her son, James, and her daughter, Wanda, until James passed away in 2010. She was preceded in passing by her husband; children James, John and Bonnie; siblings Perry, Harold and Dora; and her parents. Left to cherish her loving memory are her children, Wanda, Marvin and Betty (Lee) Hambright; four grandchildren, six great-grandchildren, two great great-grandchildren and several nieces, nephews and cousins. Donations may go to Elara Caring Hospice, Senior Services or the American Cancer Society. The family would like to thank both Elara and Senior Services for the care and support they provided. Visit Etta’s page at

Joyce D. Hoeksema, 83, Portage, passed away Dec. 6, 2020. Joyce was born May 19, 1937 to Raymond and Lettie (Canavan) Snook. She graduated in 1955 from Vicksburg High School. She married Jim Hoeksema on June 29, 1956, and they became partners in the family business, Jim Hoeksema Greenhouses. As hard as the family worked, they always made time to travel as a family. In retirement, Joyce and Jim enjoyed traveling, especially to golf destinations. She also followed baseball and was engaged in politics. She is survived by three daughters, Kathy Hoeksema-Aivars of Schoolcraft, Cindy (Andy) Medema of Mattawan and Lori Hoeksema of Schoolcraft; grandchildren Andrea Medema, Nathan (Jamie) Medema, and Bailey (Jeffrey) Witt; great grandchildren Andrew and Lily Medema, Peyton and Gage Witt. She is also survived by sisters Rayletta Boone and Jeanne Watson; brother John Snook; brothers-in-law Don (Nancy) Hoeksema, Dale (Marilyn) Hoeksema, and Harold Vlietstra; sisters-in-law Sue Snook, Nancy Snook, Kathy Hoeksema, and Carol Hoeksema. Joyce was preceded in death by her husband; parents; brothers Emanuel, James and Eugene Snook; sister Marveta Calhoun; sister-in-law Doris Vlietstra; brothers-in-law Gerald Hoeksema, Carl Hoeksema, Ed Hoeksema, Orville Boone and Paul Calhoun. Services have been held. Visit her page at Donations may go to Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan.

Barbara Jean (Dorey) Kissinger, Kalamazoo, passed away Dec. 11, 2020 at home. The daughter of Marvin and Betty (Weinberg) Dorey, she was born April 21, 1958 and grew up in Vicksburg, graduating in 1977. When Barbara was in high school, her 7-year-old nephew Peter Leja passed away from cancer, influencing her decision to go into the medical field. She became a certified nurse’s aide and devoted 42 years of working in nursing homes, adult foster homes, and for the last 15 years in the homes of patients with brain injuries. On Sept. 18, 1982, Barbara was married to Timothy L. Kissinger, who preceded her in death. She was also preceded in passing by her parents. Barbara was a past member of Mid-Lakes Chorus of Sweet Adelines International. and a member of St. Monica Catholic Church. Barb loved to travel. She is survived by her siblings Walter (Patricia) Dorey, Darlene Leja, LouAnn Laurence, Maxine Haywood; sister-in-law Christina Dorey; in-laws Sharon (Greg) Kilburn and Susan VandenBerg; and many nieces and nephews. She was also preceded in death by a brother, Robert Dorey; brothers-in-law Henry Leja, James Laurence and David Haywood; nephew Peter Leja and great niece Alexis Peterson. Donations may go to West Michigan Cancer Center, Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan or St. Monica Catholic Church.

Clare Gene Seaburg, 93, Schoolcraft, passed away on Dec. 15, 2020. Clare was born on March 16, 1927 in Cassopolis, the son of Frank and Aletha (Sutherland) Seaburg. He graduated from Hartford High School and served in the United States Army during the Korean War. He married Yvonne “Tee” Avery on Sept. 15, 1950, together raising three children, Cherie, Cindee and Ty. Clare owned and operated Hydraulic Concrete Corp and enjoyed fishing, bowling, playing cards and helping others. Clare was a member of the Schoolcraft United Methodist Church, Shriners, the Kalamazoo County Masonic Lodge and the West Street Poker Club. Clare and Tee spent 24 summers at Gravel Lake and traveled to Arizona for the winters. Clare was preceded in death by his wife; siblings Harry Seaburg and Ruth Klein. He is survived by his children Cherie (John) Thorp and Cindee (Garry) Moore of Gobles and Ty (Missy) Seaburg of Schoolcraft; 11 grandchildren and 32 great grandchildren with one more on the way. He is also survived by his sister, Linda Miling of Comstock Park, and numerous nieces and nephews. Visit his page at Donations may go to Schoolcraft United Methodist Church and/or Elara Caring Hospice.

Jack Charles Smith, 69, died Oct. 26, 2020 after an eight-month battle with cancer. He was born Jan. 18, 1951 to Jack and Betty Smith of Portage. On Oct. 28, 1972 he married Gretchen Klauss. Jack was employed Upjohn/Pfizer for 32 years as a journeyman pipefitter. After retirement, he worked at Vicksburg Hardware as the Stihl mechanic. Jack was an avid sportsman looking forward to hunting season each fall. He took much pleasure in retelling his hunting escapades. He also enjoyed fishing and time spent with his hunting and fishing buddies. He was admired by many and passed on his knowledge to all who showed interest. His biggest delight was his family. Jack and Gretchen were married 48 years and were devoted to each other. He was proud of daughters Regan (Pete) and Lauren (Jesse) and delighted in his grandchildren, Claire, Willem, Charlie and Alora, and step grandchildren Tucker and Annabelle. His greatest heartache was that he would not be here for them as they grow up. He is also survived by his sister, Diane. Visit Jack’s page at

Ruth Anna Smith, 78, Vicksburg, went home to be with her Lord unexpectedly yet peacefully Nov. 13, 2020. She was born to Harville and Leona (Kuenke) Campbell Oct. 29, 1942, in St. Louis, Mo. She was united in marriage to Carl Joseph Smith June 18, 1960, and soon began a family of seven children. Ruth and Carl were married for 54 years. She was a grandmother to 21 grandchildren, 22 great grandchildren and an aunt to several nieces and nephews. Ruth’s biggest joy was spending time with her family. She is survived by her children, Angela (David) Wilson of Scotts, Deborah Smith of Galesburg, Carl “Sonny” (Jamie) Smith II of Jackson, Karla (Bill) Vroman of Vicksburg, Darla (Jack) Smith-McNett of Vicksburg, Merton Smith of Vicksburg and Wendy (Terry) Smith-Walker of Galesburg; siblings Tom (Diane) Campbell, Marge Lamb, Francis Pennington and Martha “Marty” Thompson, 20 grandchildren and 22 great-grandchildren. She was preceded in death by her parents, beloved husband, a brother, four sisters and a granddaughter. Visit her page at

Christmas Card Lane to return in 2021

Alex Lee, Vicksburg’s Director of Community Engagement, displays the 2020 Christmas Card Lane.

By Jef Rietsma

Vicksburg officials are declaring the inaugural Christmas Card Lane a success.

In the absence of a parade and other Christmas traditions the village had to put on hold this year, Christmas Card Lane proved to be a hit – and a solid backup option.

Alex Lee, Vicksburg’s Director of Community Engagement, said there’s no question in his mind that he witnessed the start of a new Vicksburg tradition.

“Now that people have seen Christmas Card Lane, they understand what it involves, how it’s presented and what it’s all about. We now have a long list of people and businesses who want to be a part of this in 2021,” Lee said.

Set up in the Vicksburg Historic Village, Christmas Card Lane featured 34 “cards” that, in most cases, are mounted on 4-by-8-foot sheets of plywood. Sponsors were able to share their name and a design on their card.

Christmas Card Lane started Dec. 5 and was to continue through the first weekend in January. The cards could be viewed at any time and were set up in a drive-thru format.

Lee was part of the village’s three-person Christmas Committee, whose members also featured John DeBault and Natasha Hanichen. Lee said the feedback he’s seen via the village’s Facebook page has been overwhelmingly positive.

“When we started, the plan was a piece of plywood, everybody paints it, and then we put it up,” Lee said. “Feedback we started getting was some people didn’t have the time or the talent to paint, and they were asking if there was a quicker way to do this.”

Lee found The Sign Company of Kalamazoo, which introduced him to an aluminum composite panel with a high-density corrugated core called Alumilite. Images can be applied to the surface, which retains color that does not run or fade.

The panels were secured by a pipe bracket to metal poles and illuminated by spotlights.

Lee said the project was a great partnership between the village and the Vicksburg Historical Society. He said Christmas Card Lane would not have been possible without the cooperation of the Historical Society.

“I liked how they would turn on the lights inside the old buildings … it was a nice touch that just added something to the experience,” Lee said.

He said the village will store the panels during the offseason, though a few companies have asked to have theirs back for year-round display.

Lee added that DPW officials placed a traffic counter at the entrance and the total number of cars that passed through will be tallied when the display is taken down.

With more card entries expected next year, Lee said there’s a chance the cards will have to be displayed on both sides of the drive rather than along the passenger’s side as they were this season.

“We couldn’t be happier … the reaction has been tremendous and we look forward to another strong lineup in next year’s display,” Lee said.

Business survivability grants available to businesses

By Jef Rietsma

The village of Vicksburg and the Vicksburg Community Foundation have partnered to distribute $40,000 to local businesses impacted by restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 virus.

Village Manager Jim Mallery at a Dec.21 meeting told council members about a business survivability grant, which creates financial assistance for businesses that meet eligibility criteria. Mallery said about two dozen potentially qualifying business have been made aware of the opportunity.

“We have made contact with businesses in the village that fit the (qualifying) categories and have held two Zoom calls educating them,” Mallery said. Grant-request forms were mailed to prospective recipients Dec. 22.

Village president Tim Frisbie called the program “an awesome opportunity” and said Vicksburg is fortunate to have such a strong and generous foundation. Mallery agreed and said the village also has strong owners who demonstrated great selflessness.

“I was pleasantly pleased at the character of our business community because I had three of the businesses that certainly met the criteria, all independent of one another, and spoke how their businesses had not been drastically impacted because of the amount of take-out food they’ve provided,” Mallery said. “And they wanted to see that money redistributed to those that would need it more.”

Prospective recipients have until Jan. 13 to return an application. Village council members will determine the beneficiaries during the council’s Jan. 18 meeting.

In other action, council members approved accepting an application from Jaspare’s Pizza to be a part of the village’s Social District. The concept allows participating businesses to offer outdoor seating and patrons are allowed to carry drinks in specially designated cups from one location to another.

The council expects to approve an application from Distant Whistle in January. If its application is approved by the village, five downtown businesses will comprise the Social District. Application approval by the village is a step forward in the process, as Mallery said the five businesses now must be approved by the state.

Mallery said the state has already approved the village resolution to have a social district.

“Most municipalities have found that submitting all (business) applications together are better,” he said. “I anticipate approval from the state by the end of January and we could start the formality of the Social District after that.”

In a separate matter, council members approved the third and fourth phases of the Allen Edwin residential development west of 22nd Street and south of U Avenue. Together, the phases will include development of 56 single-family homes.

Winter ice harvesting on Sunset Lake in 1912

At left, the Grand Trunk Railway harvested ice from Sunset Lake and loaded it up at an ice ramp adjacent to the water tower on the causeway over Sunset Lake. The railroad shipped it to a storage facility in Illinois. At right, a view of the Godshalk ice harvest on Sunset Lake, which was for local consumption. The Godshalk ice house is in the background. The ice was kept from thawing by covering each layer with “marsh hay.”

Winter storms

The Blizzard of 1967 resulted in huge drifts, closing schools and roads for several days.

By Kathy Oswalt-Forsythe

As we anticipate the eventual winter storms, I maintain a well-stocked pantry: I learned the importance of preparation from my mother who was raising four of the five of us when the blizzard of 1967 caught many in Michigan by surprise. My parents listened to the radio for most of their news during the 1960s: WKZO radio, AM 590. I can still hear the sports roundup music, Carl Collin’s voice for the noon farm reports, the advertising jingle for Be-Mo potato chips. I’m sure my mom was working in the kitchen and listening to the morning shows when it was announced that area schools were closing: Winds had increased and a blizzard had begun.

Mr. Jager, Fulton Elementary School’s principal, entered my second-grade classroom, announcing we would be going home. We shut our workbooks, pushed them into our desks, and found our boots and snow gear. The sky was dark, the snow coming sideways.

I rode home with my grandmother, who taught fourth grade in my building. Her white Thunderbird thumped and bumped through the quickly drifting roads; as the wind howled and the snow swirled, I struggled to see the houses and farms on the familiar route towards home. Each time the wind gusts increased, all my landmarks disappeared. I wasn’t frightened, but I also didn’t converse with Grandma whose gloved hands tightly gripped the wheel.

Once safely home, the storm increased its rage. We were snowed in for a week. The wind blew for several days, forming huge drifts which swept upwards to the roof of the old garage, covering our back porch. From the front window we watched Dad work his way through the snow, cross the road, and enter the cattle barn to check the water and feed the animals. At that time, all the feeding was done inside and mostly by hand. The barn was cozy and warm with glossy-eyed steers jostling for position. Many days I accompanied Dad for evening chores, so I knew exactly what he was doing: He would remove his heavy coat, climb the inside silo chute, and shovel the silage to the wooden cart below. He then pushed the cart down the center aisle, filling the troughs as he went. He would repeat this process at least four or five times. I knew he was safe, but I was still relieved when the door closed, and he was back with us again.

Mom cooked and cooked, filling us with warm soups, casseroles, or scrambled eggs and toast. She organized and patiently supervised our activities: We played lots of games, worked jigsaw puzzles, rediscovered toys, and read books. And when the winds finally subsided, we ventured out into a transformed world – a white wonderland full of opportunities for tunneling and discovery.

There have been other blizzards since, but none quite as memorable as that storm from my childhood. As long as my friends and family are off the roads, I do love a snowstorm and find comfort in my cupboard’s inventory. And as we watch the weather reports, I look forward to the gift of time to cook, care for my family and rediscover the beauty of a winter storm.

It’s a Fine Life

Welcome to winter in South County

Makayla Cardosa lends her voice to a holiday video.

By Kathy Oswalt-Forsythe

Winter has arrived in South County. We have located our car’s ice scrapers and brushes, and our snow shovels stand ready. The ushering in of our Michigan seasons is one of the best parts of living here. While many of us feel winter can drag on a bit too long, the beauty of the flocked snow on the pines or the cardinals feeding in the snow regularly lifts our spirits during winter’s darkness.

People on the move

Cindy Kole, longtime Vicksburg resident, was promoted to executive vice president of First National Bank of Michigan, following her accomplishments as senior vice president and chief operating officer. Cindy has more than 30 years of experience in banking, including wealth management, private banking, human resources, and retail banking.

The Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs’ (CDMRP) Prostate Cancer Research Program (PCRP) named a former Vicksburg resident, Commander Fred R. Cohrs USNR (Ret.), to participate in evaluation of research applications to the program. Commander Cohrs, a 1966 VHS graduate, was nominated by the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center’s Chapter of UsTOO, an international prostate cancer advocacy group. When commenting on serving as a consumer reviewer, Fred said, “It was a privilege to represent prostate cancer patients on this panel and make recommendations for directing taxpayers’ money for important research.”

YouTube video features local singer

A lovely music video featuring Makayla Cardosa walking through Vicksburg’s downtown in a light evening snowfall has been posted on YouTube by Connections Community Church in Schoolcraft. Makayla, a Vicksburg High School graduate, sings the Christmas song “Hush” on the Main Street sidewalks and the gazebo in the Historic Village. The link is

Concrete block mystery solved!

In Leeanne Seaver’s November article, she shared architectural historian Cheri Szcodronski’s discovery of an unusual block used in foundations and structures around the village. Ever-helpful local historian, Maggie Snyder, cracked the case, finding a reference to the source in Dr. Arle Schneider’s 2004 book, “A Tale of One Village.”:

“The Clapp Brothers business began in 1884 with a small planing mill, on the East side of Portage creek across from the end of South Street. The brothers used the Portage Creek to bring lumber up from Barton Lake. The stream was narrowed with timbers to power the mill. It ran at first with an undershot wheel and was soon replaced with a steam engine….soon after a sawmill was added. The Clapps also operated a hardware store stocked with a complete line of building materials, pumps, paint, glass harnesses, dishes, silverware and windmills.”

Thanks, Maggie!

The Carhartt jacket and chainsaw wish fulfilled!

We never know what might happen when making wishes public. Dr. David Schriemer’s patients and friends will be happy to know he received both a Carhartt jacket and a chainsaw for Christmas. He is a happy fellow!

Many thanks

Thank you for your continued support of this monthly paper as we strive to provide the “good news” from our area. We also publish important information that connects our readers to local school districts and governmental bodies. Please consider supporting our efforts financially if you are able.

At the Mill, concrete to become roadways, sidewalks

By Rob Ball

Add “waste not, want not” to redevelopment of the Mill in Vicksburg. Since Oct. 12, a disassembly line of several machines has been crushing concrete left from the demolition of several buildings on the site.

When the crushing is complete, resulting 1-inch aggregate will be used to subsurface parking lots and driveways as redevelopment proceeds. The finished site will include several entertainment venues, a brewpub and brewery museum, dining and lodging.

Mill representatives told village residents in September via email and social media that the crushing operation would begin shortly. “We assumed it might make noise,” said Jackie Koney, the Mill’s chief operating officer. “We wanted to let the community know it was happening.”

There was another reason to tell area residents about the project, Koney said. People were curious. “So many had asked about the big rubble pile.”

The Mill received no complaints, she said.

Frederick Construction’s site superintendent, Ken Coombs, said the large chunks, some containing steel reinforcing rods, are dropped into the first machine, which crushes the chucks to 4-inch pieces and removes some of the steel. A conveyor moves the crushed material into the next machine, which crushes to two inches and removes more steel. A third machine removes the remaining steel and a fourth machine crushes to the final 1-inch size.

Although the crushing isn’t visible, steel removal is: Material emerging from the first machine moves on a short conveyor underneath a magnet. Loose steel on that conveyor visibly jumps up a few inches to the magnet and is ejected into a tangled heap on the ground below.

The crushing project is expected to end this month.

The anticipated total of 1-inch aggregate, a little whimsy included: Weight – 10,000 tons, equivalent to 1,550 elephants. Volume – 7,143 cubic yards, equivalent to 500 dump truck loads. Enough aggregate for 1.8 miles of road, 14.6 miles of sidewalk.

And it’s not enough. More elephants-worth will be needed. How much more hasn’t been determined. “We’re still designing,” Koney said of the site planning.

Most of the concrete has come from foundations of half a dozen buildings demolished since the project began last year. They include Building 17, used mostly for storage and shipping-receiving, a water filtration building, and others used for fire suppression, a powerhouse and a research lab.

Two other mounds closer to W Avenue and the creek are contaminated soil headed for special landfills.

Reuse of the concrete isn’t the only ongoing conservation effort. Koney said water from leaky roofs caused deterioration of interior wood beams and flooring. The wood is being removed carefully; as much as possible will be repurposed. “There’s a chance some wood can be used somewhere else. It could be used for interior design, furniture, some wall decoration.”

And if not used in construction, Koney said, it might be held for a woodworker to turn into products for sale. Some of the machinery is also being saved, perhaps for a display about the mill operation.

Salvaged brick is finding new uses, some of it in a retaining wall along the creek. “We haven’t had to buy new bricks. We’re using bricks from a race track being torn down in Chicago.”

There’s more to conservation than reuse of materials on the site: “We’re pretty sure we’ll use geothermal instead of standard heating,” Koney said. But solar power is a no-go. It’s prohibited for use on buildings on a historic registry.

And on the 80-acre site west of the buildings, Vicksburg High classes have planted a pesticide-free edible forest and pollinator garden. A local farmer has placed beehives on the site. And this year, Koney said, the High School has received a grant to continue the project.

Gaspare Scavone built a legacy with Jaspare’s

Training and support employees received in the restaurant led to a ‘funnel’ of successful businesses and pizzerias in the Portage and Kalamazoo area. Many … had worked in their youth for the Scavones.

By Kathy Oswalt-Forsythe

Some people leave a lasting mark on a community and the people around them. Gaspare Scavone, known locally as simply “Jasper,” and his wife Bina were people like that.

The Scavones learned their work ethic during their early years in Sicily. It was there Gaspare learned to work hard at whatever he could find, eventually meeting and marrying his beloved Bina in 1977. Soon after their marriage, the young couple emigrated to the United States where they joined Bina’s family already operating a pizzeria in Kalamazoo. Gaspare and Bina started Scavone’s Pizza on Burdick Street. In 1983, they bought Jaspare’s Pizza in Vicksburg.

Todd Glenn, the present owner of Jaspare’s Pizza in Vicksburg, worked for the Scavone family while in high school. He remembers his time working with them fondly. “Gaspare and Bina were hard-working people. I’ve never heard anyone say a bad word about them.” Glenn remembers Bina bringing the Scavone children to the restaurant after school and described the environment the Scavones created as firm but also nurturing. Glenn is confident the relationships the Scavones built with employees and customers solidified the business’s success.

Gaspare continually offered guidance to his teenage employees, saying things like “Go to school. Study hard.” According to Glenn, the training and support employees received in the local restaurant led to a “funnel” of successful businesses and pizzerias in the Portage and Kalamazoo area. Many of these restaurant owners had worked in their youth for the Scavones.

Bina died in 2004, and not long after, Gaspare sold the business. He traveled extensively, met and married Alla Aleksa, and returned to the area. And until recently, Gaspare was still a familiar face in the restaurant, often coming into work and visiting with Glenn and the employees. After a difficult illness, Gaspare died in mid-September. Glenn and his employees still can’t believe he’s gone.

The Scavone’s life together is a love story of commitment to their children, extended family and community. It’s also an inspiring story of possibilities: of building a successful business, of mentoring employees, and of encouraging future business owners.

Theirs is a legacy of honesty and hard work.

Tree Of Life: Spreading boughs, support across South County

South County Community Services staff and volunteers with the refurbished trees.

By Danna Downing

South County Community Services (SCCS) has a long history – over 40 years – of being available to serve families who live in the six townships referred to as “South County.” Typically, a third of these residents live below the poverty line or have serious difficulties meeting basic needs such as food, utilities, housing, transportation and health care expenses on a dependable basis. Holidays are always a special challenge for families with limited resources. This year, with the pandemic, more families than ever are needing help.

The Tree of Life fundraiser was developed eight years ago to support seasonal and yearlong needs of those who have trouble making ends meet when life-altering circumstances create new challenges for their families. The intention of Tree of Life is to provide community members a way to express love and appreciation to family and friends while giving the gift of timely emergency assistance to those who need it most. A decorated ornament and recognition of affection and respect in the South County Newspaper is an affordable gift that never requires a gift exchange after the holidays – that’s a frequent observation from those who purchase ornaments.

For 2020, the trees have been refurbished and brand-new hand-decorated ornaments will be available for purchase. “We are excited to announce that the Village of Climax and the Climax United Methodist Church are partnering to sponsor a tree at the four-corners in the Village of Climax,” said SCCS Executive Director Drew Johnson. The agency has always enjoyed strong support from area churches and at the township and municipality level. However, this year, Donna Smith, project chair from Climax, reminds us, “it is more important than ever to be sure all residents know that there are resources available to help during these critical times.” It is also important for those in a position to donate some relief to know that SCCS is a United Way agency dedicated to connecting the funds raised with the families who have the greatest needs. The Ladies Library in the Village of Schoolcraft is also sponsoring a tree again this year in front of its historic building just to the south of the Schoolcraft post office. The contact person in Schoolcraft is Jackie Skinner.

Call 269-649-2901 to obtain an order form, place an order or learn more about this project. There is a downloadable order form online at as well. Persons who would like to help decorate ornaments are also welcome to call the same number.