Category Archives: Vicksburg


Danny Lee Castle, was born April 30, 1953, in Kalamazoo, the son of Glenn and Irene (Cothran) Castle. He graduated from Galesburg-Augusta High School in 1971. Danny liked to tell folks he studied at the University of Honky-Tonks, Dives and Biker Bars, where he could often be found playing as a member of the band. Music was Danny’s language, his vocation and his greatest joy. He played in several regional and local bands throughout the years including North Country, Upland Express, Barker’s Castle, and JAG Band. In 1974, Danny composed the song, “Michigan Again,” which was recorded by Rutzy Leonard and the Morrow River Gang on WOW records in 1978. On his 65th birthday, Danny was diagnosed with a very rare type of bile duct cancer that had metastasized throughout his body. He fought hard to enjoy the remaining days of his life – far exceeding the short life expectancy he had been given. Danny’s legacy will be the many ways he showed his family and friends the value of living life on your own terms, keeping a song in your heart and demonstrating that love and kindness are by far the most important and richest traits a person can possess. Danny began his celebration in the afterlife on Feb. 24, reuniting with his parents and brothers, William Castle and Carl “Butch” Castle. Danny is survived by his loving wife, Dana Hetrick Castle, and children Angela (Kevin Dockerty) Peck, of Schoolcraft; Elizabeth (Tyler) Cheesebro of Virginia Beach, Va. and Jake (Haley) Ross of Ooltewah, Tenn. He was affectionately known as Grampy to Rilley, Lillian and Serie Briggs; Mason and Peyton Ross and Graham and Fynn Cheesebro. Danny is also survived by three siblings, Larry Castle of Florida, Susan (Robert) Eaton of Portage, Mary (Bruce) Edmonson of Parchment; sisters-in-law Janis (John) Castle-Dodge of Mason, Mich. and Linda Castle of Galesburg; a very special cousin, Colleen (Dennis) Ocker of Grand Rapids; several special nieces, nephews, and cousins as well as a large circle of friends. A memorial gathering was held on Saturday, March 2 at the VFW in Augusta. A memorial wake will be held later this summer. The family is being assisted by the McCowen & Secord Family Funeral Home, Rupert-Durham Chapel, Vicksburg.

Lee A. Coville, Sr., 91, Vicksburg, passed away Feb. 4. Lee was born Aug. 12, 1927 to Harold and Luvera (Verrill) Coville. Lee was a lifelong farmer who also enjoyed dancing, singing karaoke, bowling, and his family. He was honorably discharged from the Army Air Corps in 1947. Lee leaves behind his wife, Lori Ann (Bacon); a son, Lynn (Stacey) of Vicksburg; a daughter, Beth Marie (David) Davis, of Dowagiac; and a stepdaughter, Molly Beale (Dan) of Vicksburg. Lee also leaves behind 11 grandchildren and several great-grandchildren. Lee is survived by his brother, Wendell (Linda) Coville; daughter in law, Karen Coville; and several other brothers and sisters in law. Lee was preceded in death by his wife, Evelyn Marie (Brown); a son, Lee Albert Jr.; a sister, Annabelle Scheibner; a brother, Harold (Barney) Coville; and a nephew, Thomas “Jeffrey” Brown, whom he raised. Donations may be directed to the Coville family to cover expenses.

Janet Ellen Doorn, 71, Scotts, passed Feb. 2. She is survived by daughters Michael (Chris) Schoultz of Scotts and Deanne (Jeremy Crabtree) Doorn of Portage; siblings Carol (Ken) Stuart, James Nelson; sister in law Linda Hinds; grandchildren Andrew, Olivia, and Jaxson as well as several special nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her daughter, Amy Bartolameolli; parents Ed and Anne Nelson; siblings Rick, Tom, and Barbara; as well as Don Doorn. Please visit Janet’s page at Donations may go to the family.

Max “Mike” Eberstein, 76, Vicksburg, passed away Feb. 3. He was born Dec. 1, 1942, in Vicksburg,to Max E. and Marie (Stevens) Eberstein. He is survived by his wife, Jill Eberstein; his children, Scott (Linda) Eberstein, Sherry (Ivan) Riddle, Kevin (Lisa) Eberstein, and Tammy (Tom) Parsons; 19 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren. Due to Mike’s wishes the family will be having a private memorial service. Donations may be made to Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan or the West Michigan Cancer Center. Please visit Max’s page at

James E. Erskine, Scotts, passed away Feb. 7. He was born to Ernest and Marcella Erskine on June 11, 1946. After graduating from Vicksburg High School, he served in the U.S. Marine Corps and was honorably discharged in 1968. He worked at General Motors for 33 years. One of Jim’s highlights was the annual pig roast that he hosted for 30 years. One of his favorite things to do was to head up north to his deer camp near Escanaba. Jim’s family includes his wife, Bonnie Erskine; daughters Shelly Hirdning and Stacy Erskine; step-children Maria (Mick) McCallister and Kevin Bowling; granddaughter Shelby Hirdning; step-grandchildren Terra McCallister, Karissa McCallister, Miranda McCallister, Caden Bowling, Conner Bowling and Carson Bowling; great-granddaughter Paisley Bunch; siblings Virginia Schuring, Judy (Don) Hatfield, and John Erskine. Jim also leaves behind numerous close friends. Jim was preceded in death by his parents, brother-in-law Robert Schuring and granddaughter Stephanie Hirdning. Jim will be buried with military honors at the Fort Custer National Cemetery. Visit Jim’s page at Donations may go to Heartland Hospice.

Linda Gail Gerow, Schoolcraft, died peacefully Feb. 16 at Rose Arbor Hospice. She was born to Clayton and Twilah (Huss) Stevens on December 17, 1950. She graduated from Portage Central in 1969. Surviving are her husband, Kim; children Sarah Gasper, Jeff (Deanna) Gerow, and Mandy (Ryan) White; grandchildren Cory, Derek, Bailey, Clayton, Brennan, Savannah, Irelyn, Lindsay, Chelsea, Brooke; five great-grandchildren; father-in-law Raymond Gerow; and many nieces and nephews. Linda was preceded in death by her parents. Services were held Thursday, Feb. 21. Burial will take place at Fort Custer National Cemetery. Please visit Linda’s page at Donations may be made to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Dr. John Michael “Mick” Hanley, 73, of Scotts, passed away Feb. 11. He was born September 26, 1945 in Butte, Montana to the late John and Elizabeth (Harrington) Hanley. Mick earned his B.A. in English from the University of Montana-Dillon. He taught high school English and coached for three years. He then earned his M.A. in speech-pathology and audiology from the University of Montana and practiced in public schools until 1974. Later, he earned his Ph.D. in speech hearing and science from the University of Iowa, where he served as a faculty member from 1977-1980 before joining the faculty at Western Michigan University. In 1990, Mick became the chair of Western’s Speech Pathology and Audiology Department and served in that position for 17 years. Mick’s areas of expertise included research, training, and clinical emphasis on the communication disorder of stuttering. During his years at WMU, Mick won the WMU Distinguished Service Award as well as the Council of Academic Programs in Communication Sciences and Disorders Distinguished Service Award. In 2006, the John “Mick” Hanley Endowed Scholarship was established at Western. Mick enjoyed golfing, skiing, reading, and camping. He was married to his best friend, Sherry Matson, on Aug. 10, 1968. Mick was preceded in death by his parents and a son, Kevin Sean Hanley. He is survived by his loving wife of 50 years, Sherry Hanley; son, Keith Michael (Lisa) Hanley; grandchildren, Brady John and Brody Michael Hanley; sister, June (Joel) Berry; brother, James Hanley; and numerous nieces and nephews. Donations may be made to the Dr. John M. Hanley Endowed Scholarship at Western Michigan University or the American Cancer Society.

Fred Kohler, 71, Vicksburg, passed away Feb. 10. He was born Sept. 20, 1947 to Arnold and Maxine Kohler. Fred’s family includes his former wife, Cynthia Wolf; children Arnie (Melissa) Kohler, Bradley Kohler and Pamela Grgrich; grandchildren Devon, Jordan and McKenzie; siblings Tom (Brenda) Skelton, Mike (Marsha) Skelton and Dennis (Joan) Humphrey and many nieces and nephews. Fred was preceded in death by his parents and a sister, Nancy Shutes. A memorial service for Fred will be held at a later date to be announced. Services are being handled by McCowen & Secord Life Story Family Funeral Home, Rupert-Durham Chapel, Vicksburg. Fred will be buried with military honors at the Fort Custer National Cemetery. Visit Fred’s page at Donations may go to Disabled Veterans.

Marjorie “Margie” Luther, 87, Vicksburg, passed away unexpectedly January 28. She was born to the late Melba Mueller Hoger and Elmer “Mac” Hoger on August 27, 1931. Margie spent her early years on Throop Street in Chicago. Margie married in 1960 and divorced after 14 years. After that, she lived and worked independently in Brookfield, Ill. She retired from Allied Products as assistant to the president in 1997. Margie inherited her parents’ lakeside home in Vicksburg, a place familiar from her childhood. The home was built on Indian Lake in 1911 by her maternal grandfather, Charles Mueller. It was a family summer cottage and has remained in the family for over a century. Margie had it renovated and retired there in 1998. Margie is survived by her first cousins, Dorothy Brown of Midlothian, Ill., Warren Hoger of Wheaton, Ill.; Chuck Hoger of Anaheim, Calif.; and Patti Pigney of Palm City, Fla.; other family members (especially Beth Hoger, and Patti and Pete Koelle), kind neighbors (especially Jon and Kitty Kachniewicz), and her church family (especially her Bible study group and Pastor Joan). Donations may go to Lord of Life Lutheran Church or South County Community Services. Margie’s life will be remembered on March 26 at Lord of Life Lutheran Church. Margie’s remains will be interred at a later date at Concordia Cemetery in Forest Park, Ill. Arrangements by Joldersma & Klein Funeral Home.

Robert E. Smith, 67, Vicksburg, passed away Feb. 3. He was born to Sidney and Dawn (Horning) Smith on July 15, 1951, the oldest of seven children. He graduated from Comstock High School in 1969 and enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps, serving for 12 years. Bob loved selling his pumpkins at the Vicksburg Farmers’ Market. He later learned to make and sell delicious homemade jams and maple syrup. Bob had a knack for making others feel special. He was a former president of the Vicksburg Historical Society, a member of the Farmers’ Market Board, and helped with the advertising of the South County News when it was first starting out. He was especially proud of his involvement with the Harvest Festival. Bob is survived by his loving wife, Kathy; a son, Brandon Smith, of Vicksburg; and a stepson, Johnathan Donlin, of Kalamazoo. Visit Bob’s page at Donations may go to Generous Hands.

Middle School Report Card Presented to the School Board

By Sue Moore

Vicksburg Middle School Principal Matt VanDussen and Assistant Principal Dennis Kirby presented data to show outstanding performance in math, social studies and science when compared to nearby schools of similar size. February is designated for the Vicksburg Middle School to host the monthly school board meeting to report on the progress made during the first half of the year.

“We are building a collaborative culture in the middle school,” VanDussen said. “We have student intervention teams where all the teachers for one student get together to help if the need arises. The goal is to maximize the success for every single student. We do this with data management, collection, analysis and then focus on the results with data review days.”

“We only have three years to figure this out for kids. Our job is to try and get them on track and keep them there. We look at it as the K-12 whole, while ensuring that all students learn while in our domain. We hang our hat on this, from a focus on teaching to a focus on learning each day,” VanDussen told the board. “We have a multi-tiered system of supports that includes homework club, extended learning opportunity classes, with tutorial the most important.”

He presented a slide show of graphs and test scores to show how Vicksburg Middle School compares on the M-Step test and how students collectively are doing compared to other schools in the state, especially in the Student Growth Percentile. This measures the individual student’s and teacher’s performance in math, English Language Arts, science and social studies.

All the data VanDussen reported can be found on the Parent Dashboard that all parents can access.

Middle School Science Night Can be Fun and Educational

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Phoenix Daniels takes great care in her Science Night demonstration last year.

By Sue Moore

The 15th Annual Science Night at the Vicksburg Middle School will take place Wednesday, March 13 from 6-8 p.m. It has evolved from something small to a well-attended community event, said Lisa Harbour, the 8th grade science teacher who is in charge.

Lots of businesses from the greater Kalamazoo manufacturing community take up Harbour’s invitation to attend at their own cost. “The companies are proud of what they do and are committed to community involvement. They volunteer their time so students and adults can learn about what the companies do and the necessary skills for the job. All of the presenters are there by choice and share their passion and knowledge of science and technology in their everyday work life, Harbour said.

The night was organized 15 years ago. The science department under the leadership of Mary Burke wanted to provide an opportunity for students to experience science with their parents. The first year, they did everything themselves without outside presenters. The lure was free pizza and door prizes to encourage attendance. Approximately 125 attended, Harbour recalled.

Carol Lohman was Burke’s assistant in the coordination of the event. In 2017, Harbour became the coordinator and poured her heart and soul into planning the event on her own. A horrific wind storm that knocked out the power in the village on the day of Science Night caused the school to cancel the event just three hours prior to the doors opening. “I was devastated,” Harbour recalled. “2018 became my next real event and I have to say it was awesome. We had over 20 presenters and approximately 575 people attending.”

“I have had the most luck recruiting companies by attending the MiQuest Career field trip with our 8th grade students. As a chaperone, I took the opportunity to recruit possible presenters from what I saw at the event,” she said. The presentations in Vicksburg might include live animals, electricity activities, chemistry experiments, telescopes, rocks, robots, water, hydraulics and pneumatics. Each presenter is in a different classroom. Attendees move at their own pace. Many of the presenters have giveaways. Most rooms have hands-on activities.

It is intended for students in grades 6-8 and their families, but any community member is invited to attend. There is no cost for the event.

Current list of presenters includes: Kalsec, Bridge Organics, Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary, Pfizer (chemistry), Kalamazoo Watershed Council, Perrigo, Thermofisher (forensics crime lab), Stryker Instruments, Mann-Hummel, Humphrey Products, Flowserve, Kalamazoo Astronomical Society, WMU Geology, KVCC Groves Center, Pfizer (quality control and sterile manufacturing), Consumers Energy, KRESA – Innovation Center, VMS & VHS Robotics Team + 4th/5th Lego League, KRESA Vet Science, KRESA VHS Engineering, KRESA Film/Video, Kathy Mirakovits (forensic science).

Wizard of Oz to be Performed by Vicksburg High School

Sydney Andres plays the lead role of Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. The dog she is holding is named Rocky. He belongs to the Langdon family. His “big sister” Torrie plays a munchkin.

By Sue Moore

The Wizard of Oz is a coming of age story, according to Vicksburg High School Drama Director Melissa Sparks. She cites a study in Italy that claims the movie is the most influential film in the world.

And it’s coming to Vicksburg’s Performing Arts Center. “This is a good choice for students to act in, because of our tumultuous world. They can learn that it’s OK to escape into their imagination. It’s a little bit of escapism. These kids love the message in the story.”

The enduring play will be performed on Saturday, March 16 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, March 17 at 2 p.m. Additional performances are set for Saturday, March 23 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, March 24 at 2 p.m. Tickets are available online here. They are $5 for students, $10 for seniors and $12 for adults if purchased in advance.

“Sydney Andres was perfect for the lead role of Dorothy,” Sparks said. “She has charm, innocence, a kind and loving personality, much like Dorothy.”

Andres said she practiced really hard for the auditions because playing the part meant so much to her. “It’s my favorite movie of all time. It’s like a dream come true to play Dorothy and perform in this classic. I can do a pretty decent Judy Garland voice, but I’ll try to play it a little bit differently.”

Andres is a known stage quantity herself, having been chosen to act or sing in 12 productions while she has been in high school and middle school. She played Jane opposite Tarzan in the 2018 musical. Besides demanding rehearsals that can go from two to five hours, Andres plays on the Vicksburg lacrosse team, is in choir, plays the alto sax in the marching band, symphonic band and the wind ensemble. She carries a 3.9 GPA and works part-time on weekends dressing up as a princess for special parties in the area. She also works at Gander Outdoors – in her spare time.

“I don’t like being in front of people, it scares me. But when I get on stage it’s not me, I’m just acting and that makes it a lot easier,” she said.

Other major roles in the Wizard production are Jacob Henderson as the Lion; Lindsey Fleck as the scarecrow; Levi Shepard as the Tin Man; Lucas Cannizzaro as Oz and Meaghan Miller as the Wicked Witch. Music director is Dusty Morris, the high school’s choir director. Sets have been designed by Tim Fuller, director of the Performing Arts Center.

Vicksburg Robotics Team Finishes Among Top in State

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Shown from left are Benjamin Hackman, Kyle Akerman, Elijah Bombich, Owen Bishop, and Noah Caster (seated) who are members of the Vicksburg High School Robotics team demonstrating their machine.

By Sue Moore

Vicksburg Middle School has been building a championship robotics team for over six years, according to co-coach Eric Hackman in his presentation to the school board in February. The students, ages 11-13, meet at the beginning of each school year to receive the year’s challenge from FIRST Robotics, an international not-for-profit company promoting science, technology and engineering through robotic competitions.

“These are pretty cool kids,” co-coach Matt Bombich declared. “There are 600 middle school teams in Michigan, with 96 of them competing at the state finals in Battle Creek. Our goal was to build the robots to do everything required and build the robots the very best that we can. That landed us in the top 50 teams in the state,” he said. The students demonstrated their winning techniques for parents, faculty and staff at the board meeting.

The team spends the first few weeks planning the design of their robot. It must perform tasks on its own with programming created by the students and must also be built to be driven by the students. Mentors and leaders are there to teach and encourage, said Bombich, who has been a co-coach with Hackman for the last five years.

“I’ve learned a lot myself,” Bombich said. “I didn’t know anything when I started with the kids in 2014. I sat in the back of the room to observe and pretty soon, I was the co-leader. A robot needs to lift something with a linear motion and be able to rotate at the same time, much like wheels on a car. There are mechanical and engineering skills needed to produce the solution to the problem that is thrown at them. It’s all in the learning process the kids encounter.”

FIRST Robotics, organizing the tech challenges, designs a game using a standard, reusable kit of parts. The game is played on a 12-by-12-foot playing field with two teams playing against another two teams for points. A new game is created each year by the company.

“Our fundraising goal for this year was $17,000,” said Bombich. We almost reached that goal with grants from the school, state and local corporate sponsorships.

It costs around $600 to start an elementary team and we started four this year. “We put out the call and 26 kids just showed up to get started,” Hackman said. Most of the cost is robot parts. Registration for tournaments is the next highest cost at around $300 for the four elementary teams to attend one event and $2,250 for the three middle school teams to attend three events each.

“We are beginning to reach that critical mass of student participation which will allow us to take the next step up into the FIRST Robotic Competition (FRC) division next year with our high school students” Hackman said. Bombich added, “When our high schoolers move up to the higher division, FRC next year, the registration fee will be $6,000.Those events cost more because they are more elaborate.” A budget of $10,000 is anticipated for the high school team alone, according to Hackman.

Events sponsored by the company are a chance for teams to engage in the fun and excitement of competition. Awards are presented for robot build, design, and performance as well as for community outreach and other real-world accomplishments, according to its web site.

FIRST is an acronym: For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.

Schoolcraft and Vicksburg Homecoming Courts

Schoolcraft royaltySchoolcraft’s basketball Homecoming court are pictured from left: Freshman class representatives: Kiarae Brooks and Rickey Peters; Junior class representatives: Paige Reid and Prince Garret Buchheit; senior class representatives:  Grey Buchheit and Dean Morris, Annika Varker and King Brady Flynn, Queen Abby Blodgett and Phillip Stafford; sophomore representatives: Princess Maeve Stitt and Tom Dailey. Photo by Stephanie Blentlinger, Lingering Memories Photography.

IMG_1994Vicksburg’s basketball Homecoming court are pictured from left: Brendan Monroe, Avalee Goodman Sophomores; Jack Tomer and Anna Moore, juniors; Shane Earl and Micayla Bozeman, Kevin Veld, Madeline Geiger, Nick Armitage, Kaytee Harvey, seniors; David Pitts, junior prince, Autumn Johnson, junior Princess; Kyle Kelly, senior King; Mia Mulhearn, senior Queen; Levi Shepard, Emily White, juniors; Levi Sehy, Nevaeh Gates sophomores; Blake Ford, Savina Centofanti freshmen.

Grant Deal Decides to Play for Ashland University in Ohio

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Grant Deal and his family.

By Sue Moore

It was likely preordained that Grant Deal would be a standout athlete. His father, Brian, is the head coach for Vicksburg varsity baseball and assistant varsity football coach. The only query was in which game he’d excel.

The answer? “I like baseball but it’s too slow moving for me. Football appealed because I like to hit somebody on every play. Football is always a rush,” Deal said. Because he weighs in at 270 but is reasonably short for a tackle, he plays on the offensive line as a guard. He has a lineman’s body according to Tom Marchese, his football coach. He has been playing guard since his days in Rocket football.

After graduation in June, Deal will prepare for college life at Ashland University in Ohio. He will be red-shirted his freshman year as he prepares and learns the system of a team that plays Division II in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic conference.

“The coaching never ends,” Grant said, discussing his father’s input.

“I told Coach Marchese to treat Grant just like any other player,” Brian Deal said. “We were coaching together long before Grant was on the team. These last three years with Grant on the varsity we’ve been figuring it all out. Like when to be quiet and when to get after him. He would never hear from me in practice, but he might when we got home.”
It’s an honor to be recruited by Ashland, where he won’t be alone in the incoming freshman class, Deal said. A long-time buddy from Portage Central, running back Eli Potts, has also accepted an offer from Ashland. Lee Owens, Ashland’s head football coach, has been the recipient of many honors with his team’s playing for championships in a league that competes with Grand Valley State University and Ferris State University.

“I visited the school in July of 2018 and loved the environment. It’s not real big so I won’t get lost. It has top notch facilities,” Deal said. He plans to major in business as there are lots of things he feels he can do with a business degree after college. He declares that he doesn’t like to take center stage and get up in front of people, preferring to let his playing ability to speak for him.

His mom, Heather, is a nurse at Bronson Hospital. He has a sister, Anna, and a little brother, Luke.