Category Archives: Vicksburg

Bicycle Celebration Comes to Vicksburg in September

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Gail DeWolf and Paul Selden, both bicycle enthusiasts pose with her ‘fat-tire’ bike on the grounds of the Historic Village.

By Sue Moore

An inaugural bike ride celebration is coming to Vicksburg on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, September 20-22, organized by a local committee sponsored by Bike Friendly Kalamazoo (BFK). “The idea is to put Vicksburg in the spotlight,” said Paul Selden, chair of the event.

“We want to grow this into a regional thing. For now, it might attract as few as 50, 150 or 500 riders with 100 unexpected walk-ins on September 21; we just don’t know,” Selden said. “The area is ideal riding territory with an added sense of adventure. It wouldn’t have happened without Vicksburg people’s ‘can-do’ spirit. The schools, the Chamber of Commerce, the Historical Society, the Mill, all have pitched in to help the cause, which is to increase bicycle ridership and safety for riders.”

One person in the Vicksburg area, Gail Stafinski DeWolf, has been riding since she was five and hasn’t stopped even now, at 70. “I just love to be outside. I leave my home on 29th street each day and ride at least eight miles in rain or shine, even in the winter.”

What DeWolf does that many other bicyclists don’t: She picks up whatever trash she sees at the side of the road. She takes a bag with her on each ride to pick up cans and bottles, finding on average 5,500 per year. She said she likes paying it forward so as not to trash nature.

“My treasures include stolen wallets, women’s purses, even beer tabs I give to a collector. I never know what I’m going to find,” DeWolf said. One day she spotted a bike that had been thrown into a cornfield. It was well hidden but would have been real bad for a harvester hitting it. She pulled it out of the way. She has two bikes, an old Huffy brand fat tire and a backup, both outfitted with a basket and cupholder.

Her ears are always listening for traffic as she rides without a helmet. She finds there is a lot of courtesy in Vicksburg and is more irritated with bike riders who come up behind her quietly. “They should say something before passing me,” she said.

Bike safety is a big part of the upcoming event, Selden pointed out. He lives on a busy Portage road that has just had an application of bike lane striping. Since many people don’t have a trail right next to their driveway, the law allows riding on a sidewalk if there are no signs posted to the contrary. “I always ride with the traffic as I want to behave just like the other vehicles. Most crashes occur at intersections where not everyone has an unobstructed view,” he said.

“People are demanding more bike amenities to accommodate their healthy life style,” Selden pointed out. Running was hard on his knees so he adopted bike riding many years ago. He helped launch Bike Friendly Kalamazoo in 2011. The organization is now a nonprofit and since Selden’s retirement three years ago, the organization decided to organize the Fall Bike Celebration, inspired by the support of local civic leaders, riding clubs and volunteers.

The event will include a Bike Art Prize. The winning art work will be copied onto street banners with $1,750 in juried prizes awarded to the artists submitting their work. Winners will be announced on Sunday afternoon by John Kern, director of the Prairie Ronde Artist in Residence program.

On Friday, September 20, participants will be treated to an ice cream social and event registration at Apple Knockers at 6 p.m., after they have visited the Mill project, Historic Village and possibly the Farmers’ Market or played disc golf. There are rides of various distances planned for Saturday September 21, beginning at the Vicksburg Middle School at scheduled times in the morning. The longest one is to Shipshewana and back. The shortest is a Kids ‘n’ Cruisers parade after lunch. The main attraction is the Quilt Trail featuring two loops, each of about 16 miles in length. An Awards and Recognition Dinner at 6 p.m. that Saturday will honor those who have helped cycling just by having dinner with them, including guests Village President Bill Adams and Manager Jim Mallery. For further details, go to:


Janice “Jan” Applebey, Vicksburg, passed away peacefully August 10. She was known as “Mom”, “Sis”, “Jan”, “Auntie Jan”, “Granny” and “Apple” to all who loved her. Jan was born January 18, 1940 to Stanley Hattis and Helena Shlagor in Kalamazoo. Jan is the proud mother of two children, Kerenda Applebey and Ron (Kim) Applebey; grandmother to Jynell (Clint) Tackett, Nick (Ashley) Ruggles and Martez (Jessica) White; and great grandmother to Melody Tackett, Brooklyn Tackett and Rylee Ballard. Jan is also sister to Althea Smith of Florida, Yona Reed of Florida, Stanley (Wanda) Hattis Jr. of Minnesota, Ronald Hattis of Michigan, and Larry (Ruth) Hattis of Alabama. She also leaves behind many nieces and nephews. Jan was preceded in death by her parents and her husband, Meredith “Jay” Applebey. Jan worked as a packer at Stewart-Sutherland Bag Company for 20-plus years. She enjoyed gardening, and driving around with her best friend looking for wildlife. She enjoyed sewing, painting, and knitting and crocheting. She played cards or dice almost every day. Visit her page at Donations may go to Rose Arbor Hospice.

William “Bill” Berner, Vicksburg, 77, passed away at Bronson Hospital in Kalamazoo. Bill was born April 8th, 1942 the son of William and Donna (Stratton) Berner. He was a Vicksburg resident for over 40 years. Bill is survived by his wife of 37 years, Vicki (Babbitt), his son Jeffrey Berner, his daughter Jodi (Briant) Daniel, grandchildren Benjamin (Alyssa) Berner, Jason (Emily) Wyman, and Nichole (Brian) Vane, as well as seven great-grandchildren. Bill’s life was dedicated to his wife and family. He was loving, funny, intelligent, generous, kind, accepting, and often a bit mischievous. His family was his pride and joy. In accordance with Bill’s wishes, cremation has taken place. Donations may go to the West Michigan Cancer Center. Visit his page at

June Bobish, 103, Schoolcraft, passed away June 19. June was one of four children, including her sister Margaret and brothers Forrest and John. Until June’s passing, she was the oldest living graduate of Vicksburg High School. After graduation, June went to cosmetology school in Grand Rapids. Upon graduation, she returned to Vicksburg to open her own beauty shop on Main Street. The Beauty Shop was open for 58 years. June married Tony Bobish at the age of 39. They were married 60 years before Tony passed away at the age of 106 years old in 2015. They lived together in the home Tony built until relocating to Gaylord. June turned 103 on June 18 of this year. She is survived by many nieces and nephews who loved her dearly. Visit her page at Donations may go to Hospice of Michigan. The family is being assisted by the McCowen & Secord Funeral Home, Rupert-Durham Chapel, Vicksburg.

Dennis (“Louie”) Layne Eberstein, 62, Schoolcraft, passed away July 30. He was born July 17, 1957 in Vicksburg to the late Robert and Barbara (Kline) Eberstein. Louie graduated from Schoolcraft High School, and after a year in California, returned home to Schoolcraft. Louie spent his time building a dedicated circle of friends and helping out those close to him. He also enjoyed riding his motorcycle, especially in the mountains of West Virginia. Marrying late in life, Louie adored and was dedicated and committed to his wife of 6 ½ years, Laura. Louie is survived by his wife, Laura Eberstein; and brother Mike (Jeanne) Eberstein. Following Louie’s wishes, he will be cremated and a celebration of life will be held at a later date. Donations may go to St. Jude Hospital for support of families and research; West Michigan cancer center to support research, or Schoolcraft’s Historical Society for operation and maintenance of the Underground Railroad House.

Bonnie Sue Gose, 83, East Leroy, passed away August 19. She was born on January 13, 1936 to Leonard and Grace (Williams) Davis. Cooking was a big part of Bonnie’s life; she was a wonderful cook. Nurturing was in Bonnie’s nature through her unconditional love. Bonnie is survived by her children, Rick (Vonda) Gose of Luther, Sandy (Ray) Smith of East Leroy, and Bob (Carol) Gose of Vicksburg; 13 grandchildren and numerous great-grandchildren. She is also survived by her siblings, Peggy (Charles) Sams of Marcellus and Mike (Linda) Davis of Indiana. Bonnie was preceded in death by her husband, Dale; daughter, Sarah Blankenship; siblings Bill Davis, Tom Davis, Noami McGill and twin siblings that passed at birth. Visit her page at Donations may go to Alzheimer’s Research.

Irene Green, 92, Vicksburg, passed away August 19. Irene was born on October 4, 1926 to Delbert and Mary (Bush) Burr. Irene’s family includes her daughter, Janet Green (Robert Poats); her sister-in-law, Doris Burr, as well as several nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her husband of 53 years, Merle, her son, Owen Green, siblings David, Pauline Miller, Merle and Stanley Burr. She was also preceded by a special companion of eight years, Ralph Ramlow. Irene started her working career as a truck driver for D&E Weiandt in 1958, becoming the first woman to join Teamsters Local No. 7. She retired in 1983 to travel in her Ford Model T’s. Those travels took her in 1984 from New York to Seattle on the 75th Anniversary Ford Rerun Tour and in 1987 from Texas to Alaska, a Model T adventure covering 10,500 miles. She was a member of the Model T Ford Club International, local chapter Tin Lizzie Travelers, Model T Ford Club of America and a member of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Three Rivers. Visit her page at Donations may go to Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan or St. Peter’s Lutheran Church.

Joyce D. Green, 86, Vicksburg, went to be with her Lord August 13 at Park Village Pines, Kalamazoo. She was born May 27, 1933 to the late James Roelofs and Dena Holthouse. Joyce married Robert Green on June 16, 1951. Settling in Vicksburg, they were together for 65 years. Joyce was a librarian at the Vicksburg District Library, retiring in 1991 and a member of the Victorian Garden Club. She was preceded in death by her parents; her husband, Robert; and her son, Michael James. Joyce is survived by her daughter, Cindy Hammond and her husband, Scott; son David Green and his wife, Amy; grandsons Jacob, Benjamin, and Noah; and numerous nieces, nephews, and friends. Donations may go to Generous Hands, Inc. or Lakeland Reformed Church.

Stuart Todd Hayner, passed from this earth July 2, embraced by family. Todd, born June 9, 1967 was curious over his entire life about the universe and metaphysics, keeping his parents, Clarence Hadley II and Rosemary Hadley, bewildered. Todd worked at Stewart Sutherland for years. It was during this time that he used his name, Stuart. Stuart owned and operated Selective Tree Service. He is survived by Judy Lee Hayner; his mother, Rosemary Hadley; his beautiful daughters, Brittany (Ryan) Bleeker and Emily Hayner; siblings Jason Hadley, Larry Davis, Leslie Gunderson, Kyle and James Hayner and Jennifer Bradley; stepchildren Jerry and Erica Root; grandsons Ryan and Eli Bleeker and JP Root; nieces and nephews, Alexis and Jaden Gunderson, Paige, Kyle, Lacey and Ella Hadley and Jake Davis. A potluck to celebrate his life and share memories will take place on Saturday September 21st at 3:00 PM at  906 Vicker Street, Vicksburg.

Robert “Bob” Hildebrand, 80, Vicksburg, passed away July 31. He was born to Rollin and Bessie Hildebrand on October 30, 1938. Bob attended Vicksburg schools and became a professional mason. He always had an impeccable yard that was the envy of the neighborhood. He built a pond in his backyard and spent a significant amount of time tending to his meticulous flowerbeds as well as cleaning the pond. Outside of his work, he was a professional fisherman, winning many tournaments over the past several years. Popular among the competitive fishing industry, he traveled the country to fish. Bob is survived by his wife of 61 years, Joyce; their son, Rick Hildebrand of Vicksburg; granddaughters Jodie (Chad) Ostertag of Portage and Jessica (Jim) Cutshaw of Vicksburg; great-grandchildren Kyllie Zeller, Jim Cutshaw, and Aaden Ostertag. He is also survived by siblings Ron (Marylou) Hildebrand of Vicksburg; Virginia Bogema of Schoolcraft; Ruth Fritz of Pennsylvania; and Margaret (Dick) Fifer of Scotts. He was preceded in death by his brother, Howard Hildebrand. Visit his page at Donations may go to Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan.

Bruce P. Loker, 89, Vicksburg, died Aug. 21, following a long illness. He was born in Fulton on March 21, 1930, the son of Perry C. and Marian (Vance) Loker. He graduated from Athens High School and served in the U.S. Army for two years as a military policeman. Bruce was married to Dolores Denny on Feb. 25, 1955. Together they raised their children and operated a dairy farm near Fulton. Bruce was a pilot and enjoyed flying his Cessna. He attended the Factoryville Bible Church. Bruce is survived by his wife, Dolores Loker; children Rodney (Roseann) Loker of Vicksburg, Raymond (Tracie) Loker of Fulton, Perry (Cheryl) Loker of Vicksburg, Penny (Matthew) Mills of Belton, Mo., and Dawn (Randy) Adams of Raymore, Mo.; 23 grandchildren; 41 great-grandchildren; a brother, Max (Elaine) Loker; sisters Margaret (Francis) West and Vera Boyer; a sister in law, Beatrice Loker; and several nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents; a son, Royce; granddaughter, Jenny; and brother, Dale. Donations may go to Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan. Visit his page at

Corey A. Theobald, 33, Schoolcraft, passed away July 30. Corey was born January 12, 1986 in Kalamazoo, a son of Peter and Judith (Oswalt) Theobald. He was a lifelong Kalamazoo area resident and was employed with Harding’s several years ago. Corey is survived by his parents; a brother, Kyle Theobald; and several grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Donations may go to Twelve Baskets Food Pantry. Visit his page at

Vivian Elizabeth Blevins Watz, 95, died peacefully July 29 at the Heritage Community Nursing Home in Kalamazoo. Vivian was born on July 19, 1924, in Detroit, the daughter of William and Vivian Duke. World War II took her husband Marty Watz overseas for three years and while he was gone, Vivian wrote faithfully to her husband every day. During the war, she worked third shift at a factory inspecting shells for the war effort. When Marty came home, they bought a home in Harper Woods, where they lived for the next 45 years, raising four children. Vivian worked as a telephone operator for many years. After Marty died in 2010, Vivian moved to Spring Manor Apartments in Portage. Vivian is survived by her children, Diane Watz-Frisinger, Martin, Jr. (Sandra), Janet Glaes (Charles) and Steven (RoseAnn); grandchildren, Joshua Frisinger, Melissa Heimbough (Hayes), Jonathan Glaes (Jessica), Tyler Glaes, Natalie Glaes, Steven Watz, and Alexandra Watz; and great-grandchildren Sophia Frisinger, Hunter Glaes, Mason Glaes, and Gabriella Glaes. Visit her page at Donations may go to Generous Hands, Alzheimer’s Association or the Vicksburg Community Schools Foundation.

Blessing of the Helmets

Pastors from the Vicksburg Ministry Alliance gathered members of the Vicksburg Varsity football team and two players from the Rocket football program before game time. They formed in a circle to bless the players and coaches in a Blessing of the Helmets ceremony.

The prayer was prepared by Father Tom Martin and went like this: “Father of all, we ask you to bless these helmets and those who wear them. May each athlete play well and safely. Shield each player, their teammates and opponents from harm and grace them with the joy of good sportsmanship in the midst of competition. We, the pastors of the Vicksburg churches, ask this in your holy name.”

Back to School Celebrated at the Backpack Bonanza

The Backpack Bonanza provided Vicksburg school children with supplies and sneakers. This little girl proudly displays her newest gear.

By Paula Schriemer

The 12th annual Backpack Bonanza was held on Saturday, August 3, at the Vicksburg Community Pavilion. It was a lovely summer day for the event, sponsored by Generous Hands, Inc. (GHI) and South County Community Services (SCCS). Participating families arrived throughout the morning and were provided with new backpacks for the school year, as well as age-appropriate school supplies such as folders, pencils, pens, erasers, notebooks, scissors and crayons.

“The community was so generous this year that with the many donations that were dropped off and a generous gift card from Meijer, we didn’t have to purchase any school supplies or backpacks,” said GHI Executive Director Sheri Louis. Louis and SCCS Assistant Director Drew Johnson coordinated the event.

There were smiles all around as elementary-aged kids were fitted with new pairs of athletic shoes by the staff of First Day Shoe Fund, a nonprofit organization from Kalamazoo. “This is the third year that we’ve partnered with First Day Shoe Fund for the Backpack Bonanza. They are an outstanding organization to work with,” Louis said. Middle and high school students each received a new reusable water bottle to start the new school year. The 161 people attending the event enjoyed a breakfast of yogurt, muffins, juice and snacks and were provided with additional information on the upcoming programming for both organizations during the next school year.

Vicksburg School Superintendent Keevin O’Neill also attended this year’s Backpack Bonanza. “What an incredible event! It made me so happy to see the kids fill their backpacks with school supplies and get fitted for new shoes. Our families were so thankful. What a great way to kick off the new school year! Vicksburg Community Schools cannot thank Generous Hands and South County Community Services enough for what they do for our students and families,” O’Neill said.

Both organizations expressed gratitude for the 31 community volunteers who turned out to provide supplies for over 100 children. Another 80 students will be picking up their school supplies over the next few weeks at the GHI/SCCS offices on Spruce Street.

It will be a busy fall for GHI and SCCS. Both organizations participated in the Community Tailgate on Friday, August 30. Generous Hands is looking forward to its annual fundraiser, the Fall Extravaganza, on Saturday, November 9 at Indian Run Golf Course. Tickets are available at 269-370-7965. Finally, SCCS will partner with GHI to host their annual Holiday parties on December 6 and 7. They also have the Fabulous Flapjack Fundraiser on October 9 to help raise money for United Way.

Local Students Tour Europe with Ambassadors of Music

By Paul Stanton, director of Schoolcraft bands

Five Schoolcraft and two Vicksburg students were selected over a year ago to travel with the Michigan Ambassadors of Music (MAM) in this year’s summer tour of Europe. Their selection was based on the students’ outstanding musicianship, leadership, and character.

Students had the exciting opportunity to participate in the 16-day performance and educational tour of seven countries. Stops included London, Venice, Paris; Crans-Montana and Zermatt in Switzerland, Vaduz in Liechtenstein, Seefeld and Innsbruck in Austria, and Dachau and Rothenburg in Germany. The performances showcased the talent in the ensemble and proved that these students truly were musical ambassadors.

The Michigan Ambassadors of Music Europe Concert Tour was comprised of over 150 instrumental and vocal students from all over Michigan. Students for the group are nominated by their band and choir directors to participate in the Voyageurs International program, a company based in Colorado. Barry Martin, professor of music at Grand Valley State University and conductor of the Grand Rapids Symphonic Band, was the director of this year’s MAM Band.

Each year, students from 25 of the 50 states go overseas to sing in a choir or perform in a band. The next year, students from the other 25 states have the opportunity to participate. Over the two weeks the students were overseas, they had the opportunity to make friends with fellow Michigan band choir members and many remained in contact with their travel companions.

Schoolcraft senior Erin Lockwood said of the tour, “It was an amazing adventure filled with countless new experiences that I’m blessed to have had. MAM allowed us to see beautiful places and learn about the world around us while growing in our musical careers with new friends.”

Many of the students have shared their favorite place to visit was Switzerland, including a trip to the famous Matterhorn mountain. All students can certainly agree their travels this past summer were a life changing experience which has enriched their lives and musicianship.

Sunseeker Captain a Vicksburg Graduate

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Alysia Zimmerman, fourth from the right, stands with her fellow students who were involved with the WMU Sunseeker.

By Sue Moore

Alysia Zimmerman of Vicksburg had a lot of obstacles to overcome in her early years. She is a 2014 graduate of Vicksburg High School’s Way program, now called Pathways. Today, she is the captain of Western Michigan University’s Sunseeker solar-powered racing car which took 5th place in the Formula Sun Grand Prix competition in Texas this spring.

Suffering from migraine headaches since she was 11, Zimmerman missed 53 days of school in her sophomore year at VHS. She became pregnant in her senior year and opted to put the child up for adoption. She worked and went back to school in the Way program under Steve Fryling and Kristen Hossink’s tutelage, while residing in Traverse City for a year. “Way is a tool for kids with alternative issues,” Zimmerman said. “Still, you need your own motivation to make it work.”

She got her inspiration from her mom, Sue Craft, who worked in the family business at Bartholomew Heating and Cooking, where she performed energy audits. Zimmerman’s cousin, Brad Bartholomew, was passionate about energy auditing for his customers. “That piqued my interest in renewable and clean energy,” Zimmerman said.

She chose to attend Kalamazoo Valley Community College before entering WMU to major in electrical engineering with an emphasis on solar energy. The migraines had ceased when her pregnancy began, so she was able to concentrate on her schooling a whole lot better, she said. Scholarships, loans, Pell grants, and her mentors helped to keep her going toward furthering her education. She will graduate in the spring of 2020 from WMU and plans to begin a master’s degree program before getting into the field and starting to work in research and development.

Meanwhile, the Sunseeker team is looking to build a new car with Zimmerman in charge of the project. She was responsible for the solar power on the car which raced earlier this year, preparing the plans and schematics, purchasing the solar panels, encapsulating the panels and mounting and wiring them. The team is aiming to take part in a cross country race with her as captain in 2020.

Zimmerman is engaged to a fellow who wants to be a nurse and works full time at Aunt Millie’s in Kalamazoo, making bread. They joke that he is supporting her by bringing home the bread while she goes to school.

Sunset Lake School’s Air Quality Questioned

By Rob Peterson

Vicksburg school district parents at the August meeting challenged the board and administration on air quality issues at Sunset Lake Elementary.

According to a press release sent to MLive in July from unidentified persons who said they are teachers at the school, they have experienced “unusual illnesses”, including miscarriages, infertility, endometriosis, and struggles with reproductive health. The press release also reports that students and teachers are suffering from migraines, and that one teacher had suffered two strokes this past winter.

Parents showed concern about the number of health issues that teachers and students have reported at the building.

The administration claims that absenteeism at Sunset Lake is similar to other buildings in the district. School board member David Schriemer, a physician, said he feels badly for those suffering from health issues but added, “It’s a huge leap to believe that the building is causing the issues.”

Sunset Lake Principal Amy McCaw told the audience that she has spoken with a number of the teachers at the school; none have indicated that they are leaving. She said that some were even surprised by the information in the press release. McCaw indicated that there is a general feeling among the teaching staff that the administration is taking the proper steps to ensure a safe environment, and added, “We are all very excited to get back to school.”

Superintendent Keevin O’Neill spoke at length about the data they have received which show that there is nothing wrong with the air quality at Sunset Lake. He promised that they are “working to ensure the health and safety of everyone who enters the building.” The district hired Nova Environmental of Ann Arbor to conduct an air quality investigation. It found no major concerns in the air quality, including evidence of mold.

However, Kalamazoo-based Wonder Makers Environmental reviewed that data and other reports dating back to 2015 and found “a consistent pattern of fungal spore types” that would suggest a mold source in the building. That company said that additional mold testing is warranted.

The administration has contacted the National Institute for Occupational Health & Safety (NIOSH) to conduct a study this fall. It will include staff interviews and a building inspection. According to the administration, NIOSH recommended that the school district not take on any further testing until after their visit and instead spend the money on improvements.

One improvement undertaken this summer is replacement of the carpet with tile throughout the building, something the board indicated it had planned to do but accelerated the project out of potential concerns. To pay for the replacement, the district re-allocated half of the $1 million set aside from the last bond issue for technology upgrades. The school board is considering another bond issue in 2020, which may include replacement of some heating, ventilating, and air conditioning systems in the district.

Parents asked about the timeline and process for the NIOSH studies. Assistant Superintendent Steven Goss answered that the visit will begin on September 23. The agency’s investigators will evaluate the working conditions and speak with staff before making recommendations on further testing. They will be on the site for approximately one week.