Category Archives: Vicksburg alumni news

Vicksburg World War II Veterans Selected for Honor Flight to Nation’s Capital

Screen shot 2013-12-05 at 6.36.58 AM

By Sue Moore

“They are running out of us guys,” said Del Charles, who along with Harris Walters of Vicksburg, departed for Washington, D.C. on an Honor Flight in October, during the government shutdown period.  The trip was free to the 70 World War II veterans chosen to participate, with several more flights scheduled every month.

Both men agreed it was a real worthwhile trip.  “It was something I never would have done myself,” Charles explained.  “There are a lot of patriotic people out in this country yet and they kept hugging, kissing and clapping for us everywhere we went; in the airport, at the luncheon at the Plaza Hotel, at the War Memorial, and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.”

Delbert Charles displays his Bronze Star
Delbert Charles displays his Bronze Star

When we returned to the Toledo airport, there was even a band, a football team, and people lined up all along the aisles of the airport.  “When I got back from Germany in 1946, I took a bus home from Camp Shanks in Pennsylvania and nobody even knew I was coming home,” Charles offered in telling about his service in World War II.

“We each had a ‘guardian’ and were required to have a doctor’s permission to be on the Honor Flight,” Walters explained.  The guardians each paid $300 toward their expenses to accompany a veteran.  Charles’ guardian was an Ohio resident in his 60s who sent him an album of photographs he took during the course of the 14-hour trip.  The veterans were each given an orange vest to identify them, a blue jacket for the chilly air in D.C., and a motorcycle escort throughout the D.C. area, to and from Dulles airport.

“We kept thinking if the people who were held up for us to pass by in the three big buses were wondering just what politician they should blame for holding them up,” Walters chuckled.  “A family from Toledo even took time out of their plans to come to our hotel to say thank you, and we were both interviewed about our experiences by Channel 13 in Toledo,” he said.

“We were able to get right into the World War II memorial without any fuss,” according to Walters even though this was the week that the government was shutdown everywhere else in D.C.  They did have some of the tour places canceled because of the closure, but not the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which was a stirring memory for Charles who said the guards reminded him of robots, so mechanical, except maybe when they would blink their eyes.

Harris Walters greets the Veterans Day speaker.
Harris Walters greets the Veterans Day speaker.

Walters, a sergeant, served in New Guinea with the quartermaster’s corps as a truck driver.  He had started out as an anti-aircraft gunner and was headed to the Philippines, but the Japanese air force had become so decimated, his role became obsolete.  After six months he moved to Leyte and was put busy loading ships that were getting ready to invade Japan.  Then the atomic bomb was launched and he was back in the states in 1946.

Harris Walters grew up in Otsego, and after graduation from high school in 1942, got a job at Willow Run to work on the B-29 bomber.  “It didn’t seem quite right not to volunteer for the service when everyone else was going,” he said.  Upon his return he worked at a little grocery store in Otsego where he had worked summers while in school.  He went to Pine Lake vocational as a disabled vet and was hired soon after as their business manager.  Walters came to Vicksburg to manage Harding’s grocery store in 1953 and has stayed in Vicksburg ever since.  He is co-owner of Vicksburg Auto Wash on Richardson Street.

Del Charles saw heavy duty in France where he was caught behind the lines with his tank crew at St. Lo shortly after the invasion.  He was wounded by shrapnel from a mortar and was found under a half-track after he had dragged his driver, who was seriously injured, under it for protection.  Charles was air lifted to a hospital in northern England to recuperate.  After five weeks, he was shipped back to Paris and fought on through France to Belgium and into Germany. He was a platoon sergeant when in action and returned to the states as a staff sergeant in 1946.  He received the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.

Originally from Fulton, Charles worked for Al Lewis and Jack Thurman building houses, then went to the Tot Shop in Kalamazoo, and retired from the Upjohn Company as security supervisor in 1985.  He now lives at Kline’s Resort.

Military Service Runs in the Family – Literally

Screen shot 2013-12-05 at 6.33.43 AMBy Sue Moore

Serving in the military is often a family tradition for many in this area.  The Jim Henderson family of 208 Bair Street, Vicksburg is especially proud of son Joey, a 2012 Vicksburg High School graduate who enlisted in the Marines on a delayed entry program, November 2011.

After boot camp he took Marine combat training in San Diego, then headed to Aviation Support schooling in Pensacola, FL, then back to San Diego for more training where graduated first in his class on November 1, 2013.  Besides that he received a meritorious promotion to Lance Corporal along with receiving a grey belt for the Marine Corps Martial Arts program.  He will be performing maintenance on Huey and Cobra helicopters in New River, NC.

Joey would be the first to admit that signing up for the Marines, was heavily influenced by the many generations before him who have been Marines.  It reads like this:

Jim Henderson II, Joey’s father, was in the Marine Corps Reserve, based in Battle Creek.  He signed up during the Persian Gulf War in 1991-94.

Screen shot 2013-12-05 at 6.34.04 AMJim Henderson Sr., Joey’s grandfather, served as a corporal in the Fleet Marine Force from 1962-65 in Hawaii, Taiwan and Japan.

John Spencer, Joey’s great grandfather, born in 1923, served in the Army from 1942-45 in World War II in the European theater, participating in the Battle of the Bulge in France as a machine gunner in the Infantry.  He achieved the rank of Corporal.

John Spencer Jr., Joey’s great uncle, born in 1948, served in the Army Airborne from 1966-70.  He fought in Vietnam and received a purple heart.  He achieved E-5 Specialist rank.

Delbert Spencer, Joey’s great, great uncle, served in the Army in the Korean War from 1950-53.

Gabriel Kievet, Joey’s great, great, great uncle, served in the Army and fought in WW I.

Lorenzo Watson, Joey’s great, great, great grandfather, fought in the Spanish American War in 1898.

With that lineage, it was pre-ordained that Joey would serve his country in the military.

Vicksburg Freshman Receives Leadership Scholarship at Central Michigan

Brianna VanCamp
Brianna VanCamp

The Central Michigan University Leadership Institute is pleased to announce that Brianna VanCamp of Vicksburg has been selected to join the 2013 Leader Advancement Scholarship cohort. 

The Leader Advancement Scholarship is awarded each year to 40 outstanding incoming freshmen who have distinguished themselves through a record of leadership and service.  VanCamp served as the senior class vice president of Vicksburg High School Class of 2013. In addition, she was an executive for the student senate, participated in HOSA National Leadership Conferences, and did a number of volunteer projects, including Habitat for Humanity, Bronson Hospital VolunTEEN, and Special Olympics.

This record of leadership and volunteerism helped Brianna stand out in a pool of nearly 2,500 applicants to be selected for a Leader Advancement Scholarship.

Opened in 1998, the Central Michigan University Leadership Institute is the premier collegiate leadership program in the Midwest. The Institute gives students an opportunity to develop their leadership qualities. The organization is committed to providing students and members of the community with opportunities to continually enhance their leadership skills. The flagship program of the Leadership Institute is the nationally-recognized Leader Advancement Scholarship. Members of the Leader Advancement Scholarship cohort reside in the leadership hall, Barnes Hall, and complete a four-year academic and co-curricular protocol.

Scholarship recipients are afforded the opportunity to enroll in general education coursework with a leadership component infused into the classroom experience. Outside of the classroom students contribute volunteer service, attend leadership development trainings, and mentor incoming students.

Brianna is currently enrolled at CMU and plans to enter the Physician’s Assistant program upon completion of her Bachelor degree. She is the daughter of Wendy (Steve) Pheils of Vicksburg and Kevin VanCamp of Mendon.

Mike Cloney Inducted Into Michigan High School Coaches Hall of Fame

By Sue Moore

Mike Cloney
Mike Cloney

Mike Cloney, a coach of middle school youngsters for 36 years received the ultimate honor of induction into the Michigan High School Coaches Hall of Fame in September, 2013.  He was a Vicksburg High School graduate in 1962 and while in school, had a part-time job at the Commercial-Express.

His coaching years were spent in Mattawan where he also taught world geography for 40 years after graduation from Western Michigan University.  Cloney was honored as one of the first coaches in the state who spent his entire career with seventh and eighth grade kids, including a stint at St. Monica’s in Kalamazoo where he had the good fortune of coaching both of his children.

While in Mattawan, Cloney coached football for 35 years, basketball for 28 years and added baseball for five.  This amounted to 68 seasons altogether, and over 700 games.  He had previously earned varsity letters in Vicksburg in all three of these sports.

Mike's father Ed Cloney.
Mike’s father Ed Cloney.

Along with the honor of being recognized by this prestigious fraternity of athletics, he and Ed Cloney, are among the very few father and son combinations to be selected.  “It meant a lot to me, knowing that my dad was inducted back in 1970.  I was proud to carry on the tradition.  The elder Cloney spent his coaching years at Owasso and 14 years at Portage Central while the family resided in the Vicksburg school district.

“The joy of teaching is when students come back and want to look you up and share their life stories,” Cloney said.  “I’m often told that they are grateful that I listened to them and took an interest while they were young teens.  You have to love middle school kids or you shouldn’t be there teaching.  We always had a lot of fun, but while still being fairly tough on them,” he concluded.

Outstanding Vicksburg Graduate Receives $17,000 in Scholarships from Central Michigan University

Screen shot 2013-11-10 at 10.00.54 AMCentral Michigan University freshman Claudia N. Ramsey, a 2013 graduate of Vicksburg High School, received one of only 10 Incoming Freshman Biology Department Scholarships.  This one-time $1,000 award was presented at the Department of Biology’s Reception for Scholars held in September.    The scholarship required two letters of recommendation from current or previous teachers, which she received from Kristina Porter and Kim Armitage, both of whom are in the Science Department at Vicksburg High School.

Additionally, Ms. Ramsey received the CMU Board of Trustees Outstanding High School Student scholarship worth $4,000 annually and awarded to students ranked first or second in their graduating class.  She is currently studying biomedical science, and hopes to attend medical school in southern California to become an orthopedic surgeon.  Additionally, Claudia is a member of the CMU cheerleading team.    Claudia is the daughter of Mari & Ken Smith of Vicksburg, and Ed Ramsey also of Vicksburg.

Feeding “Da Bears” a New Career for Deb Oswalt Scheckel

By Sue Moore

Celio Jones now of the Arizona Cardinals and Deb Scheckel
Celio Jones now of the Arizona Cardinals
and Deb Scheckel
Six days a week, Deb Oswalt Scheckel, a Vicksburg High School graduate, whips up lunch, dinner and snacks for the likes of Chicago Bears football players Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall and many other luminaries on the team.

She plans their meals carefully, crafting a nutrition plan for each player, depending upon the position they play. She gathers the ingredients, fixes the meals and drives them from her commercial kitchen in Chicago to Halas Hall in Lake Forest, Illinois. The six day food allotment arrives during the season as fresh as she can construct and package it so the players can eat nutritiously and thus attain their peak performance.

It all started with Tom Zbikowski when he played safety for Notre Dame and his doctor recommended that he seek out Scheckel. The doctor worked with college and professional athletes in Naperville, IL where Deb had started a business called “Dinners Together.” He thought that Zbi needed advice on the best way to eat in preparation for the National Football League “combine” where players try out for three days in front of scouts and coaches before they are drafted.

Scheckel had started a store-front business in 2003 for harried families who would come in once or twice a week. They could select from a cafeteria like offering of items they would take home and have ready in just a few minutes or store them for the week ahead. It was a novel idea that took off in large cities where time management is everything. Her food was particularly appealing because it was nutritious and seemed more like home cooking.

Husband Marty and their children Emily and Dan all pitched in to help Deb with the endeavor. Soon competitors were franchising the idea but she never chose to follow that route. When the economy fell apart in 2008/09 it was time to close the doors and start working as a chef for a financial firm involved with global trading in Chicago who needed to keep their 40 plus employees close to their desks for lunch. The firm now has expanded to 120 employees and she has hired 2 lunch coordinators to help. They offered her the commercial kitchen right in the building where she creates the lunch selections three days a week, puts it out and can then work on her meal plans for the Bears team members in the same place.

She likes to deliver the meals in person because she can then have face time with the athletes to get to know them personally. “I look at their position, customize the program to their needs, especially if they have been injured. That requires more protein or carbs sometimes. These are my ‘boys’ and once in while they will fall off the wagon but not very often as they are motivated and disciplined,” she says. “Sometimes I have to hide the vegetables so they don’t even know what they are eating. Others will call to ask if they can have mashed potatoes and maybe some cheddar cheese.

I’m a great fan of Jay Cutler who is no nonsense and all about results. Brandon Marshall, the wide receiver was one of my first customers when he came to the Bears with something of a “bad boy” reputation.

He and Cutler have teamed successfully for two seasons and with a new coaching staff the Bears are going to be in great shape to make the playoffs this season,” she predicts. These two take eating right, very seriously and have convinced at least ten other players to invest in Scheckel’s program. They include Tim Jennings, Julius Peppers, Earl Bennett, Alshon Jeffery, Henry Melton and Martellus Bennett.

In high school in Vicksburg, Deb participated in music and lots of stage performances. In college she majored in Public Relations, never dreaming that food preparation would be in her future.

“I loved good food and my mom Pat, was a great example as she was always experimenting and coming up with fantastic recipes. For a Christmas gift one year she gave us a collection of her recipes which I have often referred to in my work. My brother Mike went away to collage eating nothing but peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and graduated as a gourmet cook, with no formal training either. I don’t have a degree in dietetics but got interested in nutrition on my first job out of Michigan State as a sales rep for a pharmaceutical company selling nutritional products,” she says.

“I have a passion for this work. It’s rewarding. These boys have a limited time in the NFL.Frequently their career will not end on their terms so anything I can do to help prolong their careers is important to me. As an added bonus, it’s helping put my two adult children through college. My husband Marty works as a sales manager for Tellabs but moonlights as my Human Resources and billing department,” she says appreciatively.

Rhonda Hetrick Burke Always Wanted to be a Successful Writer

Rhonda Hetrick Burke
Rhonda Hetrick Burke

By Sue Moore

“My dad always told me, ‘don’t ever count on someone else, especially a man, to take care of you, the only one you can count on is yourself, “ Rhonda Hetrick Burke emphasized.

With that in mind, after graduating from Vicksburg Community High School in 1981, she enlisted in the Navy to see the world and pursue her goal of becoming a journalist. After boot camp she spent a little over two years in Japan working in the operations department and eventually the public affairs office.

“I was fortunate that my commanding officer took an interest in my career and helped me get started,” she said. “As a young journalist I was interviewing admirals and other dignitaries and attending international events.”

Then it was off to sea duty as a journalist on the USS Acadia, a non-combatant repair ship in San Diego. Following that assignment, in which she saw most of the Far East, she was assigned to the Naval Training Center in Great Lakes, Ill., working in the public affairs office.

In the summer of 1991, Hetrick Burke left active duty to join the reserves and take a civilian job to continue her career as a journalist, this time as the managing editor at Lakeland Newspapers in Grayslake, Ill. For eight years she toiled as a journalist in the weekly newspaper world, shocked at how little editors get paid, she recounts.

This group of small-town newspapers was owned by “Senior,” who flippantly told her one day, “You’ll never make it in this career,” when she needed two hours off to bring her daughters home from school because they had the chicken pox. “I learned a lot from him, once I figured out where he was coming from as my employer,” she said, “He emphasized how important it is to find the unique thing about our each of the towns we covered and to report it. It is something a journalist can do that no one else does. We are keeping the record of the community he always told me.”

Deciding to freelance, Hetrick-Burke struck out on her own in 1999 to become a stringer for the Chicago Tribune writing obituaries, feature stories, doing the police beat and covering local government in the towns north of Chicago that are still in the Tribune’s circulation area.

Still feeling the wanderlust, she was recalled to active duty in the Navy in 2000 as a Chief Petty Officer and was detached to Bahrain from 2005 to 2007 where she started a live radio station as part of the communications to ships in the area. Under her command the staff built a radio station out of stuff scrounged from the bases where radio stations had been disestablished and she oversaw a morning show for the troops.

After 29-plus years in the Navy, the Senior Chief Petty Officer decided to retire from active duty in 2010. But knowing the wisdom of her dad, she wasn’t going to stop working. She applied and was selected for a job as public affairs officer for the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) in Chicago. Her office serves a 12-state Midwest region. DOL manages OSHA, Wage and Hour inspections, and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, among other responsibilities. As such, Hetrick-Burke speaks about the mission of the agency with a passion. The Department of Labor investigates violations in the workplace and seeks to maintain the culture of safety that is needed to protect the working public.

In her free time, she volunteers as a board member for Great Lakes Naval Museum Foundation, at Naval Station Great Lakes, the Navy’s only boot camp, which is located about 45 minutes north of Chicago. She also enjoys gardening and running and completed the Chicago Marathon in 2009.

“I left Vicksburg as a shy teenager, never feeling like I fit in,” Hetrick-Burke said. “I’ve seen and done so many different things because of my jobs and have lived in and visited many countries.

While serving in the Navy Hetrick Burke earned a Bachelor’s degree in work force education from Southern Illinois University and a Masters’ degree in Human Resources from Webster University. Today, she lives in Antioch, Ill., with her husband, Dustan and 16-year-old daughter Delaney. She also has three grown daughters, Amelia Vinzant, Samantha Burke and Mandy Chavez and a son-in-law Levi Chavez.

“Getting my start as a school reporter for the Commercial-Express was important because I knew that someone in my life was taking an interest in me,” she said.

“Even though I was shy, asking other people questions gave me a reason to start a conversation and keep talking. Interviewing people and telling their unique stories is an important responsibility. Journalists record the history of the world and whether it is for a high school paper, the Chicago Tribune or in the middle of a combat zone, each person’s story stays with you and records their mark on this world.”