Abby Chapin awarded global health fellowship

Abby Chapin on graduation day.

On May 1, 2020 Abby Chapin graduated from the University of Michigan with a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering magna cum laude, earning a place on the Dean’s List every semester it was compiled. Abby graduated from the Kalamazoo Area Math and Science Center and Schoolcraft High School in 2015. During her college years she created and implemented the original Science Friday summer reading program at the Schoolcraft Library; worked at the Air Zoo for a summer; was a STEM camp counselor at a University of Michigan camp for young girls interested in science; spent four years on a student sub-team promoting wind energy including a year as president; spent parts of two summers in Malawi, Africa, teaching math, science and English to secondary students preparing for university entrance exams, volunteered on a coffee plantation in Guatemala learning sustainable farming practices there. She spent her spring breaks volunteering with a group that did hurricane clean up in Texas and North Carolina; worked as a tutor in the U-M honors office and as a private tutor in thermodynamics and completed an internship at Whirlpool Corp. On May 1, 2021, Abby graduated with a master of science degree with distinction in design science. This 2020-2021 school year she worked as a graduate student instructor teaching freshmen engineering students while doing her own coursework on a screen from her small apartment. Both of her in-person graduations were cancelled so she had a “front yard” graduation with family attending a private, personalized graduation for the first graduation and a family walk through the U of M campus for the second graduation. She is one of five scholars awarded a global health fellowship at Rice University in Houston, where she will work with a team on global health solutions for low-income countries that have low health resource solutions. She left Schoolcraft the morning of August 12th with her parents, John and Cyndie Chapin, to begin a new adventure.

Schoolcraft ag dealer honored for customer service

Farm Depot of Schoolcraft, an agricultural equipment sales and service center, recently achieved a five-star rating from AGCO Corporation’s Dealer Excellence Program, an annual dealer evaluation review.

Farm Depot was one of 19 dealers to receive the rating. Bill Hurley of AGCO presented Farm Depot with a plaque and financial award as recognition of its high marks in the program.

“We’re honored to receive this recognition and designation from AGCO,” Mike Laethem, manager of Farm Depot said. “I’m proud of the work our entire staff has done to earn it. We’ve worked hard to provide the highest-quality customer service, and we’re proud to stand among the best dealers in the U.S. and Canada.”

Farm Depot, a family owned and operated business, has been in business for over 77 years as an agricultural dealership. It maintains locations in Caro, Ionia and Schoolcraft.

Farm Depot has come a long way from the day Dick Laethem opened the doors in 1944 as the Laethem Farm Service Co., in Fairgrove, Michigan. Times were different: The phone number was 17 and the John Deere and Caterpillar tractors sat on the dirt floor of the store. Today, the showrooms are large and equipment includes Fendt, Challenger, RoGator, TerraGator, Massey Ferguson, Krone, Kubota and Kioti. Brothers Mark and Mike Laethem, Dick’s grandsons, carry on the tradition of running the family owned business today. Mike’s son, Blake, is now the fourth generation of Laethems in the family business.

Schoolcraft schools comply with mask mandate

By Travis Smola

Schoolcraft public schools will comply with an order from the Kalamazoo County Department of Health imposing a mask mandate as a precaution against COVID-19.

The mandate requires children in grades kindergarten through six to wear a mask at school. It was issued just weeks before the school year began. Prior to this decision, Superintendent Rick Frens and the school board at an August board meeting indicated the district would not enforce a mask mandate. Board members also stated in that meeting the district would respect the choices of students and staff on vaccinations and mask wearing.

However, during a special meeting held later in the month with a large turnout, Frens recommended the district comply with the mask mandate, which was approved by the board. Frens clarified later that the district complied to avoid penalties from the health department.

“This past week we received clarification around compliance with the mandate and have put procedures and protocols in place to ensure compliance,” Frens wrote in an email. “The health department does have the ability to impose fines and penalties, which could ultimately close our school buildings. We have a duty to ensure all our kids are in class with their teachers five days a week, and we are going to focus our energies on a positive start to the school year.”

In other news, the board also approved contracts between the district, the Kalamazoo County Education Association and the Schoolcraft Education Association.

The board also approved giving the Eagles’ name to the formation of a sixth through 12th grade high school clay target team. Athletic Director Jeff Clark has been pushing for the program for years. He noted that the costs of participation, about $300, is all on the families. If a student makes it to state contests, there is an additional $45 charge.

All participants must have a hunter safety certification or pass a gun safety program prior to being allowed on the range. Firearms will not be allowed on school grounds; all shooting will be at Lake Osterhout Conservation Club. Student athletes will be subject to eligibility checks. While it is not an MHSAA sport, all participating schools follow its guidelines.

The plan is to start with a trial run of 10 students this fall. If all goes well, the program will be expanded in the spring. The motion to establish the team passed unanimously.

Football and full stands are back

Malachi Sampley. Photo by Stephanie Blentlinger, Lingering Memories Photography.

By Mark Blentlinger

After an unusual 2020 season, the Schoolcraft Eagles made it all the way to the state semi-finals, ending with a loss to state champion New Lothrop. Twenty seniors graduated last spring, so Coach Ferency reloaded the Eagles with lots of new faces. The Eagles’ first test was a visit from the Rangers of Cassopolis at Roy Davis Field on August 26.

The Eagles started on offense, receiving the kick from the Rangers. Schoolcraft fans saw a different type of offense. For the past three seasons, the Eagles were predominantly a throwing team. This year, the Eagles came out using more of a ground attack. Sophomore Ryan Ling is the Eagles’ signal caller, with senior Nolan Strake, sophomore Isaac Noora, sophomore Houston Hodges and senior Kanaan Burgess taking Ling’s handoffs. The Eagles’ first offensive series of 2021-22 season resulted in Nolan Strake hitting paydirt from the 3-yard line.

Immediately following the Strake touchdown, fans witnessed history for Schoolcraft when senior Hannah Thompson, a Schoolcraft soccer star, became the first female player to score points for Schoolcraft football when she kicked the ball through the uprights.

The Eagles’ lead would not last long. After the Rangers took over at the 6:25 mark in the first quarter, Collin Bogue, senior for the Rangers, took it right down the field on their 3rd play, running 78 yards for a touchdown. Their two-point conversion was successful, taking the lead at 8-7.

After halftime, the Rangers again knocked on the endzone’s door, but the Eagles defense stood tough, keeping the Rangers from entering the endzone from the 1-yard line in two straight plays.

Neither team was able to put anything together until the 4th quarter when again Nolan Strake found himself in the Rangers’ endzone celebrating with his teammates. Thompson’s kick sailed left of the upright, and the Eagles led, 13-8.

Rangers’ Daishean Jamison found some open lanes in the Eagles’ kickoff and took it 93 yards to the house. Cassopolis’ two-point conversion was unsuccessful. The Eagles found themselves down again 13-14, until Strake found his way into the endzone one last time. The Eagles’ two-point conversion failed. With six minutes left, the Rangers worked their way back down the field where they struck again from 5 yards out, putting them up 20-19. The Eagles had one last drive with 2:30 left on the clock. The last pass was intercepted in the endzone, giving the Rangers the win and handing the Eagles their first opening home game loss since 2011.

The Eagles led the stats with 68 total plays to the Rangers’ 42. Schoolcraft had 363 yards of total offense while Cassopolis ended with 248.

The Eagles continued their season in Centreville September 2 with another loss, 28-7.


Karen Louise Berry, 83, Vicksburg, passed away at home surrounded by her loving family. She was born on July 27, 1938, in Ludington, the daughter of Helen Sauers. Karen graduated from Climax-Scotts High School in 1956. Following graduation, she met and married Richard Walter Berry, and together they raised their family in Vicksburg. She had a passion for the outdoors and was blessed with a green thumb. She loved to cook and spend time with her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. She was preceded in her passing by her mother Helen Ault; husband Richard Berry; and brothers Gaylord Hotrum Sr. and Paul Hotrum. Left to cherish Karen’s loving memory are her children, Janice (Todd) Robinson, Richard Berry II and Sue (Tom) Forward; grandchildren Ashley (Tony) Garrod, Arrin Berry-Robinson, Olivia Berry, Alyssa Frisch and Codey Frisch; great-grandchildren Kyler Frisch and Ella Stokes; siblings Sonya Beebe and James (Renee) Hotrum; sister in-law Rosemary Hotrum; aunt “Sr. Colette” Evelyn Sauers; and many nieces and nephews. Donations may go to the family in care of Janice Robinson. Visit her page at

William (Bill) David Bowen, 84, Vicksburg, passed away August 18, 2021. He was born on April 17, 1937, in Atlanta, Michigan, to William Martin and Nellie Mary (Turppa) Bowen. Bill graduated from Pinconning High School in 1955. He married Martha Irene Hawkins on August 24, 1957, and they raised their four children in Midland. He worked at Dow Chemical and retired as a master pipefitter at age 53. Bill served as Santa Claus at the Lakeview Square Mall in Battle Creek for 17 years. He was an active member of Chapman Memorial Church of the Nazarene and was an active member of Gideons International for 55 years. Bill enjoyed gardening, servicing golf carts, and volunteering at Indian Lake Nazarene Camp. Bill will be remembered for his loving and giving personality. He was preceded in his passing by his daughter-in-law, Kristin Bowen. Surviving are his wife of 64 years, Martha Irene (Hawkins) Bowen; children Yvonne and Jonathan Biggar, Debra and Steven Reader, William A. Bowen, and Yalonda and J. Mitchell Combs; grandchildren Rebecca, Allison, Gretchen, Sara, Adam, Renee, Mandy, Emily, Abigail, Tim, Jake and Miguella; and 11 great-grandchildren. Donations may go to ChapNaz Church, the Gideons International, or Indian Lake Nazarene Camp. Visit his page at

Janet Butcher, 66, Portage, passed away on Monday, August 2, 2021. She was born on January 18, 1955 in Joliet, Ill., the daughter of Fred and Alberta (Windham) Stone. Janet worked for many years at General Motors. She loved to craft and play bingo, and loved karaoke. Janet is survived by her husband of 19 years, Michael Butcher; children Melanie (Scott) Newell, Eric Kelley, and Jennifer (Jeff) Warn; grandchildren Keri Newell, Brian Newell, Ryan Newell, Jadyn Kelley; her fur babies Jake and Riley; siblings, Freddie Stone and Deborah Morphew. Janet was preceded in death by her parents and her sister, Barb Gray. Visit her page at

Dale A. Catherman, 74, Hesperia, passed away suddenly August 10, 2021. Dale grew up in Vicksburg but lived most of his adult life in Oceana County. He graduated from Vicksburg High School in 1965 and served in the U.S. Army from 1966 to 1968. He was employed by Consumers Energy for many years until his retirement. He is survived by his wife, Mary; son Jon Catherman; stepchildren Jimmy Lewis, Mike Lewis, and Karen (Tim) Balcom; sister Diane (Paul) Czuk; grandchildren Adrienne (Patrick) Gordon, Alex Lewis, Stephanie Valdes, Ashley (Anthony) Tanner, D.J. (Haley) Hills and Erin Lewis; and 11 great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his parents, Fred and Martha Catherman.

Kathryn Louise Cook, passed away peacefully, holding both her daughters’ hands with her son-in-law by her side, on August 20, 2021, following her battle with lung and pancreatic cancers since 2019. Kay was born on December 13, 1945, to William and Vera (Fisher) Armstrong in Three Rivers. Kay grew up with her brother and sister in Moore Park, until the age of 11, when she moved to Portage. She graduated from Portage Central High School. Kay married Louis H. Avard in 1963. They raised two daughters in Texas Township before their marriage ended. Kay was creative and ambitious, opening her own wallpaper business and many antique shops across Southwest Michigan. Kay was well known for her beautiful linens and lace. In retirement, Kay found peace in her beautiful flower gardens. She cherished family time, making holiday gatherings memorable with baking passed-down family recipes, beautiful decorations, and her contagious smile, which her daughters and granddaughters carry on today. Kathryn was preceded in death by her great-grandson Lucas Kristopher Carrizales, her parents, nephew Jack Armstrong, and many aunts and uncles. Surviving are daughters Christine Kay Avard (Christopher Barnes) and Rhonda Lynn (Kristopher) Vernia; brother George Armstrong (Vivian Franklin); sister Lynne (Lee) Scheffers; grandchildren Blake Babic, Logan Vernia, Olivia Caffrey, and Mason Vernia; six great-grandsons; and many nieces, nephews, and cousins. Services have been held. Donations may go to Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan or the Animal Rescue Project. Visit Kay’s page at

Denise R. Crane, 54, Parchment, passed away on August 16, 2021. Denise was born on September 24, 1966 in Battle Creek, the daughter of Stephen and Linda (Cutsinger) Crane. Denise graduated from Battle Creek Public Schools. For the past 16 years, Denise has lived and worked at Shalom in Kalamazoo. Her hobbies included reading romance novels and doing word search puzzles. She loved animals of all kinds. Denise’s family will remember her as loving and laid back. Denise is survived by her six stepsiblings, Ron (Brenda) Olson of Kalamazoo, Dennis (Karen Nay) Olson of Vicksburg, David (Kim) Olson of Vicksburg, Karen (Tom) Dillon of Galesburg; Brenda (Joel) Nelson of Marcellus, and J.J. Olson of Vicksburg; aunt Carol (Mike) Quartermaine; step nieces and nephews; and 11 cousins. She was preceded in death by her mother Linda Crane; her father and stepmother, Stephen and Norma Jean (Olson) Crane; maternal grandparents Cordas and Lillian Cutsinger; uncle Carl Cutsinger and aunt Patricia Homan. Visit her page at Donations may go to Shalom Kalamazoo.

Trevor Jon Jennings, 27, Vicksburg, passed away August 2, 2021. Trevor was born September 2, 1993, in Kalamazoo, the son of Dexter William Jennings and Fawn Marie (Hoffman) Jennings. Trevor always enjoyed the outdoors and vehicles. He saved his money to buy his first 1977 Ford Bronco when he was 14. Trevor graduated from Vicksburg High School in 2011 and attended KVCC where he earned his associate’s degree in machine tool. He worked as a machinist at FEMA for nine years. Trevor loved his family and time spent with them. He was especially attached to his dog, Gunner, whom he rescued as a puppy in Tennessee. Trevor enjoyed Friday nights with friends, having dinner and riding three wheelers, four wheelers, and RZRs. His kind heart will be remembered by all who knew him. He is survived by his parents, Dexter and Fawn (Hoffman) Jennings; sister Marissa (Michael) Coonfer; grandparents Jon and Bev Hoffman and Dexter and Jan Jennings; dog Gunner; and many aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends. Visit his page at Donations may go to the Bronson Medical ICU or For the Love of Paws.

William (Bill) Tell Johnson, 91, Three Rivers, passed away quietly on August 24, 2021, surrounded by his family. Bill was born on June 7, 1930, the son of Agnes (Stuut) and Harold Johnson in Kalamazoo. He worked as a truck driver for Tripp Trucking, Michigan Express and Holland Motor Trucking. He later worked as manager at the Asphalt Improvement Company in Kalamazoo until his retirement and then continued driving part time, even into his 80s, for Maverick Express. Bill was an avid outdoorsman. A trip to Alaska with his second wife, Janice, was a highlight of his travels. He loved family, friends, animals, and Reba McIntyre. He will be remembered for his quick wit. Bill is survived by his wife, Vicki; sons Korree and Kort Johnson, both of Allegan; daughter Koddee (Scott) Haner of Lawton; six grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; siblings Don (Barb) Johnson and Linda (Tiller) Stanton, both of Kalamazoo. He was preceded in death by his daughter, Kammah; wife, Janice (Haveman); sister Betty Roseboom; and son-in-law Pat Taplin. A memorial will take place from 1-3 p.m. on September 12 in the community tent at Kline’s Resort. Donations may go to the SPCA of Southwest Michigan.

Allen Mendel Kelly, 85, Scotts, passed away on August 29, 2021, in Kalamazoo. He was born on September 27, 1935, in Vicksburg, the son of David and Erma (Cusick) Kelly. He grew up in Vicksburg and in 1954 graduated from Vicksburg High School, where he enjoyed many sports. On June 16, 1956, he married Patrecia Smith at the Evangelical Free Church in Vicksburg. Allen was a lab technician at Hercules Inc. for 44 years. Al and Pat owned and ran Shamrock Stables where they boarded, raised and trained horses. Following his retirement, he enjoyed hunting, fishing, camping and trail riding. He loved spending time with his grandchildren. He was preceded in his passing by his parents. He is survived by his wife of 65 years, Patrecia Kelly; children Scott (Sheril) Kelly, Todd (Jennie) Kelly, and Kathy (Brad) Belcher; 10 grandchildren; seven great-grandchildren; siblings Edie (Dean) Boone and Carol (Merritt) Edner; and nieces and nephews. A memorial service will be held at Renovation Church on September 11, 2021 with a visitation at 10 a.m. until the service at 11 a.m. Donations may go to Hospice of Southwest Michigan. Visit his page at

Kevin L. Perkins, 45, Vicksburg, passed away on August 14, 2021. Kevin was born on December 8, 1975 in Kalamazoo, the son of Gaylord Perkins and Sarah (Bailey) Perkins-VerMeulen. On October 10, 2004, he married the love of his life, Sara Martin. Kevin was a hard-working family man. He was a talented mechanic and could fix just about anything. Kevin will be remembered by his family as a supportive and strong dad. Kevin is survived by his wife of 16 years, Sara Meagon Perkins; children Baylee Perkins, Amber Perkins, Erin Perkins, and Kevin James Perkins; parents Sarah Ann (Bailey) Perkins-VerMeulen and Gaylord Steven Perkins; and his siblings. Visit his page at Donations may go to the family.

Nancy Jo Vandergeest, 77, Three Rivers, passed away August 11, 2021. Nancy was born on June 13, 1944 in Boise, Idaho., the only child of William and Patricia Howe. Nancy was a graduate of Loy Norrix High School. She married Stuart Vandergeest on March 3, 1967. She was a loving mother to their three children. She worked at Fannie May, and volunteered at Three Rivers Hospital. Nancy loved crossword puzzles, reading, gardening and caring for her chickens and dogs. Nancy also enjoyed spending time with her grandchildren. Nancy is survived by her husband of 54 years, Stuart; children Jody (Bob) Morgan, of Jones; Tim Vandergeest, of Wyoming, Mich., Mark Vandergeest, of Milford; and grandchildren Jason and Erin Morgan of Jones. Nancy was preceded in death by her father, William “Bill” Howe and mother Patricia (Harold) Hagerman. Visit her page at Donations may go to St. Joseph County Animal Shelter.

Joan Wales-Dickson, 82, formerly of Vicksburg, died July 12, 2021 in Las Cruces, New Mexico. She was born in Kalamazoo on December 16, 1939 to German immigrant parents F. Joseph and Marie (Eppler) Weitenauer. She grew up on a farm near Vicksburg and attended Mendon and Vicksburg Schools, graduating with the Vicksburg High School class of 1957. Joan married David M. Wales in 1958. They raised two boys, Jeffrey M. and Mark D. Wales. In the 1980s they pulled up stakes, ending up in El Paso, Texas. Joan was successful in her careers at Western Michigan University, in real estate, and management. Years after David passed away, she met and married Larry Dickson. With him, she traveled the world, shopping everywhere she went. The marriage ended in divorce. Joan was an avid seamstress, making beautiful clothes and quilts. Joan is survived by her son, Jeff (Joni) Wales of Vicksburg, grandson John C. Wales, brother Otto Decker and his family. She was preceded in death by her parents, her son Mark, husband David, and sister Delores Elkins. In keeping with her wishes, cremation has been conducted. A visitation will be held on Saturday, October 9, 2021 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Eickhoff Funeral Home in Mendon. Afterward, family and friends are invited to share more memories at her son, Jeff’s home at 16975 South 31st Street, Vicksburg, MI 49097. Memories and condolences may also be shared online at

Mark A. Weed, 56, Vicksburg, passed away on August 30, 2021. Mark was born on October 29, 1964 in Niles, the son of Harry and Jean (Maleski) Weed. Mark graduated from Dowagiac Union High School with the class of 1983. He worked for Pfizer as a chemical operator for 20 years. On October 29, 2000 he married the love of his life, Carrie Younger. Besides spending time with his family and friends, Mark had a passion for traveling, riding his Harley, attending sporting events and caring for his wife and children. Mark had a bright and energetic personality and was known for his ability to sense when people needed his help. He touched many lives with his generosity and passion for life. Mark is survived by his wife, Carrie; sons Tony (Sarah) Weed and Corbin Weed, both of Vicksburg; and his mother, Jean Weed, of Kentucky. His is also survived by siblings Jim (Julie) Weed and Theresa Goff. He was preceded in death by his father, Harry Weed. Mark has been cremated and a memorial service will be held at a later date. Visit his page at to review Mark’s updated service information, sign his guestbook and share a memory with the family. Those who wish to make a donation may contribute to the charity of their choice.

Schoolcraft receives American Rescue Plan Act funds

By Rob Peterson

Schoolcraft Village is scheduled to receive $162,341 as part of the American Rescue Plan Act approved in March. The village will receive half the money in 2021 and the rest next year. The funds may be used on COVID-related needs or infrastructure.

In preliminary discussions, the village is considering improvements to the water system, which may include replacement of some lead-based pipes and purchase of property for a new wellhouse.

“We have until 2026 to spend the money, so we want to take the time to make the right decision,” said Village Manager Cheri Lutz. “Staff will come up with recommendations and present them to the Council.”

At its July meeting, Lutz reported staff is spending extra administrative time on the ordinance violations that the Council wants enforced, especially fences installed without permits. Some residents are complying with the requirements, but others are being referred to the court system.

The manager requested the council appoint a hearing officer to deal with dangerous buildings. There are apparently two structures that qualify, a distinction which allows the village to take action to protect the safety of village residents.

Larry Piper of Clark Logic has offered to serve in the position. The Council agreed with the appointment. Lutz indicated that she has only used the powers of declaring a building as dangerous once in the last 10 years.

The Council reviewed the South County Fire Authority audit, which again came back with the same concern as before: Financial statements are being prepared by the same people who are conducting the audit. According to the audit, it would be preferable to have an independent financial professional prepare the financial statements.

Council member Kathy Mastenbrook said she is “very disappointed in the (village) finance director and concerned that the board has taken no action on this.”

The council did not accept the report, and a letter was sent to the authority explaining the reason. Since the financial reports were accepted by a majority of the municipalities in the authority, it made no changes to the policy.

The Planning Commission will be reviewing a site plan for 300 Cass Street, a former public school being developed by Clark Logic for two non-profit educational organizations.

The developer has requested that the Village allow on-street parking on Cedar Street, which is contrary to the village’s current ordinance. Lutz recommended a compromise on the regulations, “because we need businesses here.”

The change in the parking ordinance will allow churches and schools to park in the right-of-way, which will allow the development at 300 Cass Street to move forward.

At the August meeting, village staff reported that they are testing a “point and pay” online system so that residents can pay water bills. When it is ready to use, the village will send information along with the mailed water bills.

The village manager mentioned at both the July and August meetings that the village needs one more member for the Planning Commission and two or three more for the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Residents of the village who are interested in joining either board are encouraged to contact Lutz.

Happy, Busy Years

By Marilyn Jones, Schoolcraft’s Poet Laureate

How well I remember
Those back-to-school days,
The shopping trip for new clothes
A Barbie lunch pail for my girl
The Lone Ranger and Lassie for the boys.

They needed new notebooks, pencils and crayons
And we bought their textbooks for years.
Also padlocks, gym shoes and a sports pass
When the bills came in, I was close to tears.

They all had to see the dentist
And one boy needed glasses,
They were taped together all summer
To go to school like that would be a bummer.

We always wanted a big family
But it sure took lots of money,
I learned to juggle bills and the budget
And worked part-time, to help my Honey.

It was there before we knew it
The first day of school was a style show,
My daughter wore knee socks and a pleated skirt
Her long hair curled and tied with a bow.

The boys in khaki slacks, plaid shirts and oxfords
With fresh haircuts (from Dad) and shiny faces,
I knew they would come home with grass stains
Tired and hungry, with dragging shoelaces.

Of course, this mom got her camera out
So proud of her family, raring to go,
We didn’t have buses in those days
Kids walked to school, even in rain and snow.

Every September, the kids could hardly wait
It meant County Fair time and lots of fun,
Each child got five dollars to spend

On kids’ day they met friends and took off on the run.

Now I recall those busy days
With a tear, and a lump in my throat,
It all flew by so fast
I’ll sit down at the kitchen table
And write each one a cheerful note.

Celebrating our region’s writers

Christine Webb reads from her work.

By Alisha Siebers, Director of the Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center

As a first-time judge for the Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center Tournament of Writers, I was impressed by the variety and quality of entries this year. The pandemic certainly opened up the wells of creativity in our region. We received a record number of entries, from writers ranging from age 5 to 93. As I read the entries, I noticed repeated themes of hope and depictions of lessons learned from the past. Our local writers captured deep beauty and wisdom in their images and stories.

We’d like to announce here the first-place winners for the 2021 Tournament of Writers. In the Fiction Category, the winners are: Hayden Moden, Junior Division; Sky Lester, Young Adult Division; Christine Webb, Adult Division; and Ralph Ackley, Senior Division. The Non-fiction first-place winners are: Eleanor Ross, Junior Division; Jacob Miller, Young Adult Division; Christine Webb, Adult Division; and Carol Braymer, Senior Division. Our first-place Poets are: Lillian Ross, Junior Division; Sydney Kaiser, Young Adult Division; Ross Landers, Adult Division; and Mark Stucky, Senior Division.

I encourage you to put your thoughts to paper and to consider entering our next tournament. Your stories need to be heard! I never cease to be amazed by the magic of storytelling. A few strokes of a pen and some details here and there – a description of a bumpy nose, an image of a greenish pond in a park, a memory of crushed mulberries – and a whole world is shared between reader and writer. If you want to be inspired and enriched, join us for our Tournament Celebration on Wednesday, September 15 at 5:30 at R & R. At that event you can experience the storytellers’ worlds yourself by hearing authors’ readings and by purchasing our 2021 Anthology of all of the entries. Join the VCAC in our mission to support and celebrate local writers! Together, as a community, we can educate, enrich, and inspire.

Moody Coyotes play at the Dome

The Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo will sponsor a performance by the Moody Coyotes, playing contemporary Americana with a bluegrass bent, on the front lawn of the Schoolcraft Dome Sports Center, US-131 south of U Street, from 4:30-7 p.m. August 14.

The Council has sponsored free concerts in a Summertime Live series for many years. The Dome performance will be the first in Schoolcraft. Fun activities for children and food from Windfall Coffeehouse will be available.

The alcohol-free event will be held outside rain or shine, and hand sanitizer will be available. Those planning to attend can bring a lawn chair or blanket. In order to keep up to date with mask guidelines and give Windfall an idea of how many are attending, RSVP at,, or call Deb at 679-5795.

A unique experience

By Marilyn Jones, Schoolcraft’s Poet Laureate

Our “Study Club” went to Janet’s for lunch
It’s always a treat to see her gardens,
We go up the hill (We’re still all able)
And enjoy her gazebo, with the picnic table.

It had been forecast all week
So it wasn’t a surprise,
The table looked lovely, but all around
It was wet, as the rain poured down.

Each of us was met at the car
We hurried up to our oasis,
A big umbrella kept us dry
As buckets of moisture came down from the sky.

There was no thunder or wind
We felt perfectly safe,
As we enjoyed the delicious food
We were all in a jolly mood.

Janet must have worked very hard
To carry all those goodies from the house,
After being cooped up, all last year
It’s a big deal to meet with friends, so dear.

It was the most unusual setting
A lovely place we won’t soon forget,
With abundant daisies all around the path
Enjoying a lovely, summer bath.

When you think you’ve experienced everything
God and Janet come up with something new.
Laughing, we had no reason to complain
Surrounded by a curtain of warm rain!