Schoolcraft Township voting locations will change for some residents starting with on Nov. 2’s election.
Precincts 2 and 4, in the Schoolcraft school district including the village of Schoolcraft, will vote at the Township Hall, 50 East VW Avenue.
Precincts 1 and 3 in the Vicksburg school district, including the village of Vicksburg, will vote at Vicksburg United Methodist Church, 217 South Main Street. Precinct 1, the portion outside the village, previously voted at the Township Hall.
All registered voters are asked to watch for their new updated Voter ID Card to be mailed in mid-July, 2021.
Kalamazoo County voters Nov. 2 will vote on a millage for Kalamazoo Metro Transit.
Schoolcraft Village has until 2025 to complete an inventory of its water service lines and develop a plan for replacing them if they’re lead pipes, one of several requirements under a 2018 Michigan law. The law also gives communities 20 years starting from this year to replace all lead lines, at the municipalities’ expense.
The topic was raised at a Village Council discussion of infrastructure with Tom Wheat, an engineer from the consulting firm of Prein & Newhof.
“There is a mandate, and the clock is ticking,” said Wheat.
While the water in homes is testing free of lead, Wheat said that replacing lead pipes should be a priority after what happened in Flint, where a lead water crisis reached national news and prompted the 2018 legislation.
The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy has published a chart showing numbers of water service lines in the state’s communities and the proportion of those lines which may contain lead. It indicates that 51% of Schoolcraft’s 635 service lines may need replacement. That proportion is slightly lower in Vicksburg, where an estimated 46% of its 1,403 lines may need replacement. Separately, the state agency has published results of lead testing of municipal water supplies. It shows that Schoolcraft measured no lead in sampling conducted in 2018. Vicksburg measured 2 parts per billion in 2019 testing.
Wheat said the village needs a second well for its the water system. While the current well is not unsafe, it’s not where one would put a well today. “There is always a risk when you put a water source in the middle of the village, especially next to a railroad.”
His suggestion was to put a new well north or northwest of the village, away from potential contamination sources.
Wheat said he had reviewed a 1969 sewer study and noted that not much has changed since then. If the village chooses to build a sewer system, he recommended it install sewer lines under the streets rather than through back yards. The process for taking property through eminent domain has become more difficult, he said.
Asked about grants for a sewer project, Wheat indicated that there are none. The best option, in his opinion, is a rural development loan with a low interest rate, a 40-year term and no early payoff penalty.
In other discussion, village resident Jennifer Doorn presented a proposal to allow chickens within the village limits. She indicated that chickens are quieter than dogs typically. The potential for odor is entirely based on how well they are cared for.
Doorn recommended that the number of chickens be limited to four per household, and that roosters not be allowed. She suggested a requirement that the chickens be kept in a coop, and that the coop be kept 10 to 20 feet from property lines.
Council president Keith Gunnett wants to see if there is enough interest before the village spend time and money on an ordinance change. The issue will be taken up again in July.
Gunnett noted for the council that the Department of Public Works has recently lost a temporary employee. It has a full plate with right-of-way code enforcement and the inventory of the water system. The two existing staff members are struggling to keep up, and a third employee is needed. The Village will be posting a new position in July, according to Village Manager Cheri Lutz.
Ken Hoving of Waste Not Recycling described a new transfer station proposed in Kalamazoo Township which would handle trash as well as recycling, construction and demolition debris. According to Hoving, this is a rare capability. If approved, would be the only such facility within two and a half hours of Kalamazoo.
It requires approval from two-thirds of the governmental units in the County; Kalamazoo Township, has already provided its approval. The Village Council voted to support the facility.
James “Jim” Barrett, passed on June 23, 2021, after a long battle with dementia. Jim was born on September 27, 1938, to Delbert J. and Mary A. (Clancy) Barrett in Kalamazoo. Jim attended St. Augustine Elementary, Milwood Junior High and graduated from Portage High School in 1956. In February 1960, he married Sharon Golyar and had three children. Jim retired after 36 years with the Upjohn Company. In October 1989, he married Phyllis Norris. They had 32 years of marriage together. Jim enjoyed hunting, fishing, football, baseball and bowling. Jim was preceded in death by his parents; siblings Eleanor, Jack, Bob Pat, Dennis, and Gerry; and special friend Ed Hageman. He is survived by his wife Phyllis; children Phillip (Deb) of Scotts, Monica (Paul) of Delton, and Chantal (Jack); brother Nick; and stepchildren Julie (Gary), Jerry, Shelley (Lou), and Steve. A memorial will be held on Friday, July 2, at St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church with a visitation at 10 a.m. and a mass at 11 a.m. Burial will follow at Vicksburg Cemetery. Donations may go to Rose Arbor Hospice or a charity of one’s choice. Visit his page at avinkcremation.com.
Elsie L. (Wolthuis-Desness) Carvell, 92, passed away peacefully June 1, 2021 at Rose Arbor Hospice. Elsie was born February 24, 1929 in Vicksburg, the daughter of John R. and Myrtle (Hendricks) Wolthuis. Elsie grew up on the family farm on “Dutchman’s Road” with her five siblings. Elsie graduated from VHS in 1947, married Willis R. “Bill” Carvell on June 28, 1947, and raised three sons. Bill died in 1956. Elsie married William A. “Bill” Desness on June 7, 1961. They retired from Upjohn and became snowbirds, living between Kline’s Resort and Stuart, Fla. When Bill died in 1993, Elsie settled near Lawton before a final move to Amber Place. Elsie is survived by sons David (Karen) Carvell of Portage and Richard Carvell of Kalamazoo; daughter-in-law Catherine Carvell of Goodlettsville Tenn.; six grandchildren and several great-grandchildren; siblings John Wolthuis, Betty Wheeler and Bill Wolthuis. She was preceded in death by her parents, her husbands, her son Michael and siblings MaryAnn Klimek and Louis Wolthuis. Donations may go to Rose Arbor Hospice or the charity of one’s choice. Visit her page at mccowensecord.com.
William A. “Bill” Couchenour, 87, Vicksburg, passed away at his home on May 11, 2021. Bill was born in Uniontown, Pa. on August 5, 1933, the son of William and Gladys (Waltonbaugh) Couchenour. He was a member of Saint Petersburg High School’s State Championship basketball team and graduated in 1951. He served in the US Army for two years. He then attended Eastern Nazarene College where he met Ruth Andrews. They married in Royersford, Pa. on August 31, 1957 and raised five children: Diane, James, William, Kathleen and Kenneth. Bill is survived by his wife, Ruth; children Diane Bosworth of Vicksburg, Jim (Dixie) Couchenour of Eaton Rapids, Rev Bill (Rhonda) Couchenour of Sterling, Colo., Kathy Demaray of Mason, Mich., and Ken (Cheryl) Couchenour of Mason; grandchildren Briana (Dustin), Brooke, Tyler (Julienne), Austen (Melanie), Kaylee (Kamron), Jonathan, Will, Rachael, Christina, Joshua, Michael (Bansari), Daniel, Caleb, McKenna; 10 great grandchildren with one on the way; his brother, Jim Couchenour of Columbiana, Ohio; and numerous nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents, brother Melvin Couchenour, sister Gladys “Sis” Hofacker; sisters-in-law Pat and Betty Couchenour; brother-in-law Chauncy Hofacker; and grandson-in-law Caleb Starr. Visit his page at mccowensecord.com. Donations may go to the William A. and Ruth Andrews Couchenour Scholarship Fund at Olivet Nazarene University.
Ronald L. Eaton, 74, passed away with his son by his side on June 1, 2021. Ron was born January 28, 1947, to Kenneth and Dorothy (Born) Eaton. Ron married the love of his life, Karen Oswalt, September 25, 1971. Ron served his country proudly along with his brother as a Navy corpsman, acquiring the nickname “Doc”. He served in Vietnam and was awarded two purple heart medals. Ron retired from the Post Office after 30 years as a letter carrier. He had a passion for softball and golf, and he began building golf clubs. Ron loved his family and adored his cat. He was a huge Notre Dame and Cubs fan. He was a gifted storyteller. He is survived by his son, Jason (Tracy) Eaton; grandchildren Shan (Mollie Hageman) Pileri, Taylor (Emily Nachtegall) Misel, Brooke (Chase Fricke) Misel, Jarrett Eaton and Jaden Eaton; great-grandchildren Brenden and Noah; siblings David (Viola) Eaton and Robert (Sue) Eaton; several nieces and nephews and his favorite cat, Millie. He was preceded in death by his parents and his wife, Karen. Donations may go to Give Kids the World in honor of Cambri Dorko or Section 1776 in honor of veterans. Visit his page at mccowensecord.com.
Harold Heikes, 96, Kalamazoo, died on May 29, 2021. He was born on August 1, 1924, in Vicksburg, the son of Harry and Esther (Dalton) Heikes. He graduated in 1942 from VHS and served in the US Army Air Corps. He was a top gunner on a B-25, serving in the south Pacific. He began work as a millwright at the paper mill and retired after 38 years. He married Eleanor Woodhams on November 29, 1968, and her five children became his own. The family enjoyed many holidays together on Pine Lake. Harold and Eleanor enjoyed dancing and traveled extensively. Since Eleanor’s death in 2013, he focused on hobbies and family, especially his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Members of Harold’s family include children Terri (Scott) Dunlop, Gary Heikes, and Bonnie Heikes; and grandson, Brian. In addition to his children, he is survived by Eleanor’s children: Ronald Woodhams, Alan (Cynthia) Woodhams, Barbara (Gregory) Deibert, and Robert (Margaret) Woodhams; 10 grandchildren; and 8 great-grandchildren. Besides his wife, Eleanor, he was preceded in death by his brother, Everett, and stepson, Michael Woodhams. Visit his page at BetzlerLifeStory.com. Donations may go to Kalamazoo Loaves and Fishes.
Marilyn J. Kozar, 85, Schoolcraft, passed away June 6, 2021, at Rose Arbor Hospice with her family by her side. Born November 30, 1935 in Kalamazoo, she was the middle child of George and Gladys (Werner) Kozar. She married Edwin David Wood. She was preceded in death by her husband; son Michael Wood; parents Gladys and George Kozar; and sisters Geraldine Povenz and Shirley Heuser. Marilyn leaves behind children Eddie Wood, Jennifer (Wood) Duff, and Wendy (Wood) Boutell; grandchildren Edwin (Woody) Wood, Matheson Wood, Alex Andrea (Wood) Bond, Zachary Wood, Jenny (Duff) Dines, Lauren (Chapman) Bienemann, and Shannon Chapman; and many great-grandchildren. She also leaves behind Russ Povenz, who was married to Geraldine, and John (Jack) Heuser, who was married to Shirley. Marilyn was a longtime member of St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church in Vicksburg. Her Catholic religion was an important part of her life, and she was looking forward to being reunited with her family in Heaven. Donations may go to the American Cancer Society. Visit her page at avinkcremation.com.
Rusty Wire Shelburne, 61, Scotts, formerly of Rochester, passed away June 11, 2021 from injuries sustained in a fall at home. Rusty was born in Noblesville on August 3, 1959, the son of Howard Dale and Rebecca Jacquelyn “Jackie” Wire Shelburne. He graduated from Rochester High School in 1977. Rusty married Laurie Drenth on June 3, 1978, in Kalamazoo, and they shared 43 years of adventures. Rusty earned an associate degree in law enforcement from KVCC and began a nearly 40-year career with the Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Department. His badge #131 was retired in October 2018. Since retirement, he wintered near Apache Junction, Ariz. where he and Laurie could be near their son, Derek, and the grandchildren. Rusty enjoyed riding his motorcycle, racing his remote-control car, golfing. Rusty is survived by his wife Laurie, of Scotts; son Derek Shelburne of Phoenix; grandchildren Devereaux, Deklan, Audriana and their mother, Juanita; sisters Tammy Shelburne-See of Rochester, Betsy Shelburne of State College, Pa., Misty (Timothy) DePoy of Rochester, and Mindy (Hector) Navarro of Rochester; brothers Jeffery (Jeanie) Shelburne of Rochester, Rodney (Darla) Shelburne of Warsaw, Randy (Carol) Shelburne of Rochester, and Barney (Lorraine) Shelburne of Stillman Valley, Ill.; numerous nieces and nephews and great nieces and nephews, many friends, as well as his Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Department Family. He was preceded in death by his parents; brothers Gary D. Shelburne and Scott B. Shelburne. Visit his page at langelands.com.
Caroll Emaline Wise, 94, Scotts, died June 11, 2021 at her home. She was born in Wibaux, Montana on Nov. 2, 1926, the daughter of Hezekiah and Laura (Harkins) Keller. After graduation from high school, she went to cosmetology school. She worked briefly as a hairdresser in Athens, and for over 34 years at Margo Shick’s Salon in Vicksburg. Caroll and her late husband, George, operated a dairy farm in rural Vicksburg and were active at the Kalamazoo and St. Joseph County Grange Fairs. She enjoyed square dancing, gardening and playing cards. Many enjoyed her homemade pies and peanut brittle. Caroll is survived by her son and daughter in law, Richard (Carolyn S.) Wise of Scotts; grandchildren Scott (Jill) Wise and Shellie (Bill) Gibson, both of Battle Creek, and Alisha Wise of Climax; great-grandchildren Gavin and Allison Wise and Grace and Emma Gibson; several nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her parents; her husband, George Wise; daughter, Carolyn L. Wise; two brothers and four sisters. A memorial will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, July 10 at the Prairie Baptist Church followed by a luncheon. Donations may go to the St. Joseph County Fair, Dairy Department. Visit her page at eickhofffuneralhome.com.
The Schoolcraft Board of Education approved a small increase in the district’s non-homestead tax rate, from 17.786 mills to 18 mills to offset a decrease in federal revenue. The increase amounts to 21.4 cents per $1,000 taxable valuation on non-residential property and second homes.
New Finance Director Kendra Drewyor, in her first meeting with the district, explained the general fund budget assumes a fund balance decrease of 16.77%, approximately $322,000, as a result of the decrease. Drewyor said it should not be anything to be concerned about. The district will still have a fund balance of around $2 million.
“That is still a healthy, healthy fund balance for a district of your size,” Drewyor said.
The action to resolve the millage rate passed unanimously.
Superintendent Rick Frens proposed changes to the administrative team as the district prepares to move from three buildings to two. The new superintendent recommended giving elementary principal Matt Webster new duties as both kindergarten through sixth grade principal and assistant superintendent.
“We had the title of assistant superintendent and I know the concern was that Mr. Webster’s got a lot on his plate now with grant management and new construction involvement and a lot of different things; that’s an honor for work he’s already been doing,” Frens said. “He has a mind for detail that is incredibly impressive.”
Because of the middle school addition to the high school, Frens recommended Matt Dailey serve as principal for grades 7-12. Those two shifts will also change middle school principal Dave Powers’ role in the district. Frens recommended him for a dean of students role.
“His role will be more student-facing, working with kids,” Frens said. “He also has a gift for data management and presenting data for kids, especially as we come back from a pandemic and a year of virtual learning, interrupted learning.” Frens explained that Powers will likely spend some time looking into matters like the number of chronically absent students.
The superintendent recommended Innovation Coach Amy Lawrence’s role shift to a K-6 dean of students role with similar responsibilities. He noted there may also be changes to office staff and other positions as work continues to progress on the new facilities and updates.
This meeting was the board’s first open public meeting since the coronavirus pandemic began. Frens noted that many of the state’s mandates on instruction are expiring this month and that the district hopes to offer full, face-to-face instruction five days a week starting in the fall. The district will still be subject to state and local laws in case the situation changes. Students and staff will still have the option to wear a mask, but Frens is hopeful things will be back to normal.
“We want to re-establish that human connection without the hindrance of face coverings,” Frens said. “We feel that is absolutely an essential step in getting our kids back to a normal school setting. Our kids, our adults, our community have been through a tough time. Now we start to heal that and go back to a normal structure.”
Summer has begun in a flurry of activity in the area. Multiple updates and improvements are happening in our districts’ school buildings, and many streets in the village of Vicksburg are torn up, making navigation difficult. I keep reminding myself how wonderful it will be when it is finished.
Button collectors, take note!
The Southwest Button Box Button Club meets the second Saturday of each month at the Main St. Pub in Vicksburg at 11 a.m. The group’s members collect vintage and antique clothing buttons. Meetings are open to anyone interested in learning and collecting.
First Presbyterian Church Garage Sale
A Garage Sale at First Presbyterian Church of Schoolcraft will be held Friday, August 20th from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday, August 21st from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Proceeds go to the general fund for missions, upkeep of the buildings, grounds maintenance, Sunday school supplies and choir music!
Bank Street Flea Market moves to Vicksburg
Bank Street Flea Market joins Vicksburg Vintage Market at the Vicksburg Historic Village’s pavilion on Sundays. Kalamazoo’s Bank Street Market is undergoing renovations which initiated the move to Vicksburg. This should be an interesting stop for area collectors this summer!
Encore Magazine available locally
The Encore Magazine is now available outside Rise N Dine in Vicksburg. This month’s edition’s “Hidden in Plain Sight” article includes Vicksburg’s Historic Village and the Quilt Trail.
Thank you for your continued support of this paper. We read and appreciate your many comments. Please keep sending ideas for the “good news” coming our way!
Excellence in Education recognizes top-achieving high school seniors from Kalamazoo County’s public and non-public high schools. This year, 43 seniors were selected for the honor, which comes with a $1,200 scholarship. Each student recognized an educator who had a significant impact on their education.
Elijah Bombich Vicksburg High School Parents: Matthew & Myriah Bombich College: Michigan Technological University Major: Engineering Significant Educator: Amanda Szczesny
Allie Goldschmeding Schoolcraft High School, KVCC Parents: Amie & Jon Goldschmeding College: Undecided Major: Accounting Significant Educator: Melissa French
Noah Green Vicksburg High School Parents: Amy and David Green College: Kalamazoo College Major: Pre-Med Significant Educator: Rachel King
Joseph Loriso Vicksburg High School Parents: Joanne & Anthony Loriso College: Illinois Institute of Technology Major: Computer Science Significant Educator: Lucas Wolthuis
Maeve Stitt Schoolcraft High School, KVCC Parents: Marna Godby & Rusty Stitt College: Kalamazoo Valley Community College Major: Nursing Significant Educator: Douglas Martin
Levi Thomas Vicksburg High School Parents: Steve & Theresa Thomas College: Undecided Major: Business Significant Educator: Amanda Sczcesny
The Dome Sports Center is a 30-acre campus in Schoolcraft with indoor and outdoor athletic facilities and fields, able to provide everything a training athlete needs on one campus. The site on US-131 is also the home of Next Level Performance, which provides training for sports – and life.
That was Josh Baird’s vision when he and his wife in 2016 purchased the former Year Round Golf site, an inflatable dome with indoor-outdoor driving range and golf simulators.
At the facility, coaches build relationships with their clients and help identify and develop their potential. One of the goals is to teach how to apply the life lessons learned through playing sports to the rest of their lives. Their custom plans provide the tools to achieve goals while building confidence and endurance. “We are not just developing athletes, we are developing leaders,” Baird said.
The heritage of the Dome is helping people improve their golf game with lessons, indoor and outdoor driving ranges and golf simulators. The Golf Development Center is designed to help golfers focus on different skills. The short course has five holes to help new golfers learn the game before venturing onto a larger course. There is a putting green, a practice bunker and targets. A new natural grass tee box is in progress as well. The Dome also has golf lessons available from Golf Pro’s Sharon King and Abby Pearson.
Baird’s vision is a multi-purpose, multi-functional, and multi-sports training center that supports athletes participating in fitness, weights, baseball, softball, football, soccer, and volleyball. There are nine new indoor batting cages, three outdoor grass volleyball courts and a soccer field.
Part of that vision is the Miracle Field baseball diamond equipped with special surfaces to accommodate athletes with disabilities. It’s slated to open this summer. The generous support of the community helped make this a reality for many families.
“We are creating a community around health and wellness. We want a campus that will provide everything an athlete needs, including rehabilitation,” Baird said.
The Dome purchased the adjacent Sir Home Improvements building and converted that space into suites with a goal of offering different facets of health care. One of the tenants already in this building is Armor Physical Therapy, which specializes in outpatient orthopedics and sports rehabilitation. This location is led by Vicksburg native Scott Millers, a physical therapist and group director for Armor Physical Therapy, with seven locations in the southwest Michigan area.
The Dome in Schoolcraft provides options for athletes and families looking to live a healthy lifestyle, share an outing, or train to be better athletes and leaders. More information is available at http://www.domesportscenter.com.
South County is home to four golf courses open to the public, sharing similarities but each unique. All provide an escape, 18 holes to master a skill and an invitation to experience the outdoors alone or with friends.
In 2020, with COVID-19 in full swing, golf was one of the few sporting activities people could still enjoy with mandated regulations. Golf season is open, the courses and clubhouses have updates and are ready for patrons.
The States Golf Course at 20 East W. Avenue in Vicksburg is the oldest public golf course in Kalamazoo County still in operation. It opened in 1927 but has been privately owned by the Jasiak family for 39 years. It is a family-friendly course with its easy-to-medium course and large greens which are easy to walk with minimal hills. It has added additional outdoor seating and a new pergola to provide shade.
Co-owner Eric Jasiak said it is geared toward the local community and offers open play – no scheduled tee times. It is a first-come first-serve course, except for scheduled league play. States Golf also hosts the Schoolcraft and Vicksburg JV men’s and women’s golf teams. It is hoping to have more golf outings as permitted. Those will be posted on its Facebook page.
Angel’s Crossing Golf Club is set on 350 acres of rolling greens and is owned by the Village of Vicksburg. General manager and golf pro Dave Mocini said there have been improvements on the course, including some of the bunkers. The course offers some of the largest greens in the area and offers a challenge to average golfers and pros alike. He hopes that people will say that for the price Angel’s Crossing is a good value and will draw golfers locally and outside the Kalamazoo area.
A new fleet of electric golf carts with GPS and instant read on distances on the greens will enhance the golfer experience. The technology can show a picture of the hole, post the number of yards to the green and update the break points. There is a driving range and the Pro Shop is stocked with golf essentials. Golf lessons are available as well. The restaurant will open once there is adequate staffing.
The Olde Mill Golf Course at 6101 W. XY Avenue in Schoolcraft was built in 1958 by the Stiver family. The course’s new owner, Dean Marks, has invested in improving the course over the past year. According to Bob Bales, general manager, golf pro and president of the Michigan PGA, “Our goal is to make Olde Mill Golf a premier local golf course.”
The clubhouse has had some recent renovations to accommodate three new state-of-the-art golf simulators with settings such as a driving range and putting, and able to provide a report of progress while using them. They also feature other games for family fun. They can be scheduled in one-hour blocks. The old dance floor was repurposed as walls and part of the bar which is now open seven days a week. The Grille @ Olde Mill is known for its pizza which is the recipe from the Old Crooked Lake Market in Texas Corners. “The Grille offers one of the only options in Schoolcraft for a sit-down meal with an adult beverage,” Bales said. “We are open year-round to serve the community.” The restaurant is open Wednesday through Sunday.
Olde Mill supports Kalamazoo Junior Golf Association and the PGA Jr. Leagues as well as hosting Schoolcraft’s varsity golf teams.
Indian Run Golf Club, located five minutes off Sprinkle Road in Scotts was established in 1967 near Indian Lake. Managing Partner Matt Van Acker said the course is fun for golfers of all abilities. “Our goal is to provide quality conditions while keeping prices affordable for our customers.” The recently upgraded practice facility includes a driving range with 10 targets, practice sand trap, a short game area and practice green.
The golf course blends well with the vibe of the community and complements the camaraderie of the clubhouse as a whole. General Manager Mark Bush, Bar Manager Gina Kusz along with Chef Michael Hill have created a menu and special atmosphere in the bar and restaurant. Diners enjoy scratch soups, homemade bread, tortillas, pizza dough, and chef specials Monday through Saturday, with a limited menu on Sundays. Wednesdays With Reza and Gina is a tribute to The Beacon Club with signature cocktails and Sinatra music.
Recent renovations in the clubhouse bar, restaurant and banquet hall make it a great spot for outings and dining both inside and out.
With golf season in full swing, there are plenty of local options for courses, dining, recreation, and family fun. Each course has a website but the Facebook pages list regular updates and activities.
Collection? Indy car memorabilia. I have about 1,000 items and more than half are autographed. I don’t like to sell stuff but I’ll occasionally trade.
How did your collection begin? I went to my first Indy 500 in 1986. My mom and sister moved to Indianapolis after my parents divorced, and they would take me out to the track even though there was nothing going on. That ’86 race, it was beautiful Friday, it was beautiful Saturday, and Sunday it rained. The weather was pretty miserable on race day but it was an unforgettable experience for me.
What is your best source for acquiring/trading/selling? It’s hard to collect much around here. I’ve acquired a lot of autographs by mail. You’d be surprised how responsive most people are. You can send something to Richard Petty, for example, and 10 days later, you’ll get it back signed.
Your most-prized item? A 40-by-17-inch 2006 event poster and it is autographed of every living Indy 500 winner – 31 in all – who was alive in 2016. A few of the people who signed it are gone now, so it’s irreplaceable. Also, I didn’t know about the Bronze Badge (annual collectible issued by the Indy 500) until 2006. That’s when the collecting for me really got started in earnest. I also have an original brick from the track, and that was at the top of my want list for years. I found it at an antique store somewhere in Mishawaka. Another event poster I own has more than 40 autographs that I’ve secured, but they’re from anyone who has raced, not just the winners.
What joy do you get from collecting Indy? With very few exceptions – A.J. Foyt being one – they are all very accommodating. Johnny Rutherford is the best. They really appreciate the fans and I just love the Indy 500 and its traditions. I’ve been to every one but maybe five races since my first in 1986. More than that, though, I love that my daughter has been with me at so many of the races and we’ve met so many drivers. It started when she was a kid with buck teeth, there’s some pictures of her when she got older and had braces, and now she’s 20 and has a tattoo.
Describe your most memorable acquisition. Gordon Johncock lived in Hastings and I’ve been to his house three times in the last 10 years. I got his number out of the phone book and I just called him up and he said to stop by. He autographed a few things for me but the first time I went over there, it cost me about $100 because I took him and his wife out to dinner. The first thing he did was order a martini. It was worth it, though, having dinner and spending a few hours with him.
What’s the most you ever paid for an item? A Rick Mears 1:18-scale die-cast car set me back $178. Carousel is the name of the company that makes them and they’re expensive cars to begin with. The only reason I bought the car was because I knew he was going to be there to sign it.
Are you on the Web? I spend a lot of time on Facebook … there are three or four serious collectors on there and I always love looking at their stuff. I use eBay as a reference just to get an idea of the value of what I have.
Footnotes: Phillips, 52, has 33 poster-sized pictures of his daughter, Jazmin, posing with 32 different Indy 500 winners. His collection includes a mind-boggling assortment of autographed pictures, die-cast cars, books, flags, hats, pennants, pint glasses and mugs, and an impressive assortment of oddball items, including three Tyco 450 slot-car tracks from the mid-1980s. He said his most valuable item is a die-cast car made by the company Green Light featuring the late Danny Wheldon. Phillips pre-ordered the car after Wheldon won the 2011 Indy 500. Wheldon died five months later, before the cars were released. Phillips has the first-edition car, which features a scaled Wheldon at the wheel. The second edition was issued without a driver at the wheel. “I paid $79 for it and I saw it go on eBay for $550. But, really, it’s only worth what someone is willing to pay for it.” Phillips has maintained records of every item in his collection, primarily so his grandchildren have a firm idea of the collection’s inventory.