Support local restaurants

The White Front restaurant photo courtesy of Vicksburg Historical Society.

The indoor dining ban in the State of Michigan was lifted Feb. 1, enabling our local pubs and eateries to reopen and serve customers in their establishments while following public health guidelines. The safety restrictions in place for many months have been difficult for many individuals and businesses.

Please support our local businesses in whatever way you are comfortable with and financially able. Most offer take-out, and many even provide home or curb-side delivery. Check with your favorite village eatery either online or by phone and investigate its options.

These businesses have supported community and school events. Let’s continue to support and encourage their operations.

Vicksburg manager proud of village’s finances

By Jef Rietsma

Vicksburg’s solid financial status and commitment to its taxpayers were brought up frequently during a presentation to the Village Council by Manager Jim Mallery Jan. 18.

During the 21-minute talk, Mallery described a range of people and projects that have put Vicksburg in a comfortable place to be envied by other municipalities.

“A consistent goal of the Village Council throughout my tenure being village manager has been to be a steward of fiscal obligations and to guard our village millage rate with utmost importance,” he said, adding that in July 2019, Vicksburg for the first time in its history lowered its millage rate. The reduction was nearly one-half of a mill.

Over the past four-plus years, Mallery said, the Council has adhered to a list of clear goals and objectives, centering on sound financial management and complete transparency.

“As a municipal manager, I understand it’s not my job, nor your expectation, that I am liked. Instead, I’m charged with the responsibility to make decisions that put our village first, and that I provide this council with information and data so that the majority can set the policy that we, as staff, are charged with executing,” he said.

Mallery said he has come to the conclusion that the Village Council, sub-units of government and the public are beginning to recognize what can be accomplished when a community the size of Vicksburg operates under a best-practice model of government.

He said he is proud that the village in the current and past four fiscal-year budgets has not presented any additional general-fund debt obligations.

Mallery touted the village’s transparency, its website and how the website features a financial-transparency section. Every dollar the village has committed to ongoing projects and their individual status is shown.

Looking ahead to major infrastructure needs, Mallery zeroed in on the village’s aging sewer system, a major undertaking which council members need to put on their radar. Some parts of the system date to the early 1940s.

“It is imperative that we have the municipality in the best financial shape possible to address the anticipated and predictable upgrades needed to serve our village in the 2020s,” he said.
Mallery singled out key people in the village who help make Vicksburg a strong municipality. An emotional Mallery thanked his wife, Stephanie, before he recognized individually the roster of village staff members.
“I have never been more confident that we will reach our expectations as well as the goal we have placed before us,” he said. “The future is definitely very bright for the village of Vicksburg.”
In other action, council members approved recipients of a Business Relief Grant. Sponsored largely by the Vicksburg Community Foundation, the $40,000 pool provides financial assistance to specific-category businesses that have suffered a financial loss due to COVIID-19.
Fourteen recipients were identified, though not mentioned by name during the meeting.
Mallery called it “a very unique and great opportunity” to support local businesses. He noted three qualifying businesses deferred accepting funds and instead asked their potential share go to neighboring businesses. Checks were to be delivered by Jan. 22.
Also, the council approved the social district application for Distant Whistle. It is the fifth of five village businesses to be a part of the designated area in which businesses can offer outdoor seating and patrons are allowed to carry a cup of alcohol from one business to another.
Paperwork for final approval was to be sent to the state by the end of January.
Council members also approved a 2021 meeting schedule. The seven-member panel will continue to meet at 7 p.m. the first and third Mondays of the month. Exceptions are June, July, August and September, when the council will meet once monthly.
Aug. 16 was identified as a potential date for a community celebration.

Millage-funded projects to start at Vicksburg schools

By Jef Rietsma

Projects related to Vicksburg Community Schools’ successful millage request last fall are in the planning phases. Work is expected to begin this summer.

During the board of education’s Jan. 11 meeting, Assistant Superintendent Steve Goss said the district is at a point where behind-the-scenes work on the projects is being performed, including planning and design.

It’s “primarily for work at Sunset Lake (Elementary), and we expect the construction documents to be ready to go out to bid probably in late January or sometime in February,” he said. “That will still give us time to get mobilized for those projects over the summer.”

Goss said one issue on his radar is what he called a substantial amount of work going on at all three elementary school buildings this summer.

“There are a couple things that complicate that,” he said. “Summer construction season gets shorter and shorter, and that’s going to continue to be the case. The demand to provide services in our buildings over the summer has been going up and up and up.”

Goss acknowledged the need for summer school and additional support, especially in light of a COVID-compromised school year. As a result, Goss said he plans to schedule a meeting in coming weeks to figure out how to proceed with summer school and a construction schedule simultaneously.

He said the meeting would likely involve Superintendent Keevin O’Neill and other district officials, including its principals, curriculum director, community education director, architects and the construction team.

“We’ll try to start flushing out how we can provide access to the buildings for our students and staff while also allowing the construction work, which needs to get done within a limited window … how to manage all those things,” he said. “Stay tuned for more details on that, but it’s a good problem to have.”

During audience comments period of the meeting, a number of teachers spoke of the regrettable loss of language arts middle school teacher Laura Wilson and reading specialist/instructional coach Lynne Buell.

Both teachers , each with 20-plus years in the district, subsequently joined Centreville Public Schools.

Jennifer Rodas, Vicksburg Education Association president, chimed in.

“It does seem that a lot of these discussions on why teachers are leaving our district are falling on deaf ears,” she said. “I appreciate the district’s perspective that this is a great place to learn, things are great and we’re having a lot of success. But if we keep losing veteran teachers, we’re not going to have as much success as we do now and in the future.”

Melissa Jamerson, second-grade teacher at Indian Lake, said something has been broken in the district. It can be restored, she said, if all parties work together.

“We have to communicate and put aside roadblocks, we have to admit that mistakes have been made, we have to truly listen to concerns/opinions and find a common ground knowing there will be opposing points of view,” she said.

Board President Skip Knowles addressed the concerns. He referred to a point made by Wilson in her resignation letter, in which she mentioned the risks of in-person learning at a time when she and many peers felt virtual learning was the smarter choice.

“She said the voices of the parents far outweighed those of the staff members,” Knowles said. “We are a public school system; we serve the public. Those are our taxpayers. Those are the ones that were polled and close to 80 percent wanted face-to-face instruction, and that’s what we have to reflect.”

Knowles also took exception to the claim teachers have not been involved in negotiation sessions, which have been ongoing since summer. Knowles said the district is in the midst of discussing a collective-bargaining agreement. He said it’s imperative to follow protocol.

“It is not proper nor is it legal for us to directly get into discussions with members of that collective-bargaining unit,” he said. “We have a bargaining committee that’s involved with regard to that who does communicate with us. We do care and we are concerned. I just want to get that point across.”

O’Neill said the last few bargaining sessions were productive and he hoped to have another session with the Vicksburg Education Association prior to going to mediation.

School sports updates

Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services have extended the pause in winter contact sports – boys’ and girls’ basketball, competitive cheer and wrestling – through Feb. 21. These teams are allowed to condition and shoot. Masks must be worn at all times and athletes must remain six feet apart throughout an entire practice. Bowling was allowed to start. Vicksburg’s team competed in its first match Jan. 25 against East Grand Rapids.

Obituaries

Rev. Harold Brown, 85, Vicksburg, died peacefully Jan. 16, 2021. Harold was born March 6, 1935 in Akron, Ohio, the son of Gerald and Margaret (Boger) Brown. While working at General Motors in Mansfield, Ohio, Harold’s destiny was changed by Cook Road Baptist Church, which encouraged him to pursue the ministry. Harold graduated from Baptist Bible College in Springfield, Mo. in 1968. He pastored a few churches in the greater Kalamazoo area and started the Kalamazoo Baptist Church. Harold loved to laugh and never passed up a good buffet. Harold was preceded in death by his wife, Nora, and siblings Mary Moats, Ronnie Brown, and David Brown. He is survived by his children, Terry Brown, Danny Brown, and Dale Brown; grandchildren Jennifer, Allyssa, Russell, Melinda, Crystal, Ashley, and Ty; great-grandchildren Hunter, Evan, and Drake; siblings Joe (Nancy) Brown, Bill (Lydia) Brown, Donald Brown, and Susan Sauer; and many nieces and nephews. Services have been held. Visit his page at BetzlerLifeStory.com. Donations may go to Maranatha Bible Baptist Church.

Jack A. Brown, 91, Portage, formerly of Plainwell and Vicksburg, passed away on Jan. 25, 2021. Jack was born on July 24, 1929 in Dayton, Ohio. He was the son of Sabert and Leslie (Truitt) Brown. On January 4, 1949 Jack married the love of his life, Ethlyn Miller and together they had three children: Janet, Lois, and Bill. Jack worked for over 40 years in Parchment for KVP as a machinist. He loved to fish, bowl, golf, and hunt. He was loving, mellow, humble, social and friendly. Jack and Ethlyn have had a special friendship with Bud and Marilyn Bekken for over 70 years. Jack is survived by his wife of 72 years, Ethlyn; three children: Janet (Warren) Wright, of Vicksburg; Lois (Derry) Sanford, of Vicksburg; Bill (Cindy) Brown, of Plainwell; six grandchildren: Laura (Mike), Doug (Chad), Thomas (Beth), Jacob (Bethany), Jodi (Dennis), Chad; 10 great grandchildren and several nieces and nephews. He is preceded in death by his parents, two sisters and one brother. Visit his page at mccowensecord.com. Donations may go to Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan.

Raylan Eugene Cubic, passed away on Jan. 24, 2021 after battling a severe congenital heart defect. Raylan was born on Dec. 28, 2020 to Thomas and Rachel Cubic of Vicksburg. Raylan faced these challenges with a resilience and fortitude that inspired all who knew his story. Raylan is survived by his parents, his twin sister, Lillian Michaela, and a host of family and other loved ones. A private service will be held, followed by interment at Harrison Cemetery where Raylan will be laid to rest among family. In lieu of flowers, Raylan’s family asks that donations be given to the family c/o Shirley Mroczek to be used to purchase small comfort items for other children in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. Visit his page at avinkcremation.com.

Rodney Clair “Rod” Decker, 59, Schoolcraft, died Jan. 4, 2021 at Borgess Medical Center in Kalamazoo. He was born in Vicksburg Nov. 23, 1961, the son of Allan R. and Geraldine M. (Spealman) Decker. He was a lifetime resident of Kalamazoo County. He graduated from Vicksburg High School in 1979 and later attended Kalamazoo Valley Community College. As a young man, he engaged in general farming and later worked at Portage Steel. For the past 25 years he had been employed at TDA Buddy in Kalamazoo. Rod was a member of the NRA and enjoyed target shooting. He was a MOPAR car enthusiast and looked forward to trips north for ice fishing and snowmobiling. Rod was married to Christine Shelton Sept. 23, 2016. She survives, along with sons Timothy Harger of Schoolcraft, Christopher Harger of Portage, and Aaron Harger of Schoolcraft; grandchildren Nathaniel, Ian, Avery, Joel, and Livia; sisters Tammy Decker and Karla (Bill) Hodge; brother Mark Decker; nephew Thomas (Rebecca) Decker; niece Jessica (Jeremy) Shepherd; and best friend Brian (Dorothea) Williams He was preceded in death by his parents. Visit his page at eickhofffuneralhome.com.

Myrna Lee Forsythe, 84, Vicksburg, died peacefully at Rose Arbor Hospice on Jan. 2, 2021. Myrna was born December 3, 1936 in Reynolds, Ill., the daughter of Dale and Marian (Hahn) Wynn. She graduated from Reynolds High School in 1954, where she met Delano “Del” Forsythe. They were married July 16, 1955, in 1966 moving to Vicksburg, where they raised their family. Both Del and Myrna enjoyed traveling and the company of friends and family. Myrna was a talented cook and seamstress, and she always kept busy crafting and letter writing. She was a member of the United Methodist Church and United Methodist Women. Myrna is survived by sons Dennis (Kathleen) Forsythe and Douglas Forsythe of Vicksburg; grandchildren Nicole Rayburn, Amanda (Matthew) Nixon, Elizabeth (George) Palat, Andrew Forsythe; great grandchildren Tyler Deau, Morgan Rayburn, Allyson Rayburn, Caleb Nixon, Chloe Nixon and one on the way. She is also survived by brother-in-law Charles (Kay) Dooley; sisters-in-law Paulita Forsythe and Sharon Wynn; daughter-in-law Gloria Forsythe; several nieces, nephews, cousins; and special friend Barbara Swarthout. Myrna was preceded in death by her husband; sons Allan Forsythe and a baby boy; her parents; brother Kelly Wynn; sister Joyce Wynn Travis; and brothers-in-law Dennis Dooley, Earl Dooley, and Gary Travis. Visit Myrna’s page at mccowensecord.com. Donations may go to Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan c/o Rose Arbor.

Dave Morris French, 78, passed away peacefully at Rose Arbor Hospice in Kalamazoo Jan. 24, 2021 after a brief illness. He was a 1960 graduate of Schoolcraft High School where he played football as a left guard. After graduation, he joined the Navy and had a tour on the USS Constellation. He then met and married Joyce Ann Comstock in 1968. He worked for General Motors BOC stamping plant for 27 years and then worked for Western Michigan University, retiring after 10 years. After retiring, he enjoyed going to Bonita Springs, Fla. in the winter. Dave was a Mason and a 55-year member of the Kalamazoo Corvette Club. He loved old cars, car shows, road trips and garage sales. He is survived by his wife of 52 years, Joyce; children David (Kathy) of Saline, Mich. and Dawn (Paul) Knieriem of Livonia, Mich.; seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild; brother Larry; several nieces and nephews, cousins and many friends. He was preceded in death by his parents, his brother, Ron, and his grandson, Andrew Knieriem. Donations may go to American Heart Association.

Gary Glenn Hammel, passed away peacefully after a courageous battle with glioblastoma on Dec. 24, 2020. Born in Kalamazoo on Jan. 20, 1951, Gary grew up working alongside his siblings and parents in the family’s multiple businesses, including Hammel Concessions. He graduated from Vicksburg High School in 1969 and later attended Western Michigan University. A natural athlete and outdoorsman, he enjoyed many sports, including golfing, fishing and hunting. In 1970, Gary joined the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety. He began his career as a patrol officer and was promoted to sergeant of the S.I.U from 1987 to 1990. In 1990, Gary became sergeant of the Criminal Investigation Division. Gary retired from law enforcement in 1997 after 27 years of service. In 1999, Gary and his wife relocated to Fort Collins, Colo., where they owned and operated their small business. Gary loved spending time with his family, hiking in the mountains and biking the trails. Gary was preceded in death by his parents, Robert C. Hammel and Eleanor R. Hammel. He is survived by his loving wife of 28 years, Judi. A beloved husband, father, grandfather, and brother, Gary is lovingly remembered by his daughters, Lauri Berry (James and Jamie Culver (Matthew), stepdaughter Stacie Barrett (John), stepson Ryan Gaudie (Amy), sister Lin Hammel, brother Richard Hammel (Theresa), and grandchildren Clara, Joseph, Mitchell, Mara, Samantha, Brooke, Lux and Jovi. Loved by his family and friends, Gary will be remembered for his calming presence, kind soul, keen sense of humor and impressive golf game.

Bruce W. Hedges, 62, Fulton, passed away Jan. 6, 2021. He was born April 30, 1958 in Allegan, the son of Chester and Ellen (Wright) Hedges. Bruce attended Allegan and Otsego schools. On May 20, 1975 he married Sue Leonard, and together they raised two children. He enjoyed riding his Harley and spending time with his family and friends. He could always be seen at his grandchildren’s sporting events and was their biggest fan. For 15 years he owned B&S Auto in Vicksburg. His family will remember him as being strong-willed and having a heart of gold. Bruce is survived by his wife of 45 years, Sue; children Mike (Melisa) Leonard of Vicksburg and Melissa Yant of Fulton; grandchildren Cody Leonard and Brandin Yant; siblings Donna (Mike) O’Connell of Allegan, Dave Hedges, Jr, of Plainwell, and Donnie (Clara) Hedges of Allegan; and several nieces and nephews. Bruce was preceded in death by his parents, David Hedges Sr. and Ellen Hedges, and brothers Chuck and Terry Stratton. Visit his page at mccowensecord.com.

Ann June Jung, 74, Scotts, formerly of Brown Deer, Wis., passed away Jan. 10, 2021. Ann was born on June 1, 1946 in Shorewood, Wis., the daughter of William and Ida (Burnside) Gschwind. She was a 1964 graduate of Granville High School. Ann married Clifford Jung Oct. 18, 1969 and together they raised three children. Ann enjoyed fishing, boating, shopping, baking and especially spending time with her family and grandchildren. She also enjoyed spending time with her friends watching Packer games at Spanky’s in Mequon, Wis. Ann is survived by her husband Clifford; children Brad (Beth) Jung, of Washington, Amy (Mike) McConnaghy of Portage and Andy (Carrie Ann Jung), of Wisconsin; and grandchildren Grace, Kate, Nick, Hailey, Lacey, Nolan, Spencer and Sydney. Ann will be laid to rest next to her parents at Resurrection Cemetery in Mequon. Visit her page at mccowensecord.com. Donations may go to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.

David E. Landrum, 79, Vicksburg, passed away unexpectedly Jan. 17, 2021. He was born Sept. 7, 1941 to John C. Landrum, Sr. and Donna (Shrock) Landrum in Elkhart and graduated from White Pigeon High School in 1961. While serving in the army in the state of Washington, he met his wife, Lorna. They moved their young family to Michigan, where they remained. Dave worked 25 years at General Motors (Fisher Body) in Kalamazoo, and after his retirement, held various positions in the Kalamazoo area. He volunteered with the Wakeshma Township Fire Department in Fulton. He enjoyed camping with their close friends, the Happy Campers, as well as fishing, especially with his grandchildren. Surviving Dave is his wife of 59 years, Lorna; children Lisa (Ed) Robleski of Little Elm, Texas, Rod Landrum of Murfreesboro, Tenn., Lauri (Kevin) Wiessner of Kalamazoo and Rick (Kay) Landrum of Portage. He will be dearly missed by his grandchildren and great-grandchildren Amanda, Danielle, Travis, Zach, Grace, Michael, Abel, Theo, Juliet and Phoenix.

Lee F. Phelps, 82, Schoolcraft, passed away Jan. 12, 2021. He was born May 8, 1938 in Schoolcraft, the son of Leon and Phyllis (Hice) Phelps. He grew up on the family farm, graduating from Schoolcraft High School. He honorably served his country from 1959 until 1961 as part of the 82nd Airborne Division and was stationed at Fort Bragg. While in the military he was very proud to play on the baseball team. Lee and Kay Sprowl were married June 15, 1963, in Colon United Methodist Church. They raised their sons on the farm they purchased in 1969, growing it from 80 to 440 acres. Lee leaves behind a legacy of faith, hard work and integrity. Lee was a member of the Edwards Corner Bible Church. He is survived by Kay, his wife of 57 years; Larry (Dawn) Phelps of Vicksburg; Buzz (Kristina) Phelps of Nappanee, Ind. and Kurt (Rachel) Phelps of Schoolcraft; grandchildren Andrew, Aaron, Adam, Jacob (Heather), Justin, Micah, Kayson, Gracie, Gentzen, Mark, Halle, and Stephen. Lee was preceded in death by his parents, Leon and Phyllis Phelps. Visit his page at avinkcremation.com. Donations may go to Edwards Corner Bible Church Building Fund.

Dena Julene Piper, 72, Schoolcraft, passed away on Dec. 31, 2020 in Kalamazoo. She was born in Kalamazoo on June 6, 1948, the daughter of LaVerne and Julia (Smith) Brown. She was preceded in passing by her parents, stepfather Harold Bent and brother Dale Brown. Left to cherish Dena’s loving memory are her husband of nearly 52 years, Terry Piper; children Eric (Heidi) Piper, Jared (Mary) Piper, and Dawn (David) Beltz; 12 grandchildren; two great grandchildren; siblings Verna (Phil) Maughan and Darl (Shirley) Brown and many cousins, nieces, nephews, and close family friends. Donations may go to St. Jude’s Research Hospital. Visit her page at mccowensecord.com.

Dennis J. Pound, 65, Vicksburg, passed away Jan. 8, 2021. Dennis was born on Feb. 1, 1955 in Kalamazoo, the son of Guy Douglas and Jean (Mandigo) Pound. Dennis is survived by his wife of 41 years, Diane; daughter Kimberly Pound; son Jay Pound; brother Doug Pound; sister Deborah Dornbos; and many nieces and nephews. Dennis was preceded in death by his parents, two nieces and a nephew. Dennis graduated from Vicksburg High School and Kalamazoo Valley Community College. A private family graveside service will be held at a future date. Visit his page at avinkcremation.com.

Ronald E. Sheely, 75, Portage, passed away Jan. 3, 2021. Ron was born on Jan. 5, 1945 in Camp Shelby, Miss. He was the son of Merritt and Viola (Carey) Sheely. Ron was a road inspector for the Michigan Department of Transportation. On June 6, 1987 he married his wife, Betty. He enjoyed watching the Detroit Lions. He will be remembered by his family for having a generous heart, independent spirit and strong-willed. Ron was preceded in death by his wife, Betty, and a granddaughter, Jennifer Hodgman. Ron is survived by his children, Michael (Elizabeth) Sheely, of Otsego; Keith Sheely, of Illinois; and Anthony (Tina) Sheely), of Grand Rapids; stepchildren Marty O’Brien; Clark O’Brien; March Wegeler; and Doni Anderson; many grandchildren and great grandchildren. Visit his page at mccowensecord.com.

Jeanne A. Tindall, 92, passed away with her family by her side Jan. 14, 2021, from COVID-19. She resided at Friendship Village in Kalamazoo and formerly lived on Indian Lake in Vicksburg. Jeanne was born March 24, 1928 in Kalamazoo, the daughter of the late Ralph and Gladys (Bollinger) Keller. Jeanne grew up in Kalamazoo with three siblings, the late Barbara (Otto) Hood, Jack (Kathy) Keller and Marian (Don) Scheid. On June 18, 1949, she married James L. Tindall. She received her Bachelor of Music from U of M in 1952. After Jim’s passing in 2011, she had a special friend, the late Dr. John Sinclair. Jeanne is survived by her children, Nancy (Thom) Jones of Kalamazoo, Ken Tindall (Beth DeWaters) of Kalamazoo, Scott (Shelley) Tindall of Vicksburg and Marilyn (Ken) Weichhand of Vicksburg; grandchildren Carrie (James) Langley, Paul Gerts, Steve (Sara) Weichhand, Lisa Weichhand, Timothy Tindall, Brad Tindall, Shawn Tindall, Luke (Eunice) Tindall; great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild; a brother-in-law, sisters-in-law and several nieces, nephews, and cousins. Donations may go to Ministry with Community.

Valentine’s Day treasures

An assortment of vintage valentines.

By Kathy Oswalt-Forsythe

Grocery shopping, I pass the display of pink, red, and white construction paper and doilies, and I am reminded of my time at Fulton Elementary School and our Valentine’s Day celebrations during my early years.

In kindergarten and first grade we made these open envelopes out of big pieces of construction paper. We glued the sides with globs of Elmer’s glue, and with our little blunt-nosed scissors we learned to cut out various-shaped hearts which we used to decorate our mail slots. We wrote our names in thick letters with chunky red Crayola crayons, and taped our envelopes carefully to the sides of our desks. During the Valentine’s Day party, we played mail carrier, delivering our carefully signed cards, merrily depositing our missives in each classmate’s pouch. During second and third grades, we advanced to cheerfully decorated cereal boxes. In fourth grade, we had finally arrived: construction-paper-covered shoe boxes!

The Valentine’s Day preparations took several evenings seriously concentrating at our kitchen table, studying the mimeographed class list and my little box of cards. I made special selections for my closest friends, Donna, Darlene, and Dawn, and even more studied decisions for the boys. NOTHING could say “I Love You” or even “Would You Be My Valentine?”  No way. I wanted no misunderstandings. It took intense scrutiny for Jimmy who regularly passed me the timeless “Do you love me? ____yes or ___no?” to which I always responded with my own addition: “I like you as a friend.” I examined the cards and class list again and again until I was satisfied.

The same 25 schoolmates traveled with me from kindergarten through all our primary grades. The same 25 children in little plaid dresses or little plaid shirts and jeans excitedly passed out our carefully addressed cards. Then we sat and opened the tiny envelopes, smiling at each other, occasionally blushing by something extra sweet.

We played our usual games: bingo, hangman, and seven-up. One year we even had a piñata. Usually, our teacher gave us a little box of conversation hearts, and we spent time sorting and eating those chalky treats. The ever-prepared “room mothers” supplied us with lots of sugar: chocolate cupcakes with white frosting dotted with red hots, red Kool-Aid punch, popcorn balls. I bet our poor teachers had to “put their feet up” when they got home.

I kept those sweet Valentines I had received close to me for many years. When I was sick or even cleaning my room, I often sat and looked through my little box of cards.  Today, when my girlfriends and I vintage shop, I look for and often purchase a few little Valentines signed so carefully in thick pencil by a child fifty years ago; I remember and appreciate the anticipation and effort it involved.

And I wonder if there is still a faded, covered shoe box of Valentines from those dear ones of my past hidden in the closet of my childhood bedroom? When I take my mother’s Valentine to her this year, I will check. I sure hope those treasures are still there.

It’s a Fine Life.

Finding the joys of winter in our community

Cindy Paro, the “Tin Man Lady.”

By Kathy Oswalt-Forsythe

With the snow this last week, it finally feels like winter. The ice shanties now stand on Sunset Lake, and area snow removal business owners are feeling some financial relief. A few snowmen stand around the villages, and our schoolchildren are hoping for a long-awaited snow day.

On my way to work during those early January mornings, the beautiful display at the Prairie Ronde Artist Residency at 101 E. Prairie Street was a light in the cold darkness. Thank you for that lovely winter window; it filled me with such peace each morning.

In our little corner of the neighborhood, we have resurrected a meal exchange we participated in twenty years ago. It involves three households, each providing a dinner to the other families once a week. It is delightful! My family receives a meal on Monday and Friday; we prepare and deliver meals on Wednesday. It brings me such happiness to see my sweet neighbors—yes, masked and socially distanced—during this challenging time. If you enjoy cooking and sharing food, I encourage you to try creating something similar with your own neighbors. The chocolate cherry cake recipe on page 13 is an exchange group favorite.

Many thanks to Cindy Paro, “the Tin Man Lady.” She made me one of her custom creations which I picked up several weeks ago. I toured her little workshop where many of these little fellows are waiting for completion or pickup. I enjoyed our visit and appreciate her thoughtfulness.

Thank you for your continued support of the South County News. We read your comments and discuss your suggestions during our monthly meetings. We also thank you for your continued financial support; it makes this publication possible.

We are always looking for “good news,” so be sure to send your ideas to kforsythesouthcountynews@gmail.com

Acts of kindness continue in South County

By Kathy Oswalt-Forsythe

As 2020 closes, the year will be remembered as one of many challenges and difficulties. But sometimes, crisis brings out the best in people and communities. Repeatedly, this is the case in South County. Acts of kindness and gestures designed to encourage and lift others continue, often surfacing on social media, highlighting area individuals and groups.

In December, a couple who asked to remain anonymous approached the Village of Vicksburg’s leadership, desiring to help individuals and businesses in the community. South County Community Services assisted in identifying those in need. Using the couple’s generous financial gift, Rise N Dine and Main Street Pub provided meals for 200 people, both seniors and younger people, who might have gone without during the holiday season. This couple’s kindness supported the two restaurants and brightened the season for so many.

Local police officers who look forward each year to “Shop With a Cop” adjusted their protocols and continued their annual tradition of Christmas shopping with selected children, building important bridges to community families and children.

December nights were illuminated in both communities as residents decorated homes, businesses and streets for the season. Schoolcraft continued its luminaries along Grand, and homes around the village seemed in cheerful competition, providing enjoyment for all ages and a sense of connectedness.

Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram buzzed with night-time images of the two villages.

Area residents continue to support local agencies and check in with neighbors. Churches are learning to provide worship and connections in creative ways. Local governmental bodies continue to look for ways to support community businesses through grants and innovative funding.

After years of vacancy, beautiful holiday displays glowed in several storefronts in Vicksburg, and Santa and Mrs. Claus waved to children from the old Dancer’s building on Main Street.

And good news for the new year: Health providers and nursing home residents are receiving vaccines, delivering a dose of optimism about recovery from the pandemic.

The spirit of hope, kindness and compassion is alive and well in South County.

ChapNaz offers wide range of clothing – for free

Pastor Dave Downs, Debbie Bosworth, and Olivia Lewis.

By Kathy DeMott

Shopping for clothing is fun for many. For others it’s stressful due to the time and expense. However, when you enter the ChapNaz Community Clothes Closet, located at Chapman Memorial Church of the Nazarene on East U Avenue in Vicksburg, it’s more like a boutique.

The new and gently used clothing items are neatly hung up by category and sizes. All the clothing is clean and in good condition. The closet only accepts clothing without tears or stains. Everything is free.

The ministry was started in mid-September by Exchange (ChapNaz Ladies Ministries) and is co-directed by Sandy Johnson and Debbie Bosworth. It officially opened the first week of October to help others by providing free clothing. The church received 50 bins of clothing from a local church. Sandy and Debbie got to work with a heart to provide quality items for anyone in need. This new intergenerational ministry is staffed by ChapNaz women – and a few men – ranging from early 20’s to late 80’s. They help wash, sort and display items. Friendly volunteers welcome “shoppers” on Thursdays from 4-5:30 p.m. or by appointment, which can be scheduled by calling 269.649.2392.

College student Olivia Lewis volunteers and helps select stylish clothing for youth and teens. Her aunt, Beckie Ensfield, was helping so Olivia also wanted to get involved in providing a good experience for young families, middle-aged and elderly shoppers. The ChapNaz Clothes Closet has served many large families, some with up to eight children. The goal of the ministry is to provide for and meet the needs of the community. It is also an excellent resource for families providing foster care.

ChapNaz staff have been delighted to hear positive feedback from shoppers. Customers have enthusiastically commented on the cleanliness, organization and “good smell” that permeates the clothing closet rooms. Customers are welcome to choose from infant clothing to adult men’s and women’s clothing. There are also a wide variety of shoes, many of which were donated by First Day Shoe Fund in Portage. Many church members have purchased new clothing to donate as well.

Currently there are many winter coats available. One woman on a limited income said she had no winter clothing. She left the closet with warm clothes, a winter coat, hat and gloves. She was appreciative of the help, especially during the pandemic when finances are limited.

“Our local community works together to help each other,” Pastor Dave Downs said. “South County Community Services and Generous Hands have enthusiastically referred clients to the new ChapNaz Community Clothes Closet.” Local community members who have heard about the opening of the CNCCC have responded with generous donations. Anyone in need is welcome, and names or information from visitors is not required.

Those in need can visit the closet at 7520 East U Ave. at 29th in Vicksburg. Those with gently used (up-to-date styles) clothing, outerwear or footwear can drop it off at ChapNaz Church from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Thursday or from 4-5:30 p.m. on Thursday.