Collector’s corner: Correspondence fit for a queen

By Jef Rietsma

Collector? Marilyn Jones

Collection? Queen Elizabeth II

How did your collection begin? “I’ve always been interested in her because we were born the same year, just a month apart. When I was a little girl, when we’d go to the movies, they would show (before the feature) ‘Eyes and Ears of the World.’ That’s where you’d get your news and usually there something featured about the little princess, and I was always very interested in her.”

Jones said she sent a congratulatory card in 1977 to the queen on occasion of her silver anniversary to the throne. Jones was surprised to receive a personalized response from the queen’s lady-in-waiting. This catapulted Jones’ interest in the queen and she soon began collecting items related to the queen. Jones followed up her silver anniversary letter with cards of congratulations for the queen’s golden, diamond and most-recent platinum jubilees. Again, every correspondence was acknowledged through the queen’s lady-in-waiting.

You’ve offered congratulations to the queen on other milestones, haven’t you? “When she became a great-grandmother, after Prince George was born, I looked for a great-grandparent card, and they’re not easy to find.”

Jones said her correspondence was acknowledged by the queen’s lady-in-waiting. Jones said she is impressed the replies are not form letters, but typewritten letters and the handwritten signature of the lady-in-waiting.

In all, Jones has six letters in response, authored by the queen’s lady-in-waiting.

What item in your collection means the most to you? “It’s certainly not a very large collection but the letters are all very special to me. They’re personalized and probably as close to royalty as I’ll ever get.”

What’s the most you paid for an item? “I subscribe to the magazine Majesty, which is put together by People magazine. It is all about royal subjects not just in England but elsewhere, too. Anyhow, there are forms at the back of the magazine where you can buy different things, and I enjoy purchasing items on occasion. I purchased a commemorative plate for her silver anniversary and years ago I purchased a decorative mug, I guess you could call it a drinking vessel, featuring a Charles and Diana with their newborn son. I think they were about $10.”

What else is in your collection? “I have quite a few books and magazines, coloring books, a miniature figurine statue, quite a few photographs, salt-and-pepper shakers and a four-piece set of wind-up figures (featuring the queen, Prince Phillip, son Charles and daughter-in-law Diana). But the letters are far and away the most unique items and they mean the most to me. It was such a thrill to open the mailbox and see a piece of mail so colorful with such interesting stamps.”

Have you ever visited England? “I have not. I would love to but I have not. That and having tea with the queen are the last two items on my bucket list. But I’ve come to terms with the fact that it will never happen.”

Your respect for the queen is obvious. “Well, we went through WWII at the same time, she got married about the same time I did, she had Charles and I had Larry, she had a daughter the same time I had a daughter … just so many parallels we share. And now we both use a cane. But if we lived near each other, I feel like we would be good friends. I think we would visit often and get along very well.”

Footnotes: Jones, 96, is a Schoolcraft resident. Her collection was showcased at the Schoolcraft Library during the month of June. Her poetry appears in the South County News.

Community corner: Volunteer-powered transport

Dave Carvell, a volunteer driver.

By Drew Johnson

While I was writing the last edition of this column – an overview of changes to our food pantry – I realized that most people reading this probably don’t know about the other programs we have here at South County Community Services (SCCS). Since trying to get the word out about our services has been in our strategic plan for the past two years, I thought now would be a good time to write about them! I don’t have space to tell you about everything we do, but I will try to cover the main programs and how they work over the next few months. This month I’ll be covering transportation.

Our transportation program provides rides to doctors’ appointments and meetings with human service agencies to seniors and people with disabilities free of charge. The transportation program at SCCS is funded by the senior millage and is a very in-demand and necessary service — many of the people we give rides to have no other affordable option to get to their appointments, and the van is often booked solid.

Tamra Stafford is our transportation coordinator — she sets up rides for clients, schedules drivers, and makes sure that we are compliant with Metro documentation among many other things! When someone calls her, she needs to know their name, address, appointment time, and appointment location. If they are a new client, she will ask them to fill out an intake sheet to make sure we have all relevant medical information. Then she’ll look for a volunteer driver and make all the necessary arrangements.

Because we are giving rides to seniors and people with disabilities, we provide a little more TLC than a taxi might: One thing that our riders appreciate, for example, is that we generally wait for the rider to be done with their appointment — we do not leave and come back to pick up the person later. That makes many people feel more secure, since they are often going to an appointment alone and with no way of getting home on their own. But what riders most appreciate is our amazing drivers! We have a group of volunteer drivers who are always ready to help and who enjoy talking to riders as much as riders appreciate their help and company. We couldn’t do it without them!

A few other things to note:

We do not provide medical transportation or transport people who are not medically stable at the time of transport.

We are always looking for more volunteer drivers! Driving for us is very flexible. After the initial training, you’ll be emailed with a schedule every week and will be able to sign up for rides that Tamra has scheduled with clients. Many drivers try to pick riders who they know and enjoy talking to — I always like getting to know riders too, which is easy in our new, quiet van!

It is a good idea to schedule ahead of time—especially if you are a new client. We book up fast because the service is in such high demand!

Drew Johnson lives in Kalamazoo and is the Director at South County Community Services. He has a small quarter-acre homestead with chickens, bees, and hops (and more!), a wonderful wife, and three energetic children. He can be reached at 649-2901 or

For more information on South County Community Services, please check out our Facebook page at or visit

Schoolcraft township clerk explains absentee voting

By Kathy Oswalt-Forsythe and Bob Ball

Schoolcraft Township Clerk Virginia Mongrieg has seen some changes in her 21 years working elections for Schoolcraft Township: Different types of ballots have come and gone, and most recently, Michigan voters approved the use of absentee ballots for all registered voters. The township has since seen an increase in the number of people voting through absentee ballot.

There are 6,890 registered voters in Schoolcraft Township and approximately 2,500 absentee ballot applications have recently been mailed. In the 2020 election 5,157 eligible voters voted. The township includes the village of Schoolcraft and a portion of Vicksburg.

Mongrieg and Deputy Clerk Eska Brown follow a careful protocol during the elections. Mongrieg explained the absentee voting process during a visit to the township hall.

First, the township mails absentee ballot applications to all voters who have requested one. When these applications are returned, they are opened and signatures are carefully checked, comparing the ballot signature to a voter’s digitally-stored signature.

Brown and Mongrieg demonstrated this with copy editor Bob Ball’s absentee ballot application.

Signature Verification:

For each application returned and verified, a ballot envelope is placed and stored in the vault, a locked and secure location within the office. Once ballots are received, voters place and seal them in these envelopes and mail to the township.

When ballots are returned — through the mail, hand delivered, or placed in the township’s dropbox—they are counted and stored again in the vault. Brown and Mongrieg run regular audits before election day, counting and verifying the number of received ballots.

Absentee Ballot Counting on election day:

Before election day, precinct election inspectors attend training. All are approved and certified.
A board of trained and approved precinct election inspectors work in a conference room with a chairperson directing and guiding them. The team includes both registered Republicans and Democrats who work together at all times.

Inspectors complete the following steps:

• Slit open all ballots

• Verify ballots with a qualified voter file list issued by Brown.

• Pass ballots to an inspector who ensures ballot has no damage or wrinkles and will pass through the tabulator.

• Ballots are stacked in piles of 25 and kept flat.

• Two Inspectors then begin feeding ballots.

In the event a ballot will not tabulate, the ballots are set aside for voiding and reissuing. That may happen if a voter uses a marker-type pen or crosses party lines, voting for a Republican for one post and a Democrat for another. But there are many other reasons.

Mongrieg’s recommendations for voters:

Fill in the ovals with a ball point pen, staying within the ovals.

Do not draw lines or use x’s.

If you realize you have made a mistake, Mongreig said, don’t ignore it or try to correct it. “We can help you! Just call or bring the ballot to the Township as soon as possible.  We will ‘spoil’ your ballot and reissue. 

“And please do not sign your family members’ ballots!” Such false signatures are usually caught, invalidating the ballot, she said.

“If you change your mind and would like to vote in person in the precinct, you must surrender your absentee ballot. We must be able to account for every ballot issued, so please return your unvoted ballot.”

New Voter I.D. Cards

Because of redistricting, new voter I.D. cards are being issued. They will be mailed to each registered voter.

Mongrieg is confident about voter security in her precinct. “We are highly trained, have proven protocols in place and are committed to ensuring honesty and integrity in every election.”