Authors of the Memoir Slow Escape, a Story of Abuse and Eventual Freedom, to Visit Vicksburg District Library

By Eric Hansen, Vicksburg District Library Reference Librarian

Slow Escape is the true story of Lorie Williams, who was abused by her father for 27 years. With help from a friendly teacher, Laurel Macon, Lorie eventually escaped from this brutal situation and began to develop a more stable life.

Slow Escape: 27 Years to Freedom, a memoir told by Lorie to Laurel Macon, is a release from Oaker Press, and on March 30, from 6-8 p.m. Lorie Williams and Laurel Macon will visit the Vicksburg District Library to read excerpts and conduct a question and answer session. This book discussion is free and open to the public. Signed copies will be available for sale.

In a sense, the memoir is a Michigan true-crime story, detailing the physical, sexual, and emotional abuse that Lorie endured. It details the hardships that her mother and siblings suffered under Lorie’s father and choices that Lorie made that helped her endure. In one case, when she was a girl, she remembered that she clutched a tiny necklace her father had given her and decided,“Sometimes, when angry words and the sound of beatings filled the house … I would pretend then that the tiny necklace was like an anchor … It would give me a little bit of hope that things might be better someday. That is all I want—for things to get better.”

This memoir is a detailed discussion of how a child can strive to mediate between different adults and children with different hopes and different agendas. Almost every figure in Lorie’s life is struggling with terrible anger and frustration. Throughout the memoir, Lorie’s father teaches his children to steal as a daily chore – just a part of surviving in the world – and he describes perfect strangers in language otherwise reserved for a man’s worst enemies. Lorie struggles to create peace and retain her faith in that environment, even while she was a child and could not understand the cruelty she experienced.

In 1974, Laurel Macon was Lorie’s second-grade school teacher. When Macon learned that some schoolboys had attacked Lorie, she spoke with the girl, and consequently learned that the child had been assaulted by her half-brother. That conversation led to a meeting with police and social workers that caused a brief pause in the abuse Lorie suffered. But afterward the abuse continued, and throughout the memoir a reader might question how a system intended to protect children can fail so spectacularly.

Two decades later, Laurel Macon and Lorie re-connected when Macon saw Lorie on the television news. Because Macon desired to help her former student, and because she felt the system had failed Lorie, Macon felt it was important to help tell the story of the years Lorie spent under her father’s control.

Macon has said, “I see this book as keeping a promise. I believe that when a child asks for help, we as a society should do all we can to make things right.”

By the end of her captivity Lorie had been pregnant 15 times. She had been forced to live in a patched tent and a ramshackle old school bus. For a time, her only means of income was deceiving Amish farmers into buying food that she and her father had scrounged from dumpsters.

With Macon’s assistance, and because of her perseverance and faith, Williams has raised six children. She gained a home through the Habitat for Humanity program, and started her own business.

A “Life is Good” Quilt in Memory of Sue Dornbos

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Quilters from left to right: Patty Keller, Allyne Maltby, Regina Richardson, Mary Ann Kudary, Jane Peterson. Additional members of the Hearthside Quilters who also worked on the quilt but are not pictured: Marci Bailey, Diana Girolami, Brenda Bowers, and Emmy Shearer. Photo by Linda Lane.

By Linda Lane

Fifty-six different “Life is Good” T-shirts were lovingly cut and pieced into a quilt in memory of Sue Dornbos. One of Sue’s daughters, Sarah Dornbos, who lives in California, made a special request of the Vicksburg Hearthside Quilters to make the quilt from T-shirts that Sue had purchased over the years for herself and her three girls.

Jane Peterson and Regina Richardson spearheaded the project and enlisted the help of the Vicksburg Hearthside Quilters to produce the beautiful T-shirt quilt. Vicksburg Hearthside Quilters, the group of nine women who made the quilt, has been around for over 35 years. Sue Dornbos was a founding member. While the group normally meets monthly, they started the quilt in September and had additional meetings to work on the quilt.

The queen-size quilt brings out all the colors of the shirts, most of them in pastel, with 8-inch-square blocks. The shirts were worn by Sue or given to her three girls as gifts from her. Sue and Sarah had done volunteer work in Haiti together, and one of the T-shirts has Haiti referenced on it. Regina intends to send a picture of the quilt to the company who manufactures the “Life is Good” t-shirts.

“Sue was a very positive person and I think that’s what attracted her to the “Life is Good” T-shirts. Sarah got them all together and asked us to cut them all up into the quilt. All those shirts are $20-30 each, so we cut up a lot of money!” Regina Richardson said.

Sue Dornbos and Jane Peterson knew each other from school where they both grew up in the Ludington area. They both had three daughters and happenstance drew them both to the Vicksburg area to raise their families.

“Sue was such a dear friend to all of us. It was very therapeutic for our group to make the quilt for Sarah. We were all still grieving the loss of Sue and it was part of the recovery process. Really, it was an honor to make it in memory of Sue,” Jane Peterson said. “The warmth and comfort the quilt brings to Sarah will mirror all the warmth and comfort Sue brought to all who knew her.”

The group found a complement for the quilt that they have also sent to Sarah. It’s a book called “Life is Good: Simple Words from Jake and Rocket.” All the quilters signed the book for Sarah.

“Life is Good” T-shirts contain meaningful quotes, many with their main theme, “Life is good. Do what you like. Like what you do. Simple as that.” Others include “Simplify” “Happy Hour” (roasting marshmallows) “Follow your heart” “Enjoy the present” “Be what you want” and “Dream big.”

Sarah described receiving the quilt:
“Today I received the most amazing gift from the Hearthside Quilters in Vicksburg. They were willing to finish a “Life is Good” T-shirt quilt that my mom and I had talked about making, but were unable to get to before she got sick. I will think of these friends of hers with gratitude every time I curl up in it. Not only does it contain T-shirts that my mom and I both wore in photographs together, but it is stitched through with love by friends who had quilted with her for decades…a tangible reminder that all was not lost when I lost my mom. It was a wonderful Presidents Day surprise gift.”
Perfect sentiments for a woman like Sue Dornbos, who was a positive inspiration to all who knew her.

Vicksburg Hearthside Quilters

Currently comprised of nine women from the Vicksburg area, this generous group of quilters has made many cancer quilts for different people battling cancer. They like working on group projects and have made quilts for the community’s benefit. For example, they produced a quilt which was raffled off at the Vicksburg Farmers’ Market. They also made quilts for the community quilt center and the hospitality house. It’s a loose, social group of friends and they don’t really have membership dues. They usually meet monthly at the home of one of their members.

Sue Dornbos was a founding member of the group. Another member from the Vicksburg Hearthside Quilters, Diane Dean, passed away from cancer. The Schoolcraft Library had a show of her quilts recently. Her husband James had a rock from their property carved into a headstone, and engraved it with a quilt block.

The quilters won’t get together again until April because many of the group are out town in warmer climes.

Hoyle Submits Resignation Letter to the DDA

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John DeBault holds the paperwork for Vicksburg business owners to use in their application for a façade grant or loan for their building. Standing in back are DDA members Julie Merrill, Fawn Callen, Mary Ruple. The applications are available at the village office on Kalamazoo Avenue.

By Sue Moore

Kathleen Hoyle resigned as the Downtown Development Authority’s director at their meeting in February. She cited the need to move on with other projects. “I like to leave things better than when I came,” she said.

“I have really appreciated being part of Vicksburg and working with the community over the last few years to assist in moving the village forward to become the fastest-growing municipality in the state,” she said. “The residents have expressed their vision of Vicksburg’s future, planning was completed and implementation has begun, so now it’s time for me to move on to other projects. It has been an honor to work with the Vicksburg community and I know the future is in good hands.”

Board President John DeBault accepted the resignation. He told the board it might want to confer with all the entities the DDA has worked with. “Maybe we moved too fast, doing three projects last year. Maybe two is enough in 2017.”

Rudy Callen, president of the Vicksburg Foundation, told the board not to forget what the DDA was before Hoyle was hired. “There was little or no money, a skeleton crew and no activity. Great things have happened since then. Now is a chance to step back and get in sync with the village. There is so much potential and so many good people here.”

To that end, the board is getting ready to restart its “Façade Loan” program on April 1. A committee was appointed to handle details of the offer to Vicksburg business owners. Members will report back at the regular March meeting. There is also a revolving loan fund available for building owners to improve their properties. Applications will be taken from March 10 to April 28. Those qualifying will have money released by May 10, Hoyle reported.

A special meeting of the DDA trustees was scheduled to review priorities and begin to chart the authority’s next course.

Vicksburg Village Council Takes Action on Its Audit Report

By Sue Moore

“The audit report by Siegfried Crandall for the fiscal year 2015-16 on the village of Vicksburg’s books was a bit unsettling,” said Bill Adams, village president. “Most of their recommendations are now in the rear-view mirror as we have reviewed them and implemented better internal controls with new policies and procedures.”

“All of the monies are accounted for and secured in the proper fund accounts. We want to be transparent and have taken a series of steps to protect our community and the village council. It is rare for a governmental entity to implement fixes even before the audit comes out,” he said.

Steve Bryer, the Siegfried Crandall vice president who presented the audit to the village council in February, said it was a “clean audit” with the general fund in pretty good shape, considering the deficit the village had in 2013 when Adams became president.

However, the report cited ten recommendations that Bryer felt compelled to bring in front of the council for action. They include the following along with the actions taken in response:

• Recommend that the village consider an outside firm other than its auditor to prepare routine financial statements. This is being evaluated in light of the possible increase in costs. Such reports in many local governmental entities are prepared by staff members.

• Bank cash reconciliation was not done right. This was rectified in November of 2016 with the council approving the checks and balances policy between the village treasurer and clerk.

• The village was in non-compliance with its payroll taxes and reporting. New staff and accounting software are in place to assure compliance with federal and state filing requirements.

• Journal entries were not effectively monitored. A policy was passed in January to ensure proper procedures over preparation, review and approval of journal entries.

• Dual check signatures at Angels Crossing need to be in place. The council passed a policy in January that dual signatures would be required on all checks. The golf course has implemented a system for electronic payment to vendors.

• A conflict of interest policy is needed. Such a policy was adopted at the council’s December meeting.

• The DDA needs to be sure that all money spent is for public purposes. In January, a purchasing and procurement policy was passed to ensure a formal requirement is in place to ensure proper controls.

• A written policy for the sale of capital assets is needed. The council approved a policy for asset sales and dispositions at its January meeting.

• A policy is needed to justify free golf for course employees and contractors. A golf memberships and fees policy was implemented at the January meeting to ensure that procedures are in place to authorize, approve, and monitor Golf Fund revenues.

• No more expenditures for goods and services prior to village council approval should take place. In January, the council approved a procurement policy for goods and services expenditures in accordance with state guidelines. The village manager does have limited discretionary up to a certain amount to spend without prior approval.

“Many of the recommendations have been put in place and the rest will be by the council meeting of April 17,” according to Village Manager Jim Mallery.

Power Line Controversy Comes to a Head

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Members of the Vicksburg Village Council join with citizens at the village council meeting who support the railroad track route for the new power line proposed for the Vicksburg to Schoolcraft corridor. Left to right: John Kern, Colin Bailey, Rudy Callen, Jackie Koney, Bill Adams, the power company representative Mark Robinson, Caroline Cady, Mark Maki, Steve Goss, Julie Merrill, Matt Shankle, Gail Reisterer, Tim Frisbie, James Earl, Jim Mallery.

By Sue Moore

A window for comments about a proposed backup electrical transmission line between Schoolcraft and Vicksburg closed a few days ago. Residents along the two proposed routes are waiting to learn which of two routes Indiana Michigan Power (IMP) will choose.

The plan calls for a second 69-kilovolt transmission line between the communities. The existing line mostly follows the CN railroad between a Vicksburg substation south of VW Avenue and the existing substation north of the tracks in Schoolcraft.

Although the new line will be built mostly along W Avenue from Portage Road west to a new substation north of the existing one in Schoolcraft, the utility is presenting two alternatives from east of Portage Road into Vicksburg.

One follows the tracks from the Vicksburg substation to the grade crossing at W Avenue. The other extends south from the substation across the Simpson mill property, then west on W to the tracks.

From there, both proposed routes follow the tracks south of W for a few hundred feet west of the grade crossing, then jog north back to W east of Portage Rd.

A spokeswoman for the utility’s parent company, AEP, was asked if the second line mostly along W Avenue is needed because the existing transmission line is considered vulnerable to railroad mishaps. “Not necessarily,” she said. While she acknowledged that there is one short segment where both lines would parallel the tracks, it’s preferable to have a second line on a different route. “It’s not that the railroad route is especially vulnerable.”

A public presentation by representatives of the company took place in Schoolcraft in January. Company representative Mark Robinson attended the Vicksburg Village Council in February to explain the two routes and seek feedback.

He got plenty from Mark Maki, a resident of the Greensborough neighborhood, and Jackie Koney of Paper City. Both testified that the sight of the 69-kilovolt line would directly impact their distinctly unique properties. Maki cited the need to preserve the village gateway on W Ave. when travelling east, as a good impression coming into the village. He spoke of the unsightliness of the poles and transmission wires overhead and the impact it could have on the land values and the sale of the remaining vacant lots in the subdivision, since they would be located at the entrance.

Koney stressed the impact the high wires would have on the wetlands, the nature setting of the mill and its environs, especially the blue heron rookery on the property which would be bisected by the W Avenue route.

Maki and Koney opposed the routing of the new power line along W Avenue. “We prefer the route along the railroad grade,” Koney said. The council instructed the village manager to work with this citizens group to determine what if any action the village should take.

Schoolcraft Village Council Picks Two New Members

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Kathy Mastenbrook and John Stodola are the new village council trustees in Schoolcraft.

By Travis Smola

The Schoolcraft Village Council approved a major water rate increase at its early February meeting to fund replacement of an aging water main.

The big focus is the replacement of a 100-year-old water main running from the well house along Cass Street to Center Street. With a recommendation by the water committee, trustees approved two 13 percent increases, the first taking effect over the next two years. The Council noted it will be 26 percent overall when accounting for inflation.

The issue of the aging water main has been something the council has wanted to address for at least the last decade. “If it breaks, we’re in big trouble,” President Keith Gunnett said, noting there would be no pressure for fire hydrants, and customers could be left without water.

He also said the Council is feeling some increased pressure from the state to make these kinds of required improvements to aging infrastructure. The approval also increases the payment grace period from 15 to 20 days and increases the late fee to $15.

The Council also interviewed candidates for two vacant council seats prior to the meeting. School board treasurer Kathy Mastenbrook and 33-year resident and active community member John Stodola were selected to fill the vacancies.

Stodola brings a long history of volunteering in many community and youth sports programs to the table. “I was taught to serve when I was brought up,” Stodola said. “This is the next step for me.”

Personally, he finds it increasingly important to make the village better for his children and grandchildren. Stodola is interested in working more on the village vision planning project for community development. He had already been invited as a citizen to be a part of the project.

“The more input we get from citizens, the better that’s going to turn out,” he said.
Mastenbrook becomes the second council member to serve a dual role with the Schoolcraft school board along with Michael Rochholz. While she knows it’s important to keep the school and village separate, she believes it will also help to build relationships and communication between the village and schools.

She said she wants to help Schoolcraft thrive.

“It’s a transition to continue community service at a broader level besides education,” Mastenbrook said.

As for something she’d like to work on as a council trustee, Mastenbrook noted the increasing number of aging residents in the village, people she deals with daily as a Life and Health Department Assistant at Ayres-Rice Insurance.

To help these residents, she would like to have discussions about the possibility of a senior housing complex in the future, perhaps working in collaboration with Vicksburg.

The other interviewed candidates, Joe Beck, Don Hunt and Kirk Bergland will be considered for a position with the Planning Commission. Gunnett praised all the candidates for their interest, noting other communities struggle to find interested parties for council trustee positions.

“This is really good seeing that we had five people to pick from,” Gunnett said.

Clayton DeVries Selected to Join the All-State Jazz Band

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Clayton DeVries at the piano, one of the many instruments he can play.

By Sue Moore

“My hope is to connect the world to jazz.” That’s Clayton DeVries, a senior at Vicksburg High School who has amassed many honors playing saxophone. But his musical goal is to bring jazz to places where there isn’t much music to speak of, such as small towns across America. Jazz is his passion.

“Jazz is the greatest musical art form there is. It lets you speak through it by expressing yourself and how you want to play. I really want to perform in these many out-of-the way places, although I’m not so good at teaching what I know,” DeVries said.

In addition to his musical talent, he has been in Boy Scout Troop 254 in Schoolcraft. He is closing in on his Eagle Scout award with the construction of four park benches he has built for the Portage Senior Center. He turned 18 on March 6, the day he will have them installed and the project completed to attain that coveted rank.

He’s auditioning at several colleges hoping to major in jazz; on March 8, he’ll audition at the New School in New York City. Previously, he passed a pre-screening, then sent a video and was chosen to come to the big city to show them what he can do. He has been accepted at Western Michigan University and is considering Michigan State University, University of Illinois and University of North Texas.

The biggest honor so far: He was one of 17 players chosen for the Michigan All-State Jazz band. He had tried out for it as a sophomore and junior but didn’t get accepted. He took a lot of lessons and did plenty of practicing this time, taking second place on tenor sax and honorable mention on alto sax.

Ben Rosier, Vicksburg’s band instructor said that “after transferring from Schoolcraft schools, Clayton has made an impact on our program, especially in the jazz departmenti His passion for the jazz genre has propelled him into the upper echelon of students in the state. Clayton will be featured as a soloist on our Top Dawgs jazz ensemble album along with many of his classmates.”

Studying at Interlochen last summer was the “greatest experience ever,” DeVries said. “I’ve had terrific professors and made some life-long friends there.” He won a first place chair on tenor saxophone in the Interlochen jazz ensemble.

Last fall, DeVries was chosen to play alto sax at the St. Cecilia Music Center in Grand Rapids, going there on Tuesdays for practice and playing lots of older big-band music that he really likes. He played in the Hastings all-star band last year and now helps with the Vicksburg Middle School music program during second hour of the day at VHS.

The fact he can play a large assortment of instruments is a bonus. He is mostly self-taught on most of them. He owns three saxophones – soprano, alto and tenor – as well as flute, piccolo, clarinet and piano. He plays all of them. “I came to VHS for the curriculum. My mom coaxed me to go to one rehearsal for concert band when I was a freshman. I had started playing in fifth grade but didn’t really want to try out for band. It took one rehearsal and I decided to stick with it.”

Now he practices four to five hours a day and has taken lessons that he said help him know what the jazz voice means and how best to implement it.