Shear Beauty Salon to Open in Vicksburg

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Brittany Hovious of Shear Beauty salon & spa.

By Sue Moore

Brittany Hovious, ready to operate her own beauty salon, needed a place to call home. She found just the right fit at 102 S. Main street, in a building previously owned by Dr. Bob Dornbos, who recently retired.

Dr. Dornbos had sold the building to the families of Ron and Lupe Smith and Scott and Veronica Levin two months ago. They are renting to her.

“It was perfect for my needs, with space for three hair stylists, all the plumbing we needed with counters and built-in cabinets. All I did was buy salon fixtures. I’d been saving for a long time as it’s been my dream to have my own place since I started in the business nine years ago,” Hovious said.

She began work right out of Vicksburg High School with Jackie Stevens for five years, then with Mandy Miller for a year, Kemi Laing for two years and most recently at MSpa in Portage. She has been mentoring Yezmene Vanderbor, who graduated from VHS this June. Through the school’s Education for Employment, Vanderbor has already finished her beauty schooling. She will be one of the Shear Beauty stylists as well as seasoned veteran Michelle Cheesebro who had her own shop on Main Street for many years. Dawn Rygwelski, a certified lash extension lady, has also signed on with Hovious to rent a booth.

The business will have one person specializing in eyelash extensions and it will have two pedicure chairs in a private setting, Hovious said. She is certain that there is room for a new salon in Vicksburg. “There were eight salons when I started and we are down to only two and several one-person businesses out of their home.

“We each do our own booking and will also offer booking online at The phone number is 269-888-3633.” The salon opened on June 1.

Hovious’ fiancé, James Stephens, urged her to try stepping out on her own. She has prepared for the challenge by completing business courses at Kalamazoo Valley Community College. She essentially has been running her own business for the last nine years, renting a booth from each of the previous owners she has worked under. “I’ve built my business by referrals from family and friends and word of mouth. I love doing color. In two hours I can totally change a person’s experience and looks. You have to know the client’s hair to formulate what chemistry is needed for their color.”

“I knew from when I was in middle school that I was going to do hair. I would help all my friends do braids and other styles. It came natural to me and I love it,” Hovious said.

Indian Lake Elementary Gets New Playground

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The construction committee for the Indian Lake playground equipment were from left to right in front: Garrett Patnoude, Trevor McClish, Jeff Kidney, Dustin Barrett, Shawn Wayne. In back from left: Chris King, Grady Ellis, Kody Fruehauf, Megan Ellis, Colin Ellis, Ruth Hook.

The Indian Lake Elementary PTSO has been raising funds for replacing playground structures this year. They have put on multiple fundraisers to support the ongoing efforts to replace all the wooden structuresthat had been around for more than 25 years.

Principal Ruth Hook was grateful for the construction team which was led by Shawn Wayne who gathered a group of Vicksburg community people to help with the building of this fun playground addition. Playworld Inc. delivered the items on a Friday while Shawn Wayne and his team worked all day to prepare the area for building the new structure. The team then arrived early on Saturday to begin the building and completed it by 5 p.m. “Our students were excited to play on this piece Monday when they returned to school,” exclaimed Hook.

Gary Belden’s Return to Vietnam

By Sue Moore

It’s been said that one can never go back to an old haunt, especially one with memories of war. But many veterans do so. One was Gary Belden of Vicksburg, who went back to Vietnam where he had served in the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, fighting to keep a strategic bridge open to traffic seven miles south of Da Nang.

His unit was assigned to keep the bridge open at all costs. He fought in a bunker next to Lewis Puller, Jr. his second lieutenant in the platoon. He fought in what came to be called the “bridge battle” in January 1968.

His platoon had been befriended by a young girl the platoon named Wendy. She lived near the bridge and had been considered a Viet Cong. She spoke no English but would bring fruit to sell to the hungry soldiers guarding the bridge each day. She got to be their mascot as they were stationed at the bridge every third month during Belden’s tour of duty. “She was sweet, so we looked after her. Then one day she was wounded in a firefight, losing her left arm, and my buddy, Joe Oncay, saved her life. He took her to the medics for help. This is the battle where I received a combat promotion as a machine gunner from PFC to corporal with a commendation for courage and composure under fire in August of 1968,” Belden said.

Shortly after that, Puller lost his legs in a battle that made him somewhat famous. He was the son of General “Chesty” Puller, the only man in the Army to go from private to general and the most decorated Marine in history. His son has written a book about his experiences in Vietnam.

Members of Belden’s unit have held reunions through the years and even visited Vietnam about 10 years ago. In February, Belden and Joe Oncay decided to visit Wendy on their second trip to the country. She had been unable to work because of the lost arm but she put on a big spread for them. They took her out to dinner and managed to leave her with hundreds of dollars when the visit was over. “Now when we go back, the people are so nice. It’s in their nature. She has a son and daughter-in-law but is divorced and her husband is deceased.”

Belden was later stationed in San Diego, Parris Island and Quantico, where he trained officers in jungle warfare who were studying to become Green Berets. He mustered out as a sergeant and went to work for Hoekstra’s Meat Co. in Kalamazoo. Shortly after that he got a job with Mead Paper Company and after six years there became a tower boss.

He went on to obtain an associate’s degree from Southern Ohio business college and then an electrical degree from University of Cincinnati. He is a boiler expert and can fly single engine aircraft. His final job before retiring and returning to Vicksburg was running the power plant at the Veteran’s Administration Hospital in Cincinnati for nine years.

He left Vicksburg at the age of 17 right out of Vicksburg High School in 1967 to join the Marines. He suffers from diabetes, which he believes is the result of being exposed to Agent Orange. He has had his remembrance of the bridge battle published in a book entitled “We Remember II”. His home on Sunset Lake has a room reserved for memorabilia from the Vietnam War along with some special items from World War II and the Korean War.

Winners Announced in the Tournament of Writers

Amelia Brown on the left is shown with Deb Christiansen on the right who presented her with the Grand Prize award in the Friends of the Library writers contest.

The Schoolcraft Library had a wonderful turnout for the May 15 presentation ceremony for Tournament of Writers, according to Deb Christiansen, organizer for the writing contest as part of the Friends of the Library’s mission.

Senator Margaret O’Brien was in attendance and presented each author with a Certificate of Congratulations. Each author received a tote bag saying, “I’m a published author” and ribbons announcing their awards. Eleven judges participated this year.

Judges were instructed to select one entry for grand prize. The points are then added, and the winners are determined. Many of the categories were very close, and there was a tie for grand prize this year.
Sonya Sutherland won for her adult fiction story, “Living in the Moment.” Amelia Brown won for her graphic novel, “Can you hear me?” Both winners will receive a scholarship to attend a class at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts.

New this year was the Director’s Award. “We wanted to award an initiative by a young author to publish their own work. This went to Jenna Pickern, who will also receive a class at the KIA,” Christiansen said.

The book that is created from this tournament, “Small Town Anthology IV,” will be published this fall. There will be a book signing at the Schoolcraft Community Library on September 18, 2018 at 6 p.m.

Victorian Garden Club Looking for New Members

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Members of the Victorian Garden Club gathered at the Community Pavilion for lunch after pulling weeds, raking leaves and cleaning debris from around the buildings in the Historic Village this spring. They are from left to right standing: Kristina Powers Aubry, Margaret Kerchief, Patt Brumleve, Bill Brumleve, Phil Smoker, Terri Clark, Karen Hammond, Nancy Wolf. Seated from left: Wendy French, Nancy Smoker, Kay Anderson.

By Sue Moore

For people who love to garden, there is a place for you in the Victorian Garden Club, said Nancy Smoker, president of the group for 2018. “We never do the same thing twice. We have a lively group of folks who have a common interest in plants and a love of gardening.”

They are looking for more members with activities that usually take place on the 4th Monday of each month. Coming up are a tour of a hosta garden and tree nursery, a program on succulents and an evening of making a glass piece at Gloria Badner’s glass studio in Mattawan. An annual Christmas luncheon will end the season.

The group’s purpose is to help maintain gardens in the Historic Village.

Recent activities included learning to paint flowers on note cards, led by local artist Ruthie Dorrance, and a trip to Paulette’s Potting Shed in Decatur for a container gardening demo.

Dues are $10. Smoker is the contact person at 269-806-4985.

Gail Reisterer Receives the Rotary’s Mercer Munn Award

Gail Reisterer in her home in Vicksburg.

By Sue Moore

“Vicksburg is now my home town. I have a vested interest in keeping it strong and remaining vital,” said Gail Reisterer when notified she was to receive the Mercer Munn award from Rotary. The award is named after Munn, a cheerleader for the community and one of its leading citizens from the 1930s to 1960s.

The Vicksburg Village Council has been her latest volunteer effort, following her appointment to a trustee seat in 2016 and election to a four-year term a year later. “I look at this service as what is best for the whole community. Our hiring of a new village manager has made a big difference,” she said. “We had to make a change and move forward and not become stagnant.”

Getting into politics was not what she envisioned in 1993, when she retired as speech pathologist in the Vicksburg Community Schools system. She had served in that capacity for 29 years. “I spent the first few months trying to figure out what my gift was. I don’t sing or dance but do believe that God gives each of us something that we were really meant to do when you retire. For me it was knowing I was good at organizing people and things. When Denise Herald asked me to take over the Vicksburg Library book sale in 1995, that resonated with me. I believe in delegating and allow others to be self-starters. I appreciate everyone who helps and want them to contribute to their effort without my direct supervision.”

Besides the long-term commitment to organizing the book sale, she accepted the challenge of getting volunteers en masse to help with the Vicksburg Historical Society’s Harvest Festival nine years ago. She has been a docent for the Historical Society. Three years ago, she gave a sizeable grant to the nonprofit to be used in any way the board desired.

She was an original member of the Vicksburg Community Schools Foundation board of directors when that unit was formed in 1983. After her husband, David, died in 2014, she made a huge donation in his name for scholarships that are to be awarded each year to high school seniors who play baseball and softball.

Volunteer work for her church, Lord of Life on Portage Road, is near and dear to Reisterer’s heart. She is a reader during Sunday services and attends a Bible study class each week. She has organized the bridge group that meets each Tuesday at the library, collecting the money and taking care of the details that come up during the mornings. This is also a bit of a religion for those who play bridge, she said.

Reisterer was looking for a job after graduating from Western Michigan University in 1962. She put in a year of work in Ottawa County where her parents resided, but needed to shift gears to Kalamazoo as her then husband wanted to return to Western for his degree. Vicksburg had the only opening for a speech pathologist in the county and after an interview with Superintendent Ken Otis, she quickly accepted an offer. It was a new program, one that allowed her to set up her own program in all seven buildings for children who had speech training needs. Her initial offices were in hallways, a stairwell, a basement storage area and even a utility closet.

When Sunset Lake Elementary was expanded, she was offered a real office by Assistant Superintendent Jack Gridley. “You deserve a room of your own,” he told her. “What do you want in it?”

“At that point I knew I belonged in the school system.”

Program Offers Local Students a Free College Degree

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VHS student Casey Grace organizes equipment for an experiment in his KVCC physics class.

Steve Fryling, Vicksburg Schools Communications Director

What if there was an option in high school where you attend classes for an extra year, but in return graduate with a two-year college degree that was free of charge? That day is here for students at Vicksburg, Schoolcraft and other county high schools in the Early Middle College program, known as EMC. As two of only 137 schools statewide that provide this pathway, these schools are providing students yet another way to earn a college degree without charge to their families. The degree can provide immediate access to a career or as a way to a four-year school to complete a bachelor degree.

Since these students must also meet the requirements for their Michigan High School Diploma, they start in their freshman year by taking as many high school requirements as possible. In the next several years they begin taking college level classes in their chosen area by either attending KVCC, attending classes taught at the high school by instructors brought in by KVCC or by current high school staff certified by KVCC to teach college level classes locally during certain parts of the day. Transportation is offered to KVCC. Due to the specialized nature of many of the classes, a vast majority of the EMC students attend KVCC to get their college credits.

Vicksburg awarded its first diploma to an EMC student in June to Casey Grace. Casey signed up for the program several years ago when it first came into being and this spring will have an Associate Degree in General Studies as well as a Vicksburg diploma, saving a year in time and $6,000 in tuition costs over a traditional high school graduate who goes on to get an Associate Degree.

Casey says he decided to become an EMC student in his sophomore year at VHS because, “The high school ‘scene’ was not for me. I knew what my goals were. I wanted to get a college degree as quickly and with as little expense as possible. This was the perfect way to do it.” Grace has been accepted at WMU and will be going on to study secondary education there. “While other kids were at home or out socializing, I was working overnight shifts at McDonalds to pay my future way through Western. Without having to pay tuition at KVCC, I was able to put a lot away. I also changed majors three times, but I went through all of that here at KVCC, so I did not waste time and money at WMU.”

Grace has been at KVCC full time since his junior year in high school. He says he did not find it awkward to be a “year 13” student or watch others graduate from high school last spring. “Everybody who goes to college will be a year 13 student eventually,“ said Grace, “I just did it for free and got a year ahead of everyone.” He said he wasn’t treated differently by other students or staff because he was a high school student. “Unless you tell people you are a high school student, they would have no way of knowing, so you are treated like everyone else,” said Grace.

Because the program is very new and competes against other options like dual enrollment, Advanced Placement classes, and the Education for Employment program, EMC in Vicksburg currently has a very small enrollment but looks to grow as high school students look for options that are tailored to their needs and desires for post high school education.