Who remembers the school-sponsored summer recreational programs housed at the Old El (the current administration building) in Vicksburg? During the 1970s, school personnel offered arts and crafts activities and supervised sports and games for upper elementary and middle school students. Send your memories to firstname.lastname@example.org
Charles “Charlie” Bartholomew, 74, Vicksburg, died June 26. The son of Henry and Mary (Hacker) Bartholomew, Charlie was born in Kalamazoo on January 4, 1946. He attended Otsego High School and MSU. On June 24, 1967 he married Judy, his high school sweetheart. He was preceded in death by his parents. Surviving are his wife, Judy; children Charles (Susan) Bartholomew Jr., Julia (Matthew) McKee, and David Bartholomew; grandchildren Courtney, Kyle, Emily, Madeline and Colin; a brother, Henry Bartholomew III; and nephews Henry (Tracy) Bartholomew IV and Phillip Bartholomew. Visit his page at BetzlerLifeStory.com. Donations may go to Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan.
Gary Dean Carpenter, 77, Vicksburg, passed away July 24. Gary was born on March 2, 1943 in Vicksburg, the son of Leslie and Glenna (Lamerson) Carpenter. He graduated from VHS in 1961. He was a skilled carpenter and golfer. Gary is survived by his children, Jill (Tony) Lindsley and Jason Carpenter; grandchildren Austin (Marcie Reynolds) Keiser, Madison (Scott) Krieger and Bella Carpenter; great grandchildren Kaiden Keiser and Avery Reynolds. Gary is also survived by his sister, Nancy (Craig) Miller; lifelong friends of over 70 years Rob and Dan Stroud; and nieces, nephews and cousins. He was preceded in death by his parents; a brother, Roger Johnson, and niece, Diane Coville. Visit his page at avinkcremation.com. Donations may go to Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan.
Deborah Rial Eckert, 70, died June 26. The daughter of Carmelita Carpenter and Robert Rial, Debbie was born in Battle Creek on August 29, 1949. During her primary years, she attended a one-room schoolhouse at Ellis Corners in Calhoun County. She graduated from VHS in 1967. She married Stuart Eckert in 1967 at Chapman Memorial Nazarene Church. She worked many years managing the cafeteria at James River. She loved living on Indian Lake and had many hobbies, including mushroom hunting, writing, painting, traveling, and vacationing on the motorcycle. Debbie is survived by her husband, Stuart Eckert; children Teresa and Troy Eckert; and grandchildren DJ and Devin Hettinger, Parker Essex, Auston Martin, and Amber and Trevor Eckert.
Margaret May McClish, 90, Portage, passed away June 27. Margaret was born on January 21, 1930 in Kalamazoo. Margaret graduated from Portage schools in 1948. She was married 60 years to her high school sweetheart, Maurice “Maury” McClish. She is survived by her children Mike (Doris) McClish and Matt McClish of Vicksburg and Mary (Robert) Ryan of Delton; grandchildren Ben (Lisa) McClish and Maria (Tony) Wharton of Vicksburg, Liam (Margo) McClish of TN, Thomas McClish of IN. and Michelle McClish, of IL.; great-grandchildren, and brother Max Crawford. She was preceded in death by husband, Maurice, brother David Crawford, and sister Louise Heller. Visit her page at mccowensecord.com.
Robert H. Merrill, 93, Vicksburg, passed away July 12. Robert was born on May 18, 1927 in Vicksburg, the son of Burl and Clara (Herrmann) Merrill. He graduated in 1945 from VHS. After graduation, he enlisted in the navy and attended MSU. He married Margaret (Peg) Rawlinson in 1951, and eventually owned and operated Rawlinson Appliance. He was a founding member of the Vicksburg Lions Club. He is survived by daughters Gwyn (Larry) Grubka of North Carolina, Beth (John) Foster of Portage, Sue (Dan) Cooley of Schoolcraft, Jeanne Sears and Julie Merrill, both of Vicksburg; 12 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren. He is also survived by his companion, Norma Simmons of Vicksburg; sisters-in-law Rita Brown of Portage and Elizabeth Parker of Arizona; and nieces and nephews. Bob was preceded in death by his wife Margaret “Peg” Merrill; grandson Eric Sears and brother-in-law Charles Rawlinson. Visit his page at mccowensecord.com. Donations may go to South County Community Services, American Diabetes, Vicksburg Historical Society and/or Vicksburg Lions Club.
Joseph Aaron Miller, 62, Schoolcraft, passed away unexpectedly July 6. He was born in Kalamazoo on May 5, 1958, the son of Glaydon and Lois Miller. Joseph graduated from Portage Northern. He was preceded in death by his father, Glaydon Miller. He leaves behind his mother, Lois Miller and a brother, Timothy (Angie) Miller, his niece, Barbara (Josh) Dunn, great-nephews Glaydon and Deacon Dunn and great-niece Josie Dunn. Donations may go to Kalamazoo Gospel Mission. Visit his page at langelands.com.
Timothy E. Price, 41, Vicksburg, passed away June 13 from cancer. Tim was born March 14, 1979 in Kalamazoo to Robert E. and Lynne M. Price. He married Jennifer A. Glaser November 15, 2019. Tim was a 1997 VHS graduate. He served in the Marine Corps, enjoyed hunting, fishing, camping, bonfires, and PBR. Tim is survived by his wife, Jen, his children, Ryan Price-Salazar and Paris Price, and his stepchildren, Delaney Glaser and Raymond Glaser, his parents, Robert and Lynne Price, a brother, Daniel (Trish Baker) Price, a sister, Genevieve (Jamie) Carter, his paternal grandmother, Katherine (Price) Finch, great aunt Nancee (Terry Newell) Beach, as well as many special aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, cousins and friends. Tim was preceded in death by his paternal grandfathers, Robert Price Sr. and Harry Finch, and his maternal grandparents, Merlin and Faye Hines. Donations may go to Glioblastoma Foundation or to Jen for an educational fund for the children.
Patricia Ross, 85, Vicksburg, passed away at home with family by her side June 29. Pat was born on June 9, 1935 to Wallace & Maxine (Stauton) Cousins. Pat was artistic and enjoyed sewing, lunches, and movies. Pat’s family includes her children, Michael (Kim) Olney, Judy Noel, Beverly (Thomas) Compton, Joseph Olney, Deborah (Charles) Rife, Terry Ross and Thomas Ross; 13 grandchildren; 15 great grandchildren; siblings Larry (Barb) Cousins, Allen (Betty) Cousins, Dennis (Lee) Cousins and Roberta Casselman as well as several nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her husband, Leroy; her parents, grandson Christopher Shipley and her granddaughter Gretchen Olan; brothers Donald Cousins and Kenneth Cousins. Visit his page at mccowensecord.com.
James H. Simonds, DPM, died June 29 with his family around him. Jim was born in Kalamazoo on November 28, 1930, the son of Walter and Eloise (Gay) Simonds. He was a graduate of St. Augustine High School, WMU, and Scholl College of Podiatric Medicine. He was an army veteran. Jim owned Simonds Foot & Ankle Clinic, where he practiced for over 60 years. He was a member of St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church and a 4th Degree Knight of Columbus. Jim was an Eagle Scout, hunter, fisherman, and outdoorsman. Nothing made him happier than time with family, a completed to-do list or a day on his tractor. He was inducted into the Hackett Athletics Hall of Fame and held many leadership roles. Jim was preceded in death by his sister, Shirley Ferrara, and his brothers-in-law Bud Ferrara and Art Redmond. He is survived by his wife Mary; sister Barbara Gay Redmond; the mother of his children, Elizabeth Simonds; children Nancy (Terry) Haas, Jim (Mary) Simonds Jr., Dave Simonds, John (Anita) Simonds, and Mary (Kent) Matthews; step-children Donald (Ann) Ulsh, Scott (Tesa) Ulsh and Lisa (Eugene) Lehman; grandchildren Justin (Rikki), Sara (Chad), Derek, Jack, Kevin, Dan, Shelby, Matthew, Aleks (Hunter), Erika, Luke, Jake, Elizabeth, Emily, Hunter (Brooke), David (Cassie), Rachel (Jacob), Melanie, Jonathan, Ella Grace, and Liam; great-grandchildren Nora, Landon, and Mason; and many nieces and nephews. Donations may go to Hackett Catholic Prep Athletics (women’s basketball, volleyball, and soccer programs), St. Martin of Tours, or St. Edwards of Mendon.
Kathryn (Kitty) Mariel Starbuck, 90, died June 27 of COVID-19. The youngest daughter of Forrest and Fannie (Rifenberg) Shick, Kitty was born July 9, 1929 and raised on the family farm. Kitty graduated from VHS in 1946. She met the love of her life, Marvin, at a dance hall in Glendale and wed October 23, 1950. They built their new home next door to the house Kitty grew up in, living there for 60 years. Her claim to crafting fame was the manufacture of toy dinosaurs for the Field Museum in Chicago. Kitty served as editor-publisher of two monthly geological publications for 40 years. Kitty was preceded in death by her parents and sisters Marilynn Shick and Marian Sperry. She is lovingly remembered by her husband Marvin; children Kay (Lynn) DeMoss and Dennis (Terri) Starbuck; grandchildren Nikki (Mike) Schnelle and Sara Folck; great-grandchildren Madalyn, Chandler, Stella, and Lilah; nephew Bob (Marcie Brown) Sperry; great-nephew John (Caitlin) Sperry. Dan, Jen, and Delaney VanderPloeg and Jeff, Heidi, David and Drew DeMoss join them in grief. Donations may go to Vicksburg United Methodist Church.
Howard James Steffey Sr., 77, Schoolcraft, passed away July 24. Howard was born on December 22, 1942 in Kalamazoo, the son of Harlow and Dorothy (Marlette) Steffey. Howard graduated from Loy Norrix High School in 1961. He served in the U.S. Air Force during Vietnam. On October 10, 1964, he married Sally Frazier. Together they raised their three children, Howard Jr., Bob and Susan. He worked for over 35 years as an electrician for Georgia Pacific. He loved to watch old western movies and singing along to a nice country song. Howard is survived by his wife of 55 years, Sally; children Howard Steffey, Jr, of Kalamazoo, Bob Steffey, of Vicksburg, and Susan Elhart, of Vicksburg; grandchildren Bryan Woodward, of Battle Creek, Austin Steffey, of Kalamazoo, and Elysa Elhart, of Vicksburg; great grandchildren Abigail and Bentley. He is also survived by his sister, Gail Leggett, of Kalamazoo. He was preceded in death by his brothers, Harlow and Douglas Steffey. Howard has been cremated and at this time no services are planned. Visit his page at avinkcremation.com.
Todd Harold Weinberg, 51, Scotts, passed away July 11. Todd was born April 12, 1969 to Mel and Jo Weinberg and grew up on a farm in Scotts. He graduated with honors from VHS in 1987 and was a drummer in the “Big Red Machine.” Todd was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at age 5. At 44, he had a double lung transplant. Four years later, he got cancer. He continued farming, reluctantly retiring this year. He is survived by his mom, Jo Weinberg, sister Molly (Weinberg) Schake of Mililani, Hawaii, a brother, Chad Weinberg of Alexandria, Va.; brother-in-law, Mark Shake; and sister-in-law, Therra (Ebwe) Weinberg. He was uncle to Ryna Weinberg, Corban Weinberg, Phoebe Weinberg, Emily Schake, Wendy (Schake) Lyons, Daniel Lyons, Nathan Schake, and Brooke Schake. Todd was preceded in death by his father, Milford “Mel” Weinberg. Visit his page at mccowensecord.com.
Carol A. Wunderlin, 86, of Portage, died June 29, 2020, at Rose Arbor Hospice, Kalamazoo, following a battle with dementia. The daughter of Milton and Pauline (Denner) Hillsburg, Carol was born September 28, 1933 in Kalamazoo. Carol attended St. Joseph Elementary and St. Augustine High School and Parsons Business College. On June 4, 1960, Carol married Walter Wunderlin. Carol was preceded in death by siblings Joan Haas and Robert Hillsburg. Surviving are her husband of 60 years, Walter Wunderlin; daughter Michelle Buist; grandsons Tanner (Amaira) Buist and Carter Buist; great-grandchildren Axel and Rebel; brother John (Jean) Hillsburg; and many nieces and nephews. Services have been held with burial at Mt. Olivet Cemetery. Visit her page at BetzlerLifeStory.com. Donations may go to the Alzheimer’s Association of Southwest Michigan or Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan.
By Kathy Oswalt-Forsythe
For a week or so each summer, we are lucky enough to have a place to go to beat the heat and get away. It has always been the highlight of our family’s year.
When we were kids, the station wagon strained with the five of us children, a grandmother, two dogs, sleeping bags, fishing gear, and all kinds of caged energy and excitement. Once my dad’s tanned arm draped the driver’s side door, my mom’s sunglasses adorned her face, and we had wiggled into our places, we launched, listening to Ernie Harwell or the gravely voice of Merle Haggard. Inching along, we left the humid world of corn fields and wheat stubble; just past Mt. Pleasant, the air began to thin and the lovely smell of northern pine forests began.
Our old log cabin sits on a river and protected sandy bay on the Lake Superior Canadian shore. Our maternal grandparents purchased the vacant property in the late 1930s, and our families have enjoyed it ever since.
Currently, many third- and fourth-generation cottage owners struggle to maintain, finance, and agree on what to do with older aging properties. So far, the nine families involved have worked things out pretty well, but caring for an aging vacation home is an exercise in love, not logic.
Our grandchildren are the fourth generation of young ones whose lips turn blue in the clear, icy water, whose little eyes faithfully watch their bobbers, whose necks are lined with black fly and mosquito bites. I realize how fortunate we are.
Yes, times have changed. On many lakes in South County, cottages have been sold, demolished, and replaced with gorgeous year-round-homes. The modest vacation dwellings that remain look out of place, hidden in the shadows of their fine, fresh neighbors.
It’s hard to imagine a new place. Would I miss the mustiness? The brown bats that flutter in the rafters? The snap of the mousetraps once lights are out?
But I would miss the wash tubs nailed on the sagging exterior, the familiar creak of the steps and floorboards, the sweet smell of my grandmother’s spices in the old kitchen cupboard.
Family cottages are a nostalgic journey through the years: the cast-off dishes and jigsaw puzzles, the old record players and scratched vinyl. All reminders of our history.
At the cabin, I feel a connectedness to the past and an appreciation for the dear ones no longer here: My dad and grandfather’s favorite chair sits in the shady window, my uncle’s tools hang in the boathouse, my grandmother’s bread pans wait on a shelf.
We will miss the old place this year, but she will welcome our return next summer after we tame this pandemic.
And the discussions and plans for our family place will continue.
At least for now.
It’s a Fine Life.
By Kathy Oswalt-Forsythe
This summer was certainly unlike any summer we remember: the cancellation of the 4th of July parade and fireworks, the postponement and eventual cancellation of the Old Car Festival.
We are saddened by this loss of normalcy, but some things stay the same: the fireflies dancing during the July nights; the smiles of children as they hold their dripping ice cream cones; the produce proudly displayed at farmers’ markets and roadside stands. I hope we can all enjoy the seasonal bounty and beauty Michigan has to offer, despite the challenges we are currently facing.
Thank you, readers, for your response to our semi-annual fund drive and request for your continued financial support. We are grateful for your generous contributions which make possible this publication.
Thanks, also, for the emails we have received with story ideas or kind supporting words. The South County News team is navigating a new course without our Sue, and we all appreciate your patience as we lift some these new sails and gradually gain some speed and confidence.
On a mid-July afternoon, I spent several lovely hours with “Sue’s Women” – formerly known as “The Wild Women of Schoolcraft.” I sat with this wonderful gift of new friends in the Bergland family’s gardens; the dappled shade and the light breeze was so kind, as was the conversation and fellowship. I continue to be thankful for the gracious people who occupy our part of the county.
Fire Truck Parade
On the 4th of July, the South Kalamazoo County Fire Authority vehicle parade honored our communities. Starting in Schoolcraft at 2 p.m., the procession began, proceeded to Vicksburg, then Fulton. With lights and sirens going, drivers and passengers waved at many smiling, surprised residents. Thanks to all who made this possible!
Craig Rolfe’s Tribute
Craig Rolfe sent a lovely note about Sue. (The letter in its entirety appears on our South County News website.) His words continue the praise of this remarkable woman. Thank you, Craig.
Enjoy the beauty of late summer and the anticipation of fall.
By Craig Rolfe
Like no doubt every member of the Vicksburg-Schoolcraft community who knew anything about Sue Moore, I was initially consumed by a sense of disbelief, and perhaps denial, when I heard of her death. How could this be so, I questioned? How could this epitome of the Vicksburg Energizer Bunny on Steroids have so suddenly just left us?
Having had a few weeks now to reflect on Sue, and my experiences with her, I’ve finally been able to compose a few of my thoughts and actually write them down for Kathy Forsythe to share with others, if she wishes to do so. Here goes:
Sue the Journalist. I likely first became aware of this Sue on a professional level when Sue was covering area township meetings at which I was serving as legal counsel. I remember being quite taken aback the first time Sue sent me her actual draft copy for an article and requested I offer any pertinent suggestions or corrections. After first resisting this invitation, and thinking “Gee, Sue, isn’t this YOUR job”, I eventually realized this was merely part of Sue’s determination to “get the story right”. Upon accepting the strive for perfection as her motivation for allowing the subject of a story to check her work before the story was buttoned-up for publication, it was easy to work with Sue the Journalist. More recently she might ask me to actually write the copy for an article on something involving The Big Red Machine, which I would happily do, but with some apprehensions about HER editing of MY story!
Sue the Photographer. You may initially think this is just a variation of Sue the Journalist; but I beg to differ, especially after Sue discovered that new-fangled invention — DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY! I dare say that new technology was made for Sue. I would often watch her at local athletic, band, or other events, such as Showboat rehearsals (yes, I mean ShowBOAT), and wonder, sometimes aloud: “Geez, Sue, how the heck how many pictures do you need to take of the same thing?” Of course, in reality all of her seemingly endless clicking of that shutter button captured many often slightly different shots, from which she would deliberately and thoughtfully choose just the “right” photo to visually complement the narrative part of her SCN story.
Sue the Historian. I only came to know this Sue quite recently, in the context of the efforts of the Vicksburg Historical Society to reach a new arrangement with the Village to continuing operating and administering the Historic Village. As part of those efforts Sue produced an extremely detailed roster of all the various buildings, structures, and railroad rolling stock the Society has either acquired or constructed, complete with dates, exact itemized costs incurred by the Society, and the history of the original historical buildings the Society brought to the Historic Village as part of its mission to preserve and celebrate the history of our community. Sue the Historian had an incredible breadth and depth of knowledge about the Vicksburg area, which we can now only hope was sufficiently recorded so as to be perpetuated for the benefit of all of us alive now and those who will join this community years from now.Lastly,
Sue the Vicksburger (yes, that IS a real word). In my lifetime the Vicksburg area community has been fortunate to have enjoyed the talents, energy, and special gifts contributed by several individuals whose love for this community was expressed in so many ways. For Sue, as with Mercer Munn before her, Vicksburg was indeed “the center of the universe”. However, in so many respects Sue Moore was the very CENTER of that universe. Her life is a shining example of how much of a difference one individual can make in the history of a community, and the lives of the people comprising that community, through commitment, dedication, skill, and an abiding endless love for what they do.
Sue may have had some sense of her contributions to this community, through the founding of and operation of the South County News, and otherwise, but I lament the utter loss of the opportunity for this entire community to actually TELL HER just how beloved she was. So, in closing, I challenge each of you to look around and see the other individuals who always seem to be “the doers” in our community, and thank them — while you can. You know who they are. Better yet, honor Sue by offering to dig in and help do the things that need to be done.
By Leeanne Seaver
A small-town newspaper is an increasingly rare and wonderful thing in this age of digital communication. It contains more than news; it reflects the culture of a place through stories and photographs.
No one knew this better than Sue Moore, whose passion for her hometown and region was evident in everything she did, especially as founder, editor, and publisher of the South County News.
After Moore’s recent passing, the board of the newspaper met to discuss how publication would continue without her life force. Her shoes would be hard to fill, but she left a clear path to follow.
Sue’s admiration and respect for Kathleen Oswalt Forsythe spanned decades. A contemporary of Gordon and Bonnie Oswalt, Moore knew Kathy’s parents and their daughter well.
As community leaders, Moore and Forsythe crossed paths in numerous ways. They worked together on the Hearty Hustle 5K each year, and sat on the Vicksburg School Foundation Board together. Moore secured Kathy as a regular feature writer for the SCN. A fourth-generation Oswalt of Vicksburg, Kathy’s reflections on growing up on the family farm in Brady Township and life in this small town are curated in her popular column, “It’s a Fine Life”.
With equal measures of nostalgia and currency, Kathy Forsythe’s natural talent and literary chops were honed with a bachelor’s degree from MSU and a master’s degree from WMU. She’s taught English at VHS since 2004, and is a founding member of a group of local wordsmiths comprising The Lake Effect Writers Guild. She and husband Dennis have three children, two sons-in-law and two grandkids. Kathy’s love of family, reading, entertaining, writing, and gardening shines through everything she does. And her deep devotion to this community is apparent to all who know her, a qualification Sue Moore would have required.
On June 4, the SCN board invited Forsythe to assume the role of publisher/editor. Kathy accepted with the understanding that “I’ll have to operate differently than Sue – my background isn’t in journalism. But I’m so motivated to keep our local paper going. I’ll need patience from the readership, and lots of help!”
That’s a given from a great team: Justin Gibson, graphic designer; Bob Ball, copy editor; Wes Schmidt, secretary and treasurer; Sheri Freeland, advertising sales; and Steve Ellis, ad consultant.
Forsythe is excited to take on the challenge. “The South County News helps make this a great place to live. I’m looking forward to this opportunity, and to hearing from readers. Send her your story ideas at Kforsythesouthcountynews@gmail.com.
By Kathy Oswalt-Forsythe
At five o’clock, Tuesday, June 2nd, traffic stopped in Vicksburg as a funeral procession passed through town: a tribute to Sue Moore, a woman whose life’s work was documenting and helping residents remember the beauty and uniqueness of little hometowns.
The motorcade’s route passed many of Sue’s important places: school buildings where she attended, eventually serving on the school board and helping form the Vicksburg Community Schools Foundation; the streets of her neighborhood where she grew up and began her own family; the Vicksburg Historic Village for which she was a continued mobilizing force; the covered pavilion and site of the Farmer’s Market, a pet project of hers.
Last on the path, her beloved downtown: the former community center and meeting site of the Rotary Club; the former Vicksburg Commercial Building and print shop where she worked side-by-side with her parents publishing the paper; and the renovated store fronts and buildings along Prairie and Main Streets. How proud she was of the improvements! How much hope she expressed for the future!
Several hundred people gathered along the streets. Those faces were loved and familiar to Sue. How many lives had she touched in her eighty-two committed years here? How many people were touched and inspired by her tireless work and kindness?
And let’s not forget her ever-present Canon camera and her constant arranging and rearranging for photos we are suddenly so thankful for.
She felt the pulse of this village, its people, its “goings on.” She possessed a deep love of this place and people who call Southwest Michigan home. She was like a favorite auntie who made every effort to come to all the events and parties. She was every event’s welcomed guest.
She cared by showing up and documenting life in this little corner of the world.
Yes, her shoes are impossible to fill, yet their imprint on area lives and communities remains forever.
The Vicksburg Farmers’ Market opened for the season June 5 with a special recognition of Sue Moore and her dream of a successful market.
Activities beneath the Pavilion stopped as Sue’s sons, Scott and Chris, joined Kim Klein, treasurer of the Farmer’s Market, as she read a eulogy:
“The Vicksburg Farmers’ Market has lost a very dear friend. Sue was our matriarch and a visionary who encouraged us with her hard work and determination.
“Sue Moore was that rare individual who lived her life with a ‘giving’ heart. Sue gave to her family, her friends and more importantly to her community. Sue’s imprint on the farmers’ market will be lasting and we will miss her beautiful smile and boundless energy as she greeted vendors, customers and volunteers each Friday afternoon during the market season.
“It was Sue’s vision and dream to establish a farmers’ market in our community. Sue’s mission was to create a gathering place for friends and families to enjoy fresh quality fruits and vegetables grown and harvested by our local farmers.
“Sue developed close relationships with our farmers, our vendors, and our customers. In many ways, the market was her ‘home’ and she greeted and welcomed everyone in to share the music, the laughter, and a wonderful selection of foods.
“We will honor Sue’s memory by growing and expanding the market in the coming years.
“Thank you, dear friend, for your vision, your leadership, and your spirit.”
Chris Moore voiced the hope that the group could take what his mother helped create and work to make it even stronger and more sustainable.
The ceremony ended as Scott and Chris turned on the overhead lights, a job Sue did each week, reminding everyone present of Sue’s bright energy.
By Rob Peterson
Sue Moore worked on Vicksburg’s future by focusing on its past.
Her nearly 20-year history with the Vicksburg Historical Society was marked by constantly finding ways to increase its relevance to the greater community.
The Society manages the Historic Village on the east side of town. If you haven’t visited, it is a collection of a dozen buildings that are a combination of relocated historic buildings and newly built replicas – like a mini Greenfield Village. The village is anchored by the original train station, which houses most of the Society-owned historic artifacts.
“Sue helped to make the Historic Village a human-based experience rather than a collection of dusty old objects,” said current Society President Don Wiertella.
She accomplished this by involving other organizations to put on events that take place at the village. The site is the location of recurring events that include Summer Festival, Harvest Fest, the Revolutionary War Reenactment, and the Historic Speaker Series. It is also home to the Farmers Market.
Her first involvement came in the early 2000’s when the society was dedicating a replica of the original print shop. Some of the equipment installed inside was donated by Sue’s family, who owned the Vicksburg Commercial, predecessor to the South County News.
“I invited her to get involved, but Sue had a full-time job in Marshall,” said Kristina Powers Aubry, who was president of the Society at the time. “As soon as she retired, she took off like a bullet train.”
Her first order of business was to reinvent the newsletter, turning it into an 8-page full-color brochure that included information about the Society and the Historic Village. “It looked professional and should have won an award,” said Aubry.
She was one of the people responsible for the first Harvest Fest, which grew from 300 to over 4,000 attendees in its first 11 years. It has been successful, according to Aubry, because “Sue chose such good people to lead each part of the festival.”
Partnering with other people and organizations was a hallmark of her involvement in the Society over the years. She was a creative idea person and was often the instigator of new projects, but she rarely acted alone. “She would ask people to participate and would keep looking until she found someone,” said Aubry.
Sometimes, though, the need to innovate came from outside the Society. In 2019, Vicksburg Village Manager Jim Mallery requested a clearer, written agreement between the Village and the Society on how operating costs of the Historic Village are divided.
Society president Don Wiertella worked with Sue to negotiate with Mallery. Don and Sue didn’t always have the same opinion, but she always supported the people she worked with. “She would never communicate behind anyone’s back, even if she didn’t agree with them,” said Wiertella.
In the end, the Society is now covering a larger share of the Historic Village operating costs, but that is causing it to be more creative. Wiertella is not worried because the Society is in a good place, in part because of Sue’s involvement. She would faithfully collect email addresses, growing its contact database to thousands of people.
This list has helped them increase membership to around 150 people, each paying $30 to $60 a year. Some are able to be more generous, giving annually at the $250 Supporter level.
The Society has an endowment at the Kalamazoo Community Foundation to help defray the new costs, and it has an army of volunteers who collectively provide thousands of hours of work each year. Volunteer groups include the Victorian Garden Club whose members maintain the gardens onsite, the Thursday Guys who built many of the replica buildings, and those who help organize fundraisers and events at the village.
The newest event to be put on by the Society was started by Sue just last year. The May Meander event had over 100 attendees in its first year, and as is typical for a Sue Moore-inspired event, it brought many organizations together.
One example of this collaborative spirit was how Sue involved Vicksburg Community Schools, which happened to be holding a History Day at the same time. Because she was aware of what other groups were doing, Sue was able to incorporate the school community into the May Meander event.
The Society was also aided by Sue’s efforts to involve younger generations of Vicksburg residents, like Ryan and Dana Wagner, who moved here when Ryan took the job of managing the local PNC branch.
“She would see me at village council meetings and started asking me questions about my interests,” said Ryan. “She learned that I have an appreciation for history, and she wanted a fresh set of eyes on the Historic Society board.”
Her energy put Ryan in the mindset to do more in the community. “She was engaged and enthusiastic,” he said. “She didn’t do anything half-heartedly.”
Sue’s recent work has included a presentation that will be used to educate people on both the history and the future of the Society. “The Historic Society will be the economic engine for the Village of Vicksburg,” according to the presentation. It can be viewed on their Society’s website, VicksburgHistory.org.
Just like Sue, the presentation honors the past with an eye towards the future.
By Marilyn Jones
It was the summer of 2018 when a few friends decided to go to Martell’s for lunch and celebrate the day that the South County News went to press. We ordered wine and delicious entrees. It was so enjoyable that we decided to do it each month. We named our small group “The Wild Women of Schoolcraft.”
I loved meeting them each month at a nice place and have missed them during the stay-at-home pandemic. We had intelligent and knowledgeable discussions but there was plenty of laughter and camaraderie … just what everyone needs.
Sue was usually a bit late, but we were happy, sipping our wine and waiting patiently for her big smile to come rushing in. When the articles went to the press each month, Sue said she had that one day to relax before starting on the next issue. Sue told me on the phone that when she died, she hoped to be working on the paper.
She had just finished the last item for the June issue. How appropriate was that?
We are sad because we will miss her, but why should we mourn? She didn’t have to suffer or linger with a long illness. She lived an interesting and full life. She told me that “Trooper” kept her company and made her laugh every day.
Our “Wild Women” don’t feel very wild today. We may continue to meet but we will feel her absence. I can imagine her, taking pictures in heaven.