02-08-2018 Tri-Cities schools surviving the flu outbreak better than most; Love Stories… Celebrate l


FLAHERTY PARK FISHING… Colter Slikkers of Stevensville uses a net to fish his disc out of Mill Creek Saturday morning after his shot sliced on hole one, as his dad Lee watches. Fifteen players hit the park in 20-degree weather to play the 36-hole charity disc golf tournament Flaherty Park Ice Bowl that benefited Feeding America. (TCR photo by Kristy Noack) The story and more pictures in Press Box starting on Page 12.


Tri-Cities schools surviving the  flu outbreak better than most

By Jon Bisnett In the midst of near record flu outbreak in the state and nation, most local Tri-Cities schools are maintaining attendance and managing the cold and flu season with minimal negative effect thus far. The 90 percentile Checking in with our three public schools; Hartford Superintendent Andy Hubbard reports attendance consistently running at 90% or better in the last 30 days as does Kevin Schooley’s office at Watervliet Public Schools. Coloma’s Pete Bush reported a couple of unusual dips around 85%, oddly enough on Mondays, improving as the week went on. “If we had any real issue with sickness, those numbers would continue to drop rather than improve as the week went on…” says Bush. Kevin Schooley has watched his dips in numbers move from building to building. “The district is well above 90%, but one week it’s the middle school that’s at 80%, next week it might be the South Elementary as it seems to move in waves,” says Schooley. A Michigan school district must by law maintain no less than 75% attendance on any given day to count that day, otherwise the day/hours will need to be made up later in the school year. To date, none of the three public schools have lost a day due to illness. Coloma stands alone with zero weather related closures; Watervliet had one snow day its first day back from the holiday break and Hartford is still well within the MDE forgiveness formula with just three snow days so far. Guidelines set by Michigan Department of Education In 2015, the Michigan Department of Education determined that the districts must provide a minimum of 175 days of instruction. Michigan law also allows districts to count six days or equivalent hours of “forgiven” time toward the day and hours requirements when school is canceled due to reasons such as bad weather, sickness outbreaks, and infrastructure problems. Teaching staff absences Pete Bush also pointed out that it’s not just the student count he worries about. With 1,400 students on board there are also another 80 teachers subject to all those same viruses. Running the math Pete explains that 90% sounds great until you realize that means in theory 90% teachers too! That missing 10% equates to eight staffers under the weather meaning a last-minute call goes out for eight substitute teachers. Since it’s also no secret that all Michigan schools are short on subs, sometimes there are simply just not enough to go around. At that point the district is forced to play “hop scotch” with teachers’ free periods to get all those classrooms covered. Bush compliments his staff for their willingness to work through such awkward circumstances.

Some districts not so fortunate Several Kalamazoo area schools have been shut down for several days due to illness, including some nearby neighbors to the east; Lawrence and Mattawan. Apparently “closed” really means “closed” since no one was there to answer the phone over at Grace Christian School when the Tri-City Record called Friday for the low down on their flu shutdown. With only 93 students on the books, 33 students failed to attend last Wednesday, despite being closed the day before to allow staff to perform a top to bottom cleaning. The school then remained closed both Thursday and Friday. According to Grace’s Principal Robin McBride on Monday morning, only one teacher was out and the majority of her students back in the classroom. “I just made the rounds and am pleased that most are back,” said McBride. She hopes the extended days off will do the trick. Grace Christian has experienced two prior snow days along with that Wednesday under the 75% attendance plus three more days for illness shutdown, putting the school at a total of six days off. Preventative measures Flu shots are almost a given with the over-50 crowd, but how many school-aged children get the annual vaccination? According to a study by the Center for Michigan; Kalamazoo County was among one of the state’s highest concentration of juvenile flu shots at well over 30%, yet were some of the hardest hit schools. Van Buren County came in 24th in the state at 24.3%; while Berrien County had 18.6% and Cass logged a 12.6% immunization rate. Portage Public Schools were recently featured on local television showing off their new “Fluminator”; a device called the Clorox Total 360 System. This $5,000 device uses electrostatic atomization of proven disinfecting chemicals to target high-touch surfaces and hard-to-reach places in a variety of settings that standard application tools struggle to get, per the company website. It is claimed a single custodian can cover 15,000 square feet in an hour. Again it carries a price tag of $5,000, plus supplies. All well and good, our local superintendents all agree that their custodial staffs understand the importance of doing their very best each and every day to clean and disinfect their facilities and do a great job throughout the school year. Kevin Schooley added that the only thing our custodians at Watervliet do differently is the same every year at this time by putting some extra emphasis on what he called “high contact” surfaces.

Call in sick, the best advice Andy Hubbard was quick to point out “You can sterilize the whole building and that first kid, who should have stayed home, sneezes, then touches a door handle and off you go. Any time you put a large number of people in the relatively close quarters of a classroom, colds and viruses get passed around.” All of the school officials we polled agree that it really all begins in the home with the parents and thank those who have demonstrated good judgment making the right decisions to keep their kids home when ill. Robin McBride wholeheartedly agrees saying, “Please don’t send your child to school with a fever, even within the prior 24 hours or body ache, non-productive cough, stomach trouble and the like. When in doubt… err on the side of caution and keep them home!”

Love Stories… Celebrate love every day, not just on Valentine’s Day

By Kristy Noack Love is many things to many people. It is steadfast commitment, unwavering loyalty to someone other than yourself, and a celebration of all that is good in a relationship. Love can be big; love can be small. It can be spoken with a whispered, “I love you.” It can be spoken without uttering a sound, like the holding of hands. Love can fill you with hope, and it empties you of all jealousies. Love can leave you starry-eyed, and it can make you teary-eyed. It can be the one thing you cling to when life is rocky, or it can be the one thing you share when someone is in need. Love is always a part of marriage. That love that once burned white-hot may fade to a steady ember but it remains. That love that once left your heart in a flutter may calm but it remains. That love that once was new may have lost a bit of its shimmer but it remains. As love progresses, the road often leads to marriage. This article, celebrating love, comes at a time when Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. But, it proves that love shouldn’t be relegated to just one day a year. Our three couples have proved that yes, while all you may need is love, there are a whole lot of other things that come in handy in a marriage, too. It may be simplistic to say, but love can change the world. In the case of the three couples who shared their stories, it changed theirs.

It’s about the marriage, not the wedding Roy Hejduk met Gail Evett on May 1, 1975. As he tells it, “A friend of mine was the manager at Harding’s when it was where the antique mall is.” The friend’s plan was to introduce Hejduk to the single females working in the store. So, “we went all around the store. We got to the counter where they wrap presents, at the service counter, and I thought, ‘Wow!’ That was it,” he shared, recalling the first time he met Gail. Smiling, Gail said, “The thing that struck me about him was his eyes. His blue eyes.”

A ROLE MODEL COUPLE… Roy and Gail Hejduk pose with photos of their grandchildren. After a whirlwind courtship that began by meeting on May 1 in 1975, the two were married December 6 of the same year and recently celebrated their 42-year anniversary.


The two went on their first date just two days later, on May 3, “and we’ve been together ever since,” Gail said. Roy and Gail married just seven short months later on December 6. A few months ago, the two celebrated their 42nd wedding anniversary. When asked what drew them to each other, the two paused before speaking. “It was the whole picture, the whole family, and I thought, ‘Man, I want to be a part of that,’” Roy shared. Gail commented, “Love was a big part of it but there is so much more. Is he going to be a good provider? Will he stand by me? Is he going to take care of me? I knew I was going to take care of him. All I ever wanted to be was a wife and mother.” With 42 years of experience at wedding bliss, the two have carried a simple lesson from their wedding day. “This is the most important thing people need to know about us. When we were to be married Roy was supposed to order rings for us. Two days before the wedding, we go to Murphy’s in South Haven and buy $2 to $3 rings thinking no one will ever know, because ours hadn’t come in yet. We were married with those cheap dime store rings. I had a $50 wedding dress. “You don’t have to have a $1,000 wedding dress or $5,000 wedding rings to make your marriage last.” The couple, who has two children Tom and Amanda, and three grandchildren, has similar interests, similar values, and a similar belief that caring for your partner is vitally important. “We’re a lot alike,” Roy said. “I was always proud of Gail. She was my trophy wife [then] and I still say that today.” The two smile at each other and share a chuckle. Gail laughed, “That’s true! He does say that!” While they enjoy having their kids and grandkids around and call Coloma home, the two also like to hit the open road and have traveled, “coast to coast, border to border,” as Gail said. They will soon leave on a trip to Arizona where they will enjoy the sun and the company of each other. But, what has made them special from other couples is their ability to laugh together, be supportive of each other, and being kind to one another. Gail commented, “There’s more than just saying, ‘I love you.’ It’s doing things rather than just saying it.” Roy agreed, “It gives you that little love feeling. It’s not the fluttering.” Gail said, “It’s not the giddy.” “It’s being connected,” Roy finished. The two often share the same thought, finish the same sentence. They laugh together. They laugh with their whole hearts. Just like the love they share – together, with their whole hearts. Gail pauses, glances at Roy, and says, “Those blue eyes still get me.”

It’s all in who you know For Ken Evett and Candy Worl, their marriage might not have been if not for Don Brown. Brown was Candy’s best friend while the two lived and went to school in Niles. Following high school, Brown headed to boot camp at Fort Knox in Elizabethtown, Kentucky. That’s where Brown met Ken, who is originally from Coloma. “I was getting ready to graduate from boot camp and he came up to me out of the blue and told me he had a girl he wanted me to meet,” Ken shared. “I told him I was going to Georgia and he talked me into spending my two-week leave back at home.” According to Ken, “I met her on the carport of the Dog and Suds in Niles.” Candy explained, “I was working my second job.”

“I COULDN’T ASK FOR A BETTER MARRIAGE”… Ken and Candy Evett, who live in Hagar Township and Arizona City, Arizona, will celebrate 50 years of marriage on May 11 this year.


The two dated just once before Ken left to serve the U.S. Army in France. Candy shared, “I asked him if I would write him, would he write back?” The two did correspond while Ken served in Verdun and Nancy, France. Upon his return in 1967, the two dated before marrying on May 11, 1968. “Everybody we knew told us it wouldn’t work out,” Candy said. Silly doubters; the two will celebrate 50 years of marriage this spring. Candy’s advice to young couples just starting out is “to know what the other guy knows about money and pick your battles.” One of the reasons the couple has lasted, according to Ken is, “having careers and being able to retire when you want to.” Candy thinks their success lies elsewhere. “I think some of [our] friends and family have influenced us by what they did, how long they lasted.” The two continue to make their home in Hagar Township in the same location they’ve lived since 1980. They raised two kids, traveled to Hawaii – Candy’s favorite, are active in the Riverside United Methodist Church, and remain committed to being a couple. “Ann Landers had the absolute best quote,” Candy said. “Somebody had written in complaining about her husband and asked Ann what to do. Ann wrote, ‘You have to decide if you are better off with them or without them.’ I am definitely better off with him.” Ken has his own take on Landers’ comment. “I couldn’t ask for a better marriage. It’s been top shelf.”

It’s never an option to quit Barb Noack took one look at Jay Martin and fell in love. “The first time I saw him I was cashing my check. I saw him through the window of the People’s State Bank in Coloma. He was a teller.” Little did Barb know, but her best friend Shelby also knew Jay and that’s where their story begins. The two officially began dating on September 4, 1988 and Jay proposed May 18, 1991. “We knew it was time,” Barb shared. The two were united in wedded bliss just under one year later, May 16, 1992 and have been married for 25 years.

25 YEARS OF LOVE LOOKS GOOD… Jay and Barb Martin show just how good love looks. The two have been married for 25 years.


What makes their marriage so successful? Barb said, “Teamwork. Supporting each other. It’s not all about one person.” She describes Jay as “dedicated and hard-working. I know he adores me and he shows me.” Jay describes Barb in one word, “Expensive.” They both laugh out loud. You have to know this about the Martins. They still sparkle when they look at each other. They laugh those big, deep, belly laughs together. You see how sincere they are about each other and to each other.

When asked about rocky times and when being married was difficult, Jay said, “I don’t think it was really ever an option to quit.” Barb concurred, “We made that commitment to each other. The good always outweighs the bad. We’ve been through some rough times but he’s always there for me. I got lucky. I got a keeper.” The Martins have three children: Travis, Brad, and Amber. As a side note, I know each of these couples personally. I am blessed to call them family and can’t think of three better representatives of what marriage and love should be: steadfast, fun, true, and forever. Gail Hejduk is my cousin. The Martins are my sister- and brother-in-law. The Evetts are my parents. Let it be known that this article does not do them justice. All three couples have worked hard to make their marriage work. They raised families, they set rules, and they became role models for a younger generation of young love. Love is not always about being right or getting your way. It’s something bigger than that. It’s about wanting better for your spouse. It’s about supporting their decisions. It’s about recognizing you are better together than you are apart. Love is the chance to share a life with someone who will come to know you better than you know yourself. Love gives you the opportunity to share the truest part of your soul with one other person on this earth. It is about trusting, caring, and loving even when faced with the most difficult of times. Love, on this Valentine’s Day, is about the strength of family and the ties that bind each one of us to another. With that, celebrate love every day, not just on February 14. Celebrate one another, celebrate hope, and celebrate trust, and celebrate every couple who makes life a little bit better for everyone around them.

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