04-12-2018 Judge rules evidence supports embezzlement trial for former Hartford Township sexton;

70TH ANNIVERSARY… Kenneth and Margaret Woodward celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary on Tuesday, April 10, 2018. They were married in 1948 at Salem Lutheran Church in Coloma. They lived in Coloma for much of their lives, but are now currently residing in Palmetto, FL. Their family includes sons Gregg Woodward of Coloma, Dan Woodward of Palmetto, FL, four grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren. Cards of congratulations will reach them at 8610 28th Ave E, Palmetto, FL 34221.

Judge rules evidence supports embezzlement trial for former Hartford Township sexton

By Jon Bisnett Judge Arthur Clarke has ruled that enough evidence exists for the former Hartford Township cemetery sexton to go to trial. That ruling came last week out of the Van Buren County District Court in South Haven. Clarke previously heard arguments and testimony at South Haven District Court on Thursday, March 15 leading to his recent ruling. Gerrie Lee Heskett, 61, of Hartford was originally arraigned back on June 14, 2017 on a charge of embezzlement of between $50,000 and $100,000. The investigation revealed an alleged $65,000 called into question over a period dating from 2011 to 2016. Heskett was employed as cemetery sexton for Hartford Township since 1997. Hartford Township’s Board first alerted the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department in the fall 2016 who then launched an investigation in January of 2017 into alleged missing funds, mostly cash transactions that were the responsibility of Heskett. The period involved spanned January 2011 through December 2016. The investigation report was turned over to the Van Buren County Prosecutor’s Office, which ultimately authorized the embezzlement charge. Hartford Township officials discharged Heskett in late 2016 when discrepancies arose. Judge Clarke supports requests by the prosecution in that Heskett be bound over for trial on two counts; embezzlement of money or property valued at between $50,000 and $100,000 (a felony) which carries a penalty of jail time of up to 15 years and a fine of $25,000 or 3 times the value of the money or property, whichever is greater, and a second count of Embezzlement by a Public Official, also a felony. Trial date has yet to be determined.

K-9 team joins Lakeland Health

Lakeland Health is pleased to welcome a new team of certified K-9 security officers — Bruce Modigell, a retired police officer with more than 20 years of experience in law enforcement, and Inez, a two-year-old female German shepherd from Hungary.

N.B. Historical Museum hosts “History of Blossomtime” Tuesday, April 17

On Tuesday, April 17 at 7:00 p.m. the North Berrien Historical Museum will host “The History of Blossomtime,” presented by Anna Abdelnour, President of Blossomtime Festival Inc. As early as 1891 local area business interests took a proactive role in attracting visitors to Southwest Michigan with their promotion in the Chicago market. With the Graham and Morton Steamship Company offering special rates, hundreds of visitors made the lake crossing by boat to enjoy the orchard tours. Influenced by a growing agricultural industry, in 1906 Rev. W.J. Cady of the First Congregational Church in Benton Harbor was the first to urge his parishioners to drive through the orchards and view the fruit blossoms. Cady termed them “symbols of life renewed” and his sermon is credited with the birth of the Blossomtime Festival. The Blosso