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05-21-2020 SW Michiganders grow impatient while Yoopers allowed to reopen; United people celebrating

N HONOR… American Flag flying at half-staff at the Watervliet City Cemetery, the traditional site for Memorial Day Observances. But not this year, as social distancing rules keeps all apart to reduce the spread of Covid-19. (TCR photo by Angela Widdis)

SW Michiganders grow impatient while Yoopers allowed to reopen

By Jon Bisnett

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced Monday that retail businesses in much of the Upper Peninsula and Northern Michigan, including restaurants and bars, may reopen starting Friday, May 22 per the 90th Executive Order issued by the Governor since March 10. No governor of any state in the union has come close to the proliferation of orders streaming out of Lansing.

Northern Michigan bars and restaurants will be required to limit their capacity to 50%. Groups will be mandated to stay six feet apart, while servers will have to wear face coverings.

Office work also will be able resume if work cannot be done remotely.

Whitmer’s current Stay Home order runs through May 28 conflicting with her reopening of Northern Michigan slated for Friday, May 22. The zones identified to reopen included all of the Upper Peninsula and several counties of Northern Lower Michigan including Traverse City. Hair salons, theaters, dine-in restaurants, libraries, gyms and casinos and the like are still shut down until May 28, with DNR Campgrounds shut down until June 21.

So, if one interprets the most recent order strictly you can order up a tasty pasty in a Traverse City restaurant starting this Friday, but not if you drove there from Watervliet because you are still under a Stay Home order.

It’s no small wonder why impatient small business people have protested and lawsuits have been leveled at the Governor.

State lawmakers in Michigan filed a lawsuit against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in a partisan effort to compel her to reopen the state’s economy after she extended her state of emergency declaration following weeks of protests at the state Capitol.

House Speaker Lee Chatfield and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, both Republicans, said they had no choice but to file in the Michigan Court of Claims, as Whitmer has overstepped her authority by her extension of the State of Emergency which lacked backing from the GOP-controlled Legislature.

Two protests have been held at the Lansing Capital with another planned in Grand Rapids for this week.

More SW Michigan cancellations

Close to home, the Watervliet 4th of July Celebration is canceled, as is the Eau Claire Cherry Festival and Coloma’s Glad-Peach Festival. The ever-popular Independence Day Fireworks in Baroda have also been canceled.

The “World’s Largest Flag Day Parade” set for June 14 is another event that won’t happen this year per organizers in Three Oaks.

St. Joseph City Commissioners have canceled the community fireworks showcase on the 4th of July along Lake Michigan. In addition, the Southwest Michigan Symphony Orchestra which has performed side-by-side with that fireworks extravaganza followed suit, canceling not only that show but their entire summer series through the end of August 2020.

St. Joseph Today still plans to continue its sponsorship of the Annual St. Joe Farmer’s Market held each Saturday, subject to an approval from City Commissioners meeting this week.

Across the state

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources says state parks will be open, but the campgrounds will remain closed in to June. Governor Whitmer confirmed Friday, May 15 that private campgrounds are also not allowed yet to reopen. RVers around the state are less than happy with the Whitmer closures heading into Memorial Day Weekend, the unofficial start of summer.

The always popular Labor Day Weekend Mackinac Bridge Walk has been suspended for 2020 due to the pandemic.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has prohibited public events at their cemetery sites because of COVID-19. The Boy Scouts and other volunteer civic groups have been barred from carrying out the mass flag placements.

AAA Motor Club says it won’t publish a holiday traffic forecast because the accuracy of the economic data used to assemble the report is undermined by COVID-19. The annual forecast estimates the number of people traveling over the holiday weekend has plans to return next year.

A few bright spots…

Frosty Boy in Watervliet reopened for drive-thru service with a huge line of customers ready for a cool treat.

La Chula Mexican Restaurant has expanded their business by adding a new food trailer operating in the former DeMar’s parking lot across from Lane Automotive in Watervliet.

Skip’s European Marketplace premiered for the season in New Buffalo last weekend.

Several local farm stands are now open offering the first asparagus of the season.

NASCAR returned with a roar to Darlington last Sunday for the Real Heroes 400. Kevin Harvick going from the pole to checkered flag, all done with no fans in the silent bleachers and social distancing measures throughout the pits.

Auto workers in plants around the country are returning to work by the thousands, although on a limited production basis.

Michigan churches have paused their lawsuit against the Governor as she has exempted churches from penalties for violating the Executive Order regarding meetings of large groups, although a survey of churchgoers indicates that over 70% feel it is too soon and will continue to take advantage of streaming services.

School funding forecast is grim

Governor Whitmer predicts the fall back-to-school season will likely “look a bit different”.

“I think even for kids going back to school in the fall, we’re going to have to rethink what that looks like,” Whitmer said. “Putting 30 bodies in a classroom isn’t going to be wise by the time the new school year comes around.”

When asked for clarity as to if students might not go back in the fall, Whitmer’s spokeswoman, Tiffany Brown, talked around the question saying “the Governor’s priority remains protecting the public health of all Michiganders, including student”. When further pressed for detail Brown reverted to the overused one-size-fits-all response that “guidance from the Governor will be developed based on ‘the best available science’”.

Social distancing, smaller class sizes, and possible split sessions are just a few of the concepts talked about in brainstorming how the fall will go. The Governor has just appointed a 20-member task force to work on the school protocols, but one can be guaranteed that whatever recommendations they create will cost the schools more than the typical general operations, further straining a predicted reduced budget.

Michigan lawmakers on both sides of the aisle warned last Tuesday of a potential 25% cut in state funding for K-12 schools because of economic fallout from the pandemic.

Even more disturbing is word trickling out of Lansing that the State Education Fund pantry is already bare, leaving the Governor unable to make payments owed to Michigan public schools from the current 2019-2020 school year. Governor Whitmer ordered schools to keep paying their employees and facilitate distance learning, but then shut down the very businesses that fund the State Treasury and now stands to renege on the State’s commitment, say education insiders.

The payments amount to millions of dollars that the schools were depending on for current budget needs. Districts with less than ideal equity positions could find themselves in peril to meet payroll or open again in fall.

Summer school migrant programs should be able to operate in some form since they are Federal funded with no cost to general fund or dependence on State funding.

Coloma School administrators honors Top Ten 2020 grads with cap & gown delivery

On Tuesday afternoon, May 19, Coloma High School Superintendent Dave Ehlers and High School Principal Mike Churchill delivered caps and gowns to the top ten seniors of the graduating class of 2020. Traditionally, the students, family members as well as teachers attend a top ten dinner to celebrate such a prestigious occasion. However, due to state mandated COVID-19 restrictions this change in tradition was an opportunity to serve their students and community with positivity. Principal Churchill commented, “I have always remained hungry for success… any time we can tip our cap to how hungry these students are to continuously succeed, they deserve our best effort to celebrate their success!” Coloma High School Class of 2020 top ten students are Morgan Hosbein, Brenna Prescott, Nicholas Eastman, Megan Koenigshof, Emma Vandermolen, Isabelle Stevens, Marissa Sherburn, Megan Neubecker, Alice Askren and Ian Ishmael.

By Angela Widdis

Cities and towns all across the United States have been known to host Memorial Day parades each year, many times including all military personnel and current members of the various veteran organizations along with a Color Guard and a 21-gun salute. But what will this Memorial Day look like as we find ourselves amongst a global pandemic? To answer this question, Americans need to look back and see why this day was set apart from all others.

The earliest records suggest that the first commemoration was held by a group of freed slaves in Charleston, South Carolina, about a month after the Confederacy surrendered in 1865 after the Civil War. Soon after the war, stories of mourners holding some sort of a springtime tribute could be read in the newspapers all across the country. To honor the countless soldiers that had fallen during the war, these mourners would remember their loved ones by adorning the graves with flowers and by expressing their sorrow with prayer services.

Originally known as Decoration Day, because of the decorated grave sites, people would gather in each and every city, town, village or even homestead and honor those they loved in varied ways and on different days. On May 5, 1868, General John A. Logan, whom was the leader of an organization for Northern Civil War veterans, called for a nationwide day of remembrance to rally all Americans in unison. He called for it to be held on May 30 that year. The day of May 30 was honored for many decades. It wasn’t until Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act in 1968, which established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May no matter the date onto which it fell, in order to create a three-day weekend for all federal employees; the change went into effect in 1971 when, at the same time, it was declared as a federal holiday.

Modern day observance

Now, all men and women who died while serving in any of the U.S. military branches are remembered. This year Memorial Day is Monday, May 25.

Many Americans most recently observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family cook-outs, and participating in home-town parades. So during social distancing, what can we do to continue the historically significant day of remembering those who lost their life serving our country?

“We are fortunate to have fewer and fewer names being read at the Watervliet Memorial Day Service, but it should not detract from the overall point that those names and the 400 plus others that have been read in years past, are our local heroes,” stated Glen “Corky” Openneer, Veterans of Foreign Wars Watervliet Post #1137 Commander, and parade organizer.

Historically, names of military personnel that have passed away since the previous Memorial Day have been read aloud during the Roll Call of Veterans at the Memorial Day Service held at the Watervliet City Cemetery. Openneer feels that it is his duty and honor to uphold the memory of these soldiers this year by having them listed in the Tri-City Record so that their memory and service to this nation is remembered even though the Memorial Day service has been canceled.

Our local military heroes who left us this year are: David Williams, Ken Chappel, Daniel Holda, William Kintup, Floyd Weber, John Noske, Redmond Sage, Percy Crumb, and Paul Pflugradt. Commander Openneer also stated that the names will in fact be read aloud at the next Memorial Day Service that is held to honor them like in the past years. Corky ended by saying, “This year we should do just what Memorial Day is all about, take time to remember those who served, and lost their lives, that shouldn’t change!”

Ways to celebrate during COVID-19

Here are some suggested activities that can be done in remembrance in 2020.

Have a “watch party” with family members. Watch a war-time movie, documentary, or even the 30th Anniversary of the National Memorial Day Concert that will be broadcasted on PBS on Sunday, May 24, at 8:00 p.m.

Visit your town’s cemetery and take notice of the flags that have been placed. This can be done in some cemeteries just by driving on the access roads without even leaving your vehicle.

Fly your U.S. flag at half-staff to support, recognize, and honor all the service people who have been lost.

Donate to a Veterans group. National Poppy Day is always the Friday before Memorial Day. Get a poppy this year by donating at either Coloma or Watervliet Wesco Gas Stations or at Harding’s Supermarket in Coloma. The Ladies Auxiliary of Coloma American Legion Post #362 will be on site from 9 to 11 a.m., and then again from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. Thursday through Saturday at those locations.

Go virtual with the American Legion. They are offering a virtual way for Americans to honor and remember their loved ones. They will compile a list and share them on their social media channels over the Memorial Day Weekend. To add your service member, visit for instructions. Locally, Ruben Mireles, Commander of Hartford American Legion Post #533 will be hosting a Facebook Live event. Go to American Legion Post #533 on Facebook to learn more about the event as it becomes available.

Observe the Memorial Day’s national moment of remembrance that takes place at 3:00 p.m. local time each year.

Kelly Disbrow, the first female Commander of Coloma American Legion Post #362 and an Army Veteran herself, stated that, “Memorial Day shouldn’t just be the only time we think about our service people. These men and women never got to take time off from being on foreign soil while in service, so we should follow suit in remembering them more often than the few holidays that were set aside to do so.”

What say we all no matter where we are or what we are doing on Monday, May 25, we join together as a united people, and reflect on what was sacrificed for our freedoms, what will need to be sacrificed in the future to retain such freedoms, and how we can instill acts of gratitude for those in military service to our younger generations that inevitably will be entrusted with the future of honoring Memorial Days to come.

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