top of page

06-18-2020 Letters and Commentary

The wall is still there We got the wagon and again headed up the street. It was time to get some more rocks. We kids would help dad collect the stones needed for building the walls. There were actually two walls. The one the length of the driveway, about thirty inches high, and the one at the rear of the driveway, about six feet tall. The tall wall defined the backyard area and allowed us to fill in dirt behind it to flatten out the raised back yard. Each wall incorporated poured concrete steps with anchored iron handrails. Having done some complicated projects myself since then, I realize how careful the planning needed to be for such a project as this. But right now, it was time to collect some more rocks. Foundation rocks were huge. They would become part of the wider, solid concrete footing upon which the rest of the wall would be built. All of the cement for the wall was hand-mixed. Two-parts cement, one-part sand, as I remember. As I remember. An interesting phrase. I remember learning from dad not to be afraid of hard work, even when it’s a hot, humid Philadelphia summer day. I remember that there are time limits for concrete, and it’s important to clean your tools when you’re done. I remember that when you’re careful you don’t smash your fingers between rocks, and when you’re not, you do. And I learned it only hurts for a little while. That was 60 years ago, and if I look on Google Earth at our old house in Northeast Philly today, those walls are still there. I learned that if you do it right, it lasts. Dad taught me by showing me. We didn’t talk a whole lot, but I watched. And I learned a lot of valuable stuff without even realizing it at the time. I still appreciate that.

Access “my Social Security” from your home With so many services available online through “my Social Security”, signing up for a secure account will help you conduct Social Security business from home. With your personal “my Social Security” account, you can: Estimate your future benefits with our Retirement Calculator to compare different dates or ages to begin receiving benefits; check the status of your Social Security application; review your work history; and request a replacement Social Security card (in most States). If you already receive benefits, you can also: Get a benefit verification or proof of income letter; set up or change your direct deposit; change your address; request a replacement Medicarecard; and get a Social Security 1099 form (SSA-1099). You can even use your personal “my Social Security” account to opt out of receiving certain notices by mail, such as the annual cost-of-living adjustments and the income-related monthly adjustment amount notice. Instead, through the Message Center you can receive secure, sensitive communications. Let your friends and family know that they can create a “my Social Security” account today at Vonda Van Til is the Public Affairs Specialist for West Michigan. You can write her c/o Social Security Administration, 3045 Knapp NE, Grand Rapids MI 49525 or via email at

Hearing and vision screenings School may be out for the summer in Berrien County, but it’s never too early to start thinking about making sure children are ready to learn next school year. Recent studies have found that undiagnosed and untreated vision and hearing issues in children are associated with significantly worse early literacy scores and other learning challenges. Children with undiagnosed hearing or vision problems will often have trouble learning to read, write, or even struggle to follow instructions. To avoid any potential learning problems, parents of children ages 3-1/2 or older with children entering preschool or kindergarten this coming fall are encouraged to attend free hearing and vision screenings throughout this summer so that there will be enough time to receive treatment, if necessary, before school starts. Not only will the screening identify issues with a child’s hearing and vision, but Michigan State Law also requires that all children entering kindergarten must have their hearing and vision tested before the first day of school. “Because children have nothing to compare their hearing and vision to, they may have problems with their eyes or ears and never even know it,” says Dawn Mitchell, Hearing and Vision Coordinator for the Berrien County Health Department. “This makes early detection of these problems so important.” Due to COVID-19, the free hearing and vision screenings are being offered by appointment only at this time. Additional information regarding the Michigan hearing and vision screening requirements and a full schedule of preschool / kindergarten screening dates, are available at the Berrien County Health Department website at and Facebook page at

Celebrate Dad this weekend This weekend we celebrate our great dads on Father’s Day, Sunday, June 21. It is a day we set aside each summer to honor our fathers (and father figures) for all they do and have done to help shape and mold lives, families and our country. Legend has it that Father’s Day originated out of tragedy — 361 West Virginia coal miners, 250 of them dads, died in a mining accident, and the ensuing memorial service has evolved over the past century-plus to become an annual celebration of the nation’s fathers. That such a day was born out of loss should serve as a reminder not to take our dads for granted. Dads often don’t get the credit they deserve. Their contributions are often overlooked or go unnoticed. They are our providers, protectors and teachers, among the many other hats they wear. But dads don’t complain. Dads get the job done time and time again. And, if you ask them, they love it. They want nothing more than to be needed and respected; to be a dad. They are unsung heroes. When I think of my father and stepfather, what I remember aren’t things or stuff — what I remember are experiences we shared together. This I am confident will be the same for my children and their memories of their dad, my husband. It may be as well for you, too. Consider that as you think about how to celebrate Father’s Day this weekend. I am sure that most dads would prefer nothing more than to just spend the day with their children, or a FaceTime chat or phone call, if being together is not possible, than to receive any of the hokey gadgets recommended by Amazon algorithms. Instead, mow the lawn for him, cook him a steak and pour him a cold beverage. Whatever you do, let it be something that shows dad your love for him. On this Father’s Day, join me in showing our love and appreciation for all Southwest Michigan’s great dads, whether in person or in spirit, who have given us so much, including, above all, the gifts of life and unconditional love. From my family to yours — have a great Father’s Day! As always, residents can contact my office with any state or local issues by calling (517) 373-6960 or emailing

We cannot stand still Like many folks here in southwest Michigan and across the country, I was horrified to watch the video of George Floyd in Minneapolis. I grieve with his family, and in the wake of his tragic death, I have spoken with local leaders to discuss how we can deliver real change for our black and minority communities. I’ve also participated in many peaceful protests to condemn racial injustice, denounce police brutality, and call on Congress to address police reform now. In recent weeks, both Republicans and Democrats have introduced a good number of proposals, and there are many areas of agreement between the two parties. To name a few, I support the establishment of a national registry of police officers, body cameras nationwide, a complete ban on chokeholds, greater accountability for law enforcement, and increased transparency. I would also like to see commonsense improvements to police training, including racial bias training and the development of best practices for policing tactics and de-escalation training. We all know the time for change is now. Dialogue must continue. Action must come. And, together, we must, and will, champion solutions that combat racial injustice and police brutality as we strive to build a more perfect union for ALL Americans. To learn more about important legislative issues, follow me on Twitter at @RepFredUpton or by visiting my website: You can also call my offices in Kalamazoo (269-385-0039), St. Joseph / Benton Harbor (269-982-1986).

REMEMBER YOUR DAD SUNDAY, FATHER’S DAY… I apologize to readers that were looking forward to celebrating Father’s Day with an entry to the Top Pop contest. Long a popular feature in mid-June, interest seems to have fallen off in recent years. The tipping point was this year’s feature with no advertising sponsors because so many businesses were forced to close to protect the public from COVID-19. Please remember your dad this coming weekend and thank him for what he has given you, from life itself to being your first hero. Take some time to let him know how much you love him.

LIFE GOES ON… Anne and I, along with Amy and Bill Loshbough made a quick trip to St. Louis for granddaughter Zoya’s high school graduation. As we traveled from Watervliet to Chicago, to Dwight (half-way by my reckoning), to Springfield and on to Hazelwood, I had much to see and think about for the 6-hour ride and there was still time left over for a few hands of cribbage on my iPhone. While we’re smack dab in the vacation season, traffic was sparse on the Saturday and Sunday jaunt. Did I mention it was a quick trip? Even so there was the wide variety of vehicles, trucks of all sizes and varieties, and the same for passenger cars (4-wheelers in trucker jargon). Amy got a snapshot of a Ghostbusters converted ambulance… I think it could be an original. There was a convoy of National Guard vehicles. I got to stand across the road from a couple of trucks each carrying a giant propeller for a wind power farm. Bill our pilot estimated the propellers were 80 feet long. Back on the road, out loud I mused, why are there so many wind farms in Illinois. Just from the endless wind energy farms along the freeway. No one took the bait. Probably because all the hot air. Even the original inhabitants called the big city on the lake “Chicago”, for all the hot air.

While there was more traffic near Chicago Sunday evening inbound around Tinley Park, the inbound from Michigan was really thin. I spotted several single drivers were wearing face masks, which is strange. Either they were protecting themselves from errant COVID-19 bugs coming through an open window, or they were tested positive and ordered to wear them. From casual observations of customers and workers at rest stops and gas stations, few people were wearing masks. I’m thinking most of us are over the panic of a pandemic in the early days of 2020 and are learning to live with the killer virus in our brave new world.

Rest of the story

Dear Editor,

Regarding the News From The Hartford Day Spring [Rolling Back The Years June 11, 2020 Page 4]. The rest of the story…

A quote from that story: “Had the trailer traveled a few inches more to the north, it would have sheared off three gasoline pumps creating a high explosion hazard because of the sparking trailer tongue, Minshall said.”

One good thing came about as a result of the pile of steel sheets. Art was able to fabricate a steel roof for his fabric roofed 1930 Buick. And fortunately the Hartford Dairy Bar didn’t get built in that field until 1948.

Larry Blyly, next door neighbor at that time

Let’s make a difference; free COVID-19 testing

Dear Editor,

As a Watervliet senior citizen, while sitting in my La-Z-Boy watching TV, I am sad and frustrated by seeing what is going on in our country. I ask myself, how can I and my community help. How could we make a difference?

Luckily, one answer has arisen. InterCare Community Health Network has received supplemental funding from the Health Resources and Services Administration to expand its capacity to test for COVID-19. This service would be free.

To get tested for free people are not required to have a doctor’s order or be an InterCare patient. The mayor and city manager of Watervliet have taken the lead to make this happen for the citizens of Watervliet.

Watch for times, dates and locations for this testing.

Rick Rasmussen

Watervliet citizen

Misuse of the military


Military leaders criticize Trump for politicizing and wrongful use of the armed forces.

Attorney General Barr and President Trump have shown disdain for the rights of protesters by advocating forcefully using the military to quell even peaceful demonstrations. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper encouraged governors to dominate their state’s “battle space”.

Last Monday, the president threatened to invoke the 1807 Insurrection Act. The act allows the president to deploy U.S. military and federalized National Guard within the U.S. when a state specifically requests assistance to address insurrection.

Former military figures who were previously silent are now speaking about military misuse. Admiral (Ret.) Mike Mullen (Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs) does not believe that the current demonstrations justify a heavy reliance on military troops. Mullen indicated American towns are our homes … not “battle spaces” to be dominated by military troops.

Trump’s most recent political ‘stunt’ involves Barr using military force in Washington, D.C. to violently attack peaceful protestors with rubber bullets and pepper spray so Trump could stage a photo op in front of St. John’s Church.

This ‘stunt’ prompted General (Ret.) Jim Mattis (former Defense Secretary) to denounce Trump for dividing the nation and accuse Trump of ordering the U.S. military to violate Americans’ constitutional rights. Mattis also indicated we should not be distracted by a few lawbreakers. Rather, the majority of protestors are asking us to live up to our values by seeking ‘Equal Justice Under Law’; all of us should be able to support that request.

In his government service, Gen. Mattis swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution. Gen. Mattis indicated, “We must reject and hold accountable those in office who would make a mockery of our Constitution.” Solving this difficult situation requires acknowledging grievances and voting for leaders who implement real solutions.

Kenneth Peterson

Maj. USA (Ret.)


Red Cross now testing all blood donations for COVID-19 antibodies

Urgent need for blood donors to help prevent summer shortage, $5 Gift Card for all who give in June

For a limited time, the American Red Cross is testing all blood, platelet and plasma donations for COVID-19 antibodies, providing donors insight into whether they have been exposed to this coronavirus. At the same time, there continues to be an urgent need for blood donations as hospitals resume surgeries and treatments that require blood products.

Antibody testing will indicate if the donor’s immune system has produced antibodies to this coronavirus, regardless of whether they developed symptoms. Donations will be tested using samples pulled at the time of donation and sent to a testing laboratory where they will also undergo routine infectious disease testing. A positive antibody test result does not confirm infection or immunity.

COVID-19 antibody test results will be available within 7-10 days in the Red Cross Blood Donor App or donor portal at The test has been authorized for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“As an organization dedicated to helping others, the Red Cross is pleased to provide more information about COVID-19 to our valued donors,” said Dr. Erin Goodhue, executive medical director of direct patient care with the Red Cross Biomedical Services. “If you are feeling healthy and well, please schedule an appointment to not only help saves lives but also learn about your potential exposure to COVID-19.”

The Red Cross is not testing donors to diagnose illness, referred to as a diagnostic test.

Donation appointments can be made by downloading the free Blood Donor App, visiting, calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or enabling the Blood Donor Skill on any Alexa Echo device. Thanks to Amazon, all those who give June 1-30 will receive a $5 Gift Card via email.

Blood drive safety precautions

To protect the health and safety of Red Cross staff and donors, individuals who do not feel well or who believe they may be ill with COVID-19 should postpone their donation.

Each Red Cross blood drive and donation center follows the highest standards of safety and infection control, and additional precautions – including temperature checks, social distancing and face coverings for donors and staff – have been implemented to help protect the health of all those in attendance. Donors are asked to schedule an appointment prior to arriving at the drive and are required to wear a face covering or mask while at the drive, in alignment with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention public guidance.

An upcoming blood donation opportunity is on Monday, June 29 from 11 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. at Silver Beach Center, 333 Broad St. in St. Joseph.


Related Posts

See All

Supporting our veterans and military families

Last week, the House passed H.R. 8580, the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year (FY) 2025. This is the first of the FY 2025 appropriations b

Standing strong against corporate welfare

Call it what you will—SOAR, MEGA, “Make it in Michigan”—legislative Democrats are dead-set on their corporate welfare agenda. Despite Republican efforts to redirect funding toward long-term investment


bottom of page