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11-14-2019 Letters and Commentary

BE CAREFUL OUT THERE… “The Veterans Day Snow of 2019” brought winter to most of the U.S. A weather forecaster Tuesday morning showed the weather map for the continental U.S. and noted there was a wind chill for every state.

Locally we all got a wake up to put our winter wear on and to drive carefully as stopping distances were increased and vision was decreased. With a few more days of this we should all be used to the cold and lake effect snow. Then we might forget anything we’ve learned when the sun comes back out and the thermometer creeps back to a balmy 40 degrees.

It is really stupid for anyone to drive in a snowstorm without having their headlights on. Enough said.

SORRY NO PICTURE… Please don’t be dismayed if you were expecting a picture of the Watervliet VFW Veterans Day Service in this week’s Record. Due to operator error (me) there are no pictures of the indoor service. When my trusty Canon misfired I reached for my cell phone (which takes good pictures), it was resting comfortably on my desk.

My apologies to the members of the VFW Post and the members of the North Berrien Military Rites Team, they deserve the recognition for their sacrifices. My apologies as well to the members’ families and to the visitors, I don’t think I’ve missed a service since coming to the Record in 1984 – Veterans Day or Memorial Day.

VFW Commander Corky Openneer opened the service and introduced Pete Petruk who offered a prayer seeking divine assistance on behalf of the veterans and their families.

Pastor Ed Richcreek was the speaker. Having served himself he offered insight that his service was not the same as most veterans present. He was in the Navy six years, during peacetime, and for many years he did not belong to a veterans organization. But now he understands the brotherhood of the veterans, and as he’s proud of his service is now a proud veteran.

Pete Petruk offered a closing prayer, and the Military Rite Team gave a six-gun salute and closed with the playing of taps.

VETERANS ALL… I found Ed Richcreek’s comment of “being not worthy” interesting because later Monday evening I was reading an exchange on Facebook. A six-year member of the Army Reserve didn’t feel he was entitled to be a veteran because he wasn’t in the service as a full member. There was a plethora of comments of support for the writer’s right to be a veteran.

Many shared my comment, that members of the military reserves who served honorably are veterans. Typically, I opened my mouth before opening my eyes and looking up whether reservists are considered veterans. Somewhere in a tangle of legalese and exceptions, I concluded reservists who are honorably discharged are veterans. But they are not eligible for most of the veteran’s benefits unless for the times when they might have been called to active duty.

PHOTO SHOOT… Following the fiasco of the misfiring camera (and brain) this Veterans Day, brought to mind a photography opportunity years ago.

As a neophyte assistant editor assigned to the Capac Journal, Publisher Tom Sadler told me the DNR would be dynamiting a large beaver dam north of town. Directions in hand, I headed out for the assignment with my camera.

Said camera was a state-of-the-art Polaroid bellows model. With a fixed focus lens, one would point it (at) the photo subject and shoot (the picture).

The magic of instant photography was well served by Polaroid. Once the picture was taken, the photographer would pull out the exposed film with a negative image on one sheet of paper and the positive image on the other. The papers were attached and would be pulled simultaneously through rollers, squeezing the developing chemicals evenly across the print. In sixty seconds, the papers could be pulled apart and voila, a black and white picture appeared right before your eyes.

I took a lot of pictures with that camera and most were good enough to print. I had taken fire pictures, sports pictures, class reunions, snows, floods and just about anything that would hold still for the cameraman. In cold weather, I would pull the exposed film out of the camera and in one swoop would drop it under my shirt to keep the chemical transfer working because it wouldn’t if it was too cold.

Some of my best shots were football sideline shots. I soon learned the only chance of a fast action picture was if it was coming right at me. I’d click the shutter, pull the film out, and fall back to avoid getting run over by a football player. Basketball was trickier, I would point the camera where I hoped the player would shoot the basket then opened my free eye to keep a watch out for a player racing under the basket or an errant rebound. Once I took a rebound off the side of my head, which resulted in getting banished from hanging out waiting for a photo.

So now you know I had some time working a camera that was really not designed for action photography, it was more for “grip and grins” (any staged shot).

THE DAM SHOT… It was early spring; the bank beavers had dammed a deep and wide irrigation ditch that backed up the water so that it flooded the farmland. There were a couple DNR officers getting ready to blow a hole in the dam with a stick of dynamite. As I recall the dam was close to 20 feet long, 12 feet or so high and 6 foot wide. I’m sure of the width because the officers were walking back and forth on it looking for the best spot to place the charge.

They were friendly, explaining what they were doing, and adamant that I had to be on the other side of the dam and downriver.

I was ready to get the shot of a lifetime, an explosion of a bank beaver dam, caught with a Polaroid instant land camera. The plan was the officers would give me a sign that the countdown had started and on the count of 5 they would light the fuse and skedaddle off the dam. In ten seconds or so, the dynamite would explode, blasting a hole on the opposite side.

Boom went the dynamite! I was sure I got a good shot because I pressed the shutter at the exact moment I fell backward in the mud. In a couple seconds I had pulled the film, dropped it inside my shirt and pointed my camera back to the dam in time to shoot a picture of the water gushing through the hole. And shot a couple more of the cataract rushing through, carrying sticks and limbs of varying sizes downstream.

By the time I wet footed back to my car, I had four pictures warm as toast under my shirt… the first and most precious of the spectacular detonation of a beaver dam. I could hardly wait to look at them. I was dumbfounded by my first picture; it was mostly of the cloudy sky and my muddy foot where the dam should have been.

Thankfully I got three good pictures of the dam being washed away, and one made the front page of the Capac Journal.

I called the DNR officers later for more information on the project and in passing asked if the bank beavers would rebuild downstream. Nope, one said, they like this spot and usually come back every spring. Want us to give you a call next year?

No thanks.

Songs of Thanksgiving

“Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” So says Ephesians 5:19 (NASB).

Snow may get us in the mood for the Christmas season, but snow is also stressful. Yet, as I sit here for three hours waiting for my winter tires to be mounted, I can be thankful that I am in a warm place quietly sitting and writing this article. I guess it’s a “blessing in disguise.”

This season I’ve decided to discover new (that is, new to me) Thanksgiving music. It’s kind of like resetting foundations. Sometimes I need to be brought back to basics of life and faith. Music can be helpful for that.

I still like the traditional, familiar songs of Thanksgiving like, “We Gather Together”, “For the Beauty of the Earth”, and “Count Your Blessings”, but I’ve also discovered some uplifting, more contemporary songs. One of them is “10,000 Reasons”, by Matt Redman.

One of the phrases in that song goes: “The sun comes up; there’s a new day dawning. It’s time to sing Your song again. Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me, let me be singing as the evening comes.” My heart says yes to that. Later in the song we hear, “You’re rich in love, and You’re slow to anger. Your name is great, and Your heart is kind. For all Your goodness I will keep on singing – ten thousand reasons for my heart to find.”

The chorus is, “Bless the Lord oh my soul, oh my soul. Worship His holy name…”, and goes on to express the Ephesians passage quoted above.

It all gets down to God’s continued love and faithfulness, our choice to believe Him, expressing it back to Him in thanks – a heart-song of Thanksgiving. “Sing like never before, oh my soul.” May His praise be my heart’s melody forever.

Three reasons why Social Security is important for women

In the 21st century, more women work, pay Social Security taxes, and earn credit toward monthly retirement income than at any other time in our nation’s history. Yet, on average, women face greater economic challenges than men in retirement.

Nearly 55 percent of the people receiving Social Security benefits are women. Women generally live longer than men while often having lower lifetime earnings. And women usually reach retirement with smaller pensions and other assets compared to men. These are three key reasons why Social Security is vitally important to women.

If you’ve worked and paid taxes into the Social Security system for at least 10 years and have earned a minimum of 40 work credits, you may be eligible for your own benefits. Once you reach age 62, you may be eligible for your own Social Security benefit whether you’re married or not and whether your spouse collects Social Security or not. If you’re eligible and apply for benefits on more than one work record, you generally receive the higher benefit amount.

The sooner you start planning for retirement, the better off you’ll be. We have specific information for women at Email or post this link to friends and family you love.

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

Thank You Gene Tidey

Dear Editor,

We want to offer sincere heartfelt thanks to Gene Tidey and his family from T’s Tap for allowing us to have the Marine Corps birthday at his establishment all these years. He has been an excellent host as we invaded his business every November 10th for the last 18 years. We all cannot properly express our thanks for all he has done for us.

Due to circumstances beyond his control Gene must end this event at T’s. We appreciate that we were able to have this event there for one last time this year. Gene, Gene’s Marines offer you all our best. Semper Fi.

Pete Petruk

Impeachment is the right response to Trump’s many abuses of power

Dear Editor,

The founders of our nation created a constitution that gave to Congress the authority to impeach and remove from office any president who abuses the powers of the office.

Alexander Hamilton was a major architect of our constitution. In a recent essay Ron Chernow, author of the definitive biography of Alexander Hamilton, wrote: “There seems little doubt, given his writings on the presidency that Hamilton would have been aghast at Trump’s behavior and appalled by his invitation to foreign actors to meddle in our elections. As a result, he would most certainly have endorsed the current impeachment inquiry. It’s not an exaggeration to say that Trump embodies Hamilton’s worst fears about the kind of person who might someday head the government.”

Donald Trump is perfectly willing to abuse the powers of his office for his own personal benefit. He repeatedly lies. He undermines the free press. He violates the constitution by accepting “emoluments” (bribes) from leaders of foreign governments who spend enormous amounts of money staying at his hotels. He invites Russia to interfere in our elections on his behalf. He creates an elaborate extortion scheme to pressure the government of Ukraine to help him in his 2020 re-election campaign by withholding congressionally appropriated, and much needed, military aid from that country until its leaders agree to announce an investigation of his main political rival.

Trump’s behavior is appalling and it is dangerous. Interference in our elections by foreign nations is a threat to our democracy. Undermining the free press is an act of tyrants.

Congressional Republicans have so far refused to support the impeachment investigation of Trump’s abuses of power. They are clearly putting their party above our country. Hopefully they will change their positions as more and more evidence of Trump’s abuses are shared with their constituents. If they do not change their positions we the people can, and should, remove them from office.

Larry Feldman, Lakeside

Maritime Lecture Series features Le Griffon: Fact or Fiction

The Michigan Maritime Museum’s Maritime Lecture Series continues with author and shipwreck explorer Valerie van Heest on Wednesday, Nov. 20 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Director of Education Ashley Deming comments, “Ms. van Heest is always a favorite presenter at the Museum. When the Gales of November arrive, her shipwreck presentations are a perfect fit.”

Join van Heest on a journey of discovery as she prepares for an appearance on the long running television show Expedition Unknown to hunt for the legendary Griffon, one of the earliest vessels lost in the Great Lakes. In the process, she debunks all previous discovery claims, separates fact from fiction, offers a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the television episode, and shares her insights for historical research.

An inductee in the Women Diver’s Hall of Fame, Valerie van Heest is an award-winning author, and museum exhibit designer who has been honored by the Historical Society of Michigan and Association for Great Lakes Maritime History for her work in preserving and promoting Michigan’s submerged maritime history. She is a co-founder and president of the Michigan Shipwreck Research Association (MSRA) and has been involved in the discovery of over some twenty shipwrecks, many of which have been subjects in her books. Valerie writes for a variety of magazines, has appeared on CNN, the Discovery and Travel Channels, and National Geographic, and maintains a busy speaking schedule.

Admission is $8, $7 for seniors. There is no admission fee for Museum members. The Museum is open 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Wednesday thru Saturday the month of November. Museum doors will re-open at 6 p.m. the evening of the lecture. For more information, contact the Museum at 269-637-8078 or visit

Michigan’s Double Up Food Bucks gets financial boost for SNAP households

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, recently announced $12.5 million in new federal funding to expand Double Up Food Bucks in Michigan. The grant was funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program, which Stabenow expanded and made permanent in the 2018 Farm Bill.

“Double Up Food Bucks helps families in Michigan purchase more fruits and vegetables while supporting Michigan’s farmers,” said Senator Stabenow. “This new support will help the Fair Food Network connect families in every county in Michigan with affordable, healthy food.”

Michigan’s Double Up Food Bucks program is a project of the Fair Food Network that doubles the value of food assistance dollars spent on locally grown produce at farmers markets and grocery stores. Modeling the success of Double Up Bucks, Senator Stabenow created a nutrition incentives program in the 2014 Farm Bill to fund similar projects all across the country. In the 2018 Farm Bill, she expanded access to healthy food by securing permanent funding for the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program, which will make fruits and vegetables more accessible and affordable for families for years to come.

“Within a decade, nutrition incentives have grown from a handful of pilots to a permanent part of the Farm Bill with programs in all 50 states,” said Oran Hesterman, founder and CEO of Fair Food Network, which pioneered the Double Up Food Bucks program that is now in 27 states. “Senator Stabenow has been a steadfast champion of nutrition incentives since day one having seen first-hand their benefits for families, farmers, and local economies.”

Fair Food Network will use the new funds to expand the Double Up Food Bucks program to more farmers markets and grocery stores throughout Michigan. The project will more than double participation in the Double Up program from 13% to 30% of SNAP households by 2023 and expand it to every county in the state.

As national leaders in healthy food access, Fair Food Network has been selected as a partner in establishing the new Center for Nutrition Incentive Program Training, Technical Assistance, Evaluation and Reporting, which will provide training resources for incentive programs across the country.

Berrien County Youth Fair elects 2019-2020 officers

Over 80 association members, advisors and guests gathered to recap the Berrien County Youth Fair Association’s 2018-19 fiscal year at the annual meeting held at the Youth Memorial Building. President Corey Burks welcomed everyone to the 74th Annual Meeting of the Berrien County Youth Fair Association, Inc.

“Thanks to each and every board member, advisor, superintendent and volunteer for making 2019 BCYF a memorable year from beginning to end. Your hard work and dedication leading up to BCYF and during made this a successful year to showcase our youth,” Burks said. He thanked the board of directors for their input and the contributions of the volunteers.

The minutes of the 2018 annual meeting were presented and approved. Susan Coulston, Board Treasurer, presented the annual financial report. She reported the Association’s total operating income of $1,435,702 and total operating expenditures of $1,340,028 resulting in an increase in unrestricted net assets of $93,674. Coulston said, “Another year of positive results to the bottom line is very encouraging. All obligations have been paid in full. The association remains in sound financial position.” The financial report was put on file for audit.

Secretary Karen Klug discussed BCYF year in review. Klug reported on non-fair events keeping the grounds busy from April through October.

Four new roofs were completed during the fiscal year along with new sheep pens, a used John Deere 1570 front mount lawn mower and new pig show pens. The Berrien County Youth Fair was presented with a unique opportunity to open up the grounds for camping, overnight and overflow parking for the Motocross of Nations at Redbud Motocross in Buchanan at the beginning of October 2018.

Three successful fundraising activities raised enough money to cover the premiums paid to youth exhibitors.

The 2019 BCYF theme was “Country Nights and Carnival Lights” and what a nice week it turned out to be! The weather forecast called for a few chances of rain, but none ever really came up.

Klug reported their attendance was 101,383 (down 2,746 from 2018); the fair had 1,972 exhibitors and 10,692 exhibits. The secretary thanked all the volunteers and staff who make BCYF what it is with their passion and giving of their time and talents.

Each year six members of the Board of Directors are elected for a three-year term. The following were nominated and elected for a three-year term: Kelly Ewalt of Berrien Springs, Linda Shinsky of Niles, Les Smith of Niles, Dan Stacey of Berrien Springs, Tyson Lemon of Stevensville and Bob Mischke of St. Joseph.

The Outstanding 20 Year-Old Exhibitor award winner was Kristen Clear of Niles. Selection of this award is based on a point system covering Youth Fair participation and volunteering other than Fair week over the last six years of exhibiting. Clear received a trophy and $300 scholarship award provided by the D.R. Potts Memorial Scholarship Fund. Second place and receiving a $200 scholarship award was Kristofer Crowder of Stevensville and third place and receiving a $100 scholarship award was Leah Wojahn of Stevensville.

The Friend of the Fair award was presented to Kevin Young. This award is given annually to those individuals, families, and/or businesses that have gone above and beyond the call of duty to help with the many activities at the Youth Fair. A certificate of appreciation was also presented for Kathy Pullano, of the Journal Era.

Following the Annual Meeting, the Board of Directors met to select officers for the 2019-2020 year. Elected were President, Corey Burks of Berrien Springs; First Vice President, Tiffany Rydwelski of Buchanan; Second Vice President, Kelly Ewalt of Berrien Springs; Secretary, Karen Klug of Eau Claire; Treasurer, Cathy Reifschneider of Stevensville.

Youth Fair dates for 2020 are August 17-22 with the Fair theme, “Diamonds are Fair-ever” representing the 75th Anniversary of the Berrien County Youth Fair.

Legislation introduced to support employee accommodations

Representatives Jon Hoadley and Steve Marino introduced legislation that would make funding available for employers to provide accommodations for employees with disabilities. The bipartisan package (House Bills 51050 and 5151) would allow employers to apply for up to $1,000 to make reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities.

“Michiganders with disabilities have the same right as anyone else to build a life that’s right for them here in our state,” said Hoadley. “When advocacy interns from Disability Network Southwest Michigan proposed this idea to help more people with disabilities enter the workplace, we were ready to get to work in the Legislature.”

Hoadley’s bill would create the “Centralized Reasonable Accommodations Act” to empower the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) to manage employer requests, while Marino’s bill would secure funding for the program through the Workmen’s Compensation Second Injury Fund, which is designed to compensate employers for payments made to employees with disabilities.

A group of interns working at Disability Network Southwest Michigan pitched the idea of State funds to help offset the cost of employee accommodations to Representative Hoadley in 2017, and he was immediately interested in working to make it happen. Disability Network’s summer internship program, Advocacy Academy, is held each summer and engages six to eight youth and young adults with disabilities in learning the skills of advocacy, selecting an initiative to work on and then implementing the skills they have learned.

Joel Cooper, President and CEO of Disability Network Southwest Michigan, said, “Each year we develop a handful of youth who advocate for a need in the disability community and take those skills with them wherever they go. It’s so exciting when the work they have done gets carried forward to produce such impactful change in our fight for disability rights.”

System’s Advocate and ADA Specialist at Disability Network, Paul Ecklund, said, “Disabilities only extend as far as the barriers we allow to stand in the way. I believe this legislation takes great strides toward tearing down obstacles to employment so that our neighbors with disabilities can readily participate in the workforce.”

Founded in 1981 by a small group of disability advocates, Disability Network Southwest Michigan educates and connects people with disabilities to the community resources they need to live independently and advocates for social change. Disability Network’s advocacy work is focused on creating communities that value disability as human diversity, free of attitudinal barriers, where all people benefit with full access and inclusion. Learn more about Disability Network Southwest Michigan at

I&M enhances disconnection message

In order to give clearer notice to customers who face the sensitive issue of disconnection, Indiana Michigan Power has adopted a follow-up phone message in addition to the written notice informing customers of pending disconnections and explaining options to continue their service. Customers who receive such a call can confirm it is from I&M and not a scammer by calling one of I&M’s legitimate Customer Operations Center phone numbers: • 866-715-3526 • 800-311-4634 • 800-311-6424 (Michigan)

All customers facing disconnection receive a written notice explaining the amount due and the scheduled date of the disconnection. To make sure customers are aware of a scheduled disconnection, I&M now follows up with a pre-recorded, automated call informing them that their account is subject to disconnect. Customers who receive such a call are invited to contact our Customer Operations Center at 866-7153526 or 800-311-4634 to obtain information on programs that may be available to them.

Customers who would like to make a payment by check or credit card can call 800-611-0964.

Customers who believe they may have difficulty paying their bill are always encouraged to call I&M Customer Operations Center to discuss possible options in advance of their due dates.

If customers receive a call about their bill and are instructed to call any other phone number, it is likely a scam and they should call I&M immediately. I&M has received reports of customers receiving such a call, calling the number provided and being asked to send or deliver money immediately. If you receive such a call, please call the Customer Operations Center to report it.

Unfortunately, scammers repeatedly call customers of utilities across the nation seeking ways to take their money. I&M will never ask a customer to purchase a gift card or use other questionable means of paying their bill. If you have doubts about the legitimacy of any call you receive from someone claiming to represent I&M, please call our Customer Operations Center.

Customers can also check their bill status online at or through the Indiana Michigan Power app, available on the App Store and Google Play.

Grassroots group speaking out for cancer patients

Americans for Prosperity-Michigan called on the legislature to act courageously on behalf of cancer patients and overturn a decision by Certificate of Need (CON) commission bureaucrats that regulates CAR T (chimeric antigen receptor T cell) cancer immunotherapy. The grassroots group is running a statewide digital campaign to expose the excessive regulations being pushed by special interests. Americans for Prosperity-Michigan State Director, Annie Patnaude issued the following statement:

“Cancer patients and their physicians, not government bureaucrats, should be empowered to make decisions about where and when to pursue treatment. Unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats should not get in the way of life-saving treatment for cancer patients. We urge legislators to act courageously on this issue by exercising their review authority to overturn the CON board’s decision.

“Regulations on CAR T are being pushed by special interests and healthcare monopolies that want to shut out competition. Unfortunately, some of the sickest patients are going to end up as collateral damage – facing higher costs and less access to treatment.

“These regulations put a stranglehold on treatment for some cancer patients – it doesn’t get any simpler than that.”


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