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Gibson smokestack symbol of proud history

Fretting over future


White privilege: ‘Seeing your place in the structure’ In a workshop on white privilege held at Kalamazoo College, leader Gail Griffin make it clear the concept is not about guilt. “It’s the opposite of guilt,” Griffin said. “You feel guilty about something you’ve done. Did you create the system of race? You did not, so you can’t feel guilty about that.” Instead of guilt, she said, acknowledging your status is the first step toward making a more just society. Details, A7

Kalamazoo Academy of Rock director Jeff Mitchell’s band room is on the third floor of the original Gibson Guitar plant at 225 Parsons Street. He said the owners have determined the Gibson smokestack is not an immediate danger, and they won’t decide its fate until summer. (Mark Bugnaski/

This was not your average winter, records show. ( files) SOUTHWEST MICHIGAN

At last, we’re rid of a weird winter The winter that ended Friday had a bit of everything — in extremes. Early on, we set a monthly record for the most snowfall. The next month, it was a record for the least snowfall. And just to add a little pain, we experienced the coldest February ever. Take a final look at the winter of 2014-15. Details, A9 KALAMAZOO

Lessons learned from school gun situation Officials from the Kalamazoo Public Schools and the Department of Public Safety say the incident of an accidental gunshot fired at Loy Norrix High School was handled properly. What didn’t go so well was the explosion of information on social media — often inaccurate, officials say — that reached the public before officials released information. Details, A12


Thanking God for bringing this light into the storm!”


MORE INSIDE Artisan guitar maker keeping local tradition alive, A10 Knowledge abounds at Fretboard Festival, A5

By Al Jones/

nyone strumming a Gibson guitar made before 1980 is playing one made at 225 Parsons St. on Kalamazoo’s north side. And anyone who still owns one is a COMING TUESDAY person serious guitarists call “lucky.” Orville Gibson and the dawn of guitar making “It was rather prestigious for players in Kalamazoo to say they were playing a Gibson,” longtime Kalamazoo guitar maker Jack French said of the full-sounding, hand-crafted instruments that have become a mainstay for musicians, most notably since the 1960s. “And they were all made here.” That is why guitar enthusiasts and historical preservationists have rallied around the old factory’s aging, 70-foot brick smokestack with its white, vertical letters spelling, “GIBSON.” It is the highly visible, last vestige of Gibson’s Kalamazoo roots. Jeff Mitchell, founder of the Kalamazoo Academy of Rock, which uses the former Gibson factory for its students to practice, helped start the “Save the Stack” campaign two years ago. The campaign had a presence at the Kalamazoo Fretboard Festival, which was held Friday and Saturday at the Kalamazoo Valley Museum. “There’s just a great affection for and passion for and pride around here in the Gibson REX BELL brand,” said Mitchell, whose program helps young people hone their musical skills to become performers. “That Gibson was made here in Kalamazoo — they’re

“To me and other guitar players, that’s hallowed ground.”


SEE GUITARS, A11 (Jeff Johnston/ illustration)

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Who’s your neighbor? Editor’s Note: This MLive series looks at whether Michigan should create a statewide murderer registry, a public database of paroled violent offenders. By Angie Jackson


RAND RAPIDS — A man who had spent nearly all his adult years behind bars for second-degree murder was paroled to Grand Rapids after his prison term. A scant seven months later, money was tight and job options hadn’t panned out for Paul White. He went on a weeklong armed robbery spree. One store clerk White described being frozen with fear as the man aggressively demanded cash. A victim at another business was inconsolable when police tried to calm her after the crime. Around that same time last spring, another convicted murderer, Shawn Jarrett, was living and working in the Grand Rapids area, his co-workers and employer unaware of his violent past in Pennsylvania. Police suspect Jarrett killed a mother of four — a co-worker at an area greenhouse — and dumped her body in a pit. Before police caught up with him, he raped and robbed an elderly woman in her home. Hundreds of Michigan residents are on active parole for second-degree murder and manslaughter. The number totaled 539 last fall, according to Department of Corrections data released through a Freedom of Information Act request. They could be living next to you, or your child’s school. Chances are, you would never know it, though. Other states, including Illinois and Indiana, maintain a murderer registry — and some prosecutors and victims’ families are saying it’s time for Michigan to follow suit. “Dangerous people are going to get out. That’s a fact of life. And people have to be aware of that and be proactive in taking steps to protect themselves,” Kent County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Chris Becker said. Becker acknowledged that a public registry would not necessarily deter violent criminals from offending again — but it would provide valuable information to residents and raise their awareness. SEE REGISTRY, A6

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Death of a Facebook friend L ast weekend, I saw the Facebook post I had been dreading: Marc DeYoung, a 47-year-old Kalamazoo resident, had died after a long struggle with esophageal cancer. I never met Marc, but had been closely following his journey on Facebook for more than a year. By the time of his death, it felt like I had lost a close friend. I first heard about the DeYoungs last spring when a friend asked me to write a story about a community fundraiser for the Kalamazoo family. Marc’s story was particularly wrenching. He was diagnosed with cancer at age 46. The prognosis was not encouraging. He had a wife, Cyndi, a stay-athome mom, and six children, the youngest of whom was 6 years old when I wrote that first story. When I first looked up Cyndi on Facebook, I realized two things. One was that even though I didn’t know the DeYoungs, their circle of acquaintances and mine had considerable overlap. Another was that Cyndi was a compelling chronicler of a family in the grips of a life-or-death struggle with cancer. And so I became a regular

November: Marc’s “next doctors appointment is on Friday, where we will do labs, see the dr and get results from this CT, jmack1 and then also scheduled to have chemo infusion on Friday too.... throw in Jeffrey’s three basketball games, a wrestling parent reader of the Team DeYoung meeting, bible study, and a few Facebook page and an avid other commitments and we have admirer of Cyndi DeYoung. a pretty busy week.” It was clear Cyndi has been In recent months, it was clear under enormous stress, but she Marc’s condition was deterioratwasn’t breaking. She had an ing. In mid-February, he went amazing ability to find silver lin- into the hospital with kidney failings. She made reference to her ure. Chemo was discontinued. religious faith. Her posts about “He is getting weaker and chemotherapy and lab tests alter- weaker as the days go by ... so nated with posts about her chilhard to watch, but I know that dren — Sean’s fractured ankle, He is moving towards his eternal Kyle high school graduation, the home in glory,” Cyndi posted on boys’ sports activities. Feb. 28. She detailed the good and the A few days after Marc moved bad, the significant and the mun- into hospice, his youngest child dane. and only daughter celebrated “Yesterdays appointment was her eighth birthday. “Hope’s 8th hard,” she posted in June. “They birthday wish was that she and are now able to stage Marc’s can- Mommy have a sleepover with cer as stage IV. There is no cure.” Daddy. So, we did!!” Cyndi wrote. September, on the anniversary On March 13, Cyndi had emerof his cancer diagnosis: “We have gency surgery for kidney stones. our good days and our bad days, She left the hospital and went to our angry days and our ‘why’ Rose Arbor Hospice, where Marc days, but through all of them, we died early the next morning. know how blessed we are.” It can feel stalker-ish at times

Julie Mack

Marc DeYoung died March 14 after fighting esophageal cancer. Here he is with his wife, Cyndi, and one of their five sons. (Submitted photo)

to use Facebook to follow the lives of people you’ve never met, people who you know only as Facebook friends. But there also is something enormously rich and meaningful about this new ability to make connections, to share in the triumphs and travails of others, to support people who need the biggest support network possible. It’s readily apparent that Facebook gave Cyndi an outlet to help process her thoughts during a very, very difficult time. It allowed family and friends to keep abreast of Marc’s progress without being intrusive. It also served as an inspiration to people like me, a life lesson in how to

“Seeing a musician interact with something you’ve created is an awesome feeling.” KATIE FLAMM, LUTHIER AT HERITAGE GUITAR

handle adversity. Cyndi referenced the power of social media in July, in a post that mentioned Marc’s doctors were thinking of a study on social media’s role for patients. “I think it is awesome! They even thought maybe using this page as part of the study... amazing!” wrote Cyndi, who granted me permission to quote from her Facebook page. “I love it!!! Thanking God for bringing this light into the storm!” The storm certainly is not over for Cyndi and her children. And I hope she realizes that while Team DeYoung has lost one of its founding members, her support team is bigger than ever.


Transit millage request for August finalized By Alex Mitchell

Rob Doolittle explains the features of his own and other acoustic guitars for sale through the Kalamazoo Guitar Company at the 10th annual Fretboard Festival on Saturday. (Christian Randolph/


Thousands celebrate guitar tradition at 2015 Fretboard Fest By Ryan Shek

Kalamazoo resident Paulie Cohen has bought and refurbished three Gibson guitars and one Heritage. He isn’t a lifelong luthier or grand guitarist. He’s just a guy with a workbench. “It’s just cool to have access to these people,” Cohen said at the 2015 Fretboard Festival on Saturday, standing in the company of longtime luthiers and musicians such as Matthew Borr, Allen Bates and Jon Moody. “These people have paid attention to the history of this town, and others, like the Kal-Tone guys, have kept it alive. ... I’m just a guy who owns a workbench,” he added. “But here are folks who believe in (the city’s) guitar heritage. ... It’s cool to have access to that.” On Saturday, hundreds of people packed the Kalamazoo Valley Museum for the 2015 Fretboard Festival. The festival featured 36 vendors from Kal-Tone Musical Instrument Co. to Heritage Guitar Inc. to Kzoo Music Scene, while local musicians played soul, blues,

country, rock and folk songs to gathering crowds. “It’s going great,” Museum special events coordinator Chris Falk said, adding 500 people had gathered within an hour of the festival’s start at 11 a.m. “This is a luthier city.” “Each luthier puts their own stamp on their work, and there are a lot of good luthiers around Kalamazoo,” said Falk, adding Heritage Guitar, alongside the city’s up-and-coming guitar makers, have kept Kalamazoo’s music culture thriving. “The festival is a celebration (of that), as well as local musicians,” he said. For Ry Charters, co-owner of KalTone Musical Instrument Co. and a luthier of 16 years, the festival was a way of sharing the industry. “The thinking behind so many of these workshops is to bring individuals closer to this arena,” Charters said. “Interacting with the community in regards to craftsmanship. “People can take a tour of Heritage once a week,” he said, “(and) our shop is just around the corner. “But (this event) brings people

closer to the industry. It’s a relaxed environment, where we can just talk to a lot of people working on stuff — maybe give them a little bit of info or some tips.” In addition to established and aspiring luthiers, the festival attracted musicians, carpenters, as well as those simply looking to listen to live music and have a good time. “Music is just great for the soul. It’s this powerful enlightening thing,” local mandolin player Todd Flamm said. “It’s great to get young kids involved in that, and it’s something that needs to be persevered. “A lot of great instruments and musicians come from Kalamazoo,” he added. “Here are luthiers putting beautiful finished instruments in the hands of their own homegrown musicians.” The feeling is mutual, said Flamm’s wife, Katie, who became a luthier at Heritage Guitar in 2005. “Seeing a musician interact with something you’ve created is an awesome feeling, it’s surreal, I can’t describe it,” Flamm said. “It’s like being an extension of something bigger than myself.”

The length and amount of a public transit millage Kalamazoo County voters will be asked to approve this August was finalized Thursday during a joint meeting of the Central County Transportation Authority and the Kalamazoo County Transportation Authority. The Aug. 4 ballot request will ask voters to approve a CCTA millage of up to 0.75 mill for five years, from 2016 to 2020. The millage level and duration were approved unanimously by the CCTA’s 10 members. CCTA Chairwoman Linda Teeter said board members spent a significant amount of time trying to determine the length and amount of the millage request. Ultimately, Teeter said, board members decided 0.75 mill will allow for the current level of fixedroute services to be maintained for precincts within the proposed district while also increasing route frequency and adding Sunday and extended night services. “Everyone concurred that maintaining the current level of service, but also expanding service and being able to increase (route) frequency really will enhance the system,” Teeter said. Currently, Kalamazoo County residents pay 0.4 mill through 2016 to support on-demand van service as well as bus service outside the city of Kalamazoo. Kalamazoo residents also pay 0.6 mill to fund Metro Transit fixed-route services within the city, although that millage expires this year and would effectively be replaced by the new levy if approved by voters. KCTA members approved a resolution during the meeting stating their support for the

upcoming request. It also notes that the KCTA will ask voters to approve “a millage that compliments the same level of services of the CCTA millage.” Future funding for mass transit systems across the state stand to receive a boon if the state Proposal 1 is passed. The proposal is projected to increase long-term funding for roads by about $1.25 billion a year once

“Everyone concurred that maintaining the current level of service, but also expanding service and being able to increase (route) frequency really will enhance the system.” LINDA TEETER, CENTRAL COUNTY TRANSPORTATION AUTHORITY CHAIRWOMAN

implemented. It also would generate an estimated $116 million a year for mass transit, along with additional money for schools and cities. At this point, fixedroute bus services to Kalamazoo Valley Community College, Meijer on West Main Street and Pavilion Estates mobile home park would be lost after Texas, Oshtemo and Pavilion townships chose to opt those precincts out of the millage boundaries. However, CCTA members have said there have been discussions with KVCC about contracting to continue the route to its main campus.



New generation keeps musical tradition alive Ask Ry Charters and Jay Gavan about Kalamazoo’s rich history of guitar making, and they’ll wax poetic about the numerous reasons why they chose the city as home for Kal-Tone Musical Instrument Co., a guitar shop offering repair services and custom instruments. The fact that the city is the original home of the Gibson Guitar Co. and its founder, Orville Gibson, is fairly common knowledge. But when Gibson moved to Nashville, Tennessee, in 1984, Charters says Kalamazoo lost some of its reputation as a capitol of stringed instrument production. “People will say, ‘Oh yeah, I had an uncle that worked at Gibson, that sure was neat,’ but it’s this kind of melancholy attitude toward what Kalamazoo used to be,” Charters said. “When we tell people we’re making guitars in Kalamazoo, they get really excited, even if they don’t play a guitar. They just think it’s great that their city has that again.” Charters and Gavan founded Kal-Tone, 248 N. Burdick St., in October partly to continue the legacy of guitar making in Kalamazoo. Both men acknowledge Kalamazoo’s tradition of guitar making has been maintained admirably by the Heritage Guitar Co., which has made guitars

in the former Gibson factory at 225 Parsons St. since 1985. The factory and Gibson’s history in Kalamazoo has been thrust into the spotlight recently as the owner of the property considers whether to demolish the factory’s iconic Gibson smokestack that has deteriorated significantly. But where new Heritage guitars are available only through dealers, Charters says he envisions KalTone as a place where people can directly place orders and Gavan browse stock in a more open retail environment. “Heritage is making guitars, but we’re trying to do that in a more accessible and visible way,” Charters, 35, said of his vision for Kal-Tone, which launched as the Kalamazoo Guitar Shop before a name change to avoid conflict with another business. Although Gavan, 44, worked for Heritage off and on for 15 years, he admits he is proficient only in parts of the guitarmaking process. He said he still has a lot to learn from Charters, who returned to Kalamazoo last year after working for Dusty Strings Co., a music retail store and school in Seattle. During his three years

in Seattle, Charters was hired by the Experience Music Project Museum to do conservation work on some of its collection, including Jimi Hendrix’s Martin D-45, Bob Dylan’s acoustic guitar he purchased in Minneapolis before hitchhiking to New York City and Hank Williams’ Southern Jumbo from Gibson. While Charters says he enjoyed his experience in Seattle, strong family ties brought the Kalamazoo native back to the area. “I just wanted to come back home,” Charters said. Charters learned his craft at Wechter Guitars in Paw Paw in 1998 under Abe Wechter, a former Gibson employee. In 2002, Charters met Gavan while spending a year working for Heritage. He opened his own Driftwood Guitar Shop in 2003 before returning to Wechter in 2005. He then opened Charters Guitar in 2006 before moving to Seattle. His initial efforts to start a shop were hampered by taking on too much work and not having enough time to run the retail side of the business, Charters says. Gavan plans to ease that workload by focusing on running the business. “If you go to Paris and walk around the streets, it’s like every street has an instrument maker, a shop kind of like this,” said Gavan, who also is a part-time history instructor at Kalamazoo Valley Community College.

Ry Charters holds a mid-1930’s Gibson L-00, the guitar that inspired the first acoustic guitar production at Kal-Tone Musical Instrument Co. The L-00 was one of the least-expensive guitars Gibson sold in the ’30s, retailing for only $27.50. (Mark Bugnaski/

A 1960’s Gibson-made “Kalamazoo” electric guitar is among the vintage and new guitars for sale at Kal-Tone Musical Instrument Co. (Mark Bugnaski/

“That’s what we’re trying to provide.” Kal-Tone already has received two orders for its signature guitar, a hollow body acoustic based off Gibson’s popular L-00 model first manufactured in the 1930s that Charters has dubbed “Eleanor.” “There’s something about that guitar; it was one of the first small-body ones that they made,” Charters said while explaining why he modeled his guitar off the L-00.






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“It’s hard to see that guitar and not be aesthetically pleased with the curves. They nailed it with that design.” Why Eleanor? Charters says the name was inspired by the fact that the shop is near Eleanor Street. He also says it is a nod to former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. “She was very much behind the movement of putting people to work and establishing unions, and those L-00s from

Gibson were union-made,” Charters said. A standard Eleanor model made of Michigan walnut retails for $2,200 and takes about 80 to 100 hours to produce over roughly six weeks. Gavan, himself a guitar player and local performer, admits casual musicians may experience sticker shock at that price. “We try to keep prices down, but it’s not going to be the same thing that’d you get at Guitar Center or from China,” Gavan said. Charters says Kal-Tone isn’t taking additional custom orders until he has a finished product. Until then, Charters and Gavan will work to ensure Kal-Tone finds its place in Kalamazoo’s guitar industry. “We’re part of the next generation of guitar making in Kalamazoo, if nothing else,” Charters said. “We both feel it’s important that Kalamazoo makes guitars. It’s kind of in its blood.”


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Michael J. Willis is the Managing Partner of Willis Law, Attorneys and Counselors at Law, is licensed to practice law in Florida and Michigan, and is registered as a certified public accountant in the state of Illinois. Attorney Willis is rated as an A V -Preeminent Attorney by Martindale-Hubbell. This rating, according to Martindale, which has been rating lawyers for over a century, signifies that an attorney has reached the heights of professional excellence and is recognized for the highest levels of skill and integrity. He is listed in the Best Lawyers in America.





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By Alex Mitchell


Local Guitars


“To me ... that’s hallowed ground,” guitarist Rex Bell said of the former Gibson plant. Bell, who also is chief executive officer of Miller Davis Co., has been a guitarist since adolescence and plays on weekends in a country and rock band called The Bronk Brothers. (Mark Bugnaski/

Chris Wright, with the Kalamazoo Historic Preservation Commission, holds a “Save the Gibson Stack” T-shirt during a visit to the plant in February. (Mark Bugnaski/

one of the longtime guitar makers who is a partner in Heritage Guitars. “But to me it should mean more to Kalamazoo, more for what it was and what it has done for Kalamazoo.”

Jeff Mitchell, director of the Kalamazoo Academy of Rock, stands at the bank of windows just under the Gibson smokestack at the original guitar factory at 225 Parsons St. Performers and rock stars once came to Kalamazoo just “to see where their guitar was born,” Mitchell said. “We’ve got to save it.” (Mark Bugnaski/

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priced guitars that were popular all over the United States. His company grew to become a huge business that still is going, even though it is no longer in Kalamazoo. The 98-year-old building that once housed up to 1,600 workers is important “because it was built for that company,” Ferraro said, “and because it is still sound and substantially unaltered from the time when Gibson was very involved in making the guitars.” “To me and other guitar players, that’s hallowed ground,” guitar player Rex Bell said of the former Gibson plant. Bell, who also is chief executive officer of Miller Davis Co., a general contracting and construction company in Kalamazoo, said the plant originally gave Gibson guitars, and now Heritage guitars, their tonal mojo. “It’s like a national monument,” he said. Mitchell said he is encouraged that something good will happen to preserve the history of the old factory. The property is owned by 225 Parsons LLC and is managed by PlazaCorp Realty Advisors Inc. Mitchell said he is encouraged by the efforts PlazaCorp has made over the years to restore historically significant buildings in downtown Kalamazoo such as the Shakespeare Building and the Globe Building. “I hope they save the stack,” said Marvin Lamb,


kind of our hometown team that has gone on to be one of the most dominant guitar makers in rock ‘n’ roll history.” The “Save the Stack” effort was reinvigorated in January when the owner of the building, now part of a 134,592-square-foot business incubator called the Kalamazoo Enterprise Center, seemed poised to demolish the brick smokestack. It has been damaged by years of use, and there are fears it may become a safety hazard. Talks between the property’s owners and managers as well as community members and city officials have been ongoing in efforts to preserve the smokestack. It is, enthusiasts say, an important symbol of Kalamazoo’s guitar-making history. Some of the custommade Gibson guitars built at the plant that sold for $300 in the 1950s and ‘60s have become collectibles worth tens of thousands of dollars. The 1954 Gibson Les Paul known as “Black Beauty,” for instance, sold at auction last month for $335,500. “225 Parsons is known worldwide,” said Rendal Wall, who has worked for Heritage Guitars for the past 30 years after helping to build guitars for Gibson Guitar Co. for more than two decades before that. “Some of the most famous people in the entire (music) industry have walked through here.” Johnny Cash, B.B. King, Charlie Daniels, Elvis Presley and a host of other famous musicians are mentioned as past visitors by the seasoned guitar makers at Heritage Guitars, a company started in 1985 by a cluster of former Gibson guitar makers who decided to stay in Kalamazoo rather than relocate to Nashville, Tennessee, with Gibson. Sharon Ferraro, historic preservation coordinator for the city of Kalamazoo, said Orville Gibson was very important to the city “because he was a real innovator” who started small and made reasonably






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Orville Gibson’s brand is famous, but his life is mostly a mystery

Guitar visionary Editor’s note: This is one in a series of stories about Kalamazoo’s guitar-making heritage. Read more and see photo galleries at KGguitars. By Alex Mitchell

MORE INSIDE Gibson’s Les Paul model was choice of music icons, A10 COMING TUESDAY Who’s who of the music world once visited Gibson factory

KALAMAZOO — Most guitar aficionados and Kalamazoo residents know the Gibson Guitar Co. was named after its founder, Orville H. Gibson. But while the legacy of the man is clear, much of Gibson’s life remains a mystery. Why did the native of upstate New York move to Kalamazoo as a 17-year-old? Were his renowned skills as a luthier self-taught? Why did he have so little involvement with the company that took his name? These are questions Thomas Dietz, a former curator for the Kalamazoo Valley Museum who has given numerous oral history lessons on Gibson, said may never have answers. “Orville’s legacy symbolizes his commitment to creating very fine musical instruments,” Dietz said. “But as for the man himself, there will likely always be details of his life we can’t know for certain.” Much of the uncertainty surrounding


Beer lovers celebrate Oberon’s return Monday morning may have seen snow flurries, but springtime was on tap. It was Oberon Day, when Bell’s Brewery releases the popular wheat beer for the season. And some of those who admitted being put off by the snow could find sunshine in their glass. Details, A3 KALAMAZOO

Ministry with Community closer to new facility Ministry with Community plans to start work on a new facility this summer. The agency, which provides daytime shelter and services to those in need, says the $6 million project is intended to help improve the services the ministry provides, not to add new programs. Details, A5

Otsego ‘ready for the challenge’


Gibson is because there are no known documents or letters that can be attributed to him, something Dietz said wouldn’t be uncommon for a man who had no spouse or children. “I don’t think anybody in his family probably anticipated 100 years ago that the company that bore his name was going to be one of the most famous musical instrument manufacturers of the 20th century,” Dietz said, speculating why Gibson’s family didn’t keep his documents. Born in 1856 in

The Gibson name has symbolized excellence in stringed instruments for more than a century. The company was born in Kalamazoo.



Info on paroled killers? Some states don’t hold back MORE INSIDE AND ONLINE In Michigan, what will OTIS tell you? A2 Keep up with the weeklong series, and join the conversation,

By Angie Jackson

I feel that this is a safety issue in spite of being told by the service department that the air bag will deploy even if it is off.” OWNER OF NISSAN PATHFINDER WHOSE INDICATOR LIGHT SHOWS THE AIRBAG IS TURNED OFF EVEN WHEN AN ADULT IS IN THE SEAT. DETAILS, A5

GRAND RAPIDS — In a handful of states, es, residents can punch their address into a database and pull up a list of convicted murderers who walk their streets. Curious neighbors can have several details at their fingertips: a violent offender’s home address, criminal sentence and physical description or picture. Some registries include mapping features, while other databases appear as a list. Michigan does not have such a registry for those convicted of murder or other violent offenses.

The law enforcement agencies and corrections departments that maintain public databases in states such as Illinois, Indiana, Montana, Kansas and Oklahoma say these registries help inform people about who in their community has a violent past. They say the information has the potential to

INDEX Advice............ A7 Classified........B7

This colorized photo shows an acoustic guitar believed to have been designed and built by Orville Gibson.

Orville Gibson started his first guitar and mandolin shop in 1896. Also shown: the 100 block of East Main (now East Michigan), where Gibson first made mandolins; and his 1898 patent for a mandolin design.


After winning its first regional title since 1984, Otsego’s boys basketball team wants to take the next step. The Bulldogs have that opportunity tonight when they meet Milan, the defending state champs, in the Class B quarterfinal at Marshall High School. Details, B2

0-06 721000

COMING THURSDAY One mother’s plea for a Michigan registry.

keep people safer and, if nothing else, more aware of their surroundings. “Any individual that wants to feel like they’re more in control of their own safety SEE REGISTRY, A2

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Kalamazoo’s Guitar Heritage KALAMAZOO

Treasured Les Paul models had own ‘magic’ By Al Jones

that was not originally a box-office success, the guitars did not sell well until they attracted critical acclaim. Sales of the Les Paul standard guitar, usually with a gold metal flake finish, were down in 1957, so Gibson tried to boost sales by producing models with a sunburst finish that better showed the wood grain and had other adjustments, Amoroso said. They produced about 1,600 of them from 1958 through 1960, but sales were still down and in 1960 the company discontinued the model, he said.

The old but familiarlooking guitar with the gold in the middle and faded red fringes costs a little bit. Jesse Amoroso is asking $475,000. How can that be? It’s a 1959 Gibson Les Paul with a sunburst finish that has faded in a way guitar aficionados can appreciate. “The ’59 sunburst Les Paul is the Holy Grail of electric guitars,” says Amoroso, owner of Cowtown Guitars, a vintage guitar shop in north Las Vegas. “It’s a rarity because of the guys playing it and because they (Gibson) had really refined it,” said Amoroso, a musician and guitar appraiser who is the expert often called to authenticate vintage guitars on the reality TV show “Pawn Stars.” “That’s the year that everything came together right — in 1959,” he said of electric guitars made at Gibson in Kalamazoo bearing the signature of inventive country and jazz guitarist Les Paul. One of Amoroso’s three sons is named Gibson. The handmade Les Paul models produced in Kalamazoo in the 1950s and ’60s — as well as some of those made later by Gibson Guitar Corp. in Nashville, Tennessee — have been used in countless hit songs across all musical genres, including jazz, blues, pop, country, soul and rock ‘n’ roll. “It’s going to give you a fat, warm sound, basically,” said Nate Heymoss, a Kalamazoo musician. “It’s going to push your amp a lot harder than a Fender Stratocaster, which would be the other big gun in the guitar world.” “Push” refers to the guitar’s capacity to generate greater volume to output to an amplifier. “I was influenced by my uncle Mark, who has a Gibson Les Paul,” Heymoss said. “He let me play it and I was hooked.” That was at age 15. Now, at 34, he is a guitarist with The Mainstays, a funk, soul and R&B band, and



Chateaugay, N.Y., Gibson’s name first appears locally in a December 1873 edition of the Kalamazoo Telegraph, a newspaper of the time. Dietz said it is believed Gibson came to Kalamazoo to reunite with an older brother, Lovell, who had married a local woman. Lovell’s marriage was short-lived, and he divorced and returned to New York within a few years. However, Orville Gibson remained in Kalamazoo. Dietz said Gibson already was an accomplished musician by the time he moved to Kalamazoo. He is first referenced locally as a performer in 1876 and later is cited as leader of the Orpheus Mandolin Orchestra. He played with other local groups and performed at social events. Gibson joined the Light Guard — an early iteration of the National Guard — and worked as a waiter and as a clerk at Sprague’s shoe store. Although he didn’t open his first mandolin and guitar shop until years later, Dietz said, Gibson’s work as a luthier

Gerald Bergeon saws a Gibson Les Paul guitar body at the Gibson plant, 225 Parson St. in Kalamazoo. (Photo Courtesy of Collection of The Kalamazoo Valley Museum)


Jesse Amoroso holds an uncirculated 1959 Kalamazoomade Gibson Les Paul guitar for sale at Cowtown Guitars Las Vegas. The asking price is $475,000, Amoroso appraises vintage instruments for the television show “Pawn Stars.” (Submitted photo/Cowtown)

with The Soul Experience, an R&B and soul band. He also is a music teacher at the Kalamazoo Academy of Rock, which is in the old Gibson factory at 225 Parsons St. . Gibson, which had a reputation for making quality mandolins and guitars since its founder, Orville Gibson, started the company in 1894, produced innovative acoustic and, later, electric guitars. Its carved wood and arched-top acoustic designs gave the instruments greater volume. CREATING NEW SOUND

“The guitar, when it started to get married with electricity and all sorts of effects, then you really started getting performers like Elvis, with his sound, that slappy kind of twang,” said Ry Charters, a co-owner of local guitar maker Kal-Tone who was the protégé of a former Gibson guitar maker. “It was when blues and country music started coming together and became electrified. Then you had this whole wave of music.” While Gibson had produced a number of wellreceived guitar models, the Les Paul is credited earned him wide acclaim throughout much of the 1870s and 1880s. But Dietz said the most common misconception he hears is that Gibson did little beyond crafting stringed instruments. Instead, Dietz said society pages at the time reveal Gibson may have been more of a “playboy of West Michigan.” “We start finding little clippings that he’s escorting a young lady home from church one night and they’re roughed up by a couple young toughs and it goes to the courts,” Dietz said. “Then we find in the social column a few years later that he and his buddies are going to spend a week down on one of the lakes with three or four young ladies.” He would later spend more than 12 years in a relationship with a Margaret Gibson, who was 19 years his junior. Dietz said it is unclear if Margaret was related to Gibson, but the two never married. VISIONARY GUITAR MAKER

Gibson started his first guitar and mandolin shop in 1896 at 114 S. Burdick St. He moved his shop in 1899 to the second floor of

with helping make Gibson guitars part of the backbone of popular music in the 1960s and beyond. “The Les Paul has a bigger, meatier sound — thicker sounding,” said Amoroso. He and Heymoss said the guitar’s range is a result of its design and its pickups, the metal devices just below the strings. The earliest models were a collaboration of innovative technology. They married ideas from guitarist Les Paul with those of former Gibson Guitar Corp. President Ted McCarty. Paul was a tinkerer and inventor who is credited with pioneering multitrack recording, the technology that allows musicians and singers to sing or play a number of harmonies or instruments, then lay one track on top of another in a recording. McCarty was an engineer. He was head of Gibson from 1950 to 1966, considered the golden age of electric guitar making. The McCarty-Paul collaboration resulted in a solid-body electric guitar that eliminated distortion, had a clean sound and allowed notes to be sustained. But like a movie

In the 1960s and ‘70s several serious guitarists picked up the ’59-’60s and helped popularize them. Those musicians included Eric Clapton of Cream, Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones, Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin and Peter Green of Fleetwood Mac. Charters said Gibson was one of the few guitar makers that built electric and acoustic instruments “and were well received at both things.” “Gibson had a lot of creativity and was able to cater to a lot of different types of music over the years both in the acoustic and the electric world — which is sometimes a dividing line,” he said. Mike Korpak, who worked for Gibson for 22 years before the company moved to Nashville, said, “Gibson was at the forefront of new things. They changed how people would be playing guitars.” Marvin Lamb noticed Les Paul guitars that Gibson sold for about $300 each in the ’50s and ’60s now can fetch prices in the tens of thousands of dollars. “We built hundreds of those, thousands of them over the years,” said Lamb, who was a guitar builder at Gibson for many years before helping start Heritage Guitar Co., which calls the old Gibson factory home. In February, a Les Paul prototype known as “Black Beauty” was sold for $335,000 at auction in

The Rolling Stones — from left, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Bill Wyman — perform in Paris in 1967. Richards is playing a Kalamazoo-made Gibson Les Paul Guitar. (AP Photo)

In this 1987 file photo, Les Paul, center, signs former Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page’s chest at a 72nd birthday party thrown for Paul by Gibson Guitar Co. at New York’s Hard Rock Cafe. Guitarist Jeff Beck is at left. (AP Photo)

New York City. It was built in 1953 in Kalamazoo. Amoroso describes the guitar he is selling for $475,000 as “an investment, a piece of art” that has never been in circulation and had only one previous owner. He said it represents the pinnacle of electric guitar making, and collectors of rare guitars typically can expect a 7 to 10 percent return on their money. “It’s the Stradivarius of electric guitars,” he said, referencing the violins Shortly after the arrangement and the opening of the Gibson Mandolin-Guitar Manufacturing Co.’s first location at 114. E Main St., Orville Gibson appeared to become disillusioned with the arrangement, Dietz said, although the reason why is unclear. “Within five or six years, he is pretty much a figurehead in the company,” Dietz said.

The 1914 Gibson Mandolin-Guitar Company Catalog “I” contains testimonials from members of mandolin bands from around the world. (Supplied photo/Kalamazoo Public Library)

104 E. Main, where he also resided. What made Gibson’s work so sought after was his decision to use principles applied to making arch-top violins to improve the sound of his guitars and mandolins, said Mark Sahlgren, a Kalamazoo musician and former Gibson employee. “All these arch-top guitars today ... it never would have happened if Orville Gibson didn’t have a look at the future,” Sahlgren said. “To take the idea of the Stradivarius violin and apply some of those same principles to a mandolin ... that’s what made him a visionary.” In 1902, Gibson’s prod-

ucts attracted the attention of five local investors, according to former Gibson employee Julius Bellson’s self-published book, “The Gibson Story.” The investors convinced Gibson, who was notorious for being a perfectionist, that his instruments could be mass produced without significantly sacrificing their handmade quality. Gibson agreed to accept $2,500 and an unspecified monthly fee to work for two years to “impart his knowledge of grading, tuning, and designing the entire construction of said musical instruments and allow the name ‘Gibson’ to be used on the products,” Bellson wrote.

made in the 17th and 18th centuries known for the quality of their sound. He said Fender’s Stratocaster guitars of the ’50s and ’60s were fine instruments, with some worth $30,000 to $50,000. But they were mass-produced, factory-produced guitars. Of the 1959 Les Pauls, he said, “I don’t know what the magic is behind them, but as a guitar player, you realize it the minute you pick it up and plug it in. You go, ‘Oh!’”

ued crafting instruments, even making a final stop in Kalamazoo on his trip to a World’s Fair. He died in 1918 at the age of 62 at a hospital in Odensburg, New York. While the cause of his death is listed as chronic endocarditis, Dietz said the hospital also treated mental health conditions. During Gibson’s final years, the Gibson Co. continued its rapid expansion. In 1917, the company moved DECLINING HEALTH to its final Kalamazoo locaIn 1908, the company tion, the iconic factory at purchased Gibson’s pat225 Parsons St. that housed ent rights for his arch-top 1,600 employees during design for a lump sum and peak years. agreed to give him annual Though Gibson himself royalty payments of $500, never stepped foot inside the equivalent of roughly the factory, his presence $20,000 today. lingers over it to this day, But as the company that said Patrick Whalen, an bore his name continued employee of the Heritage to grow, Gibson’s health Guitar Co. that has inhabdeclined, Dietz said. ited the Parsons Street Mental health issues factory since 1985, a year likely led to Gibson being after Gibson Guitar Co. declared incompetent to relocated to Nashville. manage his own affairs by Whalen recalled a night a Kalamazoo County court when he was in one of in 1909, Dietz said. A broth- building’s stairwells and er took him back to New felt a presence next to him. York, but Orville Gibson “Everybody has an returned to Kalamazoo in Orville sighting,” Whalen 1912 and received a prorecalled with a laugh. “I bate court order stating he swear when I came up the again was competent. stairs, somebody came Little is known about down beside me.” Gibson’s final years other When he turned to look, than the fact that he contin- Whalen was alone.






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“We’re keeping the vitality of the music alive.” ZOE FOLSOM, 15, STUDENT AT KALAMAZOO ACADEMY OF ROCK

Rock’s next generation


Fired AD took athletic funds, school says School district documents say former Gull Lake athletic director Marc Throop was fired because he took money from the athletic department. An email from superintendent Chris Rundle says Throop admitted to “taking $200 from gate receipts in February and admitted similar actions in the past.” Throop said he used the money to buy food for coaches meetings and referees, according to the email, but, Rundle said, “we believe your explanation to be false.” Details, A3

Editor’s note: This is one in a series of stories about Kalamazoo’s guitar-making heritage. Read more and see photo galleries at By Alex Mitchell

People who don’t often make it to Kalamazoo’s north side could be excused if they’re puzzled by the sounds of rock ballads echoing inside the former Gibson Guitar Co. factory. It’s not the ghost of Orville Gibson accompanied by a progressive band, just Jeff Mitchell and his Kalamazoo Academy of Rock students. “If these walls could talk,” Mitchell said wistfully from inside the third-floor studio where he teaches rock music to students ages 8-18 throughout the week. “I love these crappy old winStudents in the Kalamazoo Academy of Rock, which meets in the former Gibson Guitar Co. building, are dows,” said Mitchell, who is heading an effort to preserve the conscious of the history tied up in the building where they practice. (Christian Randolph/Kalamazoo Gazette) factory’s “GIBSON” smokestack. Together, the roughly 25 students he teaches through the Kalamazoo Academy of Rock make up four performing bands and one workshop band. Mitchell, who has worked as a band instructor and offered private piano lessons from his home for 25 years, has been in the Keith Richards, left, and Ron Gibson building since 2009. Wood visit the Gibson Guitar “There’s just so much rich hisCo. factory in Kalamazoo on tory to this space; I jumped when I got a chance to move in here,” July 24, 1975. The members he said. of the Rolling Stones were The music-making heritage of


K-College admissions go ‘test optional’

Rolling Stones pay a visit

Starting with the fall 2016 incoming students, ACT or SAT test scores will not be required for admission to Kalamazoo College. The school says standardized test scores have little value in predicting college success. Instead, they say more about the applicant’s economic background. Details, A5


among many renowned musicians from rock, country, jazz and blues to visit the facility. Stories, A4.


Mother states case for state registry Sally Nink believes a public murderer registry would help protect communities from people such as Kyle Wilson, who killed her teenage son in 2007. Wilson, who later was released, killed again. He once told a relative his first stint in prison taught him how to kill someone and get away with it, according to testimony at his murder trial in 2014. “I wouldn’t want to live next to a killer, especially knowing now what I know,” Nink said. Details, A5

DAILY QUOTE You watch the “seasons change from every room.”


COMING SUNDAY Gibson leaves Kalamazoo, and Heritage Guitar Co. rises in its place.

(Ward Morgan Collection, WMU Archives and Regional History Collections)


Local vaccination waiver rate half that of state By Julie Mack

In a state struggling to improve immunization rates and reduce vaccination waivers, Kalamazoo County remains a model. About 95 percent of the county’s kindergartners were fully vaccinated in fall 2014, according to data recently released by the Michigan Department of Community Health. Only 2.6 percent of the county’s kindergartners had waivers, which their parents obtained to exempt their children from required vaccines. That’s half the

state average of 5.2 percent. In fact, Kalamazoo County has 21 schools where no kindergartners had a waiver this school year. That’s about a third of school buildings that house kindergartners. Public health officials see kindergarten vaccine rates as key to reducing the spread of highly contagious diseases such as measles and whooping cough. Michigan children entering kindergarten must show proof of immunization for measles, pertussis, polio, mumps, rubella, hepatitis B, chicken pox, diphtheria and tetanus — unless a


MLIVE DATABASE Check vaccine waiver rates for schools near you,

MORE INSIDE See a list of schools with the highest waiver rates in the area, A2 Vaccination waiver rates drop statewide in past year, A11

parent signs a waiver. By seventh grade, students must be immunized against meningococcal disease and receive a DTP or DTaP booster

INDEX Advice............ C4 Classified........B7

0-06 721000

for diptheria, tetanus and pertussis. Those vaccines also can be waived by parents. Michigan is one of 20 states that allows parents to obtain a waiver for reasons beyond religious or medical concerns. These are classified as “philosophical” waivers, which in fall 2014 comprised 71 percent of all waivers. published in December an investigation of vaccination rates in Michigan and found the state has among the highest rate of waivers for required childhood vaccines, SEE VACCINES, A2

FEEDBACK Comics ........... C5 Local............... A3

Lottery ............ A2 Michigan.......A11

Nation...........A12 Obituaries.....A10

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Kalamazoo’s Guitar Heritage

The day The Rolling Stones tumbled into town By Al Jones

When The Rolling Stones decided to visit Kalamazoo in July 1975, Tom Fetters didn’t have much time to plan. “I received a phone call in the morning from our office in Chicago,” said Fetters, who was chief operating officer of Gibson Guitar Co.’s original plant at 225 Parsons St. “They said The Rolling Stones would like a factory tour that day and I was to rent a limo and go to a private hangar at the Kalamazoo airport. They were coming in on their private plane.” That was in mid-July of 1975, when Gibson was owned by Chicago-based musical instrument company Norlin Inc. “It was really a spur-ofthe-moment deal,” Fetters said. The visit was not to be announced, but Fetters said about 200 Rolling Stones fans were outside the airport terminal looking for the band when he arrived. He said he assumes the band’s publicist leaked information to generate the attention. Fetters led the tour after picking up guitarists Keith

Keith Richards tests a guitar at the Gibson factory in Kalamazoo on July 24, 1975. Richards and fellow Rolling Stones member Ron Wood visited the Gibson factory to tour the plant and test some new designs. (Ward Morgan Collection, WMU Archives and Regional History Collections)

Richards and Ronnie Wood along with four or five members of The Rolling Stones’ entourage at the Kalamazoo County Airport. What happened to Mick Jagger, Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman, the other members of the band? Fetters said he was told the band was on the plane.

but he never saw them. Fetters said no one was outside the Parsons Street plant on Kalamazoo’s north side when the limo arrived, and no one at the factory knew about the visit until the entourage walked in. After that, he said, “We didn’t get much production done that day.” “They (workers) all

wanted to come talk to them, particularly our female employees,” Fetters said. “We would allow them to do that.” The Rolling Stones are one of rock ‘n’ roll’s premier bands. They were in the midst of their “Tour of the Americas ‘75” summer tour, and Fetters said he was told they had played in Chicago the night before their visit. The 1970s were days when drinking, drugs and wild parties were everyday events in the music industry. Jack French is pretty diplomatic when he describes Keith Richards’ condition. “He struggled,” French said with a laugh. “He’d walk a few feet and then fall down.” French, now 72, has been an instrument repairman for 54 years, with Gibson from 1961 until 1984, when the company closed in Kalamazoo and moved all of its production to Nashville, Tennessee. He has continued since 1985 with Heritage Guitar Co., a business started by former Gibson guitar makers who decided not to relocate to

“They would pick (Keith Richards) up when he fell and they helped hold him up. But he kept falling down.” JACK FRENCH, FORMER GIBSON WORKER

Tennessee. Fetters, now 75, is retired and lives near Burlington, Vermont. He worked for Gibson from 1971-76, then moved with his family back to his home state of Vermont. He owned and later sold a factory that made the little wooden pieces for Milton Bradley’s game Scrabble. French remembers that Richards was escorted by a couple of Gibson “higher-ups.” “They would pick him up when he fell and they helped hold him up,” French said. “But he kept falling down.” He said, “I’ll never forget that he was wearing leather pants. I raced motorcycles back then and

I knew leather pants were good.” He said he remembers thinking the pants might help protect Richards when he fell. Fetters also was diplomatic in his descriptions. “I just remember that on the way, they had a request,” he said. “We had to stop and get them some chocolate milk and other things because their stomachs were bothering them.” “They were rather ragged,” Fetters said of their physical condition, but they “were very interested in the process required to manufacture guitars and they interacted directly with the people on the manufacturing floor.” The tour lasted about 90 minutes. The best part, Fetters said, may have been Richards and Wood playing guitars in the sound-proof booth that was part of the factory’s final testing area. They were relaxed and lit cigarettes in what was a no-smoking environment, he said. “But nobody was going to tell them they couldn’t light up,” he said.

Music stars were regular visitors By Alex Mitchell

Mark Sahlgren recalls looking a bit out of place when he worked for the Gibson Guitar Co. in Kalamazoo during the 1960s. Many of the company’s employees at the time considered themselves factory workers as opposed to luthiers, and Sahlgren said he stood out as the only “long-haired dude” that worked there. But his long hair and love for guitars endeared Sahlgren to some of the stars who would stop by the factory to check on the status of a repair or custom instrument, including Steve Winwood when he was part of the Spencer Davis Group. “Winwood came over to me and we picked around a little bit, because I was a finger-picker guitar player and I had a couple guitars set up with an amp,” Sahlgren said. “Guys like him seemed to kind of seek me out because of my hair.” Even though Gibson relocated to Nashville in 1984, there are no shortage of former employees with memories of the stars who toured the factory. Marv Lamb, a former Gibson employee and part owner of the Heritage Guitar Co., which has occupied the Parsons Street factory since 1985, said seeing musicians was just part of his job. However, Lamb said he took notice when Johnny Cash stopped by in the early 1960s to check on the status of a J-200 acoustic he had ordered. Lamb remembered working on the neck of Cash’s guitar while the legendary country-music star watched. “I’d sand it a little bit and let him feel it,” Lamb said. “He’d say, ‘Well, make it a little bit thinner or do this or that.’ That’s a memory that stands out.” Jack French, a repairman who started with Gibson in 1961 and still does freelance work for Heritage, also recalled one of Cash’s visits.

Cash asked French to fix a bass cello that was strapped to the top of his limo. French said he went outside to untie the instrument and June Carter, who had come outside to get her purse out of the car, helped him. “She was wearing a white blouse with a big red rose on the back of it,” French said. “I remember that big red rose. She helped me untie it and get it down off the car. She was very polite and nice.” French remembers a number of other visitors: B.B. King, Little Jimmy Dickens, Stonewall Jackson, Charlie Daniels, Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, Alice Cooper (with a case of beer), Ted Nugent and Peter Frampton. Fellow Heritage owner Jim Deurloo remembered Kiss stopping for a tour, but said they didn’t go out of their way to endear themselves to employees. And of course, Les Paul was a frequent visitor as he worked with Gibson employees to develop his signature Les Paul model. “I never did talk to Les Paul, but he would always come shooting through there and he was always kind of in a rush,” Sahlgren said. “And Les, all those guys of that ilk, they were all kind of like

Tom Bradfield and his wife, Sue, meet with B.B. King backstage at the State Theatre in 1992. Tom Bradfield, a former Gibson employee who died in 2010, worked on King’s famous “Lucille” guitar. (Submitted photo/Bradfield family)

overgrown kids to me, which I love in people.” French said so many musicians visited that it was sometimes difficult to know who everyone was. He recalled an instance when a guitarist dropped off an SG to have repairs done and his mother later called to check on the status of the instrument. “She told me his name and I said, ‘Well, I don’t recognize that name, I’ll have to go look,’” French said. “She laughed and said, “Well, I’m his mother and I just think that’s great that somebody doesn’t know who he is. “Well, it was John Cougar Mellencamp.” Many stars also hold the visits to the Gibson plant and the instruments made there in high esteem. Ted Nugent said in an email exchange that his mind “runneth over with glowing, exciting memories” of when he would travel to the Gibson factory to have his Byrdland

models worked on. “A die-hard Gibson Byrdland addict from 1964 to this day, I was moved to meet and hang with the woodcrafting guitarmasters at Gibson working on some of my original Byrdlands created there as well as custom Byrdlands they built for me,” Nugent said, noting he has since been back to visit Heritage Guitar Co. “My time there eclipsed the kid in the candy store dreams.” While visits from most of the musicians are documented, there is disagreement as to whether Elvis Presley visited the factory. French said he believes Elvis did, but Lamb and Deurloo disagree. “The rumor was that Elvis stayed at the Columbia Hotel, and they took guitars up there for

Charlie Daniels, left, and his guitarist, Tommy Crain, were photographed by Tom Bradfield when they visited the Gibson factory. (Submitted photo/Bradfield family) Tom Bradfield collected autographs and photos from his celebrity encounters. He even went out to dinner with Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top after Gibbons purchased a Texas-shaped guitar from the Gibson company in Kalamazoo in about 1979. (Submitted photo/Bradfield family)

him to look at,” Lamb said. “If Elvis was here, and they brought him down here, then I never seen him. And I would have known because I idolized Elvis Presley.” Deurloo said although some of Elvis’ guitars were

worked on at the Gibson factory, he thinks the stories of his visit were a case of people wanting a good tale to tell. “There’s probably as much truth in that rumor as you want to believe,” Deurloo said.

Easter Worship a special invitation this Easter April 3rd and 4th at 7pm Easter Sunday at 11am

Call 877-268-9573 if 12th Street Baptist Church your church would like 3911 S 12th Street in Kalamazoo to be included in our 269.353.8133 4/2 Easter Services sharing our faith and belief Directory. 7242591-01






K-College won’t require

Family of murdered teen supports killer registry test scores for admission

By Angie Jackson

HASTINGS — In the years since their teenage son was stabbed to death over an $80 debt, Sally and John Nink have not been able to get past questions that have no easy answers. Such as why their 15-year-old boy’s killer was allowed to plead to manslaughter instead of a murder charge. And why that person was given the opportunity to kill again. Deep down, Nink Sally Nink said, she can’t help but feel slightly responsible for the death of the second person killed by Kyle Wilson because of a petty argument. In 2007, Wilson, then 17, stabbed Jordon Nink with a 5-inch hunting knife as the two argued in a Barry County mobile home. Wilson was charged with seconddegree murder but pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaugh-

ter after the prosecutor convinced Jordon Nink’s family Wilson likely would walk free if the case went to trial. Wilson spent 31/2 years in prison. Hundreds of letters from Nink’s relatives, friends and members of their Orangeville Township community didn’t persuade the parole board to keep Wilson behind bars. His parole term ended in 2013, five months before Wilson, 25, beat his cousin, Brandon Nelson, 32, to death during a dispute over Wilson dinner plans at the apartment the two shared in Kent County. “I feel like that person wouldn’t have died if we could’ve gotten (Wilson) put away,” Sally Nink said of Nelson’s death, for which Wilson was sentenced to 46 to 150 years in prison after a conviction of seconddegree murder. Wilson is serving his time in the Michigan Reformatory in Ionia.

Sally Nink believes a public murderer registry would help protect communities from people such as Wilson, who once told a relative his first stint in prison taught him how to kill someone and get away with it, according to testimony at his Kent County Circuit Court murder trial in 2014. “It would be great to have that registry for killers. I wouldn’t want to live next to a killer, especially knowing now what I know,” she said. “I agree with the registry. ... The state of Michigan should do that.” Nink knows Wilson could be paroled when he is in his 70s. He could move someplace where new neighbors and friends are not aware of his violent past. As they continue to adjust to life without their son, the Ninks wonder what the loving and fun young man would have accomplished as he aged. “I promised my kids I would never let anything bad happen to them, and then this happens, and it’s just heartbreaking. I would hate to see anybody else’s children die,” Sally Nink said.



the almost 100-year-old factory on Parsons Street, now occupied by the Heritage Guitar Co., also was a selling point to some of Mitchell’s students. “So many people in Kalamazoo don’t even know that this building is here, but it’s a huge deal,” said Zoe Folsom, a 15-year-old keyboardist and vocalist for the KAR’s Wednesday-night band. “I think it’s really impressive that we’re keeping the vitality of the music alive — there’s Heritage guitars downstairs, and we’re up here.” Guitarist Wyatt Hardy, 15, said before he got started at KAR three years ago he knew the factory used to turn out renowned Gibson guitars, but couldn’t have imagined how it would feel to practice in the space. “I’m a huge Gibson fan,” he said, noting he has two Gibson guitars, a 1995 SG and a 2013 Les Paul. “There was probably somebody standing right here, building a guitar similar to mine,” he said from inside the old factory. “It’s kind of crazy to think about.” The band’s other students — drummer Jimbo Bruce, 10; vocalist and keyboardist Sophie Ross, 13; guitarist Colin Jamison, 16 and bassist Sophia Dely, 15 — each said they didn’t know much about the building’s history before starting with KAR. Sophia said her only bit of knowledge came from an older sister, who prepped her on Orville Gibson’s ghost, a legend that lingers over occupants of the building, despite the fact Gibson never stepped foot in the factory. “Any time something goes wrong with the equipment, we say it’s the ghost of Orville Gibson,” Mitchell said. The students said they enjoy KAR more than traditional one-on-one lessons they have taken in the past, although Mitchell and the instructors who assist him also spend time individually with students. Primarily a piano and wind instrument teacher at heart, Mitchell’s experience playing in bands and his bachelor’s degree in music education from Western Michigan University make him proficient enough to instruct drummers and guitarists. “He’s great,” Folsom said of Mitchell. “He’s laid back, but he makes the notes

Jeff Mitchell, above and below, leads a band during one of their practice sessions at the Kalamazoo Academy of Rock in Kalamazoo. (Christian Randolph/

It joins more than 800 institutions that no longer use ACT or SAT results for admissions By Emily Monacelli

Kalamazoo College will not require ACT or SAT standardized test scores for admission starting with fall 2016 admission. K-College joins more than 800 colleges and universities in the country that admit students without regard to test scores. “Admission to K always has been — and will continue to be — very selective,” Eric Staab, dean of admission and financial aid, said. “Admission is determined by various factors that express a student’s qualities and abilities and likelihood to thrive at K.” Staab said in the news release the college will consider high school grade point average, academic rigor of the high school curriculum, the application essay, participation in co-curricular activities and letters of recommendation in the application process. Students can submit test scores as additional information. Kalamazoo College conducted a two-year study that concluded the same as other studies on the topic — that standardized test scores have “little broad predictive value for undergraduate success,” according to the

news release. For the study, faculty and staff members serving on K-College’s Admission and Financial Aid Committee looked at data from four classes at K-College from 2009 to 2012 and for correlations between academic performance and the admission factors, including standardized test scores. The study found high school GPA was the best and most consistent predictor of academic performance at K across all race, ethnicity and socioeconomic categories. “Scores on standardized tests tend to correlate with family income and may say more about an applicant’s economic advantages — or disadvantages — than about academic potential,” K-College officials said in the news release. College officials plan to measure the effects of the new approach and its possible effects on firstyear GPA, retention and graduation rate, areas of study and employment or graduate school after graduation. Ann Fraser, K-College associate professor of biology and the study’s principal investigator, said the change will attract students who may not do well on standardized tests but who tend to think outside the box. The test change was approved by a large majority of the college’s faculty in November 2014.

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that he needs to. He lets us mess around in between because we know when we have to get serious.” Mitchell develops diverse set lists covering everything from classic rock to contemporary pop for the band to perform at local gigs every couple months. Being the youngest in the group, Jimbo said he appreciates that KAR gives him the opportunity to be recognized as a serious drummer when performing publicly. “It’s nice to know people

can be taken seriously because of their passion for music,” he said. “Normally, I’m just sitting there playing, and when I look out in the crowd, my mom’s out there dancing around like a fool.” As for the factory and its deteriorating but iconic smokestack, Mitchell’s students said they hope they remain to be enjoyed by future iterations of the rock academy. “There’s so much history in that smokestack,” Folsom said. “They can’t just let it go.”

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TO ALL INTERESTED PERSONS IN KALAMAZOO COUNTY: PLEASE TAKE NOTICE that the Board of Commissioners, County of Kalamazoo, State of Michigan, (the “County”) will hold a public hearing on April 7, 2015, at 7 p.m., in the Board of Commissioners office, 201 W. Kalamazoo Avenue, Kalamazoo, Michigan 49007, to receive comments on the proposed Property Assessed Clean Energy (“PACE”) program and the proposed PACE report. TAKE FURTHER NOTICE that the Board of Commissioners intends to establish a PACE program and to establish a PACE district, having the same boundaries as the County’s jurisdictional boundaries, pursuant to Act No. 270, Public Acts of Michigan, 2010 (“Act 270”), for the purposes of encouraging economic development, improving property valuation, increasing employment, reducing energy costs, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and promoting the use of renewable energy systems and energy efficiency improvements. TAKE FURTHER NOTICE that the PACE report, required by Section 9(1) of Act 270, is available on the County’s website at, and is available for viewing at the office of the County Clerk located at 201 W. Kalamazoo Avenue, Kalamazoo, Michigan 49007. THIS NOTICE is given by order of the Board of Commissioners of Kalamazoo County, Michigan.


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Tradition goes on


Costs, timelines for school project clearer A lot of decisions lie ahead, but the Portage school board is getting a better idea of the possible costs of its facilities project that will be on the November ballot. The estimated cost ranges from $124 million to $157 million, depending on what shape the project takes. Details, A6

By Alex Mitchell

Editor’s note: This story about Heritage Guitar Co. is one in a series of stories about Kalamazoo’s guitar-making heritage. For more, go to KGguitars.



ALAMAZOO — Step inside the old Gibson Guitar factory at 225 Parsons St. when no one’s around, and a person could be convinced the renowned manufacturer of stringed instruments had simply dropped everything and disappeared.

Restaurant’s goal: Help feed the needy The business plan of the owners of the soon-to-open Feed The World Cafe isn’t about profits. Instead, it’s about sharing. The restaurant intends to provide a meal to someone in need for every meal it sells. It will work with three local agencies to make it happen. Details, A9


MORE INSIDE Readers show off Kalamazoo-built guitars, A4 Gibson left, but skilled craftspeople stayed behind, A5 What can city’s guitar history bring to its future? A7

On the third floor of the old Gibson factory, Heritage Guitar Co. paints and finishes guitars. On Wednesday, the company will mark its 30th year of making quality guitars. (Mark Bugnaski/ The audience applauds a speaker at the school board meeting. KALAMAZOO

Leggings, lockdown put Norrix in turmoil


It wasn’t easy getting Prop 1 moving, and there’s no direct route to passage

Students and parents from Loy Norrix High School brought two very different issues to the school board last week: Student safety and enforcement of the dress code. Details, A11

DAILY QUOTE in touch “withI stillher.keep She’s like my

Twisting road COMING UP Tuesday: 11 ways Prop 1 would affect your life. Thursday: Why all the “extras” in a roads proposal?



Will Proposal 1 be b Michigan’s routee to o better roads? That’ss th he the $1.9 billion ques-tion Michigan voters face May 5. Prop 1 would tax thee wholesale cost of fuel and d raise aise the sales tax from 6 percent rcent to 7 percent, exempting fuel purchases. It would trigger other laws to boost road funding, maximize the new investment and minimize the tax burden for low-income residents and raise fees and surcharges for cars and trucks. It promises $1.25 billion a year in new revenue for roads, plus millions more for education and other parts of the budget.


Suppor rte call Prop 1 Michigan’s Supporters “last, best be chance” to boost longb term ter rm road ffunding, but critics ca call it bloated and pa pandering to special in interests. When the votes are ta tallied, we’ll know w which way we’re headed ed: toward smoother dr driving or back to sq square one. Until th then, The Kalamazoo Gazette and MLive c will continue to explore the issues with reports in print and online. Jonathan Oosting’s close examination of Proposal 1 is on D1.


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Local&More done what we wanted to do — we started our own business.” CONTINUED FROM A1 While there have been A near century’s-worth peaks and valleys throughof production has left the out Heritage’s three floor of the three-story fac- decades — annual productory that once drew some tion has dropped from of the world’s most famous 1,200 guitars in the early musicians to Kalamazoo 2000s to about 600 now — steeped in sawdust so thick Lamb and fellow owners you could almost choke. Jim Deurloo and Bill Paige A collection of tools from said they don’t have any plans to stop producing the mid-1900s remain displayed as if it were in a handmade guitars. museum dedicated to the THE EARLY YEARS industrial revolution. That’s because the By 1983, Lamb said he Heritage Guitar Co., which had “seen the writing on celebrates its 30th anniver- the wall.” After Gibson sary Wednesday, picked failed to commit to its up right where Gibson left Kalamazoo factory when off after Gibson moved its plant manager Jim Deurloo headquarters to Nashville, negotiated a non-union contract that he and Lamb Tennessee, in 1984. “We’re the guys that said would have made it didn’t go south, didn’t cheaper to produce guitars move with the company here, the two men decided — we stayed behind,” said it was time to start looking Heritage co-owner Marv for other endeavors. Lamb, who worked for Having passed on offers Gibson from 1956 until to move to Nashville, Lamb the company moved. “We and Deurloo started a woodworking business in a pole barn belonging to fellow Gibson employee CONTACT US J.P. Moats, who’d later Kalamazoo helped found Heritage and remains a part-owner after retiring and moving back Mickey Ciokajlo to his native Alabama. Editor The business, Dimension Wood Products, originally 269.903.3597 made mostly clocks and Ed Finnerty van parts, Deurloo said. Managing Producer for Govern“We weren’t even thinkment, Entertainment, Public ing about making guitars,” Safety Deurloo recalled. But after Gibson 269.350.6833 announced in February Tammy Mills 1984 that its Kalamazoo Community Engagement plant would close that Specialist June, the partners ered starting their own 269.350.6924 guitar-making business after the idea was raised By Department by Bruce Bolen, another Gibson employee, who was not part of Heritage. After being in a couple of locations, the partners Letters received an offer to move back into the hallowed

John P. Hiner Vice President of Content Charity Plaxton Chief Revenue Officer Michael Assink Vice President of Sales Steve Westphal Senior Director for National Accounts By Department

DELIVERY Kalamazoo Gazette Published seven days a week by Mlive Media Group 300 S. Kalamazoo Mall, Kalamazoo, MI 49007 Phone 269-388-7789 or 800-466-2472 Postage paid at Kalamazoo, MI Publication identification: (USPS 289-500) Postmaster Send address changes to Advance Central Services, 3102 Walker Ridge Dr., Walker, MI 49544 Subscription Rates Tues-Thur-Sun $4.99 per week Thur-Sun $4.49 per week Sun $3.99 per week By Mail: Tues-Thur-Sun $5.00 per week, Sunday Only $4.50 per week Subscription includes access to the print or digital edition during the time covered by the current subscription payment period. No credits or refunds for temporary stops of print delivery. Thanksgiving Edition charged at the then current Sunday retail rate. Deliveries by independent carriers.

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Deurloo and Lamb said they have a difficult time imagining stepping away from Heritage. “I figure I still need a reason to get out of bed in the morning,” Deurloo said. “This is as good a reason as any.” Both men admit business has been difficult since sales declined around 2006, a drop they attributed to the recession. Neither has drawn a salary since that year. Heritage even was forced to cease operations for about three months in 2006 until the owners found an investor. Business has recovered somewhat since the recession, the owners said, and the company employs 18 part-time workers. Lamb said the owners aren’t discussing selling Heritage now, but they’re not closed to the idea. “If the money would come along, I’d listen,” Lamb said. “Anybody would.”



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AMBS Margaret Ann BACHMAN Mr. Darwin W., 67, Kalamazoo (Joldersma & Klein Funeral Home) BARRETT P. Charles (Bones), 90, Portage (Avink Funeral Home Cremation Society) BERNARD Charles J., 83, Mattawan BORDEN Roger J., 76 BRYANT Johanna “Jo”, 84, Dorr (Kubiak-Cook Funeral Services, Dorr) ELDRED Janet, 86, Kalamazoo (Langeland Family Funeral Home) FATZINGER Betty J., 86, Marietta Ga., formerly of Kalamazoo FORSTER Paul GERNAAT Mr. Donald D., 79, Kalamazoo (Langeland Family Funeral Home) GRODE Nellie B.”Nonnie”, 99, Portage (Langeland Family Funeral Homes, Portage Chapel) HAUGEN Mrs. Sarah J., 81 HOOVER Althea M., Kalamazoo (Winkel Funeral Home) HOWARD R. Bowen “Bo”, 97, Kalamazoo (Joldersma & Klein Funeral Home) HOWELL Mr. Joseph R., 89, Richland (Winkel Funeral Home) KAZEKS Karlis (Karl), 70, Kalamazoo KIEL Karen Ruth (Barnes) MCVAY Joseph E. “Gene” MUNN Margaret, 78 NICKRENT Linda Lee, 69, Kalamazoo (Avink Funeral Home Cremation Society) OPRA John, 90, Kalamazoo, MI (Langeland Family Funeral Homes, Westside Chapel) PRICE Peter, 53, Sister Lakes, Formerly of Gobles (D. L. Miller Funeral Home) RANTZ Haley Marie, 12, Kalamazoo (Parchment Redmond Funeral Home) SANDERSON Betty, 87, Kalamazoo (Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes, Kalamazoo) VANDENBOS Roger A., 71, Kalamazoo (Langeland Family Funeral Homes, Westside Chapel) WEISMAN Zelda WYMA Mr. Russell Leon “Russ,” 87



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During those years, Heritage relied heavily on musicians for word-ofmouth advertising. Henry Johnson, a jazz guitarist whose 1986 song “You’re the One” topped the contemporary jazz chart, remembered being at the National Association of Music Merchants Show in Chicago in 1986 when he saw the Heritage booth. After trying out a few guitars and talking with Deurloo and Lamb, Johnson quickly realized who they were. “I put it together in my head and said, ‘These guys are the original Gibson luthiers. How come we

don’t know you?’” Johnson recalled. Johnson said his success at the time had a number of companies seeking his endorsement, Gibson included. But Gibson had told him it would take a year to make a custom guitar for him, and Heritage promised it would be done in six months. Johnson has endorsed Heritage ever since, and the company offers his signature guitar as one of its standard models. “I choose them because of their craftsmanship,” Johnson said. “It wouldn’t matter what they call it, it still will be the best guitar you can get.” Heritage, whose guitars range from about $3,000 to $9,000, now has a number of professional musicians who endorse their products, including country music legend Roy Clark, 81, a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame. In a letter to the Gazette, Clark, 81, said Heritage employee Rendal Wall offered to build him a guitar for free not long after Heritage began. “I’ve always been cautious about that kind of thing,” Clark said. Clark said his worries quickly dissipated after he received his first Heritage guitar. He now owns eight or nine, but was particularly taken with his most recent custom order. “It’s renewed my love affair with the guitar,” Clark said. “It makes me want to play.”

Sunday, April 5, 2015

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April 3rd and 4th at 7pm Easter Sunday at 11am

Worship Services

Maundy Thursday Service April 2 at 7:00 pm

Good Friday Service April 3 at 7:00 pm

Easter Sunday Services

April 5 at 8:00 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.

12th Street Baptist Church 3911 S 12th Street in Kalamazoo 269.353.8133

Potluck Breakfast and Festivities April 5 at 9:15 a.m.

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8:30am Worship Service 9:30am Breakfast 11am Worship Service Trinity Lutheran Church 504 S. Westnedge Kalamazoo, MI 49007


A cch church hu urrch rch hw with ith it h a ca ccaring ari ring gh heart ear ea art rt ffor orr a o all ll p ll people eop eo plle Join us for Passion Week and Easter Services Holy Thursday Service Thursday, April 2 • 7 p.m. ‘The Table of Grace’ Good Friday Service Friday, April 3 • 7 p.m. ‘When God is Absent’ Easter Worship Services Sunday, April 5 • 8:30 & 11 a.m. ‘Rolling Stones & Empty Tombs’ We are a Reconciling Congregation, welcoming all.

First United Methodist Church 212 S. Park Street • Kalamazoo 269.381.6340 • Childcare available at all services


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Obituaries 269.381.5100

Deurloo said. Lamb and Deurloo don’t hide the fact that their instruments are modeled off Gibson’s famous guitars — Heritage’s H-150 model, for example, is a version of Gibson’s iconic Les Paul — but they point out that foreign manufacturers have copied guitar body shapes for years, while their designs have unique headstocks and different dimensions from the ones they’re modeled after. “Our product is a lot like that product,” Lamb said. “But I think people look at our product, and they see we’re the guys who built the great Gibson guitars and we’re doing that now with our guitars.”



Jon Ginop Director of Sales 616.438.2107

ground of the Parsons Street factory. “We had a forklift at the time that we agreed to trade for the first six months’ rent,” Deurloo said. “We figured that was a fair deal.” In 1985, Heritage began producing prototypes at the former Gibson factory. Heritage showed prototypes of its instruments at a show in New Orleans the following year after Fender Musical Instruments Inc. agreed to share its booth, a gesture Lamb said spread the word that Kalamazoo was again producing highend stringed instruments. “Fender was good to us,” Lamb said of Gibson’s long-time rival. Deurloo said his only regret during those early years was not accepting an offer from Fender to let the company distribute Heritage guitars. After turning Fender down, Deurloo said the two companies then discussed Heritage handling some of Fender’s production before that deal fell through. Those initial years also saw legal battles between Gibson and Heritage. “At first, Gibson was friendly to us,” Lamb recalled. “They had us in, wanted to hire us, wanted to buy us, wanted us to make instruments for them, and then they wanted to sue us.” “They seen us as competition, and they were right,”




Quick Hits From staff and wire reports.

Wings by any other name


Their sound was made in Kalamazoo Owners of Kalamazoo-made Gibson guitars have been proudly sharing photos and stories of their instruments as part of our series on Kalamazoo’s guitar-making heritage. For more, go to If you would like to add a photo, including instruments made by Heritage Guitar Inc. or other local luthiers, send it to

Effective immediately, Wings Stadium, at 3600 Vanrick Drive, in Kalamazoo, will be known as the Wings Event Center. The name change is being made to better illustrate everything that can be held at facility.

George Heritier, of Detroit, said he purchased this 1969 Gibson Heritage for $560 in 1969 after his father gave him money as a present for graduating from Bay City Central High School. “It is the guitar I played on my 45, The Ballad of the Third Street Bridge/The Saga of the Last Chance Saloon, which I recorded and released in Bay City in 1977. I still own it, and it still plays and sounds beautifully. I still play professionally.”

“It makes all the sense in the world to make the change while they are upgrading it.” THINK

“It’ll still be Wings Stadium to us, just like that place in Chicago will always be the Sears Tower no matter how many name changes it goes through.”

Jeff Geml shows off his Gibson mandolin. “The original owner was a Spanish American war vet ... my wife’s grandfather,” Giml said. “According to my 93-year-old mother-in-law, he was a pretty good Mandolin strummer.”


“Thousands to change logos and signage but the same ugly, crappy seats since 1974. Awesome.” MMM_DONUTS

“Great, the next step towards it being known as ‘Property For Lease, Will Develop.’ ” GIZMOLOGIST

Dan Ouellette plays his 1946 ES-125 at the Kalamazoo Blues Festival.

Rob Hayes, of Temple City, Calif., has used his rare ES-240 Gibson guitar professionally nearly 40 years in the Los Angeles area.


Tribe honors officers Answer to “Who Am I?” from A3. Officers Trent DeGroff and Kevin Slater were honored at a recent Pokagon Tribal Council meeting in Dowagiac for saving the life of a girl who was in cardiac arrest last month. They were dispatched to a home in Watervliet, where the girl’s father was administering CPR on his daughter. The officers asked DeGroff the man to stop chest compressions to prevent serious injury. They assessed the girl, who had a pulse with labored Slater and sporadic breathing, and learned she is asthmatic, so they administered a breathing treatment from an inhaler and she began to respond. DeGroff, who also is a firefighter in Paw Paw, then carried the girl to an ambulance. Before DeGroff and Slater, of Kalamazoo, left the hospital, the child was alert and talking. The tribal police department provides public safety services for the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi community, which includes four counties in Southwest Michigan and six in Northern Indiana.


JOIN US FOR EASTER BRUNCH SUNDAY, APRIL 5 SEATINGS FROM 11 AM – 3 PM IN THE EVENT CENTER $29.95 per person • $12.95 children ages 6 – 12 Children 5 & under eat for free

FEATURING A SPECIAL MENU OF DELECTABLE DISHES: Personalized Eggs and Omelets Honey Glazed Applewood Smoked Ham Herb Butter Roasted Salmon Fresh Seafood Station Charcuterie Display A Variety of Sides, Pastries, Sweets and More! Reservations are required and are being accepted now through March 30. Please call 269.660.5491.

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One caring adult can help students break through


ant to hear how teachers can change lives? Consider the stories of Anthony Barnes, Ishara Brent and Chanel Marshall-Sewall. The three are Western Michigan University students from low-income households. They are college juniors and seniors who have beaten the odds, first-generation college students who came from less-thanideal circumstances. To each of them, I posed the question: So what made the difference? What’s the secret of your success? In each case, the answer was the same: The presence of a caring adult who took a deep interest in his or her education, and who acted as a cheerleader. Barnes, now a WMU senior, grew up with a single mother who had him as a teenager. She was an attentive mother, he said, but she hadn’t gone to college and didn’t know how to nurture her children’s academics. But in high school, Barnes became best friends with a teenager whose parents both hap-

Julie Mack jmack1

pened to be teachers. “I’d go over to their house every day after school,” Barnes said, and the parents took him under their wing. They monitored his progress through high school and helped him navigate the college application, admission and financial aid process. When the best friend decided to attend Western, Barnes decided that’s where he would go, too. When choosing a major, he decided to be a special-education teacher — the same profession as his friend’s mom. Having that couple serve as role models and mentors, he said, put him “in a better spot.” Brent, a WMU junior majoring in elementary education, came from an even tougher background. Her mother was a high school dropout, and Ishara was



raised by her grandparents in a poor neighborhood in Detroit. It was an environment beset with problems, she said, and she saw school as a potential refuge. “You don’t look forward to going home because there’s nothing good happening there,” she said. But Brent attended a high-poverty school where teachers were overwhelmed. “Everyone was just like me,” she said. “I was in a pool of people with problems” and teachers didn’t have the time or energy to focus on her needs. Then she had a high school English teacher who “wouldn’t take no for an answer” when it came to pushing Brent and her classmates to succeed. “She told us, ‘You ARE going

to college, even if you’re the only black face there.’ It was so cool,” Brent said. MarshallSewall, a Marshall-Sewall senior ready to graduate with a general-studies degree, saw her family fall apart at age 10, and she spent her teenage years bouncing between foster-care placements in metro Detroit. “I was a child who was kicked out of school a lot,” she said. “I was acting out, not because I was trying to make trouble, but because I needed help.” Finally, in 10th grade, a teacher pulled her aside and asked what was going on. Marshall-Sewall confided in her, and the teacher became her emotional lifeline. “She gave me attention when no one else did,” Marshall-Sewall said. “I still keep in touch with her. She’s like my godmother.” All three students now hope to be teachers and said they plan to use their own experience in try-


ing to connect with students. Marshall-Sewall said she knows first hand what it’s like to feel utterly alone, “to have no one you can call, no one you can depend on,” and to act out as a cry for intervention. “I can relate to kids who have a lot of trouble,” she said. “For a long time, I was defined as the trouble kid, not the kid who needed more attention or needed more help. “I want to be that teacher who isn’t the person saying, ‘Get out of my class’ but ‘Come see me after class,’” Marshall-Sewall said. “I want to get to know my students instead of criticizing their parents. I want to help parents without being judgmental.” Barnes and Brent said they also want to pay it forward — just as teachers served as their role models and cheerleaders, they want to do that for their future students. “It’s such a big thing to have teachers who care,” Brent said. “That’s why I want to be a teacher. I know you change a child’s mindset.”


Gibson goes, but guitars stay

When Gibson Guitar left Kalamazoo in 1985, many skilled guitar makers stayed here and continued their craft at Heritage Guitar Co. Mark Bugnaski has created portraits of some of them, still building guitars.

By Alex Mitchell

After years of workers fighting for their jobs, the word was official in February 1984: Gibson Guitar announced it was leaving Kalamazoo for good. The iconic Gibson factory at 225 Parsons St. that had once employed 1,600 people during peak years in the 1960s had been down to just 44 employees since 1982, according to reports in the Kalamazoo Gazette at the time. Later that month, former Gibson plant manager Jim Deurloo reached an agreement that the company would continue to keep making and repairing guitars, banjos and mandolins in Kalamazoo “as long as it was profitable.” But that final concession wouldn’t be enough to stop the factory from shuttering its doors on June 29, 1984, and relocating its entire operation to a plant it built in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1974. “We had two plants sucking wind, both of them operating at half capacity, and (Gibson was) trying to make a decision one way or the other,” said Deurloo, 75, now a co-owner of Heritage Guitar Co., which operates in the former Gibson building. “I thought they were going to keep it in Kalamazoo, and they did for a while. “But they’d seen the demand was not going to increase, so they had to make a decision.” MOVING TO NASHVILLE

Deurloo, who started at Gibson sanding guitar rims in fall 1958, said Gibson began production at its Nashville plant to diversify its models amid declining sales in the U.S. Guitar sales tumbled from a peak of 2.5 million in 1972 to 1.2 million by 1982, due largely to an influx of less costly foreign products, Gazette stories show. “They were copying (Les Pauls) down to the last flaw,” Deurloo said of the foreign competitors. Gibson, long considered one of the world’s top producers of stringed instruments, struggled to maintain its standards in the face of the competition. Mark Sahlgren, a Gibson employee from 1965-70, recalled the struggle between production goals and instrument quality even existed during his years. “To me and the people that I worked with, we cared more about the instruments than the corporate, the top people,” said Sahlgren, 74. “We cared about every instrument as a creative piece of art. But someone would come through and say you have to finish 100 guitars in a day, and you could just see the conflict.” Originally, Deurloo said he was told the Nashville plant would produce just one model of guitar, but that quickly changed. “Eventually it got to the point where we made the first batch of something and then they started producing it,” said Marv Lamb, a Heritage Guitar Co.

Jim Deurloo was a Gibson’s plant manager and cofounder of Heritage Guitars.

Heritage Guitar co-founder Marvin Lamb holds the last Gibson guitar made in Kalamazoo, an unplayed 1984 Les Paul Goldtop model, serial No. 81814002. Lamb ordered the last Gibson made here not knowing it would be a Les Paul. (Mark Bugnaski/

co-owner who worked as superintendent at the Kalamazoo plant during those final years. “We’d get prototypes set up and streamlined for them, and then they’d take them down there and start making them.” Lamb recalled a disconnect between the new operation and the veterans of the Kalamazoo plant. “They wanted to make everything bythe-book, but we were used to doing it by our shirttail — do it and get it done,” said Lamb, who started with Gibson in 1956. Lamb and Deurloo each received offers from Gibson to move to Nashville, and both considered it for a time. Deurloo said he traveled back and forth to Nashville for a time, and even worked there consistently for nearly a year. “They had no infrastructure in Nashville,” Deurloo said. “You couldn’t get anything at the hardware store other than a quarter-inch drill. They just didn’t have anything, so we had to come up to Kalamazoo and go to Grand Rapids because the auto industry had all that infrastructure, and that’s what we used.” Ultimately, both men decided making the move wouldn’t be in their best interest. “Some people made comments that their wife would kill them if they moved to Nashville,” Lamb recalled with a chuckle. “When they asked me to move permanently, I said, ‘If that’s what you want me to do, I’m done,’” Deurloo said. Jack French, a repairman who began working for Gibson in 1961, said he and fellow repairman Pete Moreno were paid to travel to Nashville twice a month to assist with repairs. But when Gibson asked French to start making the trip weekly, he had a choice to make. “I’d flown planes my whole life, so I considered the idea of getting my license, buying a plane and flying home

on weekends,” French said. “I don’t think my wife cared for the idea much.” All three were among the last employees of the Kalamazoo plant when it closed. “I guess we are privileged to be here at this point in time to be part of history,” Deurloo is quoted as saying in the June 28, 1984 edition of the Gazette. “Which is kind of a dichotomy perhaps ... to have to lose your job to have this kind of privilege.”

Bill Paige, who started with Gibson in 1975, is another Heritage Guitar founder.


The Heritage Guitar Co., which Lamb and Deurloo own, along with fellow former Gibson employees Bill Paige and J.P. Moats, will celebrate its 30th anniversary Wednesday. Starting their own guitar-manufacturing business wasn’t always the plan, Deurloo said. Instead, Heritage evolved from a woodworking business that Lamb, Moats and Deurloo started in Moat’s pole barn in 1983 as a side job. “We could have went off and got jobs in other places. We all had the experience and the capabilities,” Lamb said. “But I think we elected to do what we knew how to do best.” Paige, who starting working at Gibson in 1975, said he was drawn into the partnership because of the “attraction” of working with men as experienced as Lamb and Deurloo. “Those guys had all the knowledge of the process between them,” Paige said. Now, Heritage employs 18 part-time workers and produces about 50 guitars a month. Although it’s a far cry from Gibson’s peak production numbers, the Heritage owners maintain the quality of their guitars can’t be matched by larger manufacturers. “I’ve worked on guitars all my life, so it was good to be able to continue to do that,” Lamb said. “And I don’t know when the hell I’m going to quit.”

Ted Bellville worked for Gibson 16 years before joining Heritage Guitar 30 years ago.

Rendal Wall started at Gibson in 1960. He has been with Heritage for 30 years.

Jack French started in the repair department for Gibson in 1961. He still does freelance work for Heritage.



Can city capitalize on its history? By Al Jones

Guitar Corp., now based in guitars used to be made Nashville, Tennessee, usuwith,” he said Thursday Guitar-making is not an ally are not handcrafted from his home in Nashville. industry that will mean a but are pretty good guitars, Heritage was started bunch of new jobs or new he said. So buyers have by a few former Gibson construction in Kalamazoo. plenty of options. guitar makers who decided But, if given a higher pro“You can’t make people to remain in Kalamazoo file, it has the potential to buy guitars,” Cowles said. rather than relocate when make Kalamazoo a cooler “You have to put your head the company moved to place to live, some say. down and work hard and Nashville in 1984. For the “People can and should try to make a good guitar.” past 30 years, they have take pride in the contribuFrankie Ballard said built guitars in that same tion that has been made to he thinks people like the factory. culture and music — not story of guitar-making in “I wish that Heritage Country musician Frankie just here in Kalamazoo or Kalamazoo, which now was able to proliferate Ballard plays only Heritage in Michigan or the United is largely the story of their story throughout the Guitar instruments on States, but around the Heritage Guitar Co. — a guitar community better stage. ( file) world,” said Rex Bell, a group of small-town guys than they have,” Ballard Kalamazoo businessman who were doing something said, “and I think real and longtime guitar player. very well and decided to He endorses Heritage Gibson lovers would love A couple of years stay here and keep doing it. guitars and plays them Heritage.” ago, Bell displayed a But Ballard said he exclusively on stage. He He said he has told Kalamazoo-made Gibson doesn’t think enough peosaid a lot of that is homecountless guitar playguitar during a speech ple are hearing the story. town pride. He grew up in ers about the company to the Kalamazoo Rotary “I explain that to people. Battle Creek and lived in and invited them to visit Club to illustrate the I tell them the story,” said Kalamazoo for seven years. Kalamazoo. unique legacy of crafts“The guys building these Bell said he invites Ballard, a rising counmanship that is here. try music star who got Heritage guitars are build- people to embrace “Virtually every popular his start in Kalamazoo. ing them with the same Kalamazoo’s guitar legacy. song that any of us grew “And people realize that interest, craftsmanship, “It becomes a quality of up hearing has a Gibson Kalamazoo is where it all quality and level of experlife issue for Kalamazoo,” guitar in it,” said Bell, 59, started.” tise that the old Gibson he said. the chief executive officer of Miller Davis Co. “That is a completely unique aspect NOTICE OF LAST DAY OF REGISTRATION FOR THE SPECIAL ELECTION TO BE HELD ON of Kalamazoo history that TUESDAY, MAY 5, 2015 nobody else can claim.” KALAMAZOO, BARRY, CALHOUN AND ST. JOSEPH COUNTIES, MICHIGAN At its original factory, at 225 Parsons St., Gibson TO THE QUALIFIED ELECTORS: Guitars made mandolins, Of the Kalamazoo County Townships of Alamo, Brady, Charleston, Climax, Comstock, Cooper, Kalamazoo, Oshtemo, banjos and guitars that Pavilion, Prairie Ronde, Richland, Ross, Schoolcraft, Texas, Wakeshma, and the Cities of Galesburg, Kalamazoo, Parchment and Portage; Barry County Townships of Barry, Johnstown and Prairieville; Calhoun County Townships of Bedford and Leroy were recognized worldand the City of Battle Creek; and St. Joseph County Townships of Leonidas, Mendon and Park. wide for their quality. In COUNTIES OF KALAMAZOO, BARRY, CALHOUN AND ST. JOSEPH, the mid-1960s, it had about STATE OF MICHIGAN 1,600 workers, making it PLEASE TAKE NOTICE that a Special Election will be held in said Township/City on Tuesday, May 5, 2015. The last day for one of the top employers receiving registrations for the Special Election will be Monday, April 6, 2015. Persons residing in the above Township/City in town. registering after 5:00 p.m. on Monday, April 6, 2015 will not be eligible to vote at the Special Election. Persons planning to register must determine when the office of the Township Clerk or the City Clerk or the office of the County Clerk or the “All over the world, those Secretary of State drivers license bureau will be open for registration in person. Registration may also be made at the are sought-after instruspecified agency for clients receiving services through the Human Services Department, the Department of Community Health, Michigan Works and some offices of the Commission for the Blind and at the military recruitment offices for persons enlisting ments for their sound and in the armed forces. Registration by mail may be used by obtaining and completing a Mail Voter Registration Application their mojo,” Bell said. “It’s and forwarding to the election official as directed on the application by the close of registration deadline. Only persons who have registered as electors with the appropriate Township Clerk, City Clerk, County Clerk or through registration at a just awesome. People can Secretary of State drivers license bureau or at any specified agency or military recruitment office or by using an official mail registration application, are registered electors of the above Township/City. take pride in that.” The history is included PERSONS ENTITLED to be registered voters in the Counties of Kalamazoo, Barry, Calhoun and St. Joseph must possess the following qualifications on or before the day of the Special Election: (1) a citizen of the United States; (2) not less than 18 in a 174-page document of years of age; (3) a resident of the State of Michigan and the local municipality for not less than 30 days prior to the Special things about Kalamazoo Election (MCL 168.492). In addition, qualified electors must be registered to vote not less than 30 days prior to the Special Election (MCL 168.497). that volunteer tour guides read during their training, The following proposals will appear on the ballot: said Renee Newman, vice STATE president of marketing and PROPOSAL 15-1 community for Discover A proposal to amend the State constitution to increase the sales/use tax from 6% to 7% to replace and supplement reduced Kalamazoo, the area’s revenue to the School Aid fund and local units of government caused by the elimination of the sales/use tax on gasoline and diesel fuel for vehicles operating on public roads, and to give effect to laws that provide additional money for roads and other convention and visitors transportation purposes by increasing the gas tax and vehicle registration fees. organization. ROSS TOWNSHIP “We talk about Gibson FIRE MILLAGE RENEWAL guitars when we talk about CLIMAX-SCOTTS COMMUNITY SCHOOLS the history of Kalamazoo,” OPERATING MILLAGE RENEWAL PROPOSAL Newman said. “We’re EXEMPTING PRINCIPAL RESIDENCE AND OTHER PROPERTY EXEMPTED BY LAW very proud that we used 18 MILLS FOR 4 YEARS to be the home of Gibson Full text of the ballot proposal may be obtained at the administrative offices of Climax-Scotts Community Guitars and the Checker Schools, 372 South Main Street, Climax, Michigan 49034-9773, telephone: (269) 746-2400 cabs that used to dominate KALAMAZOO REGIONAL EDUCATIONAL SERVICE AGENCY the streets of New York SPECIAL EDUCATION MILLAGE PROPOSAL and Chicago. ” 1.5 MILLS FOR 6 YEARS But she and a spokesFull text of the ballot proposal may be obtained at the administrative offices of Kalamazoo Regional Educational Service woman for economic Agency, 1819 East Milham Avenue, Portage, Michigan 49002-3055, telephone: (269) 250-9202. development organization Notice is hereby given that in conformity with the “Michigan Election Law”, I, the undersigned clerk, will, upon any day Southwest Michigan First during regular business hours, receive for registration the name of any legal voter in said Township and City not already registered who may APPLY TO ME PERSONALLY for such registration. said there is no plan to build on that heritage. KALAMAZOO COUNTY Alamo Township Laura Endres 7901 North 6th St., Kalamazoo 382-3366 Mayor Bobby Hopewell Brady Township Tracy Locey 13123 South 24th St., Vicksburg 649-1813 said Kalamazoo should use Charleston Township Linda Kramer 1499 South 38th St., Galesburg 665-7805 Climax Township Marcia Lewis 110 N. Main St., Climax 746-4103 its guitar-making past. Comstock Township Anna Goodsell, CMC 6138 King Highway, Comstock 381-2360 “I think we need to Cooper Township Bonnie L. Sytsma, CMC 1590 West D Ave., Kalamazoo 382-0223 Kalamazoo Township Donald Z. Thall, CMC 1720 Riverview Dr., Kalamazoo 381-8080 play on that heritage that Oshtemo Township Deborah L. Everett, CMC 7275 West Main St., Kalamazoo 375-4260 Gibson created,” Hopewell Pavilion Township Karen E. Siegwart 7510 East Q Ave., Scotts 327-0462 Prairie Ronde Township Paula Geiger 8140 West W Ave., Schoolcraft 679-5666 said, “because I think it Richland Township Jacqueline Light 7401 North 32nd St., Richland 629-4921 connects well with the Ross Township Monicaa Markillie 12086 East M-89, Richland 731-4888 Schoolcraft Township Virginia M. Mongreig 50 East VW Ave., Vicksburg 649-1276 interests of people outside Texas Township Linda M. Kerr, CMC 7110 West Q Ave., Kalamazoo 375-1591 of this community and will Wakeshma Township Shawn Fritz 13988 South 42nd St., Fulton 778-3728 draw them back as visitors, Galesburg City Karen Bresson 200 E. Michigan Ave., Galesburg 665-7000 Kalamazoo City Scott A. Borling, CMC 241 West South St., Kalamazoo 337-8793 aficionados and tourists.” Parchment City Dennis Durham 650 S. Riverview Dr., Parchment 349-3785 He added: “We are a Portage City James R. Hudson, CMC 7900 S. Westnedge Ave., Portage 329-4511 community that is very BARRY COUNTY Barry Township Debra Knight 115 E. Orchard St., Delton 623-5171 much involved in the arts, Johnstown Township June P. Doster 13641 South M-37 Hwy., Dowling 721-9905 and having guitar-making Prairieville Township Ted DeVries 10115 S. Norris Rd., Delton 623-2664 happening here contribCALHOUN COUNTY Bedford Township Joyce Feraco 115 S. Uldriks Dr., Battle Creek 968-6917 utes to that history as Leroy Township Larine Walstead 8156 4 Mile Rd., East Leroy 979-9421 well.” Battle Creek City Victoria L. Houser 10 N. Division St., Battle Creek 966-3348 Steve Cowles said ST. JOSEPH COUNTY Leonidas Township Donald Overholt 53312 Fulton Rd., Leonidas 496-7328 Kalamazoo has a wealth Mendon Township Donna Cupp 136 W. Main St., Mendon 496-7959 of people who know Park Township Patricia Henderson 53640 Parkville Rd., Three Rivers 279-7860 guitar-making as a result TDD for all jurisdictions: 1-800-649-3777 of working at Gibson, and MONDAY, APRIL 6, 2015 - LAST DAY they have been willing DURING REGULAR BUSINESS HOURS to share that knowledge. The 30th day preceding said Election But, he said, much of what will happen with guitarFOR THE PURPOSE OF RECEIVING APPLICATIONS FOR REGISTRATION OF THE QUALIFIED ELECTORS IN SAID CITY/ TOWNSHIP. PERSONS REGISTERING TO VOTE AFTER 5:00 P.M. ON APRIL 6, 2015 WILL NOT BE ELIGIBLE TO VOTE IN making here in the future THE MAY 5, 2015 SPECIAL ELECTION. “is dependent on factors PERSONS WITH SPECIAL NEEDS AS DEFINED BY THE AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT SHOULD CONTACT THE outside of our control.” APPROPRIATE CLERK’S OFFICE. Cowles’ father, Aaron, THIS NOTICE IS GIVEN AS REQUIRED BY LAW (MCL 168.498(3)) was a Gibson production worker here, and Steve TIMOTHY A. SNOW, CMC, CCO KALAMAZOO COUNTY CLERK & REGISTER OF DEEDS Cowles has repaired guitars since he was about PAMELA A. PALMER BARRY COUNTY CLERK 13 years old. He now is 47 and runs Aaron’s Music ANNE B. NORLANDER CALHOUN COUNTY CLERK & RGISTER OF DEEDS Service in Vicksburg. Imported guitars, many PATTIE S. BENDER, MCO ST. JOSEPH COUNTY CLERK & REGISTER OF DEEDS of which are made for large 7258289-01 companies like Gibson

LEARN CLASSES & EVENTS Heart Health Screenings Wednesdays, April 1, 8, 15, 22, 7:30 to 10:30 a.m. Bronson Methodist Hospital 820 John St., Suite 452 $35. Call (269) 341-7143 to register. Michigan Blood: Blood Drive Monday, April 6, noon – 6 p.m. Gilmore Center for Health Education Donors are asked to schedule an appointment on but drop-ins are welcome. Bronson Heart Health Information Series Save a Life: Learn How to Use an AED Wednesday, April 8, 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Gilmore Center for Health Education Free. Call (269) 341-8280 to register. Diabetes Self-Management Education One-Day Session Thursday, April 12, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. OR Saturday, April 18, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. OR Friday, April 24, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Four 2-hour Sessions Tuesday, April 7, 14, 21 and 28, 9 to 11 a.m. Bronson Diabetes and Endocrinology Center 535 S. Burdick St., Suite 256 Physician referral required. Call (269) 341-8585 for pricing or to register. Bariatric Pre-Surgery Program Tuesdays, April 14-May 19, 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. Bronson Methodist Hospital 601 John St., Suite M-515 This six-session program will prepare you for bariatric surgery with helpful tips and programs from a certified dietitian. Physician referral required. Call (269) 341-8900 to register. New LEAF Program Tuesdays, April 14-June 2, 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Bronson Methodist Hospital 601 John St., Suite M-515 This eight-session weight loss program features personal trainers, dietitians and other experts to help you reach your goals. Physician referral required. Call (269) 341-8900 to register. Bronson Heart Scan Monday, April 20, 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Bronson Methodist Hospital Outpatient Testing, First Floor Cost is $200. Not covered by insurance. Call (269) 344-3278 to schedule.

SUPPORT GROUPS Alzheimer’s Caregiver Support Group Wednesday, April 8, 6:30 to 8 p.m. Bronson LakeView Hospital 408 Hazen St., Classroom 1 Call (269) 657-1595 with questions. Bariatric Surgery Support Group Wednesday, April 1, noon to 1 p.m. Bronson Center for Women 601 John St., Suite 515 OR Thursday, April 16, 7 to 8 p.m. Gilmore Center for Health Education Free. Call (269) 341-8900 with questions. Diabetes Discussion & Overview Thursday, April 2, 4 to 5 p.m. Bronson Diabetes and Endocrinology Center 535 S. Burdick St., Suite 256 Free. Call (269) 341-8585 with questions. Early Onset Alzheimer’s Focus Group Geared for Alzheimer’s patients, ages 45-65 Wednesday, April 8, 6:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 15, 6:30 to 8 p.m. Bronson LakeView Hospital 408 Hazen St., Classroom 1 Call (269) 657-1595 with questions. Parkinson Support Group Tuesday, April 14, 4 to 5:30 p.m. Bronson Athletic Club 6789 Elm Valley Drive Call (269) 341-7500 with questions. Stroke Survivor Support Group Thursday, April 16, 11 a.m. to noon Bronson Gilmore Center for Education Call (269) 341-7500 with questions.

For a complete list of classes and events by month, visit



Guitar Heritage project