The St. Johns Independent

Barry Bauer’s Photo Project – Vickie Salters


Vickie Salters worked in the Metallurgical Lab. Her job was to make sure our products, lining and steel, met specifications.

One of the projects I was involved with was the Chrysler Air Shoe. This part went into an air conditioner pump, and there were six of them per pump. We made hundreds of thousands of them because we also made them for Ford.

These parts were just under ¾ of an inch in diameter and were coined out of a blank. After going through an eight station rotary die they came out with a ball seat and a small oil hole in the center. The Lab would have the Toolroom cut them in half and grind them to a near perfect half circle and then they’d encase them in bakelite and polish it to a mirror finish. That way they could tell us how much lining we had before we hit steel.


Barry Bauer’s Photo Project – Doug Beagle


Doug Beagle worked in Maintenance as a machine repairman. The job could vary from an air cylinder that needed new O-rings to a press on bottom.

A press on bottom meant the ram was on dead bottom and couldn’t back up and couldn’t roll over because of the die inside. Maintenance had to come out and put the heaters on the massive bolts that held the press together in order to expand them. This eventually freed the ram.


Barry Bauer’s Photo Project – Loren Simons


Loren Simons was also a manufacturing engineer. The one thing I do remember was his being involved with was the Bihler presses. Bihlers formed bushings not by brute force but by cams.

Loren hired in about the same time as the 1979 UAW Local 925’s strike against Federal-Mogul. This was the first such strike against the Federal-Mogul St. Johns plant.

Loren is the last person that I’m aware of that was still working sometimes at the Federal-Mogul building. That puzzles me, but it may very well be mop-up duty although I can’t believe they left anything that important behind.

The last I heard he had transferred to F-M’s Greenville plant.


Barry Bauer’s Photo Project – Daryl Mendrick


Daryl Mendrick was a manufacturing engineer at Federal-Mogul. His job was to improve the operation of the area where he was in charge. The question always was, how can we improve our process?

Daryl didn’t stay at Federal-Mogul very long. He may have sensed what others did — that Federal-Mogul St. Johns was doomed.


Barry Bauer’s Photo Project – Leeann Bradley


When this photo was taken Leeann Bradley was working in the Press Room/Secondaries office.

Her regular job was running a Superior Facer. This machine cut chamfers inside and out and cut the bushing to width or as we called it, length. It is an automatically fed machine and all the operator had to do was keep the feeder chutes full. That reduced the number of finger injuries.


Barry Bauer’s Photo Project – Tom Burk


Tom Burk worked as a Class C Inspector. As you can see on the bench behind him there are numerous gauges to check a sample of finished parts before they were shipped.

Tom’s dad, Merlin “Curly” Burk, worked at Saylor-Beall and was at one time the president of UAW Local 925. The Local represented both Saylor-Beall and Federal-Mogul employees. Tom’s mother, Betty, also worked at Federal-Mogul.


Barry Bauer’s Photo Project – Ron Atkins


Ron Atkins started at Federal-Mogul as a production worker. At one time he worked in the old Mentor heat treat department. The two big heat treat ovens came to us along with a bunch of presses and jobs from the closing of the Mentor, Ohio plant in early 1970s.

What happened this year is not the St. Johns plant’s first experience with a plant closing.

Ron transferred to the Toolroom, and at the time of his retirement worked as an O.D. / I.D. grinder on second shift. His brother, Rick, ran the grinders on days.


Barry Bauer’s Photo Project – Phil McAlvey


Phil McAlvey worked in one of the most secretive departments in Federal-Mogul that I was ever aware of. Of course all of that CIA stuff eventually went out the door, and it became just another department. They bonded steel strip to aluminum strip. That increasingly became the washer/bearing material of choice by the customer.

Rumors have been flying that F.C. Mason bought the vacant Federal-Mogul building. I called F.C. Mason to confirm the rumor, but the person who answered the phone was unable to tell me.


Barry Bauer’s Photo Project – Dan Spohn


Dan Spohn worked in other salary positions before ending up in Quality Control. These guys were responsible for the quality of the parts coming off the floor.

In the old days we had floor inspectors all over the place, and they made their rounds every hour. That’s a time they pushed quantity more than quality. The operator didn’t always check the parts as often as they should have, and that’s where the floor inspector came in.

Keep in mind that the tolerances were nowhere near as tight as they are today which explains why car engines and transmission last as long as they do now. The car buyer expected more, and they got it.


Barry Bauer’s Photo Project – John Garcia


John Garcia worked in Tumble and Pack. This was a department that was called the Swamp.

My favorite story to come out of the swamp is still that time in the late fifties when they were having trouble getting the burrs off a part. The operator was told to throw two pans of media (stone) in the tumbler along with the parts. The bosses who advised him to do that came back a while later only to heard an awful noise coming from the Swamp.

The operator, misunderstanding their instructions, threw the media in pans and all.


Barry Bauer’s Photo Project – Eric Halitsky


Eric Halitsky worked in the Roll and Slit department.

Eric is another example of a Federal-Mogul employee who had relatives that worked there. His dad, Nick, was a well-liked production foreman and his brother, Ted, was the electrician foreman. Eric’s uncle, Bob Peck, worked in the Wall Broach department when I hired in.


Barry Bauer’s Photo Project – Barry Bauer


I never wanted to post this picture. Because Federal-Mogul St. Johns is history, I feel I have to report all the history I have on it. That’s me manning my Bridgeport Vertical Mill. The picture was taken by Mike Asher with my A-1 Canon camera. I always say my mill because I ran it from the day it came in the building brand new. We had a way about us, of claiming a machine as our own, and you can believe I took good care of it. Olympian Tool originally ordered it but when the time came for the delivery, the economy went in the tubes for them.

I wouldn’t say I was a great Toolmaker; I leave that title to Rod Andrus, Stanley Wassa, and Mark Shepler. Still, I wasn’t bad.

Since the closing of Federal-Mogul I’ve had time to reflect on the subject, plant managers. No matter what anybody says, History will always judge us and them. We’ve had some great plant managers and we’ve had stinkers. All of them left their mark.

The one that comes to mind today is Bob Claycomb. Bob was known as a hardhead and lacked people skills. As we look back on him, I think he was one of our best plant managers. Had he been plant manager of the St. Johns plant at the time of the decision to close the plant. I think he would have gone down with the ship fighting to keep it afloat. That’s the mark of a good captain. Bob did with the plant like we did on the floor with our machines; he claimed it as his own.

As for the plant managers who followed Bob, one went to China, one took Bob’s old job (I think), one disappeared into the Bermuda Triangle, and one went back to Greenville.

I have a picture of every plant manager except for Mike Craig. He okayed my taking it, but we never touched base.


Barry Bauer’s Photo Project – Eddie Paseka


Eddie Paseka worked in the Centerless Grinders department. The operator fed bushings into the machines that ground the outside diameter to the customer’s specifications.

I was asked one time to look at the operation and see if we in the Toolroom could eliminate the need for a second person who was needed on certain parts to catch the bushings as they came out of the grinder. My suggestion was to relieve the grinding wheel at the end and let the feed wheel carry the bushing out of the machine without being hit by the one behind it. When that happened the angle face bushing would be mutilated.

It looked successful, and I never heard otherwise.


Barry Bauer’s Photo Project – Gary Harrier


Gary Harrier ran a 200-ton press that stamped out the bigger bushings which shouldn’t be confused with the limited quantities of big bushings the D-Die department put out in a single-step operation. The presses used to be in one big Pressroom, but then the idea of cells was born. We ended up with a few presses here and a few presses there. Throw in a few facing machines and a few parts tumblers, and they had a cell.

It did nothing to stop the closing of the plant.

I wish I had the money they spent digging a hole for a new press pad location and filling in the old one. I’d be writing this from the Bahamas.


Barry Bauer’s Photo Project – 2001 Golf Outing


From left to right: Steve Duflo, Don Adair, Gene Burnham, and Tuan Hoang

This is the winning team in the afternoon Federal-Mogul golf scramble held at the North Star Golf Course in 2001. It was also the last golf outing sponsored by the company.

I’m not sure when the first outing took place or even where, but my first experience playing at one was at the old Clinton County Country Club which is now the Emerald. Because the Federal-Mogul golf outing grew in size, they moved it to North Star.


Barry Bauer’s Photo Project – Jerry Jones


Jerry Jones worked in the Tool Inspection department. Tool Inspection went from being a department that used Jo Blocks, an indicator stand, micrometers, height gauge, and in some cases, a six or twelve inch scale to a department that used a digital coordinate machine, and modern day optical comparators.

Sometimes they had to go to the toolmaker in charge of the project for a deviation from the print or go to the engineer that designed it. Otherwise the piece of tooling in question was either repaired in-house or sent back to the tool & die supplier.


Barry Bauer’s Photo Project – 925 Union Officials


Seated l. to r. around the table at a newly acquired building are: Ken Pyle, the late Henry Bendt, Dennis Feldpausch, Ken “Skip” Russell, Ben Hudson, unidentified, and Carol Frechen.

These 925 officials were responsible for purchasing the building on W. Walker St. that was at one time the A&P food store, Gambles, and Video Land. Extensive remodeling turned the building into what is known today as the UAW 925 Union Hall. The Union’s previous office was located at the northwest corner of State and Brush Sts.


Barry Bauer’s Photo Project – Kirk Brock


Kirk Brock hired into Federal-Mogul on March 16, 1981 as a production supervisor after having worked previously at Motor Wheel. Kirk’s father, Bud, worked at F-M along with Kirk’s sister, Sandy, and his two uncles, Dick and Bob.

Again we find family ties at Federal-Mogul, and it was great while it lasted.


Barry Bauer’s Photo Project – Dwight “Rocky” Craig


Dwight “Rocky” Craig worked on the jumbo slitter in the West end of the plant. Federal-Mogul ordered generic rolls of steel (few sizes) and then processed it in-house. The jumbo coils could be slit to almost any width. The operators would set the slitter up using different sizes of spacers with the slitter blades in between. The jumbo coil could start out at the beginning of the operation as one coil and come out the other end as six narrower coils.

Dwight left Federal-Mogul on April 25, 2002.


Barry Bauer’s Photo Project – Pat Cook


When this photo was taken Pat Cook was working in the Sample department as a helper. Pat worked in the D-Die department, so a lot of what he did there pretty much applied to what they did in the Sample department. The Sample department made parts for a customer’s new product as well as parts for existing applications that didn’t justify the cost of a die because of the number of parts ordered.


Barry Bauer’s Photo Project – Jan Cox

Jan Cox was the shipping secretary at Federal-Mogul. She had to handle all the paper work coming and going from the shipping department. My guess was that shipping would be the last department standing. Not true as it turned out. On December 13, 2004 Jan got what seems like everyone in America is getting nowadays — downsized.

There’s supposed to be one Maintenance man, one Electrician and two Painters who will probably remain on the job until the contract expires this October.


Sesqui Time Capsule: what’s in the box?

Sesqui Time Capsule: what’s in the box?

As the official opening of the St. Johns Sesquicentennial draws near – April 30 is just around the corner – we’ve been giving much thought to what objects should be placed into the Sesqui Time Capsule.

Items like the Sesqui Calendar, booklet from the Historic Photo Exhibit and the Sesqui Flag are no-brainers – they’re obvious choices.

We’re interested in “stuff” that is less ordinary, or that may seem unusual years from now when the capsule is opened – in 150 years.

Maybe a bottle of Aspirin. Odds are, no one will be using that old ‘miracle drug’ so far in the future.

We could throw in some cold, hard cash – that might be unique. Or even some plastic money – who knows what sort of currency will be exchanged in 150 years?

Thoughts of what should go into the capsule this time around prompted questions about what is in the Centennial Time Capsule that was interred July 18, 1956 on the occasion of the city’s 100th birthday. Mayor Charles Coletta presided over that ceremony on the lawn of the Clinton County Courthouse, helping to plant the Centennial Pine at the same time.

The tree is gone – and so is the courthouse – but the time capsule is housed safely away, waiting for its big opening date in 2056. Whoever opens it up, 50 years from now, will find the following contents – all in pristine condition, we hope:

Copy of the Centennial issue of the Clinton County Republican-News

Copy of St. Johns School Supt. Earl Lancaster’s 1956 report to the Board of Education

Maps of the city, Clinton County and state

A local telephone directory

Copy of the 1956-57 city budget

Statements of the St. Johns National Bank and State Bank of St. Johns as of June 30

Bylaws of the St. Johns Chamber of Commerce

A Consumers Power company report on electrical and gas use

Directory of the county, city and townships

1956 tax equalization report for the county

Several mint blocks of U.S. postage stamps donated by J.E. Rasdale

It’s an interesting list – wonder if the stamps were two-cents, and what the electric and gas use was back in 1956.

Times have certainly changed in regard to both of those items in just 50 years, never mind 100. Who would have thought back in 1956 that postage stamps today would cost 39 cents – impossible.

With that in mind, we’re open to your suggestions for items – unique and ordinary – that should be placed into the Sesqui Time Capsule. Send an email and give us your list.

Even if the suggestions aren’t deemed to be “capsule worthy,” they’ll be part of history when they’re published here.

At least for one issue.

Friends came to aid of Rhonda Devereaux

Friends came to aid of Rhonda Devereaux
March 18 benefit raises funds for local family

Friends are joining together in an effort to raise funds that will help a local lady in her continuing battle with cancer.

Rhonda Devereaux was back in the hospital this past week, dealing with a set of heart attacks, while family and friends continue to make plans for the March 18 dinner/dance that will help defray medical and travel expenses incurred in her struggle with lung and bone cancer.

The fundraiser includes a silent auction, mini raffles, and 50-50 drawings in addition to dinner and dancing. The event runs from 5 p.m. to midnight at Smith Hall in St. Johns.

The former Rhonda Simmons was diagnosed with Lupus in 1999. During a routine chest x-ray in October 2004 related to her struggle with Lupus, a mass on her lung was discovered, leading to the diagnosis of lung cancer. She had surgery in January 2005 to remove the tumor, along with half of the lung.

Since that time, the cancer has spread to the bone resulting in a long series of radiation treatments and chemotherapy.

Rhonda’s husband, Chris, began a medical leave from work in June 2005 in order to help with his wife’s care that has included multiple trips to clinics and physical therapy.

Friends and family members are hopeful that the community will respond and help the Devereaux family in a time of need.

Tickets to the benefit fundraiser are $15 each, or two for $25; admission tickets will be entered in a raffle drawing for a color television.

Tickets are available in advance at the following locations: Harr’s Jewelry, The Country Store, Beaufore’s Barber Shop and Bruno’s. Tickets may also be purchased at the door on the evening of the fundraiser.

Organizers are accepting donations of items and services that will be used for the silent auction and mini raffles. For information on the fundraiser, or to make a donation, call Tonya Platte, (989) 587-3342; Jayne French, (989) 224-8323; or Linda Harris, (989) 224-6255.

Rhonda and Chris live in rural St. Johns. They have three sons, Brandon, 24; Brent, 21; and Cody, 13.

Alzheimer’s: a horrific, insidious disease

Number of patients, caregivers continues to grow

By Rhonda Dedyne

Educators and caregivers frequently use words like “horrific” and “insidious” to describe the pain that is endured by individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease.

Stories about the disease and the devastation it wreaks are part of the daily news that flows from mainstream media outlets.

An assortment of recent books detail both the clinical aspects of Alzheimer’s along with personal accounts by family members.

Given all that, Alzheimer’s is still a disease without a known cause – or cure.

There is hope, however.

The very fact that Alzheimer’s has moved from the shadows into the public eye is welcome news for professionals in the field and family members who are watching loved ones suffer each and every day.

“Research efforts really started to take off in the 1980s, and today we have some public policy and programs to help people cope with Alzheimer’s,” says Dr. Eileen MaloneBeach, Coordinator of Gerontology Programs at Central Michigan University. “Prior to the ‘80s, individuals and families dealing with the disease were so isolated – there is much more public awareness today.”

A partial reason for that increased awareness is the fact that Alzheimer’s touches the lives of so many people – and those figures are skyrocketing.

The number of Americans with Alzheimer’s has more than doubled since 1980, increasing to an estimated 4.5 million.

By 2050, that number is expected to range from 11.3 to 16 million.

Nearly 50 percent of all nursing home residents have Alzheimer’s or a related disorder.

A recent Gallup survey cited 1 in 10 Americans saying they have a family member with Alzheimer’s, and 1 in 3 knowing someone with the disease.

Statistics in and of themselves are meaningless. It’s the very real sense of despair that Alzheimer’s causes in the lives it touches that creates the biggest impact.

“The person they’ve always known and loved is not the same – in a way, family members are grieving the loss of a person while they are still alive,” Monica Jarmolowicz, director of Isabella Adult Day Care says of the devastating and long-term effect Alzheimer’s has on caregivers. “They want to hold on to that person they know and love.”

That can be extremely difficult, particularly as the disease continues to eat away more and more of the person’s identity.

“It’s really awful – she can become so violent and angry,” Sheree Murray says about incidents with her mother who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s two years ago. “The family suffers – she doesn’t remember doing or saying anything.”

Aggression, agitation, confusion, suspicion – all are manifestations of the disease. Each is challenging and frustrating for both the Alzheimer’s sufferer and caregivers, particularly since the emotions of the individual can shift so rapidly.

“It’s a horrific disease; made even more difficult for families to cope with because there is so much fluctuation within a day, hour or even minutes,” Dr. MaloneBeach says. “The lack of consistency and uniformity makes dealing with Alzheimer’s especially difficult.”

Murray has first-hand experience with that, and with the knowledge that the disease frequently is not easily detected in its early stages.

“At first, mom was able to pretty much take care of herself, but we always maintained contact to make sure she was okay, and helped her out with things she couldn’t do anymore,” Murray recalls about the decline of her mother that eventually led to placement at Tendercare in Mt. Pleasant.

As is often the case, a medical emergency accelerated the caregiver process for Murray when her mother fell and broke her wrist, and later was admitted to the hospital for treatment.

“She couldn’t remember how she fell – or even that she had fallen,” Murray says, adding that hospitalization led to the discovery of other physical ailments. “She was septic – she had a bladder infection and we didn’t even know it. In hindsight, there were other signs and symptoms prior to her falling that we didn’t relate as being the beginning of Alzheimer’s”

Those warning signs included hiding items, and then accusing family members of stealing them, and weight loss due to bad eating habits – or forgetting to eat at all.

The fact that the signals were not recognized is quite common, the CMU gerontology professor says.

“Alzheimer’s is behaviorally diagnosable,” Dr. MaloneBeach says. “A person suffering from Alzheimer’s may try to put their socks on their hands instead of their feet, or empty the contents of the refrigerator into the dryer – to say they’re confused is an understatement.”

The fact that early symptoms of Alzheimer’s are often explained by family members as being simply “forgetful” can add to the feeling of frustration and aggravation.

“Alzheimer’s starts so insidiously – it can be very difficult for a family to gauge,” the professor says. “Family members need to be aware of the signs and measure them over time. That can be critical to a diagnosis.”

While Alzheimer’s is diagnosable, going through the process can be difficult.

“Getting a diagnosis can be very painful for the family and the individual to accept, or it can be a great relief,” Dr. MaloneBeach says. “It’s not uncommon for family members to think they’re the ones with a problem – putting a framework around the disease can be helpful to everyone.”

Jarmolowicz agrees that obtaining information about the disease is a priority for family members.

“Education is very important so the family learns about the various stages and has an idea of what to expect. Family members will probably be in the front line initially as caregivers.”

Individuals with early stage Alzheimer’s can benefit from programs used at facilities like the one Jarmolowicz directs.

“We do lots of memory stimulation activities and communication techniques that are geared to whatever the individual’s interests are,” she says of the facility’s programs that began in 1997 and have expanded in the ensuing years. “Coping with Alzheimer’s is a big transition for the individual as well as the family members.”

Alexa Steed, associate administrator of clinical services at Masonic Pathways in Alma agrees.

“Like most senior housing providers, we realize that Alzheimer’s Disease and other related dementias are progressive diseases that do not always require ‘nursing home’ care,” she says. “That’s why we incorporate elements of our dementia programming into all the levels of care that we offer on campus. This allows us to provide the services residents need in the least restrictive environment possible.”

Long-term care facilities are also working to keep up to date on changing developments related to Alzheimer’s.

“We provide staff with training that enables them to better understand and manage the behaviors associated with dementia, such as wandering or unusual sleep patterns,” Steed says. “In addition to learning current treatment options, they also explore different communication techniques, the importance of environmental stimuli, and how to offer engaging activity options at the appropriate times throughout the day.”

A continuing growth in public awareness about Alzheimer’s is helpful for family members by providing additional support and ways to cope with the disease.

“We have made great strides in society in terms of caregiver help and support,” Dr. Malone-Beach says. “There are numerous web sites where people receive information and stay connected with other caregivers – information about Alzheimer’s is really part of the social fabric today.

“Just being able to say, ‘Mother is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s’ to a friend, and have that person understand what you’re talking about can be tremendously beneficial – the world is changing in terms of its awareness about the disease.”

Obviously, with no known cause for the disease and no cure in sight, there’s still much work to be done.

“Research has begun and it will continue, but right now we do not know what causes the disease,” the professor says, noting that environmental and genetic factors are contributing agents. “It appears that the early onset of Alzheimer’s in an individual may have a higher genetic component than late onset of the disease, but there’s still a lot of conjecture and much more research needs to be undertaken.”

Murray can relate to that, too. Her mother has an identical twin sister who has no signs whatsoever of Alzheimer’s. The siblings will celebrate their 80th birthday on Valentine’s Day.

“My mom still recognizes my aunt; she visits my mom frequently, but she will not remember having seen her after she leaves,” Murray says, adding that the presence of her aunt is helpful in many respects.

“I go to my aunt for comfort – she has all the stories about the family from years ago that my mom doesn’t recall anymore. I’ve really needed my aunt, especially after my dad died a few years ago – my mother does know that he is dead, but she doesn’t remember how or when it happened.”

Making a prediction about what the future holds for Alzheimer’s patients and their families is “a bit like predicting the weather,” MaloneBeach says.

“We may see that we are able to push back the age of onset gradually, but we will need to do that at a faster pace if we hope to make a difference in the number of people who are suffering.

“We need to find ways to stop that suffering.”

“Reprinted from the Mt. Pleasant Morning Sun and Used by Permission – Copyright 2006 (c) Morning Star Publishing Companies”

RBW gridiron teams prepare for induction into Hall of Fame

Terry Carey honored with teams from 1949-51

“There’s a whole lot of really excited ‘old’ guys around here.”

So said St. Johns resident, Paul Martis, about the good news that Rodney B. Wilson High School football teams from 1949-51 have been selected for the Greater Lansing Area Sports Hall of Fame.

The teams will earn their spot in history during an induction ceremony set for June 22 at Gannon Gymnasium on the campus of Lansing Community College.

Bob Ott: the good sergeant

Area mourns loss of beloved public servant

There’s no doubt about the depth of feeling that community residents have for a favorite son, Bob Ott. The former law enforcement officer with the St. Johns Police Department – and dedicated public servant – passed away Jan. 30. He was 88.


“I always referred to him as ‘the Good Sergeant,’” former St. Johns City Manager Randy Humphrey recalls. “Bob certainly was good at the many, many tasks he performed for the city. I am aware of no other employee who better understood public service than Bob.

“He would do anything, for anyone, at any time with a smile and reassurance that a job would be well done.”

That’s saying a lot of any individual, no matter what profession or occupation – it’s a fitting tribute for this gentleman police officer.

Humphrey, whose tenure as city manager coincided with a good portion of the 34 years that Bob served the city, has other great memories of those years at ‘City Hall.’

“Bob provided harmony and morale boosting for the entire City employee group,” Humphrey says. “He used to cook wonderful meals on his time and at his expense. It was a way of keeping us together – in good spirits and caring for one another beyond the role of fellow workers.

“He certainly is one of the people that I have missed the most upon moving out west.”

A fellow law enforcement officer has equally vivid memories about the giving nature of his former comrade.

“I joined the department in 1956, and we both became sergeants in 1969,” remembers former St. Johns Police Chief, Lyle French. “Bob liked police work, and he was good at it, but best of all I think he enjoyed working on the parking lot projects in town – he was just absorbed by that.

“I think he was in his glory when he was in that front-end loader, working on a parking lot.”

Chief French recalls another piece of equipment that Sergeant Ott also enjoyed – his parking ‘scooter.’

“First, he had a three-wheel motorcycle, and then he got that used scooter – when we got a new scooter, Bob was in second heaven,” the chief says with a laugh.

“We missed him when he retired in 1981, but he deserved the rest.”

Ott was preceded in death by his wife of 60 years, Vivian M. Ott in 2003.


The cannon that originally was located on the Courthouse lawn needed repairs after being pulled in the 2002 Memorial Day parade. Thanks to Bob Ott, former St. Johns police officer, and AIS Construction Equipment Corporation of Lansing and its employees for painting the cannon. Today it rests at the new Veterans Memorial on Clinton Avenue near Railroad Street.

Band of Brothers aids friend in need

Hutton battles Lou Gehrig’s Disease

By Rhonda Westfall


They’re not driving back Nazi troops in a final push along the Western Front, but Matt Hutton and his ‘Band of Brothers’ are displaying courage, self-sacrifice and camaraderie in a very real battle against a deadly foe – ALS.

Matt, 34, was diagnosed this past November with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, most commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The motor neuron disease is a progressive chronic disease of nerves coming from the spinal cord that causes muscle weakness and wasting.

While the lifelong St. Johns resident and his family and many friends are still reeling from the blow that neurologists at the University of Michigan Hospital delivered Nov. 20, they’re not about to let ALS pin them to the mat. The network of ‘Brothers’ is rallying in support of their SJHS classmate, planning a benefit dinner for March 15 and assisting Matt and his wife, Tami, and their four children in any way possible.

“Matt’s been there for me every time I’ve asked,” said Jeff Falor, a friend of Matt’s since early childhood and an “adopted” member of sorts into the Hutton family. “He’d never ask for help himself, but our intention is to be there for him.

“Physically, emotionally and mentally, Matt’s a strong person – he means the world to me.”

That sentiment about the skilled carpenter who is well-known for his construction and renovation work on area buildings is repeated over and over by his friends and family members. The fact that ALS so vigorously attacks the motor skills which the craftsman relies on to earn a livelihood makes the assault of the disease particularly heart-wrenching.

“Matt loves being a carpenter – he loves seeing things take shape with his hands,” said his father, Tom Hutton, a retired teacher from St. Johns Public Schools who has worked side-by-side with his son in recent years.

“When we got the confirmed diagnosis about ALS down at U-M, he just looked at us and said, ‘All I ever wanted to do was be a carpenter.’ Not being able to work now like he wants to is a very hard thing to deal with.”

Another childhood friend, Brian Barnett, who is also a professional carpenter has a special empathy for the toll ALS is taking.

“It just tears you up inside talking to him, knowing he can’t do what he loves,” Barnett said of the talented man whose nearby home in Greenbush Township was lovingly constructed with his own hands.

“Matt’s an 80-hour-a-week guy – he’d work a regular job and then come home and work at his house until well beyond midnight. He’s a super, super carpenter – the stuff he and his dad do is just beautiful.”

Ironically, his chosen profession which is intricately linked to top-notch motor skills, may have initially masked some early warning signs of ALS. When he finally relented and went to a doctor this past fall, he thought the problem he was having with weakness in his hands and arms could be carpal tunnel – a result of years of repetitive motion from hammering and other carpentry actions.

“His left arm in particular was giving him trouble – he couldn’t buckle his carpenter belt,” Matt’s mother, Mary Hutton, said, adding that a gradual decline in his ability to perform what were for him routine tasks prompted an appointment in early October with a neurologist.

“He was surprised when they initially told him he might have had a slight stroke, or be showing signs of the onset of multiple sclerosis. At the time, that seemed devastating – now, given the confirmed diagnosis of ALS, a stroke or even MS wouldn’t have been as bad.”

Mary, who retired two years ago after working for 38 years as a Registered Nurse, knows better than anyone what her son is facing. She also is well aware that like his three siblings – Jon, Ben and Joe – and his close circle of friends, Matt has a reservoir of spirit and determination.

Two ‘good buddies’ have an intimate knowledge of their friend’s upbeat attitude and positive outlook on life.

“Matt’s a mountain of a man – nothing but muscle and bone with hands like a sledge hammer,” said Tim Cleaver, another ‘life-long’ friend and classmate whose dad, Jim, served as wrestling coach – and mentor – for both men.

“We were neighbors when we were little, and Matt’s birthday is the day before mine, so our families always celebrated together. He’s a pretty shy person in a group – but get him with some friends and…well, we’ve all had a lot of fun together.”

Tom Ladisky, who along with his wife, Kim, are helping coordinate plans for the March 15 benefit at Smith Hall in St. Johns, has similar ‘untold’ tales about youthful experiences with his friend.

“We’ve just always gotten along, particularly in high school – not necessarily because of classroom work,” Ladisky said, recalling more than one day at school that was shortened – or simply non-existent – when the lure of the outdoors was too overpowering to resist.

“We enjoyed hunting together, and that friendship has always remained. We’re really all just a bunch of friends who are trying to help Matt in whatever way we can.”

Right now a top priority of that assistance is collecting items and donations for a silent auction that is a focal point of the fund-raising event that also includes dinner, a dance and 50-50 raffle. Individuals or organizations who want to donate an item for the auction – or make a monetary contribution – can contact Tom or Kim Ladisky at (989) 224-1958 (evenings), or (989) 224-3474 (days).

Tickets for the dinner and dance are $20 each, available from any of event organizers and at Smith Oil & Propane, Ye Old Roadhouse restaurant, and Beaufore’s Barber Shop.

Persons who are not able to attend the benefit may send checks made payable to “Matt Hutton Family Account”, 6901 N. Krepps Road, Elsie, Mich., 48831.

Matt’s ‘Band of Brothers’ are positive that many other friends will step up and show their support.

“He’s been there for all of us at one time or another,” Falor said. “He’d be the first one to show up to help and the last one to leave – now it’s our turn.”


Local bands stage Jan. 2 concert for Hutton family

A pair of local bands are working together to ring in the New Year in a manner that provides entertainment and benefits an area family at the same time.

The Last Broadcast, whose EP Matthew pays tribute to Matt Hutton, will headline the Jan. 2 show that was arranged by another local group, Olivine. Also playing at the show that begins at 7 p.m. in the cafeteria at St. Johns High School are Pictures of Annie, a group from Tecumseh, and Hope for August from Jackson. Admission is $5.

The title track of The Last Broadcast’s debut EP was written by St. Johns resident Dan Gleason, who grew up nearby the home of Matt’s parents, Tom and Mary Hutton. The connection between the two families forms a basis for the composition of Matthew.

“I wrote the song Matthew based on something Matthew’s father (Tom Hutton) had once told my dad,” Gleason said. “Mr. Hutton said that Matthew is, and has always been his ‘rock,’ the one person who he could always depend on. Hearing that really moved me.”

Hutton, 34, was diagnosed with ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, in November 2002. His family and friends are continuing to deal with the reality of the motor neuron disease that results in chronic progressive muscle weakness and wasting.

“I feel more connected to this song than any other I’ve ever written — the line ‘such a strong, strong heart’ always gives me chills, and I hope it does the same for our listeners,” Gleason said.

Members of The Last Broadcast along with Gleason are Connor Germain, Ryan Pavlovivh, Jacob Wolfgang and Corban Lott. The band officially released Matthew at a Dec. 2 concert on the campus of Central Michigan University. The EP is available locally at the Depot Art Center, Treasure Chest, and Chart Hits Video. A portion of proceeds from the sale of the E.P. is being donated to the Hutton family.

Information on Matthew is available at the band’s website, www.thelastbroadcast.net or at Selah Records, www.selah-records.com

Coordinating the Jan. 2 show are members of the St. Johns band, Olivine. The group of local performers includes Zach Webb, Matthew Dedyne, Mitch Pero and Andy Keilen. Information on the band is available at olivinemusic.com

Pictures of Annie includes Justin Curth, Ashleigh Raczkowski and Bryan Debus. Information is available at picturesofannie.com. Members of Hope for August, a female-fronted rock group, are Kristina Rubritius, Andrew Volk, Shane Pitmon and Andrew Carpenter. Information is available at hopeforaugust.com


Mattew EP is available locally

Inquiries by a number of area residents has prompted the band, The Last Broadcast, to make its debut EP, Matthew, available for sale at area establishments.

The title of track is written in honor of St. Johns resident, Matt Hutton, who is continuing a battle with Lou GehrigÕs Disease. A portion of proceeds from the sale of the EP are being donated to the Hutton family.

Matthew is currently available at The Depot Art Center and Treasure Chest, both located in downtown St. Jons; Chart Hits Video in the Southgate Plaza; and the Family Bible House, 1114 N. Lansing St., St. Johns. Cost is $5.

The band also hopes to perform a benefit concert this spring. Area businesses or organizations that are interested in donating a performance site for the concert should email The Last Broadcast via sean@selah-records.com


Last Broadcast E.P. pays tribute to Matt Hutton

By Rhonda Westfall

photos courtesy of Cole Cornwell and Dan Heathman

Tragic situations can sometimes prompt creations of great beauty.That’s the case for Matthew, the debut E.P. of The Last Broadcast — the title track is written for Matt Hutton, a St. Johns area resident who is battling amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.The band officially released the E.P. at a Dec. 2 concert on the campus of Central Michigan University. Proceeds from the sale of the E.P. are being donated to the Hutton family.

“When I first heard the news of my neighbor being diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease, my first reaction was one of confusion,” Dan Gleason, lead singer and songwriter for The Last Broadcast said in an interview on the band’s website.”I had lived next to Matthew all my life and he was such a strong person. I have always admired him, especially for his commitment to building things from the ground up with his own hands, and when someone you’ve known for so long is threatened like this you feel helpless, and that’s exactly how I felt.”Hutton, 34, was diagnosed with ALS in November 2002. His family and friends are continuing to deal with the reality of the motor neuron disease that results in chronic progressive muscle weakness and wasting.

That family connection played a big part in the composition of Matthew.”I wrote the song Matthew based on something Matthew’s father (Tom Hutton) had once told my dad,” Gleason said. “Mr. Hutton said that Matthew is, and has always been his ‘rock,’ the one person who he could always depend on. Hearing that really moved me.

“I feel more connected to this song than any other I’ve ever written — the line ‘such a strong, strong heart’ always gives me chills, and I hope it does the same for our listeners.”Members of The Last Broadcast along with Gleason are Connor Germain, Ryan Pavlovivh, Jacob Wolfgang and Corban Lott. They are all committed to the Matthew project.

“Our hope is to raise some money for Matt’s family as well as awareness of ALS,” Gleason said. “Hopefully we can lift the spirits of all who contend with this awful disease, especially Matthew’s family, who has always been supportive of me and whatever I do. I pray that we are doing the best we can.”Information on Matthew is available at the band’s website, www.thelastbroadcast.net or at Selah Records, www.selah-records.com


Hutton golf benefit entry deadline is Aug. 15

Golfing in the summer sunshine will be fun and provide an opportunity to support a local family at the Matt Hutton Children’s Golf Benefit, Aug. 23 at North Star Golf Course.

Friends of Matt Hutton and his family are organizing the four-person team scramble that includes 18 holes of golf with a cart and a meal; cost is $55 per person or $220 per team.

A shotgun start at 8:30 a.m., begins the fun event that features an assortment of prizes for contests like closest to the pin, longest drive, longest putt and other link challenges. A 50-50 raffle is planned along with on-going raffles for other prize items.

Donations are still being accepted for hole sponsorships and prize sponsorships. Cory Chaffee is assisting in securing sponsorship donations; Troy Tatroe and Jeff Saylor are coordinating the benefit for their friend and classmate.

Proceeds from the benefit will be placed in a separate fund for each of the Hutton children.

The entry deadline for teams is Aug. 15. Contact Tatroe at (989) 227-8703; checks may be mailed to the Matt Hutton Children’s Golf Benefit in care of Tatroe, 6803 N. Krepps Road, Elsie, Mich., 48831.


Hutton family is ‘overwhelmed’ by support at benefit
‘We will never feel alone’

By Rhonda Westfall

Music, food, and lots and lots of laughter.

That’s what organizers had hoped for in planning a benefit dinner for their friend, Matt Hutton, and it’s exactly what they got.

“There were cars parked all over the place – so many people – it was just fantastic,” said Tom Ladisky, one of the ‘Band of Brothers’ who helped coordinate the March 15 event that was held at Smith Hall in St. Johns.

‘Hut’ and his family – wife, Tami, and their four children, Madison, Emma, Logan and Haley – spent much of the evening visiting with friends, several of whom were former St. Johns High School classmates who made the trip back home to attend the benefit.

Matt, 34, was diagnosed this past November with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, most commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The motor neuron disease is a progressive chronic disease of nerves coming from the spinal cord that causes muscle weakness and wasting.

Organizers planned the dinner and silent auction to assist the Hutton family with travel and other expenses that will be incurred as Matt battles the disease.

“The whole community just pulled together for this,” Ladisky said. “This is just a great place with wonderful people.”

An account remains in place for additional contributions. For information call the Ladisky’s at home, (989) 224-1958, or work, (989) 224-3474. Checks may be made payable to “Matt Hutton Family Account,” and sent to 6901 N. Krepps Road, Elsie, Mich., 48831.

Following is an open letter to the community from the Hutton family.

“Matt and Tami Hutton and children, Madison, Logan, Emma and Haley thank their friends and relatives from the bottom of our hearts.

“The response to our recent fundraiser was overwhelming in its generosity and outpouring of love to our family. The kindness of this community will never be forgotten and always cherished.

“The success of the fundraiser was due to the cooperation of local businesses and the ‘Band of Brothers’ committee who coordinated and freely offered their expertise and resources. Special thanks to Chuck DeSander and his family who provided a delicious and memorable meal.

“What could have been difficult became a wonderful celebration of life enjoyed by 500 people in attendance. God bless you all. You will walk this road with us and we will never feel alone.”


Cruise, hot tub, jewelry – benefit for Matt Hutton has it all
March 15 event helps SJHS alumnus battle ALS

By Rhonda Westfall

When the friends of St. Johns High School alumnus Matt Hutton decided to plan a benefit to aid in his battle with Lou Gehrig’s Disease, they knew support would be forthcoming from lots and lots of people – but no one expected donations would include things like a seven-day cruise, hot tub and jewelry.

Or, maybe they did.

Friends like Tom and Kim Ladisky, whose home has been transformed into a ‘storage unit’ for the March 15 benefit dinner that features a silent auction, have first-hand knowledge of the special place that ‘Hut’ has in the hearts and minds of so many other classmates and acquaintances.

“It’s been overwhelming,” Kim said of the multitude of items that have been donated to date.

Matt, 34, was diagnosed this past November with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, most commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The motor neuron disease is a progressive chronic disease of nerves coming from the spinal cord that causes muscle weakness and wasting.

A network of friends is coordinating the benefit which will help assist Matt and his wife, Tami, and their four children, Madison, Emma, Logan and Haley.

Among the other ‘big ticket’ silent auction items are a PSE compound bow, variety of oak tables, 5,000 watt generator, quilts, Sheraton Hotel overnight/dinner gift package, picnic tables – and 1,000 pounds of mint compost.

So many gift certificates for products and services and other items have been donated that organizers plan to hold on-going raffle drawings throughout the night.

“We have lots and lots of items – and so have lots and lots to give away,” Kim said, adding that a 50-50 cash drawing is also planned in addition to the numerous other raffle drawings.

Tickets are $20 each for the buffet dinner that begins at 5 p.m. at Smith Hall in St. Johns; set-ups and snacks will be provided for the dance that is also part of the event. Bids on the silent auction items will be accepted from 5 to 8 p.m., with winners announced during the remainder of the evening.

There’s still time for individuals or businesses to donate items for the silent auction and raffle; call the Ladisky’s at home, (989) 224-1958, or work, (989) 224-3474. Persons who cannot attend the benefit but would like to make a cash donation may make checks payable to “Matt Hutton Family Account,” 6901 N. Krepps Road, Elsie, Mich., 48831.

Tickets for the benefit dinner are available at Smith Oil & Propane, The Roadhouse and Beaufore’s Barber Shop.

Courageous and strong: Matt Hutton

by Rhonda Dedyne


hutton1.jpg“Matt’s body was defeated by Lou Gehrig’s disease, but his spirit triumphed as he peacefully and courageously left this world surrounded by his loving family in the home he built for them.”

Those brief – but eloquent – words composed by the family of Matt Hutton on his passing Feb. 8 accurately express the strength of character that the young man exemplified so well during the past several years – and throughout his all-too-brief lifetime.

Matt, 37, was diagnosed in November 2002, with ALS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, most commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. As his family wrote, the degenerative motor neuron disease in the end claimed his body – but it did not conquer his spirit.

Surely, his family and friends can find solace in that fact.

The home that he constructed also serves as a testament to the faith and perseverance of the boy who grew to manhood – always enjoying physical activity, working with wood and the creative process of “building things.”


Our thoughts and prayers are with Matt’s family and the many, many friends who supported him during his courageous battle. The days ahead will be difficult. May you take comfort in knowing that your husband – your father and son, brother and uncle – brings life to the words of another author who is also noted for his “simplicity,” St. Paul.

For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day; and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.
II Timothy 4:6-8.

On falling trees, Marcella and grandchildren

On falling trees, Marcella and grandchildren

“If a tree falls in a forest and there is nobody around, does it make a sound?”

That well-known question without an answer popped into my mind when I learned that one of the oldest trees at the farmhouse on Forest Hill Road had fallen victim to the ice storm that swept through portions of Clinton County last week.

No one was there when it fell.

So, did it make a sound – a cracking, crunching noise when its one, huge limb snapped and hit the ground? Or was there silence – a peaceful release for a grand old tree that had provided shade to our family for close to 100 years?

My brother informed me about the tree being down when I returned to St. Johns after spending a few days in Charlevoix with grandchildren, Ella and Jack. By that time, Rollie had already cut up most of the branches and had the wood stacked neatly in piles.

Only the trunk was left – hollow, for the most part; certainly the cause of the tree’s demise.

We had talked for years about having the tree taken down – actually, what was left of the old Box Elder tree, that is. A majority of its huge branches had been severed from the trunk several years ago when a “low-top” tornado dipped from the sky above the farm, destroying an out building and snapping off several other lovely, young Maple trees.

At that time, my dad surveyed the damage – being thankful that the branches had barely missed falling directly on the house. Since it was the only shade tree left on the south side of the house, we decided to not cut down what was left of it – better to leave the trunk and one massive branch remain.

Let the old tree fall, naturally – unaided by a chainsaw’s whining blade.

And so, it did – with no one there to witness its passing.

Perhaps it enjoyed the solitary experience.

No matter, really. It had certainly earned a rest.

While its age is undetermined, the tree is visible in several old family photos that were taken in the early 1930s. At that time, the tree appears to be little more than a young sapling – maybe 10 years old or so. If my mother’s memory was intact, she undoubtedly could provide information about the tree’s origin. We do not have the luxury of her recollections, of course.

Maybe that’s why the passing of the old tree seems especially sad.

My mother, who was born in that house where the tree most likely stood outside the south bedroom window, has no memory of her home – her life at that time, or few other event for that matter.

Alzheimer’s continues its assault on her brain – destroying its core, just like the old tree.

When she passes, will we be there with her – or will she fall alone, without family by her side?

We pray not.

* * * * * *

It’s important that I switch gears for a bit – going from the sadness of my mom’s condition to the joy of grandchildren.

My mom would approve of Caleb’s cookie-baking skills, I know. Well, maybe ‘skill’ is the wrong word – his greatest ability is licking the bowl, beaters and spoons that Grandma Rhonda uses to make the cookie dough.

In fact, like other kids (and more than a few adults I know), eating cookie dough is often preferable to the finished product. More than a few cookies never make it to the baking sheets when Caleb is in charge.

That’s fine. It’s what cookie baking is all about.

His “older” sister, Gwendolyn still enjoys mixing and baking cookies, too, although not as much she used to when she was “little.”

Now, playing with her Oakview School classmates – and getting dressed up for events like the “Butterfly Ball” – is more her style. She certainly did look very ‘grown up’ a few weeks ago when her father had the honor of accompanying Gwen to the Daddy-Daughter Dance.

It’s impossible to believe that she’s halfway through second grade – where does the time go?

The swift passage of time is always evident whenever I see the Charlevoix grandkids, Ella and Jack. Little brother has almost caught up with his big sister in terms of height – and already passed her in weight a few months ago. What a guy he is – two years old going on 10, I swear.

Lovely Ella is as sweet as ever – most of the time, anyway. While she clearly is the daughter of both her parents – demonstrating character traits of each – there are times when Ella becomes the little stinker with less than a great disposition that I remember so well from her father.

Aaron’s nickname was “Peeler,” and he could be just that – a headstrong and stubborn little boy. Like his daughter, however, he was so cute it was impossible to maintain the “strict parent” façade for too long.

Wayne says I’m still softhearted, and I suppose he’s right.

Who else but a true softie would shed tears over an old Box Elder tree?