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August 08, 2019

Mary Jean














Mary Jean


by jim richmond


A  chilly, late October rain was beating down, by the time Richard Mittelstadt and I bought the four rolls of toilet paper at Stack’s Pharmacy, and set out in the darkness of a late Friday evening to Mary Jean Gossey’s house.  We had a surprise planned for her.

Mary Jean was a popular neighborhood girl, Italian with huge green eyes, full lips, an attitude and sense of humor that belied her small 5’ stature. 

We were high school juniors.

She had been my “girlfriend” for just two weeks, and every time I looked into those eyes, my heart raced and my hopes soared. 

We had kissed just once, but I spent every chance at the Gosseys’ playing cards with Mary Jean, brother Bobby, and three older sisters.

Looking back, why did I think the Friday caper Richard and I planned would impress Mary Jean or make her like me more? 

How could I guess what a mess it would make of my life for nearly a year?

Walking quickly up Penn Street for about six blocks, the cold Kansas City rain drenched our clothing and Richard’s enthusiasm.

“Come on, Richard.  It’ll just take a few minutes,” I said, unwrapping the toilet paper rolls and stuffing them inside my wet jacket.

“No, I ain't goin any further.  Wait for you across the street in the apartment building lobby,” Richard told me, chickening out as far as I was concerned.

Rushing across the street, I quickly and silently tossed the toilet paper rolls up into the two large oak trees gracing the Gossey’s front yard – the rolls unraveling and decorating branches like July 4th rockets on the way back down.

A classic tee-pee job! I thought.

I ran up the steps on the Gossey’s expansive, wooden front porch and punched the doorbell with the palm of my wet hand.  What’s the point in tee-peeing if people don’t see it?

Turning, afraid of getting caught, I sprinted back across the wet porch, slipped and slid its full length, and fell over the porch railing into the muddy front yard.

I heard a loud snap.  Something was wrong. 

I got up and started to run.  Part of my right leg went one way, the rest the opposite direction. I looked down to see bones sticking out of my pant leg.  I had broken the leg in six places, and compounded the injury by trying to run on it.

Somehow, Richard and I hobbled to “Doc” Stanley’s house in the rain, cold and darkness… a few blocks away. 

I would end up spending a week in St. Mary’s Hospital and 5 months in a cast from pelvis to toes, getting the leg healed.

I never got another kiss from Mary Jean, although I don’t think the tee-peeing had anything to do with it.  She was, I realized then, and now, a little above my pay grade in looks and popularity.

Getting out of the Navy in 1970, I was buying groceries in the “old neighborhood” Kroger Store one day, to see Mary Jean – now pregnant – and her husband at the checkout stand.

By the time I paid for my groceries, she was gone.

I never saw Mary Jean again.  Later, I heard she had died giving birth to that child.

Now, as I approach age 75, every day on my morning walk, that old right leg sends me tingling reminders of that Friday evening in Kansas City long ago.

And of Mary Jean Gossey’s big green eyes, full lips, and laughter.


June 20, 2019

Leila's Lawn Chair Summer Concerts Continue




              Leila Arboretum’s outdoor Rustic Stage will come alive again Thursday evenings this August, with a series of four “free” concerts, featuring an exciting range of music talents and audience interests.     

In 2017, with key funding from the Battle Creek Community Foundation and the DeVries Partner in the Arts Grants Program, Leila Arboretum planned and launched the four Thursday evening series of concerts around the theme “Believe in Battle Creek.”

In the past, the concerts have featured the Cereal City Concert Band,  a performance by the Sojourner Truth Youth Choir as well as others.

The concert evenings have been an audience success and a charitable collaboration with other local art organizations since on most Thursday evenings proceeds from refreshments and a raffle were split between Leila Arboretum and its co-host charitable organization, including Sprout Urban Farms and the Battle Creek Music Center.

Here is a schedule of the concerts.  All are free, and run from 7 to 8:30 p.m. and refreshments, soft drinks and beer will be available for purchase. Remember to bring your lawn chair or blanket.barefootblonde.jpg

Barefoot Blonde – Thursday, August 1st -- A powerhouse female vocalist with a tight rock and roll band backup.

 This group has been a popular attraction at Leilapalooza in past years.  “You won’t want to miss this Thursday evening from the Rustic Stage at Leila Arboretum.  Charitable beneficiary: Sprout Urban Farms.


Bobby Holly and Sonny Holley’s Motown Band – August 8thst -- Since the mid-1970s, local activist, former federal center employee and preacher Bobby Holly has put on a “Chuck Berry” style rock and roll show at scores


of locations, with five backup musicians usually draws hundreds of local and area lovers of his music, his moon-walk-style dancing, and his excitement.  Charitable beneficiary: Kingman Museum of Natural History and Science.





LipstickWhiskey.jpgLipstick & Whiskey – Thursday, August 15th – a popular country and western band that has proven appeal to many in Battle Creek. Charitable beneficiary: Leila Arboretum Society.


Cereal City Concert Band – Thursday, August 22nd -- Perhaps the genesis group and motivation for Leila’s Thursday evening concert series. The group performs big band and patriotic music that appeals to the largest audiences, especially senior citizens and couples who enjoy just bringing their lawn chairs, or their blanket, for a delightfully casual evening of musical memories and inspirations. Charitable beneficiary: Leila Arboretum Society



These groups expand the genre of music brought to Leila’s Rustic Stage.

Individuals interested in donating to support the series or would like to volunteer one evening call Jerry Tilmann at 269.924.6951.                            

June 04, 2019

"That's not quite right, Bob."

Author: Only rarely do I repost blog or FB columns.

This is an exception.

In my 41 years, ragtag roles in Battle Creek, I can only count a handful of civic leaders whose impact was truly profound, far reaching, totally selfless.

Russ Mawby.

Bill LaMothe.

A few others.

And then Ellie and Bob DeVries.

Today, I learned they will be relocating to warmer climate, but a stimulating intellectual environment, to be close to their children. Sometime perhaps next fall. As they reach their mid-80s.

I sat with a group today and chatted with Bob. And my sadness was second only to when Russ Mawby left us, and Battle Creek for the last time.

The DeVries will be missed by SO many. And my blog, below, writting in 2017, tries to give a glimmer why.


“That’s not quite right,” Bob.


By jim richmond


     So, interjected Eleanor (Ellie) DeVries, with more than a bit of warmth and controlled staccato, sitting across from her husband and soulmate of some 50—plus years, Robert (Bob) DeVries, in their attractive but modest southside home in Battle Creek, Michigan.

     Their animated, humorous, joie de vivre life stories continued to flow forward in beautiful, rhythmic form, but sometimes interrupted, with surprise and wonder.

     Much like Frank Lloyd Wright’s natural fountain flow genius in  home Falling Waters– punctuated with not infrequent points of surprising direction and interjection – so the DeVries conversation will take a quick turn, with perhaps a long forgotten detail from life’s bumps, barriers, bridges, happening so long ago.

     “I think you’re right about that one Mother,” Bob said, corrected at times.  


     "Sweetheart, just let Jim ask his questions,” Ellie would say, attempting to bring a long tale or brief story to an abrupt close or new direction.

      Over some 5 hours and 2 interviews, glancing from their face to face, expressions, eye contact, smiles and animation, I realized they weren’t “correcting” each other, but adding frosting to a cake, a delicious layer of cherry filling detail and richness to an already interesting story.

      Not teacher-correcting-student-over-imprecise-word-conjunction or memory.  Rather Frank Lloyd Wright's falling water flow, an easy, much repeated loving banter between the DeVries, tinged, complemented by two different but equally strong, precise, inquisitive minds, usually in sync, but of their own memory twists, turf of family territorial imperative, personality and persuasion.

     I’d arrived at two, 3 to 4-hour interviews with the DeVries with some trepidation, that’d followed me for weeks (among other difficult personal life changes of mine), as I struggled to determine where to begin this profile, what to include, and to where to end.

     Finally realizing it was not -- not page-on-page written plethora about life travels and their remarkable achievements that drew me like a magnet to metal. 

     But rather the uniqueness I sensed in them as individuals, and as a couple.

     The DeVries might seem conventional. 

     But they are not in several traditional ways  – in this world where money, status, branding and headlines drownes us on the daily news and in the lives who so many aspire to and envy.

     Bob and Ellie DeVries are organized but extraordinarily casual about it....

     Generous but demanding in what they think and want to help make happen.

     Rich in their professional, personal and life experiences but inquisitive, lively listeners.

     Like a second-rate, Sam Spade detective, I found myself just sitting up the street from their home on one occasion. 


     Trying to construct a basic understanding of these two people who've lived within the same modest home where they raised successful, very different adult children.  And provided their kids the best educations, regardless of impact on their own family budget or finances.

     And from this house, their church and strong religious beliefs, professions, community – have had quiet, but profound impact across a renaissance life style of exploration and personal growth.IMG_0164.jpg

     Ellie, the wife and mother and artist, went back to graduate school for more art studies, and whose work today graces its own separate gallery at a local college and at many other exhibit locations.

     I listened to her stories of casually searching back alleys of Beijing and finding breathtaking, four-color “peasant” Chinese art, while Kellogg Foundation program director and hospital administration expert Bob was on one of his 13 or so professional consultation or Foundation required trips. (See photo of Chinese art at top of page.)

     Bob recalls countless meetings with top echelon Chinese physicians on how to begin modernizing their antiquated hospital systems, to better serving Chinese’s near 2 billion comrades – 80 percent still rural poor.

     DeVries’ impact on worldwide leadership development, health and hospital care in the United States and Latin America has been covered in the Harvard Business Review, and scores of articles and research papers. 

     Little in their hometown of Battle Creek has not been the beneficiary of the DeVries’ family quiet leadership and personal philanthropy. 

     They are not known as the “we’ll write a check and then please go away version” of personal philanthropy,

     The DeVries have dramatically -  dramatically -  helped reshape the quality of life of their community – health care delivery, college access for poor kids, expansion and cultivation of both visual and performing arts, quality and access of thousands in 4 counties to prompt, lifesaving emergency medical care, development of a regional public zoo and private-public arboretum, both that draw thousands of visitors a year. 

     And, as one civic leader pointed out, the DeVries’ “brand” of hands-on philanthropy has helped propel growth and impact of the Battle Creek Community Foundation – one of the most vibrant, progressive, risk-taking  public grantmaking philanthropies in Michigan.

     These DeVries’ stories (with or without Ellie’s clarifications or corrections!) could go on. 

     And on.

     And on.

     But some 25 years ago, and with a bit of journalistic skepticism, I casually asked Bob and Ellie, why such smart, fairly well off financially, broad gauged people maintained so relatively unassuming lives in their hometown?

     Bob told me, “We decided to put whatever resources we accumulated into our children’s futures, in their educational and career opportunities. Not into cars or material possessions.  Whatever else, we would save and use for making life a better place for as many other people as we could. And for Battle Creek.”

     These many years have passed since he said that to me.

     And what they set as goals, as promises to themselves, their children, their community have come to pass.  And benefit many.

     Rising the other day from the comfortable sofa in the DeVries’  modest, unpretentious living room of the past 40-so years, Bob and Ellie then walked me to the door, then waving goodbye. 

     Ellie with the same wide, emphatic generous, welcoming smile, those clear eyes, leaning now slightly on her walker.

     It is not all the “things” we have in life.  But what we learn, live by and leave behind.

     Perhaps the best legacy.

     And – as others told me in researching this brief profile – that’s the difference in the lives of Bob and Ellie DeVries.


Jim Richmond is a past vice president of the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, former president of the Battle Creek Community Foundation and the Frey Family Foundation.  He is a published author, and writer of more than 300 newspaper columns.  Now semi-retired, Richmond recently lived 3 years in rural and urban areas of China.  He writes primarily as an avocation today.  No compensation is exchanged for his columns. 

The accuracy of column content is his responsibility alone. For more of his blogs: ragstorichmond/blogspirit.com. 

Richmond welcomes comments or criticism: jmadisonrichmond@gmail.com


Copyright 2017 Jim Richmond

April 05, 2019

True Love More Than A Four-Letter Word


by jim richmond

I've no right perhaps to be sitting here, tonight, typing this, tears clouding my eyes.

The text message I'd be dreading for a year  arrived minutes ago.

One of my very best friend's wife had died, after a long fight with cancer, that even included their selling their suburban Kansas City home, moving into a rental, about 10 years ago, so they could afford experimental cancer treatment for her in Houston.

Surprisingly, gratefully, the treatment gave wife Leslie and her husband Jim --one of my earliest and  best friends from high school, university, navy and a  lifetime -- another  decade or more years together.

Both had, I believe, rare cancers, they questioned,  and successfully challenged conventional cancer protocols in some ways.

Then late last July, Jim called me.

Leslie's cancer was back, he said. They gave her about 30 days to live and had started hospice care.'Could I come for her service, expected at the end of August?,' he asked.

A very religious Jehovah Witness' couple, they kept their faith and their hope over all these years, medical travails.

Leslie lived against the odds and the doctors' one-month predictions, until last Wednesday. 7 months longer....

Supported by Jim, their grown children, their religious faith and commmunity members.

Leslie died a handful of days after they celebrated with their family their 50th years of marriage together.

I always thought Leslie was one of the loveliest woman I had ever seen, in our college days  and Jim was convinced of it. 

One day, drinking beer in a third-story brick apartment on 41st and Main Street in Kansas City; where he lived in some college terms and I was hanging out, he said to me: "Leslie is the only woman I will ever want, Jimmy, believe it!"

It proved true: They raised a wonderful family together. They had a wonderful, if medically challenging life together.

The memorial service will be in Kansas City May 1st.

"Will you be coming?," Jim asked in his text to me just now.

"If the sun comes up that morning," I replied

Love is more than a four letter word.  It was.  It still is for some people.

It was a lifetime for these special friends.


Photo One: Jim Donigan (left) next to me when our ships happened to be both in port, Subic Bay, Philippines, on the way to vietnam.

Image may contain: 4 people, including James McNamara Richmond, people smiling, people standing and baseball
Photo two: Leslie and Jim in College days.  Probably about 1966.  Third photo, shortly before Leslie found recurrence of cancer.
Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling
Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, people standing and suit

February 20, 2019

'Are you a Man of Faith?'


"Are you a Man of Faith?," she asked after he'd driven 138 miles for a first date,  a few weeks of emails, phone conversations, a social media exchange when this area of inquiry had not been mentioned.

She ... a Retired RN, quick witted, engaging ....


They walked the small town, and University campus, in Indiana, where she lived. Watched a university track meet. Toured The library. Eat lunch in the three-tiered appealing student center surrounded by youth, their talk and laughter.

Afterwards, sitting in her small, ranch style home, they chatted about their lives. Beautifully dressed in a casual long black dress that emphasized her thin face, unruly white hair, thin frame, and bright expressive eyes.

She described shock about her younger sister, pointing to a nearby family portrait, who'd been killed with a shotgun in a kitchen by her estanged husband, after separating, and when he learned she had found another on the Internet.

"It happened just up the block here," she jestured. "I had to handle all the details. It went on for a year. On and on. And then the TV coverage...." she said.

They talked. After her own 40-year marriage, ended eight years ago by "boundaries broken," she said without explanation.

"I'm not the crying type, about any of this, " as her eyes teared up.

She suddenly asked: "ARE YOU A MAN OF FAITH?"

He was near speechless....surprised, not wanting to give the 'wrong' answer.'

He asked her to define.

"Well, what happens from here," she jestured with her right hand, through and after here, " she motioned with her left hand, like holding thread during a darning process.

"I'm an agnostic," he replied. "Not sure about a God, an afterlife."

"Also, a man of other faith," seeing her face harden. "My faith is in the goodness of people, in change. I'm always open to learning, perhaps even 'faith' in the way you mean. "

A curtain came down across her face.

At the door, they exchanged a lingering hug.

"Shall we see each other again?," he half joked, skeptically, turning back while opening his car door.

"You know me!," she said, "I think about everything."

He thought that seemed unnecessary.


January 06, 2019

From Boulder to Birmingham


by jim richmond

She grew up within sight of The Bund, her Long March father guiding exports under Mao, then at 15 with the Cultural Revolution, joined mother, father, brothers forced to the countryside for 4 years of stoop labor and reeducation.


Li Li had seen, suffered it all. Been at the highest highs. Lowest lows. Not easily shaken. Not easily impressed, now owner of a network of granite mines in southwest China.


She sat regally, her long black hair and black silk dress emphasizing her oriental beauty, with her "new" American husband in the Kennedy Center, 2001, waiting for the concert to begin.


"Lovely," she commented in near perfect Americanese, like a mirror, catching the admiring stares coming her way.


"What do Americans do when you need healing?," she asked. Always questions.


"Yào hépíng. Tài duōle," he laughed in Pidgen Mandarin. "Be peaceful. Too much."


"Boulder to Birmingham," he finally answered, thinking about healing and the blues.


Emmylou Harris walked out on stage.


And began with Boulder to Birmingham.

January 05, 2019

'Love is just a four letter word'


by jim richmond

“My God, it’s hot!,” he thought, whipping through the front entrance of the small San Jose commuter airport lounge in August, 1969.

Ahead, he spied a last empty plastic seat.

Settling in, sighing, he glanced at the woman inches away in the chair next to him.

She was shrouded in one of the popular straw basket hats that curve in, shading almost a full face.

Glancing up from a well thumbed paperback, she tilted slightly toward the man, and half smiled, as if agreeing, ‘Yes. I know."

The man turned to his own paper and she did not look up again. Neither said anything. Giving her privacy in the crowd.

Joan Baez. Who lived nearby.

Later, listening to her unique, soul searching rendition of a Dyan tune, reportedly her lover at the time, ‘Ah, ‘Love is Just a Four Letter Word.’Joan_Baez_Bob_Dylan.jpg

Seems like only yesterday
I left my mind behind
Down in the Gypsy Cafe
With a friend of a friend of mine

She sat with a baby heavy on her knee
Yet spoke of life most free from slavery
With eyes that showed no trace of misery
A phrase in connection first with she I heard

That love is just a four-letter word

Outside a rambling store-front window
Cats meowed to the break of day
Me, I kept my mouth shut, too
To you I had no words to say

My experience was limited and underfed
You were talking while I hid
To the one who was the father of your kid
You probably didn't think I did, but I heard
You say that love is just a four-letter word

I said goodbye unnoticed
Pushed towards things in my own games
Drifting in and out of lifetimes
Unmentionable by name
Searching for my double, looking for
Complete evaporation to the core
Though I tried and failed at finding any door
I must have thought that there was nothing more

Absurd than that love is just a four-letter word

Though I never knew just what you meant
When you were speaking to your man
I can only think in terms of me
And now I understand

After waking enough times to think I see
The Holy Kiss that's supposed to last eternity
Blow up in smoke, its destiny
Falls on strangers, travels free
Yes, I know now, traps are only set by me
And I do not really need to be
Assured that love is just a four-letter word

Strange it is to be beside you, many years the tables turned
You'd probably not believe me if told you all I've learned
And it is very very weird, indeed
To hear words like "forever" plead
So ships run through my mind I cannot cheat
It's like looking in a teacher's face complete
I can say nothing to you but repeat what I heard

That love is just a four-letter word.

Songwriters: Bob Dylan


Baez, 77, is in the middle of what she has said will be her last concert tour.

December 30, 2018

Random Sunday Thoughts: The NonFighting Irish, Gus and Call, Time For A Change

random sunday thoughts:


by jim richmondwittliff_CallGus1988-web.jpg

I didn't watch the Notre Dame loss to Clemson, 3-30 last night.

As Irish as I am, Notre Dame played a weak schedule and got into the final four only because of its brand. We knew what was coming:. the point spread before kickoff, Clemson by 13.

Area Catholic churches were reportedly packed with kneeling supplicants before game time: "PLEASE, TOUCHDOWN JESUS, JUST NOT ANOTHER ALABAMA EMBARRASSMENT! Make it close. Amen."

So, instead I finished Larry McMurtry's prequel DEAD MAN'S WALK, wrote after the three Lonesome Dove novels, and in reverse order introduced us to Captain Augustus "Gus" McCrae and Captain Woodrow F. Call, two famous former Texas Rangers, and to the end of what some perceive as a slightly more accurate account of early Western history in the U.S.

In the last several days, I turned the last page on Philbrick's MAYFLOWER; also on a contrarian historical account of WWII from the viewpoint of the Japanese, and another somewhat ambivalent work on Eisenhower's 8 years in the White House. (Better than we thought POTUS, built up military, hated Nixon, and probably deserves a D-Minus grade on Civil Rights.)

About a week's worth of reading wrapped up.

Not exactly topics on Fox Morning Friends, The View or The Five.

Tomorrow, pulling the plug on television. I've said it before. I MEAN IT THIS TIME!

I chatted with COMCAST/INFINITY for about 30 minutes the other day.

Not always nice people when you call to tell them "good bye."

They wanted my first born and proceeds of my 403b pension plan, to get out of their tv "agreement."

(Sorry, son.)

After my costly divorce settlement with COMCAST, will save about $70 a month. But it's not REALLY just about the money.

I have nothing but distain for current day TV, except cable programs like LONESOME DOVE, or reruns of THE SOPRANOS, THE WIRE, and THE SHIELD. (Why are shows so in love with the definite article?)

TV is permeated with overhyped sports, superficial news and sucks up your time quicker that a HOOVER vacuum or a donation pledge to disgraced WOUNDED WARRIOR.

I try to walk 3 to 5 miles a day, take photos, and read several books in a typical week.

Pretty boring life, huh? I love it.

Now about giving up that first born ….

December 24, 2018



By jim Richmond

On a very chilly Christmas Eve 5 mile walk. time to think. A time to write stories in my head. A time to appreciate nature. A time to think about all the people I miss and why.

Corny, perhaps, But I often listen to Peter Paul and Mary songs. on the walk. Songs that sang About justice, hope, challenge, and love, when I was but about 21.jmrwalking.jpg

My twin brother and I saw PP and M in live performances 

At least five times during those years.

And my last time was is 1964, when I was a young reporter for a Kansas City newspaper assigned to write a review of the concert.(I would shortly be drafted for Vietnam conflict service.)
After the concert was over I wondered backstage and in a large vacant store room, I found Noel (Paul) Stookey Sitting casually on the floor with a group of about 30 college students in a circle. Just discussing issues of justice faith hope and charity. He did not know I was a reporter

I went back and wrote the story and wondered how many stars, who had just perform for 2 hours to 4,000 or 5000 Would have spent their time with a group of young people in that kind of setting ...in that kind of conversation

So I listen to Peter Paul and Mary as I walk today, and I hear and I remember those hopeful aspirations And calls for justice Of the early 60s

And they are a reminder to me not to give up today ... to I hold those aspirations for today for tomorrow in-our country in the world...in my daily life at 74



October 19, 2018

Thank you Friar Mendel



by jim richmond

Age brings all kinds of small and large changes, I reminded myself this morning as I spent at least 4 minutes trying to find and figure out how to open this plastic bag. (Photo)bagopening.jpg

At 74, peanut butter jar lids, door locks, steps, etc. all seem to have strangly developed unexplainable complications and difficulties in surmounting and solving. And short term memory of names and places are also too often perplexing.

SO, I want to thank Friar Gregor Mendel for his originial research and revelations about genetics...and all that has followed about how generations can share and improve over time.

As we grow older, if we're lucky, some of our daughters and sons, grandsons and grandaughters give hope, happiness and testimony that while we all "pass away" we can also "pass along" some of our talents, perhaps through our genes.

Frankly, I don't know exactly where my Granddaugher Gabriella, 15, got her's. Must of been from her father, or on her mother's side.

My son called me today and said Gabriella just found out she ranked in the top 1 percent of ALL American high school freshmen who took the PSAT (precollege exam) last year. She had perfect scores on two of the test sections.

This for a young gal who plays four music instruments, takes classical and jazz dance lessons twice a week, goes to church, volunteers, and has a nice boyfriend.

Few know that I -- yes, her grandfather James McNamara Richmond -- ALSO has musical talent.

My Mom had my twin brother and I take piano lessons from Sister Antonita Maria in fifth grade about 1956.

After the second lesson, the Dear Sister called my Mom, "Mrs. Richmond, I think Jimmy should find something other than music for his free time."

Which I was happy to do.

And I'm happy to pass along to Gabriella my music talent. And just maybe a few other genes that make her not just a remarkable young person, but an awfully modest and nice one.

October 17, 2018




by jim richmond

Oh, no one is "really" surprised when a gathering of the Maison family clan members starts off with a "work bee" at Leila Arboretum in Battle Creek, Michigan.

Rick and Mary Maison (second from left, and  far right in photo) are Leila volunteer maintstays, Rick a former Board Member, donors, and members of the every Tuesday Group volunteers that make Leila -- and keep Leila -- so beautiful and varied year 'round.

So, Rick's sister Kathleen (Maison) Cohen, on far left and in town all the way from San Mateo, CA, joined up with Rachel Maison (from Grand Rapids and next to mom Mary) for this family fun hug photo, and a bit of actual dirt digging and garden gleaning at Leila October 10th.

Rumor is by the end of last week, the Maison Family Reunion had nearly tripled in size, and most involved at Leila -- where Rick and Mary have been making a difference, 'believing in Battle Creek', as volunteers for nearly 15 years.

Who sez people don't care about family and community.

September 22, 2018



By jim richmond

     Coffee’s brewing this chilly Saturday at 3:39 a.m.. Neil Young, Harvest Moon, on the Echo. Up most of night rereading The Caine Mutiny.

     Reflecting,  ‘Who you've most admired…?' he mockingly asked the cat, perched at his knee, staring up, not giving a damn, impatient, anxious to be fed and have the screened, back porch door opened to scout the night, hope for birds and squirrels.

     “Who’ve YOU’VE most admired,” he thought, those watched, learned from, who gave more than they received from others and the community around them …. Not just money, but time, solutions, listening, leadership, courage, risk-taking, caring, out-of-the-box thinking, roll up the sleeves work…..”

     He'd turned the page days ago on 74. A lifetime of his own memories, changes, high ups, that nervous drive in his '57 Chevy coupe through deep, blowing snow to a cabin with a beautiful college sweatheart ... 

     Since a 6th grade, award winning essay, a lifetime love of watching and writing about people.

     So, he took to this keyboard.

     Punched out in two hours, then waited a day or so for reflection and changes, this list of those he's most admired over these seven decades. 

     A joy, a sense of appreciation and good memories in this process for him….and for anyone,  remembering and appreciating others, as life starts its slide tAdmFerris.jpgmom.dad.jpgC..B.CHRIST.jpgJackMwithJim.Laura.jpgJMR.Millers.jpgRDS.jpgw_lamothe_bio.jpgo a close.

1. Admiral James Ferris
2. Russ Mawby
3. Lowell Erickson
4. Robert Sparks
5. Robert Miller, Sr.
6. Barb Comai
7. Rick Maison
8. Leslie Koltai
9. Jack Mawdsley
10. Laura Davis
11. Mary Honora McNamara Richmond
12. Lou Ann Mawby
13. Charles Richmond
14. Edward McNamara
15. Vi Nichols
16. W.E. Pisciotta
17. Brother Kevin Glenn
18. Ellie
19. Father Maguire, SJ
20. Bill LaMothe
21. Dorothy “Dottie” Johnson
22. Bob and Ellie DeVries
23. David Heitkemper
24. Kathy Mason
25. Joan Williams

August 13, 2018







by j mcnamara richmond

Disaffected Harley riders with The Donald this weekend.

Driving up from South Bend on the back roads, I see hundreds of them.

Stretched in a line two blocks long to prevent cars from passing.

A black leathered, dirty red bandanna pied piper taking point, with rats behind him.

Traffic backed up three miles.

I think I'll get a Harley. (Oh, maybe just a 125cc Grom.)

I got some "creds" to join these swell squids:


1) Beyond age 65 and a bit overweight

2) eager to have a younger chick wrapping her arms around my leather jacket, smoking a dobbie

3) losing hair on the head and putting a foo on the face (under advisement)

4) stupido, my doo rag will protect me like a safety helmet

5) willing to wake the neighborhood with my Harley "potato, potato, potato" anthem, celebrating the size and frequency of my sex life

6) Convinced The Donald deserves a second term and a Nobel for his fight against Viet Cong exporters and traders in the People's Republic of China. (Under Review)

Were the Viet Cong in China?

I'd better tear off the "I ATE THE VIET CONG FOR LUNCH IN '68" sticker from my 2017 Ford Escape.

Betta dump the 4 wheels for a sumpa sooper 2 wheeled da doo run run ride.

What about u?

August 07, 2018

"All The Girls Remember You, Jack!"

“All the girls remember you, Jack!”
                                                         (And so does Battle Creek)
Photo and copy by jim richmond
         Breakfast this morning with long time friend, Dr. Jack Mawdsley, arguably one of the best Superintendents in the history of the Battle Creek Public Schools and retired Vice President for Educational Programming at the W. K. Kellogg Foundation.
      A spry 89, Jack is sharp as a razor, funny, self-depreciating, and – most of all – in a very long love affair. 
     With wife of 66 years, Norma.
     (But who wouldn’t be, who knows the lady?)
          Jack was home on week’s leave, serving as a pilot with the Air Force during the Korean Conflict.  “I was lucky,” he said.  “I flew all 50 of my missions over the skies of Mississippi, Alabama and Texas.  (Not Korea.)”
          “I asked a friend, ‘Any girls I could take to the show while I’m in town?’”  His friend mentioned Norma, who attended the same high school, but 4 years behind Jack.  “I don’t think she’s going with the same guy anymore.”
          Jack called her.  “You probably don’t remember me,” he said to Norma on the phone.
          “All the girls remember you, Jack,” she replied, agreeing to go to the movies that night. 
           Jack showed up at Norma’s only to find Norma’s sister and friend sitting on the living room sofa, waiting to check him out. 
          Norma and Jack walked out and got in the taxi to go the movie.  The taxicab engine blew up, billowing smoke and fire, he recalled.
          “We walked to the movies.  Afterwards, I walked Norma home.  And we held hands.  I knew right then,this is the woman I want to marry.”
          Yes, 66-plus years later. 
          And the Mawdsleys are a well know and for many, never to be forgotten, couple and civic leaders in Battle Creek, having also raised two, school-teacher daughters who live in Holland and Traverse City, Michigan.
Photo Caption:  Dr. Jack Mawdsley (center) with friends and former Kellogg Foundation Colleagues, l to r, Jim Richmond and Laura Davis

August 04, 2018

A Bat for Bobbie



By James McNamara Richmond

“How’s Bobbie?,” I replied to Eric Zillner when he asked to Friend me on Facebook the other day, surprised, thinking brother Bobbie was probably in prison or dead from a gang shooting.

I started working after school at age 13, taking three buses from all-boys De La Salle Academy to the Kansas City bottoms, where I worked for a wholesale frozen food company, three hours an evening and all-day Saturday.

Only about 5’1” and chubby, I was used to being mildly harassed and intimidated by other kids.

But Bobbie Zillner was our neighborhood bully, a terminator.

“Bobbie, he’s now farming a plot down by Cape Girardeau, “Eric said about his older brother.

Pauli.Tony.Sopranoes.jpgBobbie, at 15 about 1957, drove around the neighborhood with abandon-in a beat-up black Model A Ford, dressed in loud suspenders, jeans, boots and smoking a cigar.

Trolling slowly for younger kids he could rob of their lunch money or after school newspaper carrier pay.

(Reader: see where this is going? 

The last bus I took in the evening stopped in front of Bobbie’s house.

I couldn’t force myself to get off at an earlier or later stop.

Foolish pride before the fall.

“Oh, he won’t be out there tonight,” I tried to convince myself, and most evenings he wasn’t.

Bobbie seemed to have radar, and he often tracked me down walking home after serving morning Mass on Sunday.

I never carried more than a buck or two on me, but that was big pocket money for a young kid in the 50s.

After about six months of this harassment, I decided to confront Bobbie one night at the bus stop.

He beat the hell out of me.

Both of my eyes were almost swollen shut, and a big purple lump on the side of my face.

“What happened to you?” my mom pleaded that evening.

“Got in a fight at noon, on the playground,” l lied.

Snitches get stitches, and I had to live in the neighborhood.

“Hey Eric, can you give me Bobbie’s address on the farm?” I wrote back on Facebook. “I might swing south to visit him — one of these trips I drive from Michigan to Kansas City to visit relatives.

     Bobbie would be 75 to my 73.

“Your brother and I have a lot to chat about,” I laughed ...
Responding to Eric on Facebook, before deleting his Friend request.

Do I have that old souvenir team baseball bat from grade school in the basement?bobbie.jpg

I might stop and give Bobbie a present.

For old times’ sake.


(Voice to text, while walking at 6 am.)

May 24, 2018

The Fragrant Hill Pavilion: fun, beauty, and remembrance




photos and copy by jim richmond

     High on the overlook of Leila Arboretum, with its view of 3,000 trees, 6 gardens, walking trails, Fantasy Forest and much more,  is the relatively new Fragrant Hill Pavilion, conceived by and with a lead gift from Bob and Eleanor DeVries.

     Totally funded by some 90 private donations from civic leaders with names like DeVries, Mawby, Zanetti, Johnson, Doty, Mawby, Durham and others. 

    The Pavilion has lights, parking and perhaps the most breathtaking view
of nature in Greater Battle Creek! Just call the Arboretum at 269.969.0270 to reserve it for your family, company picnic or celebration

     (The Pavilion is named after a much larger and world famous Pavilion in Beijing, China, visited many times by the DeVries in their 13 trips to China, as well as by Leila staffer Jim Richmond during his three years living in China.


      Also parenthetically, the last $5,000 of the nearly $80,000 needed to complete the Pavilion was the hardest to raise by Leila staff and volunteers.            Last money needed always is! 

     Leila CEO Brett Myers and staffer Jim Richmond were invited into Frank Zanetti's office at Battle Creek Tile and Mosaic, and explained the final fundraising challenge.  As with SO many good things he helped make happen in Battle Creek, Frankie, without fanfare, reached in his desk drawer and wrote out the check to cover the last $5,000 needed.)

     The large stones shown in the photo collage below will be repositioned and dedicated with plaques in honor and appreciation to the EMTs, Police and Fire Department "first responders" at the time of Mr. Zanetti's tragic death boulders for memorial.jpglast year. 

March 27, 2018

A Love that lasted: Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman



A love that lasted: Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman



by jim richmond

My secretary in Greenville,SC in the mid '80s, grew up next to local, buddying actress Joanne Woodward, in the piedmont corner of the state not far from Ashville and the mountains.

"Oh, I'd hear that motorcycle noise in the middle of the night. I knew her young gentleman Paul was arriving!," she loved to tell me (and others) with a laugh.

Yes. THAT Joanne Woodward. Famous actress later, who would be married to actor Paul Newman for 50 years, til his death in 2008.

People would ask Newman: "Must be tempting to work with all those beautiful young starlets!."

He'd flash those crystal deep blue eyes and respond: "I have steak at home. Why would I want hamburger someplace else?"

They frequently said they were made for each other.

Now 88, suffering from Alzheimer's, she does not remember her husband.

But their love and legacies live on in many ways.

Newman and his daughter started their own food business, based on family recipes.

I still buy Newman's Italian Dressing. A little pricey. But there is no better.

And the Newman family have donated ALL profits from the business, some $700 million, to charity.

Lots to like and admire about the Newman family.


March 15, 2018

The Name Change Thing ...

the name change thing:



My youngest son and his wife have gone to hyphenated, merged last names.

And I've a few friends who started this way long ago, mostly frequently when the male, out of solidarity, equality, union and (I surmise) admiration, incorporated the female's name into his own last name, and the female keeping just her maiden or prior marriage name.

I know prior marriages and the kids' last names get to play into all this, and to help sort out the realistic from the ideal.

I'm for whatever any folks, of any sex, want to do, about names whether blessed by the Pope, the Church of What's Happening Now, or just a handshake.

Me? Well it's a good thing I'd older than dirt, and with no urges, interests and prospects of formalized, religious or politically sounded union. (I figure a solid partnership is enough between two people.)

If I was to join the club and go the hypinated route, my name would be:


I wouldn't be able to get a job or a girlfriend.

About 15 years ago, my first wife approached and suggested we get remarried, after 40 years of seeing each other about once a year over coffee. (She is now deceased.) And the other two, would probably rather have Hulk Hogan or Xi Jinping's last name as part of their own than mine.

I'm perfectly content with my last name as is ...it hides marital bliss, excesses and ignorance, plus Wars of the Roses.

Where is Samuel Clemens, when we need him, anyway?

The Name Change Thing ...

military-war-country-name-name_change-changing_name-jco0443_low (1).jpg

the name change thing:


My youngest son and his wife have gone to hyphenated, merged last names.

And I've a few friends who started this way long ago, mostly frequently when the male, out of solidarity, equality, union and (I surmise) admiration, incorporated the female's name into his own last name, and the female keeping just her maiden or prior marriage name.

I know prior marriages and the kids' last names get to play into all this, and to help sort out the realistic from the ideal.

I'm for whatever any folks, of any sex, want to do, about names whether blessed by the Pope, the Church of What's Happening Now, or just a handshake.

Me? Well it's a good thing I'd older than dirt, and with no urges, interests and prospects of formalized, religious or politically sounded union. (I figure a solid partnership is enough between two people.)

If I was to join the club and go the hyphenated route, my name would be:


I wouldn't be able to get a job or a girlfriend.

About 15 years ago, my first wife approached and suggested we get remarried, after 40 years of seeing each other about once a year over coffee. (And after she changed sexual preferences year-one of our marriage. She is now deceased.) And the other two, would probably rather have Hulk Hogan or Xi Jinping's last name as part of their own than mine.

I'm perfectly content with my last name as is ...it hides marital bliss,


excesses and ignorance, plus Wars of the Roses.

Where is Samuel Clemens, when we need him, anyway?

March 03, 2018

This 'Queen' Often Rules This B.C. 'King'dom




By Jim Richmond

His name, Dr. Kingery Clingenpeel, sounds like a character out of a Victorian novel or from a ‘60s TV show, up there with Oliver Twist, Lord Lancaster Stiltstalking, Lieutenant Milo Minderbinder, Cosmo Kramer. Horatio Hornblower, and Groucho’s Otis B. Driftwood.

But Dr. Kingery is the real deal in Battle Creek: with a real, academic doctorate, a long career in the pulpit and as pastor of area churches here in Battle Creek, a skilled amateur mountain climber, cancer survivor, man of wit, humor, intellect and compassion, civic leader and volunteer.

And yes, strange or not, (more to be revealed shortly) Kingery has a real Queen, in his wife of some 43 years, Laura (Baker) Clingenpeel.

A few friends who know the back-story call Laura “The Queen,” but Kingery is most fond and found using the moniker.

The Clingenpeels are from farm families – Kingery, Indiana and Laura near the Mississippi River in Illinois, not too distant from Hannibal, farm country that was, at one time, at the center of pig farming in the United States, and back in those days, “that meant the center of pig farming in the world,” Laura said.

A beauty as a young high schooler in rural, largely poverty-stricken Pittsfield, Illinois, Laura was crowned The Pork Queen of Pike County. (“It was a big deal. I got to travel.”)

She has a faded newspaper clipping that shows her as The Queen, with ribbon, flowers next to famous Red Schoendienst, 10-time All Star baseball team pick, who played for many teams and for 19 years with the St. Louis Cardinals, including as coach and manager.

Laura is still a beauty today in her ‘60s, five years younger than Kingery, and has taught music for 31 years in the Pennfield Public Schools. Her classes, kindergarten through 5th grades, are in two Pennfield buildings and reach 700 students a week.

She is warm, welcoming, yet a bit reserved, a personality that plays well against and with husband Kingery’s near constant smile, good humor and, a long appreciation, near wonderment, of how he “caught” this remarkable woman and wife of his.

How were they first attracted to each other, I asked?

“Oh, it was his sense of humor,” Laura said, with a quick retort from Kingery: “Her legs. Beautiful legs,” he chuckled. “We both thought that!” Laura bantered back.

They laughed, often, at each other recently, over a tray of cookies and coffee, and told me it was Laura who was best at the “catching” in their early relationship.

From strong Christian, farm family backgrounds, Kingery and Laura were introduced by friends to each other while Laura was a sophomore in college and Kingery attending the seminary, the institutions in the same location.

They dated for a while. They broke up, and Kingery moved to Oklahoma to complete his doctoral studies, and Laura was at her first teaching job in Chicago.

She wrote to him. He responded. Then, one day, Kingery now recalls, his phone rang.

“Do you know who this is?” a lovely voice inquired from the other end of the telephone line.

A pause at Kingery’s end – “What a loaded question!” he was thinking, not sure.

“Ok, I’ll give you a clue,” she replied. “Oink. Oink,” came the clue from the young women’s voice, over the telephone line.

Kingery knew it must be Laura Baker.

And as they say, the rest his history.

Both have retained their farms and farm roots, traveling back frequently to hunt game, or to inspect, upkeep and plan farm operations. (“Nothing much changes,” Laura commented.)

But much of their lives today center on Laura’s long hours of teaching, and independent musical tutoring, and Kingery’s now nearly part-time pastoring of the First Christian Church – Disciples of Christ, near Harper Creek High School, bordering B Drive.

His pace has slowed a bit after more than 45 years as a preacher and pastor, primarily in three churches, a passion and vocation that began in high school, and continued through 4 years of college and 4 years of seminary.|

“Kingery is a great preacher (as you know, Jim),” Laura observed.

And her husband is that – combining and blending Biblical scripture and current events usually around four or five key, take-home gems relevant to everyday life.

Like most things in their “family kingdom,” the Clingenpeels share Church duties. Laura is now serving as head of the Church Council and plays the piano for Sunday church services.

“It’s a small congregation, and (the Church pastoring) doesn’t fill my days now,” Kingery said.

He takes care of many home chores and most often cooks. A cancer survivor, he has been a volunteer driver for cancer patients, is in the development of major hiking trails in Michigan.

Short, bald and buff, in excellent shape, Kingery also takes off on several major hiking or mountain climbing trips a year.

“The Queen” sometimes joins him, but she said she also enjoys her separate, solitude sojourns to her family farm in Illinois, and not too infrequent visits to the historical, cultural and political heritage sites and activities of Washington, DC.

They seem to be a couple of 42 years that live well together and are confident and have faith in each other’s own independent interests and occasional trips. They vacation separately and vacation together.

“Happily married. I’m happy,” Laura said. “And I’m married,” Kingery laughed.

“It’s been good. I’d do it over,” she added. One of the keys: “We joke a lot. I mean a lot!”

Both very proud of their children: Rebecca, the oldest, is an autism and speech therapist working with young children and their families at the intermediate school district level.

Caleb, the younger and son, recently complete his studies and is now a Physician’s Assistant with Henry Ford-Allegiance Health Care System in Jackson working in both surgical and urgent care. (Out of more than 1,000 applicants, he was one of only 40 selected for the Physician’s Assistant program at Western Michigan University, Kingery noted.)

“They’re unusual, an unusual couple,” commented Claudia Crawford, who’s attended First Christian Church for more than 20 years.

“Laura, almost like a Queen, is very level headed, keeps things moving. Kingery, a wonderful pastor, is a soft touch, who loves the Lord and loves people.”

Together, they make a great Battle Creek couple.

Long live The King!

Long live The Queen!

January 26, 2018

Date With A (now dead) Prescription Drug Addict



drug addiction.jpg



by jim richmond


     About four years ago, I had one date with this attractive, retired school teacher, 31 or so years in local classrooms, she told me.

     Nice dinner, comfortable conversation.

     She texted and wanted to go out again; but failed for two weeks to respond to text messages.

     Then a year ago, my phone rings at 11:30 p.m. It's her. She's in an area hospital.

     They won't release her, she says, unless someone takes responsibility and picks her up. I said OK, wondering where her grown kids were to help Mom.

     In the hospital ER room, she has two cracked ribs from "bumping a tree" while "exercise and running." Hard to believe, but she rattles on in great detail.

    "If he's taking you home, you can put on your clothes and leave," the nurse says.

     Her cell phone rings. It's one of her college-age kids. They talk for a minute and she passes the phone: "Sharon wants you."

     So, her daughter tells me her 56-year old mom is in the hospital -- again -- picked up by the police, wandering down the middle of Columbia Avenue at 10 p.m, spaced out on prescription drugs.

     "Don't take her home. She needs rehab. But won't. She's lost her (car) license. Gets beat up on the streets buying drugs. She'll go home, overdose again. And we'll find her dead," Sharon pleads to me.

   I hang up, confused, angry, near guilt ridden but wanting rid of it all.

    "Jim, give me my fuc*in cell back!" she screams, pulling hospital gown tight around like a burial shroud.

     "No," I replied. "You'll call someone else to get out of here."

     Talking with the psychiatric nurse on duty, he agrees to admit her for the night and then transfer to a nearby 3-day hold facility.

     I keep her cell phone.

     Nine days pass.

     She nor anyone calls to get the phone back.

     Only Horizon ...to leave a canned message, block the phone and claim she owes more than $400 on her bill.

     I feel relieved, want no more of this hardly known,  troubled person's chaos.

     Several years pass.

     And I'm startled the other day,  flipping to the morning newspaper's page two, to see her once attractive face stare back at me, and to read her impressive teaching career.  

     In her obituary.

     Drugs are ruthless, greedy teachers.


January 06, 2018

"Do'in The Mall Walk"




So, Lakeview Square Mall, here in Battle Creek, Michigan, mall.JPG like many of its brothers and sisters nationwide, may have seen better days, lower store vacancies  rates and more customers.

But Kathy and I decided to avoid the 6-degree weather and try the Lakeview Square Mall inside walk this morning.

I called ahead, and the Mall is open at the door near Dunham's Sports Monday-Saturday at 7 a.m., Sunday, 9 and then til 9 p.m. (The Mall itself opens at 10 a.m.)

At 10:30 a.m., not many shoppers, but quite a few seeming "pairs", mostly older types like us, walking the approx. .50 loop around the inside Mall a couple times.

The place is bright, clean, warm, interesting, fun.

The Mall's demise, to paraphrase Mark Twain, has been greatly exaggerated.

Still lots of nice, variety of shops for shoes, jewelries, clothing, a restaurant, movie theatre, Sears, etc.

And a nice walk.

Give it a try.

Or give me a call or e-mail and I'll take you on a test drive, ‘er test walk.

December 11, 2017

ON LISTENING: A Chicken In Every Pot?

on listening ....                          chickpot2.jpg


                                            by jim richmond


    Off the wall humorist and author David Sedaris, in a recent book, said he finds most short story topics in his own life.

    “No one could be as bad, as crazy as I’ve been,” he told THE STRAND on BBC World Service Radio early one morning.

    Sedaris said he wrote a,story about his mother dying:

     "Then I wrote another one.

     "And then I wrote another one.

    "I realized I was writing too many stories about my mom dying. My readers were probably getting bored listening.”

     Truth is, our family life, colleagues and our friends are the quilted tapestry of our experiences.

     Many of my Internet blogs, short stories and newspaper columns over the past 40 years are snipits, snapshots, near instant perceptions about people, places and personal experiences....near as they happen.

    And I like to write about the good .... not the bad, the ugly in life ..... already a crowded closet of wringing hand writers.

      Many of my reflections are but a handful of paragraphs, written on the back of an envelope after watching someone.

    There is joy and satisfaction glimpsing common people doing uncommon good.

     It takes attention to catch these moments. Listening to catch these words, stories.

    And whether your Mom or a friend, active listening is an art and part, of loving or caring for someone. A singular sign of respect and value.

     One of the most remarkable examples of such listeners was Dr. Robert Sparks, a distinguished physician, former Vice Chancellor of the University of Nebraska system and dean of the Tulane University Medical School. (He grew up on a small farm near Newton, Iowa where he is buried this day.)

     Dr. Sparks was, when I first knew him, a program director in health for the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, and later its president and chief operating officer.

     No matter how busy, he had time to discuss your work and, in an informal way, your health problems if they were interfering with your professional performance.

     I remember the total attention, the listening skills, he applied and gave to people in work discussions.

      About 20 years ago, I spent several days with Bob, who'd retired, by then, on the West Coast, but had briefly returned to Battle Creek for a

speaking engagement.


    In failing health, he wanted to, so we slowly meandered by car throughout Battle Creek for several days.

    He talked about his volunteer and career efforts with the Battle Creek Symphony, as chair of the Lakeview School Board, as a volunteer helping to revitalize the local health department, efforts to attract new family practice physicians to Battle Creek and, his role in development of what has emerged into the comprehensive Family and Community Health Center at Washington and Emmett Street.

     (Bob laughed about serving on the Lakeview School Board, casting a dissenting, unpopular vote at a School Board meeting one night, and waking the next morning to find someone had stuffed a dead chicken in his mailbox.)

     Most of what he advocated, the positive changes he helped happen in Battle Creek were never recognized publicly. (I don't know if he cooked that chicken for dinner.)

    But he obviously cared a lot and quietly did a lot for Battle Creek over about 15 years ... and enjoyed retelling stories and challenges from the '80s. And, over the course of our two-day ride, I ended up admiring him even more, for his many questions about my own life, my children, changes in Battle Creek.

     I kept in touch with Dr. Sparks regularly over his last two decades of life, and he called twice to visit for a moment from his San Francisco hospital room as death approached, this always optimistic man choking back a sob the day before he died in a hermetically, germ free sealed off intensive care unit.

    We learn much from others, if we take time to listen and communicate.

     I struggle, with my own aches and pains, unpaid bills, perceived slights and sorrow, to paying attention in a conversation, asking those second or third revealibg questions, with those I love, admire or care about.

     Almost without exception, my best friends and loved ones listen when I need an ear, a smile, a word of encouragement.

     There are people, all around us in daily life and on TV, with no capacity to listen.

    They only know how to talk.

      How boring that must be.

December 07, 2017

Laurie Harrison Brightens Many A Customer's Day



                                                              By jim richmond

     It’s 6:15 a.m. and I’m grouchy, knowing there’s need for a few groceries to get before arriving at work.

     Three “Family Fare” supermarkets are almost equidistant in miles and time.

     But they are miles apart in terms of staff attitude and service.

     And it’s all because of a gal named Laurie Harrison and a few of her associates who work the opening and early store customer hours at the W. Michigan Avenue Family Fare store that make all the difference.

     Laurie and her buds are light years away from the slow moving, sour faced colleagues at the other Family Fare store locations when their stores open for the day.

     The corporate parent, Spartan stores, in Grand Rapids ought to watch, learn from, encourage and copy as many “Laurie Harrison’s as they can over all their stories system wide.

     Laurie always has eye contact, a smile, a little special greeting from knowing so many of the customers. And she’s willing to patiently take all those coupons, find a product’s store location, and while keeping maybe a few still in line behind me h-a-p-p-y to be at Family Fare, to see her, to shop there.

     Laurie has cashiered at the Family Fare Store on W. Michigan Avenue in Battle Creek, Michigan for now 23-plus years.

     And is she a gem.

     And is Family Fare ever lucky to have her.

     And all of us early, grumpy souls on the way to work, who transform their attitude and their smile, when she waits on them.

     Thanks, Laurie. From me. From all of us.

     And a very Merry Christmas!


November 27, 2017

Hard Work Turns Local Woman's Dream To Reality


‘Plumeria’ Floral and Crafts’ Turning

Local Woman’s Dream to Reality


By jim richmond


     Elisha Hodge was busy creating beautiful Holiday wreathes with red floral bows, when I stopped in this morning at her unique flowers, plants and gift shop, titled Plumeria Botanical Boutique, on Battle Creek’s near west side, 1364 W. Michigan Avenue.

     With help from her Mom Sandy and boyfriend Bryan, Elisha is literally turning a dream into a reality after two years of hard work: owning and operating her own floral, hand crafted decorations and crafts store.

     And perhaps her friendliest, but also most observant business “partner” is constant companion “Bella,” Elisha’s nearly snow white Great Pyrenees dog, who readily welcomes customers, but also keeps a bit of protective eye on her dear Elisha.

     Elisha’s W. Michigan Avenue shop is a visual delight, full of unusual craft, art and planted creations by Elisha and local and Michigan artists.

     Mom Sandy laughed, adding: “Elisha also runs a ‘Botanical Intensive Care Unit’.  Customers bring their plants in for Elisha’s special touch and recovery.” 

     She also keeps plants over the winter months for “Michigan snowbirds” who travel south, but might worry about the condition of their plants if left to a chance neighbor’s watering, before they returning home to Michigan in the spring.

    IMG_0495.jpg Elisha said she also enjoys designing, then delivering and helping arrange floral decorations for weddings and other family celebrations.

     Hodge grew up in nearby Union City, Michigan, and spent nearly 20 years in banking – experience which, she said, has come in handy on the management side of Plumeria.  She attended Kellogg Community College and has a bachelor’s degree in art from Central Michigan University.

     “Plumeria?  Where did the name originate for the business?” I asked. 

     Picked from a range of suggested names by friends on Facebook, she replied.

     (Plumeria plants (Plumeria sp), also known as Lei flowers and Frangipani, are actually small trees that are native to tropical regions. The flowers of these beautiful plants are used in making traditional Hawaiian leis.) 

     Plumeria.  A nice, special Battle Creek place for that unique Michigan craft gift, planter or flower arrangement.

     For information over the Internet:  www.plumeriami.com and also Facebook.  Or pick up the cell and talk with Elisha at 269.963.9499.

    Help a local business. Get a great gift for someone.

    And a local, talented woman working hard to achieve her dream.


This blog is by Jim Richmond.  No compensation motivates his blogs and columns, just a  love and interest in people making a difference in our lives and our community.   Richmond welcomes input on his blog or Facebook columns:  jmadisonrichmond@gmail.com

October 13, 2017

Dorothy A. Johnson



by jim richmond


     If lucky in our lifetime, we meet and know a person who makes a difference, not just in family and community -- as wonderful as those are -- but in the direction of a movement that, literally, impacts the lives of millions.

     Such a woman is pictured at right, Dorothy "Dottie" Johnson, from a small Michigan, USA town of Grand Haven.

     Dottie, arguably, has done more to advance community, private, family and business foundation philanthropy in the United States and beyond than perhaps any other individual.

    Focused, with warmth, a radiant personality, her Harvard-educated command of a corporate board room an envy to Warren Buffet, still open to all,  loving, and who would be the first to cast aside, to  "pooh pooh" the plaudits written here.

    But the facts stand.  And Dottie is known and loved by literally thousands today.  Especially by her family.

    And she'll never to be forgotten as someone who'se lived the belief America's most admired virtue is to open our hearts, to encourage the best in others, to  sacrifice for the less fortunate, all while traveling millions of miles by plane and the series of cars she's worn out more tires on than a race car driver.

    In simple, practical ways and through strategic grand plans that have impacted America's four corners and its very heartbeat, Dottie Johnson has worked with others to strengthen those ties that bind and give hope to us as a nation, and as a world of caring people capable, willing to help each other regardless of religion, politics or the color of our skin. 

    Which is the true meaning and value of that 10-dollar word called "philanthropy."

   Thank you, Dottie.

Photo and text by Jim Richmond

August 17, 2017

Cereal City Concert Band Shares 30 Years ...


Next Thursday Evening ... Free Concert ... Come on Out!!!!

Cereal City Concert Band Shares 30 Years

of Free Music and Civic Pride


By Jim Richmond


            When the Cereal City Concert Band once again launches into its stirring rendition of The Stars and Stripes Forever, welcoming area music lovers to the free outdoor performance Thursday, August 24, 7 pm on Leila Arboretum’s dramatic new outdoor Rustic Stage, it will mark 30 years of performances by this remarkable group of volunteer musicians.  

              And three of the original band members will be playing for their 30th year: Heather Lane Fowler, Kathy Philo and Gary Steiner.

              Nine months of the year, the Band’s 50-plus members meet once a week to practice, and then perform 4 seasonal concerts in October, December, February and April, with different musical themes carefully chosen by band members and Conductor Dr. Stephen White, who is also director of music and organ at St. Thomas Episcopal Church. The seasonal performances are in the Binda Theatre at Kellogg Community College.

              The Cereal City Concert Band has evolved from a small volunteer group of Federal Center employees, who began playing in 1987 for Federal Center ceremonies and events.  The original name of the group was Uncle Sam’s Band, but the band’s name and composition have changed over the years.

              Today, the Band is a nonprofit charitable organization that relies on admissions, donations and grants to cover expenses and a small Honoria for the Band’s music director.  All other band members practice and perform for free.  They include Federal Center employees and retirees, employees from such area businesses at Galloup and Kellogg, a lawyer, and area high school band directors.

              “We’re all different, but share a love of music and a love of performing,” said Band member Heather Lane-Fowler.  “That’s what brings us together, motivates us to practice every week, and to perform and share music with area residents for free.”

              Lane-Fowler said the Band is unique in Battle Creek for its additional schedule of free concerts throughout the summer at a variety of locations, including an assisted living center, music concerts like Leila Arboretum’s Leilapalooza, and for civic events in Ft. Custer Cemetery and other locations.

              Even with an all-volunteer band, it’s a struggle to raise the $3,000 to $4,000 the band needs each year for basic expenses.  “We always spend a bit more money on marketing and expenses than we raise, but we want our concerts to be known and available to everybody in Battle Creek,” she said. The Band relies on admissions, individual donations, and local foundation support.

Gary Steiner, another founding Band member, noted that just the day before being interviewed for this story, the Band had played its regular, free summer concert, spotlighting a jazz trio and singer, on the lakeside grounds of W. K. Kellogg’s beautiful manor house in nearby Augusta.

              “It was wonderful to see people of all backgrounds and ages, in this time of stress and political discord, come together to share an afternoon of music.  It was a reminder that most of us in America are getting along, and going along our daily lives,” Steiner said.


              For more information on the Cereal City Concert Band schedule, or to donate toward the Band’s annual expenses, go to: http://www.cerealcityconcertband.org. Lane-Fowler can be reached at: 269-962-2153.



CCBC2.jpgHeather Lane Fowler.jpgGARY.jpgFF.CCCB.7.17.jpg

Photo Captions: 

Cereal City Concert Band performing at this year’s Leilapalooza Music Festival


Closeup of Band members performing


Heather Lane Fowler


Gary Steiner

August 16, 2017

New Ambulatory Surgery Centers aim...

Emphasis on Atmosphere, Quality Care, Safe Outcomes

At New, Independent Surgical Care Centers


By jim richmond


     Right before wheeling me into the operating room Tuesday, nurse Karen (who ensured continuity and timeliness of care) leaned over the bed, nudged me to take a wide, black magic marker, and prompted, “Sir, please take this, and mark your initials on the wrist of the hand we’ll be operating on this morning.”

     So, I took the marker, moved the plastic iv drip cord on my left wrist out of the way, and carefully drew the letters: J R smack dab, 100 percent in the middle, in the equivalent of 36-point type, on my right-hand wrist.

     “Very good!” Karen beamed at me. She would stay with us throughout our visit and had been part of a one week before pre-op visit at my surgeon’s office.

     Now as way of brief literary back story, my specialist doctor had sent me to a non-hospital, independent ambulatory surgery center.  And it was about as far from a hospital setup as you could find – even in this day of sometimes startling health care change for many Americans.

      The surgery center was more like the lobby and Palm Court restaurant at New York’s swank, beautiful-people Plaza Hotel, including a BIJOU Theatre to show new flicks while your relatives waited, big palm plants, first class, low back, cushy chairs, a coffee bar and gallery of small shops featuring pricey ties, gold-lettered t-shirts and knick-knacks, just like The Plaza.

     The “back of the shop” was equally as efficient and inviting – 8 to 12 curtained corrals, for each patient in pre-op or recovery, and with more nurses, doctors, family members and traffic than the Meijer’s supermarket shopping aisles on a Sunday afternoon.  Except here everyone smiled, made eye contact and did not bump into your cart. And Karen kept track and us moving ahead to the actual surgery on schedule.

     I was accompanied by my oldest son (the required Responsible Adult), me in the private coral's surgery bed, and watched over by Karen. Over the course of about 1 hr 15 minutes, she hooked me up to the iv and checked my vitals. 

     During that time span, I spent about 7 minutes in a brief repeat here’s-what-to-expect- visit with my engaging, task-focused surgeon, and a 3-minute review with a thin, somewhat jittery anesthesiologist.

     Many of you already know the end of this little story from my last Facebook page. The surgery went well.  I’m home and headed back to work soon.

     But in telling you about Karen the nurse, the black marker, and the “JR” written on my right wrist, I forgot one detail. She also asked my son if I had a (Do Not Resuscitate) on file. “If so, we can’t take him. He’ll have to go to a hospital, instead.  Because we resuscitate everyone here.”

     That positive, optimistic outcome attitude is felt by and encouraging for patients. Of course, it’s also a function of the ambulatory surgery center’s mission within the rapidly, some would say ever changing American health care system.

     The system is striving, struggling to bring down costs and to provide services in the safest, least intrusive setting for patients who do not require more intense and costly inpatient hospital care.

     The new, independent ambulatory surgery center is the same and yet quite different from hospital inpatient facilities. Their relationships with the physicians and other health care providers can be different, and seem more collegial.

     Patients reportedly receive more personal attention, better continuity of care, and patient infection rates are often lower than surgery and care in a large hospital.

     Yet the ambulatory surgical center’s physician specialists may do 6 to 10 operations, each of several days a week.

     As patients, we want them, the total surgical team, to get all our own J Rs right, before reaching the cutting table.

     That certainly proved the case for this guy known as JR.


The author wrote this blog, voice to text, from a comfortable home bed, 3 a.m. Wednesday morning. His apologies for any typo or grammar oversights.

August 05, 2017

Night Flight ...


f-4 photo.jpg


The Navy enlisted man interviewed the last F-4 pilot, fresh from a bombing run on the Haiphong ammunition dumps of North Vietnam, part of the US Air Force and LBJ’s ‘Rolling Thunder” campaign against North Vietnam targets.


The pilot had lost a wingman to an S-2 missile, distracted by a pair of Mig-15’s set to engage the Phantom, and was still shaking, as he talked to the enlisted man, gulping a small white foam cup of day-old black coffee.


This would not be the story the enlisted man wrote, as editor of the carrier’s morning newspaper, which would instead describe, half accurately, results of the night’s flight ops.USS_Coral_Sea_(CV-43)_bow_shot_c1982.jpg


He finished the stories in his small cubicle, laid out the newspaper, with photos and a feature on a crew member from A-6 division, aviation supply.


The Captain liked to have crew features. Strike reports, if they didn’t mention aircraft and pilots lost that night.


The Captain wanted the crew to feel good, while other U.S carriers’ were beginning in 1969 to face inport protests against the Vietnam War by enlisted, and even a few officers.


The Captain would be up for Rear Admiral at the end of this deployment, the enlisted man knew.


Taking the newspaper’s 8 dummy pages to the carrier’s print shop, he waited for 3,000 copies to be printed, and then spread out with helpers to distribute to some 380 spaces in the carrier, from hanger deck to the Captain’s at-sea cabin, along with the hot, humid, smelly crew berthing areas with their 6 racks high of sleeping enlisted men, then thru “officer’s country” of small, two-person berthing cubicles, and finally to the mess deck.


He was older, at age 24, of most carrier enlisted crew, and solitary in his off-time activity and behavior.


Why hadn’t he heard from her for 5 weeks?, he thought, climbing over hatchways and up metal ladders to the flight deck, now in pitch black darkness.


For after aircraft night recovery, the carrier had turned into the wind again, flight deck near empty as the huge ship, one of the oldest in the US Navy, plowed through South China’s heavy seas at 26 knots.


He liked to walk out, on the 3 football-fields-long flight deck, stopping near the very front tip of the carrier, then leaning into the cool wind, spreading his arms like wings, as if he was flying out and up over the huge Pacific waves that were crashing against the carrier’s bow.


Then a loud speaker from the “island” bridge yelled he was to close to the edge.


And he was. On purpose.

August 01, 2017

Niko, 'The Wonder Dog,' ...


FullSizeRender (8).jpg

Barely daybreak today, but Terry Major and his aristocratic Siberian Husky, “Niko,” are already busy in their day volunteer effort, walking the 72-acres of Leila Arboretum, picking up trash, left behind by Arboretum visitors.
Last Saturday, the Arboretum had more than 6,000 visitors for the Leilapalooza Music Festival, and Terry said he and Niko spent nearly 5 hours picking up trash Sunday morning, and 2 hours Monday.
Leila staffer Jim Richmond, who walks the Leila 1-mile loop most mornings around 6 a.m., said Terry and Niko have been volunteering their daily trash pick for more than 5 years, and Niko has grown to think he “owns the Arboretum and considers its home.”
Recently Richmond asked Terry and Niko to walk up to the Leila office for a minute, so he could get them a supply of large trash bags.
“Niko came right in (the office), and proceeded to visit every room. He went upstairs to check things out, then the first floor and then the basement. I guess he felt we were doing a good job keeping the office straight,” Richmond said, smiling.
For such a large, and in some ways imposing animal, Niko knows no enemies, everyone is a friend for him at Leila.
“He rushes over to me, runs between my legs, then sits down for petting,” Richmond added. "I call him Niko The Wonder Dog."
Man and his dog are also wonderful volunteers.
Terry Major is a “major” reason Leila looks so spanking clean and welcoming for hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of daily visitors.
And don’t forget Niko.
Say ‘hi’ if you see them in the Arboretum. They will.
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