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November 18, 2017

"That's not quite right, Bob."



“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

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.

July 22, 2017

Elevator Shoes



I got an hour-long "pre-op" exam the other day, which started with the usual weigh-in, height measurement and blood/pressure checks.elevator shoes.jpg


"Take your shoes off," said the nurse, ready to record my height.


"5' 5'"


That can't be right, I responded. I've ALWAYS been 5' 6 1/2'


"Ok, but you better get elevator shoes. 5'5"," the nurse said.


I got thinking on the drive home, how my 4'11 Mom lost at least 4 inches in height during her late '70s to late '80s.


If I live that long, I'll probably have other things to worry about than elevator shoes.

July 19, 2017

"Just thought I'd reach out to you...."


Thank you for reaching out to me."

by jim richmond


A lot of really hip people are starting their emails and responses with "I thought I'd just reach out to you" or "Thank you for reaching out to me."


It has kind of soft warm feeling to it? Like your wife or girlfriend offering you that last blanket when you're sitting in the MSU stands, fouth quarter, 7- 49 Michigan, and the Windchill index is -30°.


I'm always a bit skeptical (I know, it's just me and a bad attitude), when someone wants to reach out to me, because usually they have their hand out for something, Or to reaffirm our "I'm-OK-you're-OK relationship.


Before long, we're going to start getting emails that begin:


"I just thought I'd reach out to you, to tell you you're fired."


"I'm just going to reach out to you because I'm sleeping with your husband"


"Thank you for reaching out to me with the news that you ran over my dog this morning."


Perhaps a purist, disgruntled wordsmith at the core, but I'd rather have the cake without the icing.


That way you don't have to count the calories.


(Voice to text walking at 6 AM. Apologize for errors and typos)

June 25, 2017

"Are we getting married, soon?"


by jim richmond


     Snow blanketed the ice-covered Neva, as the couple strolled arm in arm across the Kamennoostrovsky Bridge, then glancing in expensive Western style shop windows on Nevsky Prospect.

     "You like Piter. Don't you? You keep coming back and back," she asked, snuggling close against the howling wind coming down from the Gulf of Finland.

     "Is Hermitage why? The ballet? Or me?"

     "Ah, Hermitage is always a favorite, the ballet, in your lovely St. Petersburg," he sidestepped. "This trip, the guide took me in back rooms, the Nazi advances shot holes where paintings had hung."

     She went on about their seeing magician David Copperfield, the same restaurant the night before, in town for a performance.

     "You know he's really Russian," she said proudly, "David Kotkin."

    Tugging playfully at his coat, she laughed and said, "Are we getting engaged, soon?"

     "Americans take these things slowly. Perhaps when the Neva thaws, he replied.

June 19, 2017



twitter cartoon.jpg


by jim richmond

     Somewhere in the dim recesses of time and memory, I must've signed up for Twitter.

     Now it ranks up there with sore ankles in the morning, telephone sales calls at 6 PM, no return calls from civic poo bas, and the lady right ahead with 85 grocery items in the "12 items or less" checkout line at Meijers.

     All I get on Twitter is a constant overflow of high school GOAT zingers from the last sports reporter standing at the Battle Creek Enquirer newspaper, and City Neighborhood tweets about lost dogs and uncut grass.

In fact, there's so many of the latter, I wonder if a gnome sits in the closet of the city manager's office, cranking out these tweets from 8 to 5.

     If anyone can tell me how to get rid of Twitter, I'll be all a Twitter.

     Thank God I didn't tweet up with The Donald.

June 12, 2017

"It's not you. It's me."


by jim richmond

If you live long enough, and are involved in enough serious relationships, a woman will one day give you the bad news about wanting to breakup by explaining, “It’s not you, it’s me.”

Jim.Closeup.Myrle.jpgThe first time it happened, I was relieved. After all she told me it wasn’t MY fault, it was HER fault! Whew! Somehow less painful.

Talking with a male friend after the first experience, he laughed, “You fool! That’s what women say to let you down easy!”

Of course, words can be deceiving whether spoken or written. Whether public or private. By people directly or on TV or the printed newspaper or book page.

We are more and more aware that personal discretion and personal discernment, and broad intellectual inquiry by ourself is necessary.

That discernment applies (outside of political news) most about books. Both their selection and reading.

A good example is that paragon, pinnacle of literary influence: The New York Times Review of Books (NYTRB).

It’s always, (well 60 percent of the time), fooling me by giving good reviews to b-a-d books. Which I buy for my Kindle.

2016 was particularly a bad year for my NYTBR relationships.

The NYTBR Section let me down so many times, I started reading semi-trashy Preston, Child crime thrillers instead. Not “serious reading,” but predictable. Like buying a Ford F150 instead of a Dodge F1500.

Here are the worst NY TIMES recommended clunkers from last year.

Or was it ME, not THEM?

Worst NY BR Books of 2016

1. The Zookeeper’s Wife
2. A Man in Moscow
3. Hillbilly Elegy
4. The Six
5. Beneath A Scarlet Sky
6. The Dime
7. On The Move
8. The Black Widow
9. Proof of Heaven
10. Shattered

(To be fair) Best NY BR Books of 2016
1. When Breath Becomes Air
2. The Undoing Project
3. Valiant Ambition
4. Coming Apart
5. The Sympathizer
6. The Nightingale
7. Genius, The Life of Richard Feynman
8. The Fellowship: Frank Lloyd Wright
9. The Widow
10. Sharp Objects

June 11, 2017

Life's Last Curtain Call ....


                                LIFE'S LAST CURTAIN CALL

                                                            by jim richmond

     Not long ago, a friend asked me to write an obituary.  I interviewed the person and then wrote the obituary, which ran to 5 or 6 pages.

     People are often shocked by how much a newspaper obituary costs. (It’s one of the last profit centers of the Battle Creek Enquirer, according to its former executive editor.)

     Trying to think ahead, at 72, and wanting things to go easy after I die, I wrote and sent my son my obituary.  I thought I should do that anyway.  (Most of my relatives think I’ve just drank beer, changed jobs, read books and changed wives.)

     I think everyone should write their own obituary. Some would want and need one paragraph.  Others would include everything from Ducks Unlimited Membership to the Rotary Club Presidency.  After all, it’s both a personal catharsis, and formal reference/record of existence as well as death.

     (No need to talk about what I might have accomplished or impact.  That seems a very subjective thing to me.)

     Still, wouldn’t it be nice, I thought, if we could all be Tom Sawyer, attend our own funeral and hear the minister say nice things about us?  And if that’s not possible, couldn’t we all at least see our obituary published before we die.

     Now with the cost of newspaper obits, where and what are our options? 

     Perhaps Facebook?  (I know, you’re thinking, there are already many obituaries on FB, they’re just not usually in one post.)

     But here’s mine.  I figure it will reach all, and more, friends than a newspaper obit.

    If it catches on, Mark Zuckerberg will figure out how to make it a profit center.

     Now I’m going to sit here all day, drink ice tea, and think about whether I want to come back as a bird or a plant.

James M. Richmond

              James M. Richmond, __, of Battle Creek, Michigan, passed away June , 20__ at home, following a short illness.

               He was the first full-time president/CEO of the Battle Creek Community Foundation, a vice president and Battle Creek program officer for the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, first president of the Frey Family Foundation in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and president of the Greater Greenville Community Foundation, South Carolina.

               Richmond also was president/ceo of the Humane Society of Southcentral Michigan, and most recently was part-time staff member and fundraising consultant for the Leila Arboretum Society in Battle Creek.

               From 1968 through 1970, he served in the United States Navy, and made combat deployments off North Vietnam aboard the attack aircraft carrier USS Coral Sea (CVA 43).

               He served on the District public relations staff of the Metropolitan Community Colleges (Kansas City) in the early 1970s and was engaged in the development of its three new campuses.  Richmond also held similar positions with the District staff of the three-campus Cuyahoga Community College, Cleveland, Ohio.

               Richmond was born September 8, 1944 in Kansas City, Missouri, the son of Charles E. and Mary H  (McNamara) Richmond.  He attended Our Lady of Perpetual Help (Catholic) school, and was a graduate of De La Salle Academy, both in Kansas City.  

               He earned a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and master’s degree in business from Nazareth College, Kalamazoo, Mi.

               He was preceded in death by his parents.  Family members surviving are: twin brother John W. of Albany, Missouri; sister Martha Ann (Borkowski) of South Bend, Indiana, and sons Joshua C., of Williamston, Mi and Scott A. of Columbus, Georgia.  He is also survived by two cherished grandchildren, Gabriella and Jackson  and daughter-in-law Kristina K. Richmond, all of Williamston.

               His remains have been cremated. No memorial service will be held

June 10, 2017

Bye, Bye Miss American Pie

Cartoon by Don Sidle - Bye Bye Miss American Pie



by jim richmond

    The number of Americans who would be upset if their son or daughter married outside their political party has tripled in the last 20 years, according to sociologists.

    "Mom, dad, I want you to meet Billy, The love of my life and we're going to get married!"

     "Tell us a bit about his family and where Billy went to school, sweetheart."

    "Oh, mom. Billy has a doctorate degree from Harvard, in quantum theory. And his parents are the third most wealthy people in United States. Give 45 million dollars every year for breast cancer research, child Abuse prevention, and spay neutering, adoption of homeless cats and dogs."

    "Of course dear, I bet you can tell daddy and me that they also voted for The Donald and want the radical Muslims and the illegal aliens deported from America as soon as possible."

    "Not exactly mama."

    "Oh Pumpkin, we're gonna haft to talk with the pastor Sunday next."

June 09, 2017

Polly Taylor: Living life to the fullest

Polly Taylor:

Living Life by Simple Rules, and To The Fullest



Polly 4x4 (2) reduced size.jpg

Figure 1 Polly Taylor on her apt porch at Northpointe Woods.  She loved hats and 'giving out hugs' to everyone.


By jim richmond

     The last thing Polly Taylor wanted was to go quietly into the night without family, or celebration.

     And so her passing was a time of celebration, as well as dying.

     Two daughters and three granddaughters spent that last day with Polly, as she lay in the hospice care room bed, having just weeks before celebrated her 100th birthday, this final time, with vital signs weakening, still conscious, looking around at family, holding, squeezing and kissing their hands.

     Polly's granddaughter Wendy, a university professor of voice, sang to Polly most of her final hours.

     Mrs. Taylor, was barely 5 feet tall, with beautiful red hair, a small woman who radiated a love of life and people, according to daughter Teresa McCleery, in a recent interview.

      Teresa had spent the prior two weeks reading to her Mom. Over her long lifetime, Polly, herself, was a voracious reader of books and poetry, and compiled her favorite poetry and greeting card sentiments in six, well-worn and referenced poetry notebooks.  

     “Mom would go to them (the notebooks) in times of trouble.  They gave her peace because they dealt with themes of love, friendship, family, caring,” recalled Teresa.  Polly would also extract and use notebook passages on cards to individual family members, and kept record of when and to whom she sent each passage or poem.

     Polly was a bit of a free spirit, raised in a Baptist Minister family in Hillsdale, Michigan, striking out at age 17, determined to work and save her money to attend Michigan State University, where she was to eventually meet, and later marry John.

Figure 2. Polly and John Taylor. Early years.

     Mom and Dad 3x5 (1).jpgPolly and John owned and operated Capital Florists on N.E. Capital Avenue in Battle Creek. 

     She was known as a superb wedding floral designer, working with the brides-to-be to match flowers with bridesmaid dresses.   Polly would sometimes speed between 6 or 7 wedding sites on a Saturday.

    “Capital Florists was a real partnership.  Dad was business-minded.  Mom was the creative one,” said Teresa.

    Also raising the four children, Sandy, Barbara Thom and Teresa, Polly believed in a clear, practical philosophy: “Life doesn’t have to be that hard, follow the simple rules, be kind to each other,” remembered Teresa.

    Still in their mid-50s, John and Polly decided to retire from the business and pursue what had been a favorite family activity -- travel. They traveled for more than a decade, often with youngest daughter Teresa,  across the globe  “for the learning of it,” visiting some 65 countries, from the Holy Land to the South Pacific, Asia to Australia.

    John died in 1998.  Polly would spend her last 10 years living in the NorthPointe Woods retirement community in Battle Creek.  She was known for her many hats and for “giving out hugs” to everyone.

    In those years, and as the most geographically accessible, adult child, Teresa would visit her Mom daily, taking her to music and art events, reading to her, and on car rides about Battle Creek.

    “Mom especially liked stopping on the overlook in Leila Arboretum, and appreciating the field of yellow daffodils that roll like a summer carpet down the hill to the (Arboretum) fountain,” Teresa said.

    Much as Polly and her family celebrated life and love on that last day, August 13, 2015, she asked that her cremated ashes not just be put in the ground or part of a mausoleum, Teresa said.

    Following Polly’s wishes, and as she lived life,  her ashes were spread in Australia, Caribbean, the Pacific coast of California, Arizona, Mississippi River, and with her children and grandchildren in Wisconsin and Michigan.

    “Mom wanted to be, and is all over the place,” Teresa laughed.

    Generous supporters to many Battle Creek charities during their lifetimes, John and Polly Taylor also left substantial charitable bequests in Battle Creek, including to the Music Center of Southwest Michigan and the Leila Arboretum Society.

 Teresa McCleery.jpg

                              Teresa McCleery with one of her Mom's poetry notebooks. (Photo by Jim Richmond)





June 06, 2017

Dreaded Licorice Disease Threatens....


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     An outbreak of the dreaded Australian Licorice Disease (ALD) has reportedly struck the Battle Creek, Michigan area, according to the U.S. Center for Candy Related Addictions (CCRA), Atlanta, GA, and is allegedly responsible for long hospital ER lines of men complaining of belly bloat, uncontrollable midnight cravings, and using personal money allocated for food and clothing instead to acquire the small, shiny, rare chunks of chooey, semi-sweet licorice.

     “We're shocked this addiction may now reach to the highest echelons of Battle Creek government as well as the very lows of poor old people identified as living on the near South Side (of Battle Creek),” said a CCRA expert on the disease’s genesis and spread first in Australia and now in the little American midwest town known instead for health promotion and nutrition.

     The Australian version of the licorice is unique, addicts assert, currently available at relative high prices and at limited locations in Battle Creek.

     "Oh My God," one wayward soul inappropriately blurted out, "I'd rather have 15 pieces of Australian licorice than a piece of Daryl Hannah."

     There have also been several unconfirmed cases of wives enticing their husbands to try the licorice, making them susceptible to no-contest divorce, binge licorice-and-group-sex parties, to vote for Hillary Clinton or convert to the Republican Party in exchange for licorice money.

     “I can’t tell you how dangerous this affliction can be,” said an unnamed but high-ranking city official.

     Another Battle Creek resident, interviewed for this story in the Lakeview area exclaimed: “I've been trying to break this habit for years. I'm hoping the City Fathers (and Mothers) will address this problem.”

May 28, 2017




by jim richmond

     With a fresh cup of strong enough Navy Jo (will the spoon stand in the coffee on its own?), I love to sit on the porch at 4:30 a.m. with the Dinkster, and listen to the birds chatter, welcoming in another day.

     Dinky darts from porch to porch, room to room, window to window, as if he's listening to various bird chatters:illinois-bird-589640b83df78caebc0aee87.jpg

     "Oh, Ethel," says Ms. Bluebird to Mrs. Robin, "Did you see the way that Red Bird CAME ON TO ME in the garden yesterday? Why, I felt like he was taking my feathers off with his eyes!"

     "This neighborhood isn't what it used to be!" exclaims Mr. Sparrow, taking snippets off the worm still struggling in his mouth. "That darn Mocking Bird kid was wearing his tail feathers down below his knees. Excuse my language, Mrs. Willow Grouse. But disgusting. What is this new generation coming to!"

    gettyimages-157712448.jpg Dinky turns in the window to me: "See, Boss. These birds are out to lunch and it ain't even breakfast time. Wait a minute, and they'll start talking about Ivanka Trump telling her Daddy what to do in the White House."

I can hardly wait.


May 04, 2017

"Make mine French Roast, please."

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Make mine French Roast, please

By jim richmond

   French is the official language of Quebec, Canada. And they do not take their language lightly.

   The Quebec government has a 1-800 snitch line, where Quebecois can call and inform on violators.

   The line is connected to something known as “La Commission De Protection De La Langue Francais.”

   It doesn’t take much to get turned out and turned in.

   It’s a crime in Quebec to print a YARD SALE sign with the English appearing larger and before the French VENTE DE GARAGE.

   Or for a clerk in the 7-11 Store to say “hello” instead of “bonjour” first.

   Penalties include fines and the revocation of business licenses.

   Seems to me our Quebec French friends and neighbors are bucking a worldwide trend to make it easier for people to communicate comfortably and effectively across languages.

   Some here in the U.S think everyone should speak English or be put in chains and on a boat back home to Tajikistan. But that's a minority viewpoint.

The fact is if you want to get ahead in this world, you need to read, write and speak English. Spanish, Chinese, Russian and German also help a lot.

   Most of the world today is bilingual, and being so provides cognitive benefits.

   For that matter, as an immigrant people, we Americans have never been much for snitching out our friends and neighbors.

   As they say in the hood, “snitches get stitches.”

   Take that Quebec!

   Pifs obtiennent des points!

February 03, 2017

Dr. Russ Mawby: "IT'S JUST A HOUSE."


Dr. Russ Mawby:


By jim richmond

Nearly every Friday, Dr. Russ Mawby, my mentor and close friend of 40 years, and I have lunch at the same small restaurant, Dandelion, just up the road a piece from his Hickory Corners, Michigan home. We always have diet Cokes. He has a BLT sandwich. I usually have the Friday special. And more often than not, we top lunch off with homemade bread pudding.

Russ is the most brilliant, thoughtful person of my lifetime. And for 25 years, he was CEO of the now $7 billion W. K. Kellogg Foundation. Where I also worked for awhile.

Retired now some 20 years, Russ is and was unassuming. Often as not, he'd answer his own phone at the Foundation, and his door was open to one and all.

He turns 89 on February 23rd, his memory, sight and hearing have faded a bit, and Russ has overcome a host of lifetime illnesses,  4 1/2 years confined to a wheelchair, the death of his wife of 50 years, Ruth, and their son, Doug.

His wife of some 15 years, Lou Ann, greeted me at the back door this morning. Always with a smile, but she explained that a disconnected pipe had flooded their fully finished first floor "with about 55 gallons of water."

Carefully using walker and then cane, Russ gets in my car passenger seat, as we pull down their driveway, heading to the restaurant for our Friday time together. A highpoint of my week.

"Terrible about the water damage," I comment to him.

"No people got hurt. It's just a house," he replied.

He has always put people above things, possessions, titles and refused most of the usual trappings of success and international fame for his work and that of the Foundation.

"Just a small time farmer from Hickory Corners," he would describe himself to U.S. Presidents or other world leaders who regularly visited the Foundation.

"Only people are important, Jim," he has so often reminded me.

It's just a house.

January 14, 2017

'Ride Along' With Officer Rabbitt No Fairytale

  A ‘Ride Along’ with Officer Rabbitt No Fairytale

By Jim Richmond


     No, the above title might sound like a Grimm’s Fairy Tale book title, but it had nothing to do with a bedtime story, nor tucking a four-year old under nighttime covers.

  FullSizeRender.jpg   Instead, it was a bit gritty and “grim” at times, a four-hour “ride along” in the late afternoon last week with Battle Creek Police Officer Chris Rabbitt, as he drove his assigned area on the lower East side and Post Addition of Battle Creek.

     As a ride along ‘citizen guest’, I still had to wear a “bullet proof vest,” and while our conversation was friendly, it was mostly about business and during business.

     Peppering Officer Rabbit, 34, at times about background and family, he never took eyes and ears off the road and the laptop computer mounted next to his steering wheel.

     He grew up in Battle Creek and is a 2000 St. Phil Academy graduate who completed a 17-week law enforcement program at Kalamazoo Valley Community College. 

     He and his wife lived in South Carolina for a brief time, where he also worked in law enforcement, but wanted to be closer to their family in the Battle Creek area.

     So they moved back, today have three children and his wife teaches advanced placement courses at a Battle Creek area school.

     He stopped when we started to pull away from the downtown Battle Creek Police headquarters, went back in to get a supply of NARCAN, an antidote to the scourge of drug overdoses, ER visits and even related deaths plaguing Battle Creek right now.

     “We get drug calls several times a week,” Rabbitt said.  “A few days ago, the drugged out boyfriend failed to call police in time.  His overdosed girlfriend was dead by the time I got on scene.”

      It’s these kinds of contacts, and domestic violence calls, that are often most difficult, he added, “perhaps because they remind me of my own kids.”

     Rabbitt slowly weaved his way through the neighborhoods, casually half waving to people on the street, letting them know, he said, that the police are a positive presence.

     But during our “ride around” together, he also responded to a domestic abuse complaint, issued a ticket to a driver who blew through a stop sign, and made several other stops about drivers over the speed limit or not in possession of their car registrations papers, which is required.

     Rabbitt wasn’t wearing a body camera, but with almost the same result:  the audio discussion between him and each engaged citizen was recoded, and the dash camera on the police car was positioned to give a clear visual account and taping of the interaction.

     “Is it tough being a cop these days with people more disrespectful?” I asked Rabbitt.

     “You know, this many not be the usual, but what I really notice, and appreciate, is all the people who are now stopping thanking me for my service,” he said.  “You give people respect.  You get respect.”

     Chief of Police Jim Blocker told me, however, the explosion of social media – instantly available over the Internet -- sometimes accurate, sometimes theatrical, staged, confrontational – is having a wearying down impact on police officers and law enforcement recruitment.

     “I tell our people (police) that we have been guilty of stereotyping ourselves.  No doubt about it.  But we have to ‘lean into the problem’ by talking with each other, and by dealing with it from both the police and pubic perspectives,” he said.

     There’s a challenge recruiting young people to law enforcement careers, especially women and people of color, because of the social media uproar and negativity about police work right now, he said.  But Blocker sees the glass half full, not half empty.

     It’s a priority for him.

     We’re doing lots of things to change and improve, and be more transparent.  And I’m very proud of our people,” Blocker said, signaling perhaps a bit impatiently that the phone interview was about over.

     I paused, and thought what the hell about the question: 

     “Chief, I went through the police building waiting for Officer Rabbitt.  The place looks terrible.  Out of date. Worn out, chipped paint on the walls, old metal desks.  How can you ask people to work here?  Especially the stressful work they do.”

     Chief Blocker said the building is 46 years old.  It looks 90 years old.

     “But we’re excited about the new police headquarters that will soon be built across the street. Financing seems in place.  We could have the new facility ready in 18 months,” the Chief said.Chief Jim Blocker.jpg

December 21, 2016

Leaving Time at Christmas Time




by jim richmond

Blowing snow here in Battle Creek, when the phone rang at 2 a.m.

I knew it would be my Mom. I knew it would mean grabbing clothes, kissing wife and two small kids goodbye, and heading out for the 680 mile straight-through drive to Kansas City.

“I need you,” my Mom said simply over the phone. “Dad’s not doing well.”

He had, at just 69 and always healthy, lost kidney functions, on dialysis three times a week, and suffered a series of strokes.

Thin as a pencil, hands shaking, disheveled, his body barely hanging on with his limited mind. He could understand, but not write, nor talk, nor barely walk room to room.

So, I drove to Kansas City, knowing where I worked – the Kellogg Foundation and new responsibilities there as Vice President – would and could wait. ( My boss, Russ Mawby always put family and people first.)

Exhausted after the 14-hour straight drive, I sat at my parent’s tiny alcove breakfast table. Acting cheery, as we did not feel, with Christmas around the corner.

I looked over at the remnants of my Father – an extraordinary man, husband, father, sportsman who loved the outdoors – and knew it would likely be his last Christmas.

(As it would be. He died on my 40th birthday the next fall.)

“Mom, what else can I do for you.. Dad? I should get back to Battle Creek,” I finally said.

“Jimmy, have another sandwich. Please?” she replied.

Serving those she loved and cherished and missed by offering food, prepared with the two crooked arms she broke in childhood, not long after her own Mother died in the upstairs Atchison bedroom, and she would go on to raise her 5 Irish brothers.

I had another BTL with her.

With my Dad.

Smiling crookedly, painfully at his strained crooked smile.

A tear running down his cheek, from the eyes of a man I had never seen cry in his lifetime.

Suddenly, the smell of smoke from the adjoining kitchen. I rushed in, and the toaster cord was on fire.

I unplugged it. Threw the toaster out the back door, into the snow.

And prepared to leave.

Never admitted, blogged, written or told anyone this reflection….

Most of us -- my friends and our age range -- have our own toaster stories.

I can still see, am still devastated by that look, by that tear from my Dad’s eye.

I stopped, turned around and went back to Kansas City four different times on that same trip and spent another day, each time, with my parents.

They never asked WHY I came back four times. It was like maybe I’d just gone up the street for groceries or gas.

I laughed and told them it was that darn toaster’s fault.

It was no one, no thing’s fault.

It was about my Dad.

That Christmas time.

That true leaving time for the last time.

October 28, 2016

My Mind Has A Heart Of Its Own


     At what age does your mind start separating itself from your body?  Near my age, aged 72?

     Shaving this morning, I teeter back and forth on my feet, like a kid’s first steps on roller skates.

    brain-transplants-merl.jpg No longer is my walk confident and firm.  Now with “drop foot” in the right leg, I never know when the brain will skip a beat to control my feet, and suddenly I drag my right foot while walking.

     My brain is very conscious of its dependence on the heart, lungs and other aging body parts – dependence for its own survival.  Like driving a used car that is approaching 100,000 miles – the brakes start going, the transmission leaks fluid, the ride gets rough, and each time you turn the ignition, you think “will it start today?” 

     “What’s going to go wrong next?”

     So my heart stopped six times on the hospital bed that day several years ago.  Shock paddles brought me back literally from death’s very door, to consciousness and my brain said to itself: “Jimmy, I don’t think you’re going to make it this time.”

     Of course, I did. 

     My brain wish it had a new body, with GPS, brake and backup warning lights and stop control.

     But it has to live within the flesh, bones, weaknesses and sickness of the body that carries it around, and makes possible enjoying this wonderful condition called “living.”

     Every day is a blessing.

     Yes, my mind has a heart of its own.


October 20, 2016

Ruth Puii: Survives Dangerous Road To


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                                                                      by jim richmond


Ruth Puii has waited nine years for this day, and traveled thousands of miles, walking barefoot, traveling by small boat over dangerous waters, as a Burmese ethnic and religious refugee. 

Today, Ruth was sworn in as a U.S. Citizen in official ceremonies in Grand Rapids.


With Ruth is her 20 year old daughter, Lydia, and both work as seasonal staff members at the Leila Arboretum‘s urban farm.


FullSizeRender (39).jpgYesterday, Leila staff and volunteers gathered, with cake, American flags, gifts and Ruth’s favorite American delights – orange diet pop and Doritos – to help recognize and celebrate her accomplishments.

After two months of study, Ruth passed her citizenship tests with a perfect score of 100. 


A quiet, unassuming person who like her daughter, are tremendous workers, Ruth, her husband Joseph, and four children are now in the United States.


They traveled as members of the Chin Christian tribe, minority refugees from largely Buddish Burma,  and without passports, on the long journey by walking, bus and small boat  through Thailand and Malaysia before getting to America.


Along the way, they were harassed by Malaysia police, put in a refugee camp, spent 27 days in a bare room, and often had little water and no food.


But all that is behind them.  Ruth said she is surprised at all the opportunities she has already had in America, and daughter Lydia is a nursing student at Kellogg Community College.


FullSizeRender (3).jpgLeila’s Executive Director Brett Myers: “We feel so honored to have Ruth and Lydia on our staff. 

They are part of the Leila family, as well as the national and diverse  “American family” all of us so love.



September 08, 2016

What makes Jim Haadsma run....


by Jim RichmondHaadsmaphoto.jpg

At age 58, with kids in or just finishing college, a busy law practice, plus a host of civic and church interests and commitments, what makes Jim Haadsma run so hard for the Michigan 62nd House seat, after his 4th term as Calhoun County Commissioner, and facing a financially well-healed opponent?

(The 62nd District includes Battle Creek, Bedford, Convis, Pennfield and Springfield.)

We were sitting one morning at Ritzee’s restaurant on W. Michigan Avenue, and Haadsma was a bit taken aback by the ‘run’ question, pausing for a minute, then going back to restate, to massage his thoughts and his answer.

“It has to be my parents; both missionaries. I spent most of my high school years with them in Africa – Rhodesia, a violent time of civic war, when the Europeans and Africans were fighting each other. I saw my parents subordinate themselves to the needs of other people, to public service. And when you’re around that as a young person, it seeps into your heart, spirit, values, and your sense of purpose.”

Returning to the United States in 1976, Haadsma graduated from Michigan State University, attended graduate school at the University of Denver, earned his law degree from Wayne State University, and then practiced what he called “street law” in hometown Muskegon for three years, before joining the McCroskey Law Firm in 1987.

He runs the firm’s Battle Creek office, specializing in workers disability compensation.

Haadsma says, yes, he feels the time pressures of busy personal responsibilities, career and civic engagements -- of “knowing what to keep in and what to leave out – it’s always a challenge.”

But what he hasn’t and doesn’t leave out, is a grassroots engagement and commitment to community, neighborhoods, residents, and needs.

All the energy he spends at civic events and activities is multiplied by the long-term canvassing, "you can’t understand people’s problems unless you dig down, visit with people, and not just at election time.

Laurie Sullivan, a northside neighborhood leader and former Battle Creek City Commissioner,

“I’ve yet to meet another individual who is so dedicated, so ‘present’ – physically and mentally – as a public servant as Jim (Haadsma). Approachable, compassionate, engaged. We couldn’t ask for anyone better," Sullivan commented.

Many, many people who know Jim Haadsma agree.

I certainly do -- we could do no better than elect Haadsma in November.

(Note to readers: This is my personal blog. No money or any other form of compensation determines what is published on this site.)

August 28, 2016

"Excuse my broken English"


By jim richmond



"Excuse my broken English," the young internist from Kazakhstan, kept saying. I went for a primary care appt., and volunteered to spend time instead so she could practice a complete primary care patient workup. She had practiced as an MD in the former part of the Soviet Union.


"Ah I have been to St. Petersburg three times," I tell her, "and am finishing a wonderful book on the Russians' defense of both St. Petersburg and Moscow in 1941."


"Oh, you mean 1943," she said, "if I know my history well."


I thought, 'No, I mean late 1941, when over 1 million Russians, more than the total lost by US and England, died in defense of Moscow.'


But I said nothing, enthralled a bit by her.


"Oh, forgive my broken English," she repeated, asking concise, perceptive health questions and knowing the counter indications and names of all the heart, blood pressure and other medications I take daily..


My primary care GNP came in the room after 45 minutes. "Would you like a private review with your patient?," my Kazakhstan doctor asked.


"No," my regular GNP replied.


And then Dr. Kazakhstan orally summarized my medical history and its implications in a ten minute, precise monologue, that had my GNP standing a bit agog.


"Patient is 71 year old male. In excellent physical and mental health for patient's age, I believe," she begins in preface.


After that, I started to fall in love. She could've looked like Uncle Joe Stalin and been smoking his pipe.


Somehow, I think the Kazakhstan doctor, young and perhaps a bit rusty on WWII history, will do fine in America as a physician.


We are lucky to have folks like her immigrate to America. 

I wanted to ask HER a thousand questions.


Leaving,  I felt fortunate to have this unusual, long experience, and to perhaps contributed a bit to this remarkable young professional's  licensing and/or board certification here

August 16, 2016

Working Together on Civic Solutions:












In 2008-20010, a campaign cabinet headed by Russ Mawby, Shanon Legg, Patti Miller,  Brenda Hunt, John Collins, Erv Brinker, Julie Tindol, Jim Richmond, Roy Tooke and others, raised $850,000 for a new Alano Club building on Territorial Road in Battle Creek, to serve area people of all ages, socio-economic and racial backgrounds,  seeking recovery from drugs, alcohol, gambling, overeating and other addictions.

Copy of AlanoExt2 (1).JPG

At the time, the area's AA meetings were held in the former, broken down, smoke-filled, wretched former Battle Creek Township police building at the same Territorial Road location.

Today this bright, functional building on Territorial hosts more than 35 meetings a week, 365 days a year for recovering alcoholics, drug addicts, others with addictions, as well as their family members, and special meetings for those who speak Spanish. It works closely with the Substance Abuse Council, Drug Court, Summit Pointe and other providers.

AC.outside.6.17.10 (1).jpgBattle Creek "CAN DO IT" when it wants to...and with the right leadership.

August 12, 2016

Where it all began....



by jim richmond

Not much left but the graffiti covered the remains of; "Colors on The Corner," a nightclub at the corner of Kendall and Hamblin tonight when I drove by, but it was, in decades past near the location where Helen Montgomery ran her famous and later infamous El Grotto Lounge.

FullSizeRender (44).jpgHere started black and cross over music greats Junior Walker and the All Stars (famous for "Shotgun," and buried in Battle Creek's Oak Hill Cemetery), Al Green, Jr., and Wade Flemons, cofounder of Earth, Wind and Fire, and where he had his first hit "Here I stand."

Bobby Holley, "Mr. Entertainment, part preacher, part social activist, great musician..... is still around and threatening to start up his fast paced, rockin jazz influenced, Chuck Berry style live music show again.(Can hardly wait!!!)

In its later years, the El Grotto also became notorious for gun and fist fights.

Retired Battle Creek Police Detective Barbara Connelly Walters told me about her own “duet” with Junior Walker:

As a patrol officer at BCPD I was called to a domestic. They were fighting and the man hit the woman in the head with a cereal bowl (ironic as we are the cereal city). He was arrested for domestic violence. As I was driving him to the BCPD jail (now extinct) I asked him to sing "Shotgun" for me. It was Junior Walker aka Autry DeWalt . He did and we laughed all the way downtown. As he was led into the jail to be booked in he was still singing. You cannot make this stuff up...true story! 

Talk to Bobby Holley, though, he's tell you about the rich Motown like music history that was a big part of Battle Creek for years.

Here's a link to Junior Walker and the All Stars performing on TV:  


August 10, 2016

On Listening:


by jim richmond

Humorist and author David Sedaris, in his latest book, says 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 form the core of our experiences.

Many of my own blogs, short stories and newspaper columns over the past three decades are based on people, places and personal experiences.

And some of them are as indelible as joy and happiness, or death and dying.

Whether your Mom, or a friend, real listening, too, is an art and part, of loving or caring for someone.

And it’s not always easy.

Other priorities, distractions try to crowd in the mind and the day. .

RDS.jpgOne of the most vivid 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 ten years ago, I had the pleasure of spending several days with Bob, who had retired on the West Coast, but returned to Battle Creek for a speaking engagement.

In failing health, he wanted to, so we travelled by car throughout Battle Creek. 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.

Much of what he advocated, the positive changes he helped make happen in Battle Creek were never recognized publicly.

But he enjoyed retelling those stories and difficulties from the '80s. And I ended up admiring him even more, for his many questions about my own life, my children, changes in Battle Creek, and other topics during our two day car ride together

I kept in touch with Dr. Sparks regularly over his last decade, and we talked on the phone two times from his hospital room in the final week as death approached, he choking off a sob when he called the day before he died in his hermetically, germ free sealed off room in a northern California hospital.

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

Today, I still struggle to ask questions, listen to those I love or care about.

Almost without exception, my close friends and loved ones have the capacity to listen when I need an ear, a smile, a word of encouragement.

There are many people with no capacity to listen. They only know how to talk.

How boring that must be.


July 16, 2016

Happy Days In Hippyland


My exwife Anne would have just turned age 70.

Not long ago, a Kansas City cousin sent me a copy of Anne's obituary. She died in 2006 of breast cancer.

We were college sweethearts. She, sharper than I, graduated first in her class at a large regional university.

We married while I was on leave from the Navy and had a cool place on one of the rolling streets in the Twin Peaks area of San Francisco. 1968-71.

Janis Joplin lived just several blocks up from us, and she would whiz by in her psychedelic painted porsche, as we sat on the steps, with her then boyfriend, Joe McDonald, of the music group Country Joe and The Fish ("Don't Give A Damn, Ain't Going To Vietnam"), and marveled at Janis' drinking habits and capacity.

We would stroll down to Golden Gate Park on my free weekends, and watch joplin.jpgoutdoor gigs by Joplin, Canned Heat, BB King, Cream, Jefferson Airplane.

Interesting times.
While I was in the Pacific, away on an aircraft carrier that was attacking North Vietnamese trails into the South, Anne met new friends in San Francisco.

When our carrier returned, she met me at the pier with another young woman, introduced us, and told me that while I was gone she'd realized she was gay,. We divorced not long after,

Over the decades we stayed in touch by phone or coffee shop visit about once a year -- I never completely getting over her.

In Kansas City during 2003 for my Mom's funeral, I was surprised when Anne showed up at the funeral and then lunch afterwards. We chatted briefly.

It was a terrible snow storm, and I was anxious to get on the road back to Michigan. I cleaned my car windows off, got in the red VW bug,to start the trip, when I heard a knock on the car window.

It was Anne. She got in the car.

"Jim," she said, "do you think we might try to start all over again?" (I didn't know she was seriously ill.)

"No,it's too late, and times are too different for that," I said to her, not unkindly, but thinking about the 33 years that had past, and the way we parted as a couple emotionally on that Navy pier.

She opened the door and got out of the car. It would be our last contact.

Calling her with a sudden urgent feeling in 2006, her sister answered. "Jim," she said, "Anne died yesterday of cancer."

Thinking back on that snowy evening in 2006, that brief chat in the car, I wondered what I might have said or done differently if I'd known she was ill. And perhaps needed my help or company desperately.

The question and the memory stay with me today.

But so, too, do the good times and laughs in San Francisco with Anne in '68-71. A very unique, short window of place and social change. And more than a little heartache and pain.

I hope, if there's a Heaven, Anne is happy, remembers me with affection -- and those pseudo hippy, happy times -- as I do her, and that chapter in our lives..

But I dont know anyone who has been able to go back and recreate the past. We learn from it,and move on.

July 14, 2016

Chris and Betty Christ: Quiet Battle Creek Leaders for Decades

Chris and Betty Christ: Quiet Battle Creek Leaders for Decades

By jim richmond

Battle Creek’s history of the past six decades is replete with well-known names of people who’ve stepped up, spoken out, or provided funds for efforts to make this a better community.  But there are few – perhaps none – who have done more for Battle Creek, in their quiet way, and sought less personally in return, than one couple:  Chris and Betty Christ.

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Chris, the son of Greek immigrants and who could not speak English until age 5, now 87, is considered by many as the dean of attorneys who specialize locally in corporate, probate and trust administration, as a partner and one of the owners of the law firm of Vandervoort, Christ & Fisher.

Wife Betty, talks about raising their four children, Kristi, John, and Scott and the tragic loss of their daughter Teri at age 21 in a car accident, a loss as fresh today, for both parents, as it was that day it happened in 1983.

They are quiet, soft spoken, direct and unpretentious people, with fine-tuned listening skills that reflect their approach to life and civic service.  (They’ve lived in the same home for 55 years.)

“My Mom instilled in us three life principles,” Chris said during a recent interview, “We were Americans – first -- with Greek heritage.  We needed to develop a relationship with God to be productive and live a happy life.  And, three, we had a responsibility to help other people.”

Chris worked as a youth in his dad’s business, the Holsum Bread Company near the corner of Porter Street and East Michigan Avenue, and grew up in the area. 

He attended Battle Creek Schools and later Culver Military Academy in Indiana, which had a great influence on his life. Betty graduated from Lakeview Schools and Western Michigan University.  Chris finished his undergraduate degree at Albion College.

Chris had just graduated from law school at the University of Michigan, when he met Betty on a blind date.  They were engaged in 6 weeks and married within a year.

“We went to the Hart Hotel for lunch on our first date,” Betty recalled, with a laugh.  “I was shy.  But we were so taken with each other. ”

Chris started his law career working with Creighton and (later Michigan Supreme Court Judge) Mary Coleman, before branching out into private practice.  He refers to the Colemans simply as “my inspiration.”

Over all the decades, Chris Christ has been one of the “go to” civic leaders for leadership and problem solving.

He recalled spending countless hours with other civic leaders and constituent interests to resolve the differences and difficulties that finally lead to the merger of Community and Leila hospitals – a decision that has improved the quality of health care over time in Battle Creek.

And while Christ’s name was rarely mentioned in the newspapers, other civic leaders were watching his people and problem solving skills.

“Chris was the first person I thought of, when we started considering adding more local people to the Kellogg Foundation Board,” noted retired Foundation CEO and Chairman Dr. Russ Mawby, in a recent telephone interview.  “Chris is a wonderful man, with good listening and problem solving skills.  And most of all, he has always really cared about people.”

Chris would go on to serve 19 years on the Kellogg Foundation board, and also on the Board of Trustees of the Elizabeth and Guido Binda Foundation, and as trustee and Chairman of the Battle Creek Community Foundation.

Betty said she used early volunteer and leadership experiences with the Battle Creek Junior League to become involved in development and services of the SAFE Place Domestic Violence Shelter, Nursing Clinic, Volunteer Bureau, Family Y Center, Sexual Assault Services, and with the Lakeview Schools Educational Foundation.

Betty and Chris have also found themselves called upon to work as a “team” for civic projects.

“I never wanted to be out front on projects, but that was hard not to do, being married to Chris,” Betty added with a wry smile.

They first chaired a United Arts Council Campaign.  And then were approached to co-chair what they consider their most valuable and challenging civic leadership project:  developing the North Pointe Woods senior living community, now located on a scenic rise overlooking North Avenue and Roosevelt Avenue in Battle Creek. 

“What we learned beforehand is many seniors were going to Kalamazoo to live in assisted communities -- away from their families, their friends, their social groups, their churches – because we didn’t have a quality  independent and assisted living facility for seniors right here in Battle Creek,” Betty said.

Development of North Pointe Woods solved that problem.  And today it is one of a number of similar options for area seniors in need, but remains the only such facility on the northside of Battle Creek.

From their childhoods, religion continues as an important, central part, of the Christs’ life.  They have been members of First Congregational Church for more than 50 years.

In January 1977, the Church asked Chis to give a lay sermon one Sunday.  Two excerpts from that sermon sum up Chris and Betty Christ’s 60-plus years of service and leadership in Battle Creek.

Christ told the congregation that day:

“Problems are unique only in the sense that it is ‘me’ and not ‘you’ … in sharing our problems, we develop an awareness that helps us put the problem in perspective and thus makes it easier to resolve… I realized it is just as important , just as workable and really more attainable, to work within my limitations and perhaps within my talents and just try to do something meaningful with my life every day – nothing spectacular, nothing earth-shaking, but maybe helpful to those who sought my counsel.”

Meaningful lives. 

Helping other people.  

Reflecting on the Christs’ decades of contributions to Battle Creek, might answer the question:

“What better life and legacy can one lead and leave?”

July 03, 2016

Battle Creek will miss Velma Laws-Clay



Battle Creek lost a great personality and civic leader this past week: Velma Laws-Clay. (Photo, on right.)

I served on several nonprofit boards with her, and we laughingly shared tales of what it was like, both of us having grow up as twins.Velma Laws-Clay.jpg

Her passing reminds us how important and valuable volunteers and nonprofit Board service can be in a community.

The best board members bring all or one of the historical "Three Ws" of effective board service: Work, Wisdom, Wealth.

Velma Laws Clay wasn't wealthy. But she was loaded with passion, commitment --- work and wisdom.

Effective board service means: doing your homework before board meetings, participation, listening, volunteering and being a positive influence and role model on the entire Board..

Perhaps most of all it means following my Irish immigrant mother's reminder that "there's a reason God gave us two ears and one mouth."

With that engaging, always ready smile, with her passion and service, ability to listen as well as to speak out, Velma Laws-Clay taught us much.

And gave Battle Creek much.


Photo above is of Velma (right) with her twin sister and "best friend" Vivian outside their historical family home on Manchester Street in the Washington Heights area of Battle Creek, Michigan.

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