By continuing your visit to this site, you accept the use of cookies. These ensure the smooth running of our services. Learn more.

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.

FullSizeRender (40).jpg

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.

July 02, 2016

New Day Mortgage's "Admiral Lynch" Creeps Out This Vet Viewer

Maybe it's just me as a U.S. Navy Vietnam Vet , but I get creeped out every time I see retired Navy Rear Admiral Thomas Lynch (bottom, left in civies) being a blowhard TV huckster for veterans home mortgages, while exclaiming
"We KNOW the military/veteran mentality."150116 Adm Tom Lynch.jpg
Well, I don't think so Admiral.
There is no single "military mentality" for U.S. veterans.
(If you think so, spend some time in the ambulatory clinic waiting area here at the Battle Creek, Michigan Veterans Hospital.)
I personally knew a Rear Admiral who would have abhorred Lynch's paid TV pitchwork (as if Lynch needed it).
I served under Rear Admiral James Ferris (photo, bottom right) on twoTonkin Gulf cruises off North Vietnam 68-70. Now there was a leader. Who loved the Navy. And who knew and loved his crew.ferris_james.jpg
What did Admiral Ferris do when he retired after 34 years as a WWII vet, fighter pilot, carrier captain and then task force admiral?
He started personally delivering Meals on Wheels to the homebound elderly in his retirement area of Alameda, California.
Now there's a real military "veteran's mentality."
Service to country over self interest doesn't end when you take off the uniform.
Admiral Ferris (photo, right)