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Archive | May, 2010

“Polar bears” a true test of courage

by Judy Reed

Men and women across the world cheered when the armistice was signed on November 11, 1918. It meant the end of the Great War—World War I. One group of men soldiered on, however, in the subfreezing temperatures of northern Russia, and wondered when they would be called home; they wondered, as days turned into months, if they had been forgotten.

The men, a majority of them from Michigan, dubbed themselves the “Polar Bears.”

Soldier on watch in deep snow in northern Russia during the winter of 1918-1919.It was the summer of 1918. The U.S. Army’s 85th Division, made up mostly of men from Michigan and Wisconsin, finished their training at Fort Custer, Battle Creek, and sailed to England. While some were sent to France, 5,000 troops of the 339th Infantry and support units (one battalion of the 310th Engineers, the 337th Field Hospital, and the 337th Ambulance Company) were issued Russian weapons and equipment and sailed for Archangel, a Russian port on the White Sea, 600 miles north of Moscow. They were under British command.

It was never completely understood why the men were sent there, but they were fighting Bolshevik revolutionaries, (precursors to the communists) and were never called home until June 1919. Morale was low, and there was even report of a mutiny, but the rumors were highly exaggerated. Diaries show the men had their doubts about why they were there, but they fought  just the same.

There were at least two Cedar Springs men among those who fought—Pvt. Sidney DeGraw, and Pvt. Edgar G. Hauge, both of Company A. Not much is known about Hauge, except that he joined at Economie Point, in the spring of 1919, according to papers in the “Polar Bear Expedition” digital collection at the University of Michigan.

DeGraw was born October 9, 1866, to Mr. and Ms. Cornelius DeGraw, early pioneers of Spencer Township. At the time of the war, he was living on a farm near Pine Lake. He was wounded in action on March 7, 1919, Vistovka. DeGraw lost a leg from his injuries, and while hospitalized at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington D.C., he wrote home. “Thank you all very much for the birthday cards I received, 76 of them. It is good to get back to a country where there are friends and people civilized instead of being back in the jungles of northern Russia, where we are 350 miles from a railroad and never heard from in months, and snow and ice was plentiful. It was 80 below zero and we were on English rations, which was canned beef, moldy, and for weeks, it was frozen so we had to hold it in our mouths to thaw it out so we could swallow it as we dared not have a fire for it would give our location away,” he wrote.

After the war, DeGraw moved into Cedar Springs. He died in 1938, and is buried in Elmwood Cemetery.

Other men from around the area who served there include Harry D. McFall, Rockford; Fred H. Johnson, Sparta, Co. M; C.W.Alverson, Howard City, Co. M; George H. Stevenson, Howard City, 310 Engineer; and four men from Greenville—Floyd J. Farrar, Karl O. Feldt, George Hosford, and Lyle G. Wright.

Of the 5,500 soldiers, 100 died of the flu, 500 were injured severely and 340 died. The last Polar Bear died at age 102 in 2002.

The VFW reportedly played a historic role in the recovery of bodies of fallen Polar Bears. After refusing for 10 years to let the U.S. in to find them, the Soviet Union finally agreed to allow six men in to recover of the remains. In 1929, VFW Captain Edwin and five other VFW members traveled back to Northern Russia. Five of them had been Polar Bears.

According to the VFW, this group traveled 13,000 miles, wading through swamps, scrambling up cliffs, searching through the dense forests of Northern Russia to find and recover the remains of their fallen brothers. Out of 121 bodies sought, they recovered 86, which they turned over to Michigan Governor Fred Green on December 1, 1929.

On May 30, 1929, the bodies of 41 of these brave men were interred at White Chapel Memorial Park Cemetery at the foot of the newly erected Polar Bear Monument in Troy, MI. A crowd of over 4,000 people attended the ceremony that day to welcome our boys home at the foot of the newly created Polar Bear Monument.

This Memorial Day, remember those Michigan men who fought bravely. And if you have any information about the men listed in the article, please give us a call at 696-3655.

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Lest we forget

Residents will gather at this monument in the Algoma Township Memorial Park, located across the street from Algoma Baptist Church, on Grange Avenue Monday for Memorial Day services. The park was dedicated last Memorial Day. Post photo by J. Reed

Memorial Day is a day to remember and honor those that gave their lives while defending our country. It’s also a day to remember all those that have served and are now deceased. Inside this issue are the names of veterans buried in area cemeteries, and we honor them with this issue of The Cedar Springs Post, on pages 11-14. If you know of a veteran’s name that is missing from the list, please let us know and we’ll add them for next year.

There will be several memorial activities and ceremonies taking place this weekend that residents are encouraged to take part in:

The Cedar Springs Historical Society is having its 10th Annual Cemetery Walk, Sunday, May 30 at 2:00 p.m. to honor veterans of all wars. This years veterans will be Ebenezer Jewell, War of 1812; John Roys, Mexican/American War; Alfred Plumb, Spanish/American War; Abram S. Tuttle, Civil War; Frank VanLew, World War I; Russell, George and William Schultz, World War II; Charles Haynes, Korean War; Thomas Kemp, Vietnam War.  Biographical and historical information will be presented at each gravesite. The Glen Hill Post #287 of the American Legion honor guard will assist at the presentation. They will leave from the museum in Morley Park at 1:30 p.m. and return there for refreshments at the completion of the walk. If there are severe weather warnings, the event will be canceled.

The American Legion Glen Hill Post #287 will be holding services in several area cemeteries on Monday, May 31, and has done so for over 35 years. They will be at Elmwood Cemetery at 9:00 a.m., Solon Township Cemetery at 10:00 a.m., East Nelson Cemetery at 10:45 a.m. and the Senior Citizens Center on Elm Street in Cedar Springs at 11:30 a.m. The Cedar Springs High School band will be on hand, and the guest speaker will be Gerald Dennis, a 1963 graduate of Cedar Springs High School, past department commander, and past 5th district commander of the American Legion. In case of bad weather, the services will be held in the American Legion Hall at 9:00 a.m.

The Sand Lake/Cedar Springs Tri-Corner Veterans of Foreign Wars Post #7912 will also be having ceremonies on Monday, May 31. They will be at the monument next to VFW Post in Sand Lake at 10:30 a.m., and then in Pierson Cemetery at 11 a.m. The Tri County Marching Band will also participate.

Algoma Township will hold services at Memorial Park, on Monday, May 31, at 1:00 p.m. on 10516 Grange Ave., next to Algoma Township Cemetery. Services will include the American Legion Rockford Post 102, V.F.W. Post 3946, 3rd Michigan Volunteer Infantry Co. F-Civil War, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. There will be a tribute to Algoma Township servicemen that were killed in action: Elmer Badder (WWII), Arden R. Ives (WWII), Dennis Merryman (Vietnam), James “Jimmy” Murrell (Vietnam), and Daniel Louis Behm (Vietnam).

The Sparta American Legion Post #107 will hold a Memorial Day program on Monday, May 31, at 10 a.m. in Lamoreaux Park in Sparta. Services will include the Sparta high School Band, Color Guard and Firing Squad, Boy Scout Troops, and American Legion members. We will gather to honor veterans of all wars and those who did not make it home after serving our country. Please join us in remembering American heroes.

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Mobile home fire deemed arson

Photo by Judy Reed

A mobile home fire that occurred in Cedar Springs Mobile Estates last week is being investigated as arson.

The fire broke out about 1:30 a.m. Thursday, May 20, at 329 Sarah. The Cedar Springs Fire Department arrived on scene within six minutes and quickly extinguished the blaze.

Fire Chief Jerry Gross said that the fire started in a bedroom and was mostly contained to that area. No one was at home at the time of fire.

The fire department was called out again to the mobile home on Friday afternoon, after someone thought they heard a beeping, like a smoke detector going off. It turned out to be a false alarm.

According to Cedar Springs Police Chief Roger Parent, a fire investigator made the determination of arson this week.

Parent said the fire was suspicious from the beginning because the police had been to that address earlier in the day on a report from a co-owner that property had been removed from the home. He asked if anyone has information about the fire to call the Cedar Springs Police Department at 696-1311, or Silent Observer at (616) 774-2345, or toll free at (866) 774-2345. You can also text a tip to CRIMES (274637). The keyword TIP138 must appear on the first line of your text message in order to reach Silent Observer.

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Turtle rescue!

Halt! In the name of the turtle police!

Gavin Lillie, 8, is holding up traffic on Johnson Road, in Gowen, while big brother, Gabriel, 10, helps this beautiful painted turtle cross the road. The two boys are the sons of Carla Lillie, of Cedar Springs.

Thanks, Gavin and Gabriel! We’ll be sending you a certificate and a pin for the Post Turtle Rescue Team.

For other readers, there’s still time—send us your photo of a turtle rescue to postnews@charter.net and include a brief message and your contact info.

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Hometown Hero

Spc. Noah Smith

Spc. Noah Smith, of Kent City, returned to the USA on Monday, May 24, from a deployment to Iraq. He will spend a week in Fort Dix NJ debriefing, then return home to resume his partnership in Art Smith Auctioneers of Cedar Springs. He has been gone for nearly two years and will be welcomed home by his proud parents Art & Kim Smith, sister Kory & Troy Wyman and many family and friends. If you see him be sure to tell him “Welcome home!”

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Relay 2010 great for ducks and bucks

Despite receiving a dousing, this year’s Relay for Life participants stuck it out for the 24-hour event held May 22 and 23 at North Rockford Middle School. With money still being counted, by the end of the event, the total for Relay 2010 stood at $340,000, even higher than last year’s tally at that time.

With the rain failing to dampen enthusiasm for this, the eighth-annual Relay in Rockford participants enjoyed the around-the-clock activities. Each team is asked to have a representative on the track at all times during the event. Because cancer never sleeps, Relays are overnight events up to 24 hours in length. Twenty-four-hour walkers, such as Jason Cavner, in his fourth year doing the long walk, said hot weather is the worst. He walks for his uncle, who is fighting cancer.

Eighty-one teams participated, and the top three in fund raising were Terminatin’ Cancer, Friends for Life and Desperate Housewives.

Five Relay awards were given. Pam Jacobs of Team Coo, Sloan Ouellette, age 16, of team Kids Care Too, Carson Banfield, age 10, of Kids Care Too, Lisa Morgan, of Braced for a Cure and Abby Larva, of the Spartan Striders, were all recognized for their efforts.

Highest individual fund raiser was Nikki Butinsack with $10,800.

Organizer Carol Delp-Kurzeja said, “Ideally, our children should not have to worry about chemotherapy, radiation and tumor removal surgeries. Prevention of the disease is the long-term objective, but we’ll certainly take a cure after the diagnosis. Right now, we simply want cancer survivors to have many more birthdays ahead of them.”

“So far, we have accomplished that objective. Now, with the community’s help, we can achieve our ultimate goal of eliminating cancer from our vocabulary.”
The American Cancer Society Relay For Life is a life-changing event that gives everyone in communities across the globe a chance to celebrate the lives of people who have battled cancer, remember loved ones lost, and fight back against the disease.

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Police seek help on break-ins

Algoma Township has had a rash of break-ins this month, and the Kent County Sheriff Department is not only looking for help from the public to find the culprits, but is also asking residents to keep an eye on their neighbors’ homes.

According to Deputy Tonya Walkons, the break-ins started on Monday, May 10, on Edgerton south of 12 Mile.

On Tuesday, May 18, there were break-ins on Summit Ave, south of 13 Mile Rd NE, and Fonger, just east of Grange, and Rector, just east of Pine Island.

On Wednesday, May 19, there were home invasions on 10 Mile Rd near Wolven, and Edgerton jut north of 13 Mile Rd.

“The subject is knocking on doors to see if anyone answers. When the home owner answers the door, the subject makes up some excuse, such as they are lost, or need directions, or looking for a car for sale,” said Walkons.

She said home invasions occurred between 7:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.

“A suspect is entering windows or doors of residences,” noted Walkons. She said items taken included jewelry, coins, IPODs, and firearms. One of victims had tools stolen out of a pole barn.

A resident on Rector had a suspicious vehicle and man at her home pounding on her door several times at 9:50 a.m. on Tuesday, May 18. She described the vehicle as a red 4-Door with loud muffler, possibly a Ford Escort/Taurus LS. She described the man as a skinny white male, 19-20 years old, with brown shaggy hair, no facial hair or glasses.

If anyone was in this area and saw anything suspicious or if you know something about this vehicle or subject, please contact the Kent County Sheriff Department at (616) 632-6100, or Silent Observer at (616) 774-2345, or toll free at (866) 774-2345. You can also text a tip to CRIMES (274637). The keyword TIP138 must appear on the first line of your text message in order to reach Silent Observer.

However, if you see suspicious activity or a vehicle/subject fitting description contact 911.

“Lets work together, and catch this person. No tip is insignificant,” said Walkons. “Algoma Township has not had home invasions for several months. Please keep an eye on your neighbors homes, be vigilant.”

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Cleaning up our act

By Alixann Spaulding and Judy Reed

When you ask a teen to clean up their room, you can count on a groan, and sometimes an outright no. But when the seventh graders at Cedar Springs Middle School were asked to help clean up the White Pine Trail last week, it was met with eager anticipation.

Photo by Alixann Spaulding

“We love the environment, and we’re really happy to get the chance to help!” said student Briana Blair.

Dave Heyboer, President of the Friends of the White Pine Trail, is not surprised. “I see a huge buy-in on the part of the kids,” he said. “They feel like they have some ownership in it.”

Every May the seventh grade students of Cedar Springs Middle School clean litter off of the trail, whether the sun is shining or not. Mrs. Blauw, Mr. Fleming, Mr. Martin, and Mrs. Metiva were the teachers leading the expedition this year. A drizzly morning on Friday did not halt the students, teachers, and volunteer parents from walking from the middle school (at the corner of Northland Drive and 16 Mile) up to 17 Mile. Once there they split up the classes, with two classes going south and two going north.

Before leaving the school, Heyboer spoke to the kids about the trail, and about what to do and what not to do while picking up trash. The students put on rubber gloves and grabbed garbage bags before heading out.

After they had cleaned the trail, for over a mile in either direction from 17 Mile Road, they went back toward the school and they also cleaned up Skinner Field.

Photo by Alixann Spaulding

Heyboer is glad for all the help the community has given recently to keep the trail clean. “Since the state has no one cleaning it, everyone we can get out on the trail to help makes it a better experience for everyone,” he explained.

Heyboer noted some improvements will be coming to the trail soon. “We are anticipating paving from Cadillac south to LeRoy, about 17 miles. That’s a big step forward,” he said.

Also coming in the near future will be a covered picnic table on the trail between Indian Lakes and 16 Mile Rd.

Thanks to all the seventh graders for a job well done!

For more info about the trail, visit www.whitepinetrail.com.

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Order in the court

Warrants issued in Admiral robbery

Cedar Springs Police Chief Roger Parent said that warrants have now been issued for two suspects in the armed robbery that occurred at the Admiral Gas Station in Cedar Springs on May 13.

About 9:59 p.m. a man reportedly walked in and pulled a knife on the female clerk and demanded all her money. The suspect then fled on foot to a waiting vehicle.

The Kent County Sheriff Department sent out a broadcast alerting law enforcement that an armed robbery with similar suspect information had taken place earlier in Newaygo County. Then, at 10:10 p.m., the KCSD saw a vehicle matching the description at North County Store on Old 14 Mile at Lincoln Lake. The four people in the vehicle were arrested and charged with the Newaygo County robbery.

Cedar Springs continued to investigate the Admiral robbery, and Chief Parent said investigation resulted in warrants for two of the four suspects—Christopher Ridgeway, 26, of Sand Lake, and Zachariah Raymor, 20, of Lowell. He said that the suspects would undergo proceedings in Newaygo first before being arraigned on the charges in Cedar Springs.

Men sentenced in sex assault scheme

Lee Benjamin Craddock, 53, and Shawn Godfrey, 38, have both been sentenced to prison for their roles in a scheme that Craddock created to allow him to have sex with a younger relative.

Lee Menjamin Craddock

Shawn Godfrey

The initial report was that in April 2009, a gunman forced Craddock and his 21-year-old relative off their motorcycle in the Rogue River State game area in Tyrone Township, near 20 Mile and Red Pine Drive, and ordered them to go into the woods, take off their clothes and have sex. When they did as he instructed, the gunman left. Police later learned that the gunman was Shawn Godfrey, 38, who knew Craddock and told police that Craddock invented the scheme because he wanted to have sex with the girl, but said he didn’t want her to get into trouble with her boyfriend.

The woman did not know Godfrey, and thought the gun was real.

Craddock was convicted of first degree criminal sexual conduct and several other charges, and was sentenced May 17 to 45 to 80 years in prison, with credit for 238 days. He also has to pay $136 in state fees, $160 in crime victim fees, and $700 in court costs.

Godfrey pled guilty to conspiracy, and as a result a sexual assault charge and habitual offender charge was dropped. He was sentenced May 25 to nine to 20 years in prison.

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Hamlet and eggs leaves them laughing

Reviewed by Liz Clifford

Leaving the theatre laughing is a good thing. And that’s what audiences did that went to the Kent last weekend to see Hamlet and eggs, the play by Cedar Springs playwright Scott Phillips.

In his latest production, Phillips manages to both lampoon and celebrate small town life. As the play opens, the board of a small town theater is debating what their next production should be.  Sidestepping the possibility that a lack of talent may be at the heart of the group’s limited success, they decide that they need to stretch themselves and try something new—a play by Shakespeare.

To lead them in their undertaking, a vacationing professional director, Richard (Virgil Hubbard), is pressed into service by his cousin and theater board member (Megan Maddocks). Instead of performing one play by Shakespeare, Richard decides the group should attempt a selection of the most famous scenes. Unfortunately, the cast is mostly composed of the theater’s headstrong and eccentric board members (Laura Bonarski, Joanne Carter, John Foley, Kim Johnson, Vince Lauria, Megan Maddocks, and Terri Riggle). Despite the addition of a charming local ingénue (Jenna Johnson) and a talented first time actor (Nick Bonarski), this “Best of Shakespeare” production quickly descends into mayhem. When Richard is prepared to wash his hands of the whole affair, his son and nephew (Wyatt Johnson and Ian Murphy) come to the rescue with a novel plan to salvage the show.

The audience at the Kent Theater laughed with delight at the antics of the quarrelsome board as the vastly different personalities try to work together to achieve a common goal. Anyone who has ever lived in a small town “recognized” their friends and neighbors in the foibles and mannerisms of these broadly written characters. Once again, Phillips has managed to capture people and situations that his audience knows from their own lives and experiences – they were still chuckling as they left the theater about their offices, towns, and organizations being exactly as shown in the play.

The actors were all outstanding in their roles and, with the exception of delightful newcomer Ian Murphy, the cast of Hamlet and Eggs are all Cedar Springs stage veterans. Wyatt Phillips has appeared in all four of his father’s plays and Cedar Springs High School students Nick Bonarski and Jenna Johnson (our reigning Red Flannel Queen) perform frequently as both musicians and actors at the high school and at the Kent Theatre.

With four original plays under his belt, Phillips has accumulated a talented pool of actors, musicians, and a fantastic crew that works behinds the scenes to make his shows both enjoyable and memorable. We look forward to next year’s production with anticipation.

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