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Polar Vortex, Bomb cyclone and Odyssey of the Mind

This Odyssey of the Mind team from Cedar Trails Elementary will heading to the state finals on March 16. Courtesy photo.

What do they have in common? Creativity of course! Mother Nature or student teams it all happened this past weekend in West Michigan.

Cedar Springs sent three Odyssey of the mind teams to Greenville on February 23 to spontaneously think, present, and reach for the stars—meaning State Finals.

The new team of 1st-4th graders at Cedar Trails Elementary placed 2nd, reaching their goal, earning a trip to State Finals, and silver medals.

This team is coached by Morgan Burris and Rachel Stump with students, Blake Stump 4th grade; Kaleb Russell 4th grade; Luke Brown 4th grade; Hailey Nichols 3rd grade; Morgan Sanders 3rd grade; Isaac Brown 2nd grade; and Tanner Burris 1st grade.

The team from Cedar Springs Middle school earned a bronze 3rd place, narrowly missing a chance to advance. This team is by coached by Rhanda Bordeaux with students, Derek Bordeaux, Silas Johnson, William Dixon, Brayden Fisk, Riley Robb, and Holden Wolf. 

The other Cedar Springs Middle school team placed 4th, Honorable Mention. They are coached by Michelle Wiles and Traci Slager, with students Coryn Wiles; Alana Wiles; Nate Slager; Jeremiah Slager; Aiden Lakes; Brielle Sarniak; and Jack Cairy.

We wish the Cedar Trails team much luck at state finals on March 16, and congratulate all the students for their hard work and perseverance.

If you are interested in learning more about the Odyssey of the Mind program for your student check out miodyssey.com. Region 2.

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Children of CS grads racing quarter midget cars

Patrick and Penny (Towns) Christensen are both 1993 graduates of Cedar Springs who still consider Cedar Springs home. Both moved away shortly after high school and come back as often as possible. Penny works in education and Patrick works as a software engineer. The family currently resides in Georgia.

The Christensen family travel the country to see their boys race. Courtesy photo.

The Christensens have two sons who are race car drivers since the age of 5. Seth, 11, and Lane, 7, both driver USAC quarter midget race cars. The boys participate on the local, regional, and national level for the majority of the year. The family travels together to races as far away as: Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Alabama, Texas, and Georgia. The race calendar stretches from February to November.

In February, the Christensen boys raced at Daytona International Speedway in Florida to kick off both Speed Weeks in Daytona and their USAC race season. Seth competed in Senior Honda, Light 160, and Light World Formula. He placed 4th, 12th, and 9th respectively. Lane competed in Junior Honda and Junior Animal. He placed 2nd and 12th respectively.

Lane Christensen is vying for a sponsorship opportunity. Courtesy photo.

According to Penny, many well-known race car drivers have started out in quarter midgets. Joey Logano, Harrison Burton, and Jeff Gordon all started in quarter midgets speeding around a 1/20th of a mile race track. “Many of the older boys who raced with Seth and Lane have already gone on to race bigger cars at larger venues,” she said.

Lane, the youngest, has a chance at a sponsorship opportunity. InTech trailers is letting race fans to vote for who wins the use of an InTech trailer and is the ambassador to their racing community. Lane received enough votes to make it out of over 200 racers to the top 10; he now wants to advance to the top ten finalists.

Voting is happening now through March 8th online. You can vote now for Lane Christensen at http://apply.intechtrailers.com/cast-your-vote. See the Christensen Family Motorsports Facebook fan page for more details and to follow the family through this racing season.

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FBI seeks to identify rightful owners in cultural artifacts case

Artifacts on display at Don Miller’s farm in 2014. For more than seven decades, Miller unearthed cultural artifacts from North America, South America, Asia, the Caribbean, and in Indo-Pacific regions such as Papua New Guinea. Photo courtesy FBI.gov.

Four years ago, after an operation in rural Indiana resulted in the largest single recovery of cultural property in FBI history, the Bureau’s Art Crime Team faced an unprecedented challenge: how to identify the rightful owners of more than 7,000 seized artifacts that came from locations spanning the globe.

The efforts to identify and repatriate the cultural property—which included approximately 500 sets of human remains looted largely from Native American burial grounds—is ongoing, and the FBI is now publicizing the case, along with an invitation-only website detailing the items, in the hopes of gaining further assistance from governments around the world and from Native American tribes.

 “There is no single expert that can tell us everything we need to know about all of this material,” said Special Agent Tim Carpenter, who oversees the FBI’s art theft program and who led the 2014 recovery effort in Indiana. “This case requires the FBI to go out and seek assistance from many experts in the field.”

The seized artifacts and human remains were part of a much larger collection amassed by Don Miller, a renowned scientist who helped build the first atomic bomb and a globetrotting amateur archaeologist whose passion for collecting sometimes crossed the line into illegality and outright looting.

Museum studies graduate students from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) help care for the recovered artifacts in a facility near Indianapolis where all the recovered artifacts are housed securely and temperature, humidity, and light levels are controlled. Students and highly trained IUPUI staff also help prepare the artifacts for shipping when repatriation occurs. Photo courtesy FBI.gov.

For more than seven decades, Miller unearthed cultural artifacts from North America, South America, Asia, the Caribbean, and in Indo-Pacific regions such as Papua New Guinea. A Ming Dynasty vase or intricate Italian mosaic might be on display in his home alongside Civil War and Revolutionary War items.

“Don would collect pretty much anything,” Carpenter said. “He collected from just about every corner of the globe.” Areas of his Waldron, Indiana, farmhouse where he displayed many of the approximately 42,000 items in his collection were stacked “floor to ceiling” with material, Carpenter said. “But his passion, I think, was Native American cultural goods.”

Although Miller opened his home over the years to school groups and others wishing to view his collection, he mostly kept hidden hundreds of human remains. A tip to the FBI in 2013 that he had such remains led Carpenter to his door.

A year before his death at the age of 91, Miller agreed to relinquish items he had likely acquired in violation of state and federal law and international treaties. “He cooperated with us throughout the course of the investigation,” Carpenter said, “and it was his wish that we take these objects and return them to their rightful owners, and for the Native American ancestors to be reburied appropriately.”

During a painstaking, six-day recovery operation in 2014, the FBI took possession of 7,000 items.

“It was a very complex operation,” Carpenter recalled. “We are not treating this material as simply evidence. These objects are historically, culturally, and spiritually important, and you have to take that into consideration.” He added, “We are dealing in many cases with objects that are thousands of years old. So imagine a scenario where you take an artifact that was created 4,000 years ago, survived in the ground or a tomb, survived being looted, survived being transported to the United States, has been in this guy’s house for the last 60 years, and the FBI comes along and we pick it up and we stumble and we drop it and we break it. That’s a pretty bad day.”

In many ways, he said, “We had to learn to become a museum.” Until the FBI can identify the rightful owners and repatriate the items—a task made more difficult because Miller did not keep detailed records—“we have to care for and curate these pieces like any museum would.”

To accomplish that, the Bureau partnered with tribal authorities and academic experts early on, consulting with archaeologists, anthropologists, and tribal experts on how to handle and care for the objects and human remains, and how best to locate their rightful owners.

The FBI leased space in a facility near Indianapolis where all the material is housed securely and temperature, humidity, and light levels are controlled. A team of anthropology and museum studies graduate students from Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis (IUPUI ) helps to curate the items and prepare them for shipping when repatriation occurs.

“My students work diligently to make sure that each piece is properly rehoused before it is shipped back to its homeland or to its proper country,” said Holly Cusack-McVeigh, a professor of anthropology and museum studies at IUPUI. “We make sure that nothing is just thrown in a checked bag and tossed into the belly of an airplane. Everything is handled with the utmost care.”

In addition to her background in anthropology and museum studies, Cusack-McVeigh has a deep knowledge of Native American culture and has been an invaluable partner to the FBI regarding the Miller artifacts, particularly the handling and repatriation of Native American human remains.

Cusack-McVeigh took part in the six-day recovery operation in 2014 and recalled that no one on the team was expecting to discover hundreds of remains. “The FBI immediately understood that these are human beings and we can’t treat them like inanimate objects,” she said. “They need to be treated with respect and dignity, and the FBI took that very seriously.”

Pete Coffey, who represents three affiliated North American tribes—the Mandan, the Hidatsa, and the Arikara—said he has “nothing but praise” for the agents who worked on the Miller case. “They made sure that the tribal representatives were included in all aspects of the repatriations,” he said. “They were very forthcoming with regard to procedures and policy.”

The affiliated tribes Coffee represents, known as the MHA Nation, were historically farmers along the Missouri River bottomlands. He has taken part in reburial ceremonies involving repatriated remains from the Miller collection and explained that in his culture, “When you die, your spirit goes back to your ancestral village. If you are not buried with proper ceremony, or if that was interrupted like these burials were, you will never be able to go to back to that village.”

When remains have been dug out of the ground after being laid to rest, he added, “Their spirits are wandering. They cannot rejoin their relatives and family members in the afterlife. That’s my motivation for doing these repatriations,” he said, “to make sure that these spirits are at rest.”

Robert Jones, special agent in charge of the Indianapolis Field Office at the time of the 2014 recovery operation, said he was “bothered immensely” by the fact that Miller had so many Native American remains.

“Even though this case didn’t fit with our traditional type of investigation,” he said, “the FBI was in the best position to be able to right this wrong”—not only regarding the repatriation of human remains but taking responsibility for the stewardship of thousands of culturally significant artifacts Miller had collected illegally. “I felt that if it weren’t for the FBI,” said Jones, currently special agent in charge of the Bureau’s Pittsburgh Field Office, “a vast amount of important historical material might have been lost forever.”

The task of returning the material to its rightful owners was never going to be easy, both Jones and Carpenter acknowledged, because Miller collected so much over such a long period of time and did not keep detailed records, and because the items were taken from all over the globe.

Although Carpenter’s team has had many successes in the past four years, with reburials of human remains and repatriations to numerous countries, he estimates that only about 15 percent of the material has been returned.

“Our ultimate goal in this entire operation has been the respectful repatriation of these objects and these ancestors to the people they were taken from,” he said. “And we want to do that with some measure of dignity.”

The FBI created an invitation-only website that contains information about all the recovered material. The idea was to have the experts “come to us,” Carpenter said. “They could review the collection relevant to their area, identify the pieces for us, tell us where they may belong, and then guide us in contacting the right individuals to begin the repatriation process.”

After the FBI took possession of the material, Carpenter’s team contacted all the federally recognized Native American tribes, which number nearly 600. Working through the United Nations, the team also notified the member nations about the recovered artifacts and the FBI’s website for viewing them. Nations nominated experts who contacted the FBI by sending an email to artifacts@fbi.gov.

“We would give them access to the website, which is not open to the public,” Carpenter said. “The intent was for them to then go online, review the material, and make claims for any objects they felt were their cultural patrimony. The same process held for Native American tribes.”

To date, he said, “We have not reached as large an audience as I’d hoped, and we have not been as successful as we’d like to be in identifying the pieces and getting the claims to come forward.”

To renew interest in the artifacts, the FBI has decided to publicize the case, providing information for the first time about the Miller investigation and the recovery and repatriation efforts. “We have a lot of work left to do,” Carpenter said, “and we can’t do that work until the experts come forward and help us identify these pieces and guide us on where they need to go.”

The FBI is asking official representatives of Native American tribes and foreign governments that would like to determine whether they have a claim to any of the recovered artifacts to contact the Bureau’s art theft program and submit a request via artifacts@fbi.gov.

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Girls basketball action

The Cedar Springs Girls Basketball Team wrapped up another busy weeks playing three games in four days. 

L to R: Seniors Courtney Pienta, Nicole VanderHoef, Brooke Weeks, Brighton Miller, Mikayla Lewis-Frank, and Ashley Wise were honored on seniors night, February 21.

Maggie Prins led Cedar Springs with 13 points and 13 rebounds, followed by Brighton Miller with 11 points and Avery Sparling with 8.

On Tuesday, February 19, the ladies traveled to Kent City High School to take on the 2nd ranked (Division 3) team in the state. Cedar Springs battled through out the night but a hot shooting Kent City Team (14 three-pointers) built a double-digit lead early in the second half that was too much for the Red Hawks to overcome. Kent City won the game 60-45.

The lady Red Hawks welcomed Forest Hills Central to town on Thursday, February 21, for the team’s final home game of the season and senior night. Seniors Courtney Pienta, Brighton Miller, Brooke Weeks, Nicole Vanderhoef, Mikayla Lewis-Frank, and Ashley Wise were honored prior to the contest.

After a tight contest for most of the night, FH Central came out on top by a score of 40-31. Avery Sparling led the Red Hawks in scoring with 14 points on the evening.

The ladies were back at it a night later as they traveled to Greenville. In a game in which Cedar led most of the evening, Greenville used a strong fourth quarter to defeat the Red Hawks 39-38. Brighton Miller and Maggie Prins each scored 10 points and Avery Sparling and Kyla Andres chipped in 8 points each.

Cedar Springs will play its final game of the regular season on Thursday, February 28, as they travel to Lowell to play the Red Arrows. 

District Tournament brackets are out and the Lady Red Hawks will play the winner of Greenville and Forest Hills Central on Wednesday night, March 6, at Northview High School. That game will start at 5:30 p.m. The District Final game will also be held at Northview High School on Friday, March 8, at 7:00 p.m.

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Cedar Springs Competitive Cheer to compete at State Finals

At the beginning of the season, the Lady Red Hawks Varsity Competitive Cheer team set one lofty goal: to earn a place on the mat at the State Finals on March 2. Since November, these ladies have been working hard and for the first time in 9 years, Cedar Springs High School will compete at the Michigan Division 2 State Finals. 

The Cedar Springs Competitive Cheer team will now head to state finals after placing third at regionals. Courtesy photo.

Advancing to the state finals was not an easy task. The Lady Red Hawks had to face 12 of the best teams in the area at the regional finals at Kenowa Hills on February 23 and had to place in the top 4 to advance to State. 

With heightened nerves, the team took the mat and performed strongly and entered Round 3 in 4th place. Determined to defend their position, the girls stepped onto the mat, pushed their nerves aside and performed one of their best Round 3 performances of the season. As the final scores were being announced, all the teams were huddled on the mat hoping to hear their school announced as one of the top 4 teams.  

The Lady Red Hawks jumped to their feet in excitement when their name was announced as finishing in 3rd place. “This team is passionate and performed their rounds with so much excitement and they executed!” said a proud and enthusiastic Coach Anne Olszewski. “Our Round 3 is one of the most difficult and they performed it to an appreciative crowd. Having parents and alumni in the stands makes a huge difference. I am just so glad to be sending four seniors that have been in our program since Rocket cheerleading! I am just so excited myself…I feel like we broke a barrier…it’s amazing! Everyone is going to know who the Red Hawks of Cedar Springs are after next Saturday.” 

The State Finals begin at 10 a.m. on Saturday, March 2, at the Delta Plex in Grand Rapids and will showcase the top 8 teams in the state of Michigan. These teams represent the best that Division 2 High School Competitive Cheer offers in our state. Congratulations and good luck Lady Red Hawks! One dream…one mission…the road to state. #EARNIT!

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Wrestlers are regional champs


The Cedar Springs Varsity Wrestling team claimed the title of regional champions last week. The last time they won that title was 23 years ago. Courtesy photo.


It’s been an exciting year for the Cedar Springs Varsity wrestling team, and last Wednesday evening proved to be one of the most exciting yet. Fresh off winning their first District title in over a decade, the Red Hawks were ready to take on some of the best wrestling teams in the area and claim a regional wrestling title—something they hadn’t done in 23 years. Click here to see how they made their dream come true.

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Mom shoots girls then self in murder-suicide


By Judy Reed

Residents in the greater Cedar Springs area and the surrounding communities of Sand Lake and Howard City are trying to make sense of the tragedy in Solon Township this week where a mother shot her three young children and then killed herself. 

Police at the scene of the shooting in the 200 block of 19 Mile Road.
Post photo by J. Reed.

The chilling call came in to dispatch on Monday, shortly after 3 p.m. The caller reported a shooting in the 200 block of 19 Mile Rd in Solon Township, with a possible four victims. When police arrived on the scene, they found Aubrianne Moore, 28, down in the driveway, and her three children—Kyrie Rodery, 8, Cassidy Rodery, 6, and Alaina Rau, 2—dead in the car. 

The Kent County Medical Examiner said they all died of gunshot wounds.

Once police searched the premises, they knew that there must be a second crime scene where the children were killed. They asked the public to report to them if they had seen her car between noon and 3 p.m. that day. They soon discovered the second crime scene nearby, a field in the 300 block of 19 Mile Rd.

Moore had reportedly picked up the two girls from their schools in Sand Lake and Howard City, and later driven them to the field. Police said that evidence showed that she had shot the girls with a bolt-action hunting-style rifle, then loaded their bodies back into the car, and drove home. She then got out of the car and turned the gun on herself.

According to a report on WOODTV8, Moore suffered from hallucinations and paranoia, and a social worker had petitioned for her to be treated at Forest View Psychiatric Hospital last fall. She reportedly did agree to receive treatment there.

Sheriff Lajoye-Young said there was not a suicide note, but investigators found notes she had written recently saying that the only way to protect the children was to kill them.

Tri County Area Schools Superintendent Allen Cumings sent out a letter to the parents and communities saying that two of the sisters killed—Cassidy and Kyrie Rodery—were Tri County students. Cassidy was a first grader at MacNaughton Elementary, and Kyrie was a third grader at Sand Lake Elementary.

Cassidy’s teacher, Mrs. Kelley, said that she was a friend to everyone, a hard worker, and was always on task. Kyrie was a sweet girl who enjoyed playing and being active. Her teacher, Mrs. Schnepp, said that Kyrie  “loved to read, always volunteered to help others, her classmates loved her, and that she was a good friend.”

Tri County’s crisis team members were available at the two schools to help students, staff and parents. The letter said they would be available to middle and high school students as well.

“We hurt and mourn with the loss of these precious students,” wrote Cumings. “Please keep the family and friends in your thoughts and prayers during this time.”

Cedar Springs Public Schools Superintendent Scott Smith told the Post that while the tragic events that touched the Cedar Springs community did not directly involve any of their students, their crisis team was ready to support students and staff who may have been connected in some way to the tragedy.

The family of Kyrie and Cassidy will greet friends Friday from 5-7 pm at the Bliss-Witters & Pike Funeral Home, Cedar Springs. A private graveside service will be held on Saturday.

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Eagle spotted near Sand Lake


Jeannie Larsen sent us this photo of a bald eagle last Wednesday, February 13. She said saw it on Northland Drive, just outside of Sand Lake.

According to birdwatching.com, you can find bald eagles in every US state except Hawaii during the winter. Although they usually stay around water to catch fish, you can also find them in rangelands and farmland, where they will gather to feed on the carcasses of animals that are winter killed. 

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Artists, authors, and you at the library


The latest exhibit in the Artists, Authors and You program at the Cedar Springs Library was a popular vote finalist during ArtPrize. Courtesy photo.

David Stricklen

“OUR TIME IN THE INFINITE” an award winning 3D reverse perspective painting by artist/author David Stricklen is now on loan to the Cedar Springs Library.

This is a “see it to believe it” painting that appears to move. David refers to the type of painting as a 3D reverse perspective illusion. 

David explains the painting this way:The canvas comes toward you but the images are painted as if they are going away from you. This creates the illusion of movement within the piece. As you move from left to right, the first door will close as the second door opens. The hallways will stretch and the towers will rotate. If you look closely, the eyes in the tower windows will also follow you, left, right, up and down.

David’s reverse perspective painting was a 2018 top five 3D popular vote finalist in the largest attended art competition in the world (Grand Rapids ArtPrize) as well as a first place popular vote finish in the 3D & 2D ArtPrize category for the post prize 2018 colors of community art competition.

In a former life, David was the Grand Rapids airport police chief with 30 years experience in law enforcement. Now retired, David pursues his creative passions full time. He has written a series of three sought after fantasy adventure books: Beneath and Beyond, Through the Eyes of the Beast and The Heart of the Swarm. The start of a new series entitled Ripley Robinson and the Worm Charmer will be out in 2019. His books and school visits are filled with magic and creativity. David’s reverse perspective paintings are a visual extension of that same creativity. His paintings and writings hope to illustrate that there is still magic in the world.

David is a long time friend of Cedar Springs and will be presenting at the middle school on March 4th and 6th.

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Snowmobiler drowns in Lincoln Lake


Joseph Brown died last Wednesday evening, February 13, when his snowmobile dropped into open water on Lincoln Lake. Photo from gofundme page.

An evening snowmobile ride on Lincoln Lake with a friend turned into tragedy when one of the riders drove into open water.

A 911 call came into Kent County Dispatch on February 13 at approximately 10:25 p.m. reporting a snowmobile accident on Lincoln Lake in Spencer Township. The caller reported he was on the lake on a snowmobile riding with another person who was on a separate snowmobile. The caller believed the other rider went into open water. 

Multiple fire departments along with the Kent County Sheriff’s Office responded to the area immediately. The caller was on unstable ice and was rescued by Cannon Fire Department’s hovercraft. The hovercraft was then used to search for the missing rider. The Sheriff’s Office also deployed a drone with a Forward Looking Infrared Camera to search the lake. They were not able to locate the missing rider or his snowmobile after several hours and finally called off the search. 

The search resumed at daylight on February 14. Joseph Brown, 29, of Spencer Township, was found near the bottom of the lake, not far from where his friend was rescued.

Sgt. Joel Roon said that the recovery was challenging because the water was dark, cold, and very deep—about 50-60 feet. It was near where Cedar Creek flows into Lincoln Lake. “There’s a lot of moving water under there and it’s a recipe for dangerous conditions,” he said.

Roon said it looked like Brown made an effort to get to the ice shelf because they found some of his clothing. “We believe he tried some things ice fishermen would do like shed his shoes and bulky clothing.” He noted that it looked like he made it 15-20 feet before going under. 

Roon said the snowmobile probably would not be recovered right away. He said the DNR would get involved because of the fluids in the sled, and currently it was too dangerous to try to remove it.

A gofundme account has been set up to assist with funeral expenses. Go to https://bit.ly/2GV1Qzg to donate.

A benefit is also being held this Saturday, February 23, at 3 p.m. at the Trufant hall. Dinner $5 a plate, 50/50 raffle tickets, and a live auction. Live band High Risk will be playing as well. 

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