Photojournalist realizes life lesson as resident of the Towers

By BETH ALTENA

Photojournalist Bill Modders shows off a photo album he put together with pictures he’s taken while a resident of the Towers in downtown Rockford. His positive outlook on life and friendships are evident in every image he captured.

Bill Modders of Rockford is no spring chicken, yet after residing for about one year at the Towers in downtown Rockford, he has a new perspective on life that all of us can take to heart. Modders began looking into new residential options before deciding to move into the Towers. He found some other options less than ideal and for a variety of reasons chose the apartment complex visible from Ten Mile Road.

He first came to the attention of the Squire early on in his residency there when he spotted an expensive fishing pole left accidentally by a Rogue River fisherman. Not knowing how to return the property to the owner, he put an ad in the Squire and was pleasantly surprised when the owner of the pole contacted him. Turns out the two men had quite a history together at one point in their lives and the reunion was one of those quirky coincidences that leave you wondering at the twists and turns life has in store for each of us.

Last week he was back at the Squire office with another tale of happy outcomes. “Here is heaven,” he stated, grinning and showing off his album. He pointed out first pictures of residents of the Towers obviously having a blast with Elvis—a member of a local church. You can see the joy of the event clearly in their smiles and laughing faces.

Another picture is a dog and its owner, obviously enjoying each other’s company. “I started out taking pictures of the pets,” Modders explained. “But then I started taking pictures of the people. One day someone told me, ‘Bill, you are a photojournalist.’ And I realized I am.”

His brand of photojournalism started simply enough. A stunning shot of a blue heron on a rock in the Grand River got him going. Covered in brush and corroded, the hunk raised Modder’s curiosity and led him to discover its background. He wrote up the following history:

In 1880 where the Public Museum stands today, was the Voight Milling Co. The

Modders’ pictures of the 125-year-old support for power lines of the Voight Milling Company, before and after the ice jam of 2005.

mill had its own water generators to power their electric grinders. After Thomas Edison invented the light bulb, the city shores on the other side of the river needed electricity to give them light. The Voight Mill obliged by putting a pole in the center of the river to support the wires as they crossed. That rock was the base support for the pole. After Father Time took the pole, it became a favorite blue heron perch. It survived for 125 years. The ice jam of 2005 would be its demise. In 1904 was the flood of the West Side. Floods seem to occur about every 100 years. If it were not for the retaining wall, it would have happened again. Instead we got our first ever ice jam that covered the 6th Street dam. When the ice jam let go, it split the base support, showing where the pole was embedded.

Anyone else might have seen the rock in the river as a bit of garbage or trash from some unknown source, but to Modders it was the basis for research into history and the above bit of philosophical contemplation. His stay at the Towers and his year of photography there are similar.

He proudly shows off a picture of the view from one of the apartments. At first glance, it looks like a photo of the parking lot at the Towers with some city buildings showing. Modders is delighted with the shot, and explains how thrilled he is to be a resident where he finds so much joy all around him.

He displays four pictures of a little girl whose mother is behind the photographer, coaxing a smile. The first shot shows a tentative curve of lips. The sequence progresses, leading up to the final picture, the child in a full-blown laugh showing off white teeth and dimples. The girl is a regular visitor to the complex where a woman who is deaf babysits her. At less than two years old, the child can communicate through sign language with her caregiver.

Modders said stories like that are everywhere around him at the Towers and he sees examples of caring down every hallway. A hula dancing group of young women entertained recently, getting residents up and swaying with the music. From the youngest to the very oldest, Modders sees residents enjoying the many opportunities for fun and interaction.

Every picture in his album is a story, every story is about a person. From Modders’ proof in pictures and his attitude, nobody needs to look far for their own chance to see a story taking place and the people making it happen. “From the outside it’s an old-peoples home,” he said. “From inside it is something else.”

 

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