Honorees announced for 2019 Recognition Plaza

At the March meeting of the Rockford Area Community Endowment the 2019 Recognition Plaza honorees were chosen from several excellent nominees.  The individuals chosen are Paul Krupp, Floyd Havemeier, Emil Kempf and Jo Bunn.  The summaries of their accomplishment accompany this article.  The honorees names will be permanently placed on the columns of Recognition Plaza on the west side of the Rockford Dam.  The recipients will also be honored on May 3, 2019 to kick off Michigan Week when the Rockford Area Community Endowment (“RACE”) will host a recognition banquet for the Rockford residents and friends.  The party will be held at the Rockford Sportsmens’ Club at 6:30 pm.

The gala event will feature an outstanding dinner catered by The Honey Creek Inn of Cannonsburg with chocolates for dessert from Polly’s Passions.  The keynote speaker will be Rockford native and local sports personality, Bret Bakita. Past Recognition Plaza honorees include Smith Lapham, Rockford’s founder, Homer Burch, Rockford’s historian, the Honorable Stephen R. Servaas, Clarence Blakeslee,  “Mr. Rockford”,  John Sjogren, congressional medal of honor winner and many other Rockford area individuals who have distinguished themselves.  A short video produced by the award winning Rockford High School media class will highlight the history and accomplishments of RACE.

A cash bar will be available for guests.   Tickets are open to the public and greatly encouraged.  Individual tickets are $40.00 each with all proceeds going to the grant program of RACE.  Table sponsorships are also available ranging from $150.00 to $1,000.00.  Tickets and sponsorships can be purchased on line at eltabross@sbcglobal.net or by calling 975-9178 or 340-3014.  Suggested deadline for sponsorships is April 15th.

The board of RACE has made this a semi-annual fundraising event and celebration of the achievements of Rockford area residents.  RACE is a local non-profit foundation established the 1960’s to raise community money for community programs not otherwise available to local government or the public schools.  The community served by RACE is composed of those parts of the Algoma, Cannon, Plainfield and Courtland Townships served by the Rockford School system together with the City of Rockford and the Rockford Public School Board.

The GALA will also serve as the annual meeting of RACE. Current board members are, Ed Ross, Dave Spencer, Steve Jazwiec, Vic Matthews, Mary Ann Andersen, Neil Blakeslee, Tim Lewis, Gordon Pickerd, Jack Hagedorn and Polly VonEschen.

Paul Krupp

Paul  Krupp

Paul Krupp was born and raised in the Rockford area and attended Rockford Public Schools.  After graduation from Rockford High Paul attended Davenport College with a business career as his goal.   Upon graduation from Davenport Paul stayed in the Rockford area and eventually opened a Nationwide Insurance office on Main Street in Rockford.  Paul immediately looked for an organization that offered service to our community.  Paul chose the Rockford Lions Club and the Rockford Lions Club immediately experience a revitalization.  Paul was a tireless member until his untimely death in 2018.   Paul held offices in the Lions and worked tirelessly on
every project.

Paul did not rest on his laurels in the Lions.  He was active in the Rockford Chamber of Commerce and extremely active in his church, The Assumption of the Virgin Mary Roman Catholic Church in Belmont.  At Paul’s funeral we learned that Paul’s faith was one of action and compassion.  If there was a need in the congregation Paul was always one who stepped forward without fanfare.  Paul’s faith was consistently demonstrated by his helping hand and generous spirit.

Consistent with Paul’s faith and community spirit was his unselfish gift of time and talents to North Kent Connect.  When a new facility was needed on two occasions Paul was a leader in fundraising and at the time of his death he was again leading the fundraising charge for a 3 million dollar expansion of North Kent Connect’s present facility.

Paul’s fundraising abilities are truly unmatched in the Rockford area.   Whether is was his church, the Lions Club, North Kent Connect, the scouts or the John Sjogren Memorial, Paul lead the charge,  You always knew to reach for your checkbook when Paul walked through your door with that million dollar smile.  Paul was successful because he believed in the things he worked for.

When Paul’s parents retired Paul decided to take over the family farm.  Krupp Farm was managed with the same dedication to service that has characterized every other aspect of Paul Krupp’s life.  Paul demonstrated unusual pride in presenting his farm and its products to families who visited, either as friends or customers.  In truth they were all his friends.  It is especially heart warming to hear how Paul treated the many young people that worked on his farm.  They were not just employees.   Paul wanted to share values as well as a paycheck.

There are many measures for Paul and in none was he found wanting.  His lasting legacy will be friends and the millions of volunteer dollars he raised to make this community a better place to live.  It is for his truly unmeasurable contributions to the greater Rockford are that he deserves to be added to the names on Rockford’s recognition plaza.

Floyd Havemeier

Floyd Havemeier

Floyd Havemeier gave up a highly successful career in the insurance industry to open his own family business in Rockford in the 1980’s.   Floyd is man committed to his faith and to the values he was taught by that faith and by his family.   “Family values” is not a cliché’ with Floyd.  When he opened what was originally the Melting Pot not only was his wife Sharon beside him every day, but so were all his children and those children are still there everyday along with grandchildren.

The Melting Pot quickly became a destination and anchor business in Rockford.  After some years the name was changed to “Herman’s Boy”, a reference to Floyd’s father.  If there is one abiding characteristic of Floyd Havemeier’s business style it is his sincere desire to see everyone around him succeed.   Floyd quickly became a central figure in the Rockford business community through untiring efforts for his business, the Chamber of Commerce, The Rockford Rotary and anyone else he could offer advice and friendship to.

Floyd became a substantial landlord in downtown Rockford and his clear intent was to provide fair priced rents to assure the success of his tenants as he understood that his family business was more successful if the businesses around him flourished also.

When Herman’s Boy moved from downtown Rockford to Northland Drive many people questioned Floyd’s decision.  Floyd made his business more unique by creating a farmhouse atmosphere which is welcoming and efficient.   Floyd Havemeier is a marketing genius and he has used those marketing skills not only for the success of his family, he has also applied them to his efforts through the Chamber of Commerce and Rotary Clubs.  Floyd continually brings new ideas to make this community prosper.  Often he meets resistance, but he never abandons an idea he believes in.  That is true of every aspect of Floyd Havemeier’s life, his business, his community, his friends and most of all his family and faith.

Floyd has been called one of the kindest persons in Rockford.   Floyd is a gifted story teller and when you first hear his stories they seem exaggerated, but after you witness his determination, sense of humor and sincere good will you realize he is a person of exceptional talents and personality.  Floyd is a righteous man in every meaning of that word and it is appropriate that his name be added to Rockford’s Recognition Plaza for the way he has improved and served the Rockford Community.


Emil Kempf

Emil Kempf first came to the Rockford area in the late 1950’s as a young builder with a vision.  Emil saw the need for truly affordable housing and together with Bernie Young was able to purchase property in the city on the west side of Summit Street.  On that site they developed the Rockford Highlands.  Kempf builders constructed moderate sized homes to meet the needs of young families.  The Highlands was an immediate success and attracted many young families who stayed and helped the Rockford area become such a special place to raise families.   The Rockford Highlands continues to grow and realize the vision Emil Kempf had.

Emil was not just another developer who was successful and moved on.  Emil and his wife Orpha invested in the Rockford area in every way.  They raised their family and stayed in the area.   Emil quickly became involved in community activities.  He joined the Rotary, was active with the Chamber of Commerce and was present in all community activities.  Emil’s attitude of service was further demonstrated when he was elected to the Rockford City Council.  During Emil’s years on the city council Rockford went through many changes.  Not only was the population growing through developments like the Highlands, the downtown businesses were thriving as well as Wolverine World Wide and the new city hall and fire barn will built.  Again, Emil’s vision aided the city.  Emil joined with other city leaders to seek expansion of the city through negotiated annexation.  A major area of annexation is the property now occupied as Wolverines headquarters on Courtland Drive.

The annexation provided another benefit to the community due in large part to Emil’s vision and civic spirit.   The annexed property was owned by a farmer, Glenn Rounds.   Glenn sold his property to Wolverine, but Glenn had no immediate family and sought Emil’s advice on using the cash he had just received from selling to Wolverine.   Emil suggested a scholarship for Rockford High School students and through that suggestion and the generosity of Glenn Rounds an endowment was funded which has provide college aid to Rockford students from that time to the present.

Emil Kempf like another 2019 honoree, Paul Krupp, was very instrumental in the building and relocation of the North Kent Service Center from cramped quarters in downtown Rockford to its first independent location at Northland Drive and 11 Mile Road.  While Paul was a major fund raiser, Emil worked with contractors and suppliers to assure that the building was debt free when completed.

Emil Kempf was also instrumental in bringing Independent Bank to Rockford.  For many years Emil served as a director of both the Rockford branch board and the Independent Bank corporate board.  Emil’s common sense approach and his belief in the people of Rockford provided steady and thoughtful leadership to Independent Bank and the Rockford community.


Joan (Jo) Bunn

Joan (Jo) Bunn

Joan (Jo) Bunn was a civic-minded, generous, and outgoing North Kent resident. Joan will always be remembered as significant and integral part of  her community for she cherished and loved the area in which she lived and donated countless hours and effort to make the Rockford area a better place. Jo was born in Sparta, graduated from Creston High School in Grand Rapids, married her best friend, moved to Rockford and then to an old schoolhouse in Courtland Township.

Jo Bunn had a long list of community service: she was a bus driver, a Welcome Wagon Lady, a member of the Courtland Grange, a volunteer at both the John Ball Zoo and Grand Rapids Library, a docent for the Voit House in Grand Rapids and for forty years she was the “Butter Lady” at the Fallasburg Festival where she demonstrated butter churning, soap making, and wool spinning. In Rockford, Joan was one of the people that provided tours of the Little Red Schoolhouse in front of the North Rockford Middle School where she would dress in clothes of the period. Every child in the Rockford district visited the old school to learn about education in the days of one room school houses and Joan loved to show the students how things were done in the past.

Jo Bunn was also an instigator of community service and with her husband Marvin was one of the founders of the North Kent Community Services (now known as North Kent Connect) and over the years was a contributor to and supporter of the organization. Jo and Marvin were also co-founders of the Rockford Area Historical Society and, in 1976, convinced the City of Rockford to let the old power house building to be used by the Historical Society as a museum. Jo helped organize the renovation of the building and the addition of a ramp and a room. She was part of the group that worked to preserve the gravestones in the Pioneer Cemetery.

Jo Bunn worked closely with Rockford historian Homer Burch who wrote many articles about Rockford and she saw to it that his book “Sawmill to City” was available for sale at the Museum. When the supply was depleted, Jo had more copies printed. She was also close friends with Clarence Blakeslee and promoted his book about his experiences in WWII which is also available in the Museum.

Jo Bunn had a strong interest in genealogy and history. A favorite activity for Jo and Marvin was to scout out antique stores and auctions in search of treasures and to expand their knowledge of history and antiques. In 1971, she started her business “Joan and Associates” which arranged for estate sales which assisted families to dispose of items which were not numerous or valuable enough to interest and auction company. Needless to say, many museums in the area were the benefactors of the estate sales.

Jo Bunn was a very giving person. She shared her extensive knowledge of history and people freely and was always on the lookout for items that would interest her friends. She was a strong personality with a heart of gold.