December 17 2009

Forty years after service, Vietnam veteran fights again for his life

December 18, 2009 // 0 Comments

“I fought for my life then. I’m fighting for my life now,” said Rockford resident George Thomas. With throat and neck cancer and a 50/50 chance to beat it, according to his doctors, Thomas will be spending the holidays at the American Cancer Society Hope Lodge and is being treated at Lacks Cancer Center in Grand Rapids. Thomas will face 35 sessions of chemotherapy to fight his inoperable cancer. Thomas said he hopes sharing his story might save another Vietnam veteran’s life. He hopes his battle will inspire others to be diligent in doing all they can to detect and fight cancer early on, should it strike. At 19, Thomas joined the U.S. Army and volunteered to go to Vietnam. He was there for 11 months total in 1968 and 1969. “It was what everyone was doing then,” he said. “I was proud to serve my country. I am proud I served my country.” Thomas said he never would have been drafted, because he had a high draft lottery number. He wanted to do what was right. Once in Vietnam, he faced the harsh reality of fighting for his life. He knew he could be killed at any time. He looked forward to returning home to his old life. “I used to lie awake in my bunker and cry. I tried not to cry out loud, because there was another guy in the bunker, but I’m sure he was crying, too,” Thomas said. Then, it didn’t occur to him that the worst danger could be the chemicals the United States was using to keep them safer from enemy fire. He kept his faith by reading a tiny Bible every night and through prayer. Thomas said he and others were routinely exposed to the defoliant Agent Orange—named because of the orange-striped containers in which it was shipped. “One guy was smart. He would strip off all his clothes right in front of us and wash off,” Thomas said. Thomas said there was little he and others in his five-man unit could do to avoid the herbicide, which was sprayed to remove the jungle foliage in which their enemy hid. “We walked through it, we drank it. We sterilized water from the streams, but it still had […]

Brandon Boelema joins Rockford Police

December 18, 2009 // 0 Comments

“There aren’t many jobs were you have to wear a bulletproof vest everyday,” said Brandon Boelema. He believes those in law enforcement choose that career because they love it. Monday, December 1, was Boelema’s first day as officer with the Rockford Police Department. Boelema is a 2003 graduate of Northview High School, a 2007 graduate of Grand Valley State University with a bachelor in criminal justice. He is also a graduate of the university’s 16-week police academy. Prior to joining Rockford Police he was an officer with the Bloomfield Township Police Department for two years. “I’m very excited,” said Boelema of his new position. “I’m happy to be back and be around my friends and family and patrol where they live and work.” The new officer said police work is interesting because every day is different. His first day at work was when the department arrested 15 teenagers on various charges. Boelema is a second-generation law enforcement officer in his family. His father retired from the Kent County Sheriff Department the year Boelma graduated. He highly recommends the career to others. “Everyone in law enforcement loves their job or they would get out of it and do something else,” he said. “I get paid to have fun.” Rockford’s Police Chief Dave Jones described Boelema as the strongest candidate he has ever seen. “He served an internship with us while he was in college,” Jones said. “He very quickly integrated himself in the special events we participate in here in Rockford, Youth Night, the Trialthlon, the Expo. He was McGruff the Crime Dog at the Expo.” Jones said all of the officers in the department thought very highly of Boelema. “We didn’t have an opening for him when he graduated.” When Rick Rafferty left the force, Jones said he thought of Boelema. “I hadn’t forgotten him, you keep talented people in mind.” Jones said the department where Boelema was employed is very like Rockford in their philosophy of community policing. That and Boelema’s strong ties to the community, through his internship and because his family lives here, made the decision a clear one. “He is very articulate, very bright, able to clearly express those shared values.” Rockford has ten full-time police officers and three part time […]

Plainfield Fire Department on life-saving streak

December 18, 2009 // 0 Comments

“I am very proud of them. These are the things that keep us going some days, the fact that we do save one.” Plainfield Fire Chief Dave Peterson was commenting on the actions of his firefighters. A 9-1-1 call brought firefighters Jerry Burk and Brian Stevens to a home where a resident was not breathing and didn’t have a pulse. The unconscious subject couldn’t be defibrillated because he had to heart rate. The firemen administered “old-fashioned CPR” and by the time the subject arrived at the hospital was breathing and had a pulse. That was Tuesday, December 8. That effort happened the same day the department received a letter from a woman in the state of Washington. She wanted to thank the department and share her belief that they saved her parent’s lives. A year ago the department installed a fire detector and carbon monoxide (CO) detector in their home. The CO detector sounded an alarm in the middle of the night and it turned out their furnace was leaking the deadly gas. Peterson said a similar incident had happened at a Leisure Village home earlier this year, and an elderly couple was likely saved because of the detector. On Thursday, December 10, Plainfield Fire responded to a medical call for help and found a 39-year-old female without pulse or respiration. Again, because defibrillators work by changing the electronic waves of the heart, one could not be used because the heart was not beating. The firefighters began CPR and the patient responded and is now doing fine. “This was the second save in two days for this shift,” Peterson said. If it has been a controversial year for the department, it has also been one of such milestone events. Earlier the department announced that Peterson had earned a recognition that very few fire chiefs ever receive. Peterson was nominated for, and received, the international professional designation of “Chief Fire Officer.” Peterson was voted to receive this honor by the Commission on Professional Credentialing. The designation makes Chief Peterson one of only 616 Chief Fire Officers worldwide. “This is very prestigious,” said Rebecca VerBeek, administrative assistant to the chief. The process includes an assessment of the applicant’s education, experience, professional development, technical competencies, contributions to the […]

Krause Memorial Library patron wins $1,500 prize

December 18, 2009 // 0 Comments

by ANA OLVERA This year the Kent District Library (KDL) partnered with the Library of Michigan Foundation, the Michigan Education Savings Program and the Michigan Education Trust to provide parents with the opportunity to win $1,500 toward their children’s educational expenses with a “Get Creative at Saving for College” contest. Statewide, six lucky winners were selected, one of which was Lynette Gasper, who frequents the Krause Memorial branch of KDL. The $1,500 award was presented to Gasper at the KDL’s November Board of Trustees meeting on Thursday, November 19. For Gasper’s efforts, the Krause Memorial branch also received $1,000 to help fund literacy initiatives for young children. “We’re planning on using the money for activities and supplies for our early literacy area,” said Jennifer German, branch manager at Krause Memorial Library. The contest was in conjunction with Summer Reading Club. When parents signed up their children, they were also able to fill out a form for the contest. Throughout the state, 7,000 people entered the contest and winners were selected through a drawing. The contest ran from June 1 to August 21. Kent District Library is a millage-supported system encompassing 18 branch libraries in 26 governmental units throughout Kent County. KDL serves 362,312 people in all areas of Kent County except the city of Grand Rapids, Cedar Springs, Sparta and Solon Township.

Rockford resident, long-time newspaperman launches book of his favorite columns

December 18, 2009 // 0 Comments

Two signings scheduled He’s not Santa Claus, but he is bearing gifts for sale—and just in time for the holidays. Tom Rademacher, a resident of Rockford and recently retired from a 31-year career at The Grand Rapids Press, will host two book signings in town to celebrate the release of his first collection of columns, entitled “Splitting Wood.” The first will take place from noon until 4 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 19 at the Rotary Pavilion in downtown Rockford, across from Arnie’s Bakery and Restaurant on Squires Street. The second will occur from 9 to 11 a.m. and 4 to 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 22 at MVP Athletic Club, at the northeast corner of East Division Street and Northland Drive NE, Rockford. Rademacher, who’s 55, works there part-time as a lifeguard. “Splitting Wood” contains nearly 100 columns culled from Rademacher’s 21 years as a columnist, during which he interviewed thousands of people with stories to tell. His work recently earned him the top national award from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, competing in the general interest category against writers from the largest newspapers in the United States. But the accolades, he says, belong to “the people who opened up their doors to me, who said yes when I came knocking, and who sometimes didn’t even know they had something extraordinary to offer.” The best stories, he says, “almost always came from the guy next door, the lady down the street, some kid playing around the corner. I’ve interviewed presidents and movie stars and sports icons, but it was everyday people who had the most to share, who were doing something profound, even if it was something so common as showing up for work.” The book, which he’s self-publishing under the name Lake Michigan Books, is endorsed by some heavy hitters, including “Heloise,” the one-name icon whose “Hints from Heloise” column has been a staple for decades. “Tom… is a journalist with a heart as big as my home state of Texas,” says Heloise. “He writes about real people and real situations in a way that will make you laugh and cry. You will be touched by his stories.” Rademacher’s book also carries high praise from Jeffrey Zaslow, co-author of the No. 1 bestseller […]

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