Rich Zeck

Harvest Fest entertainer shares story of life in world of art

October 1, 2010 // 0 Comments

Visitors to the three weekends of Harvest Fest are sure to enjoy new experiences, but can also find plenty of familiar faces. This year’s three weekends of festivities include the Make-it and Take-it Scarecrow event at the Rockford Historical Museum all three weekends, September 25 and 26, October 2 and 3 and October 9 and 10 from 1 to 4 p.m. The Rotary chicken BBQ dinner sale is a favorite that began in 1983 and takes place at the Rotary Pavilion on the corner of Squires and Courtland streets (see related article, page 1) and features drive-up curbside service. Dinners are $9. Also a returning favorite is caricature artist Louise Bauer, who has been coming to Harvest Fest for over a decade, entertaining audiences as she sketches in front of the Welcome Center near Great Northern Trading Company. Bauer said her quiet personality may lead people to believe she isn’t a funny person, but humor, as well as art, has always been important to her—one of her lectures she offers is on the healing power of humor. She is known at Harvest Fest for the quick caricatures she sketches, but considers herself a fine artist and has a portfolio packed with drawings of people, pets and nature and a history of illustrating books for publishing companies. “I always wanted to be an artist,” Bauer said of her background, and noted that as a little girl she was always drawing. Art, like music, can be a tough career choice, with many more people aspiring to make a living from their passions than jobs are available, but Bauer is an example of success in her field. She studied art at the American Academy of Art in Chicago and returned to Michigan, where she went to school at Kendall College of Art and Design and earned her BFA. Her advice to others, who would like to make a living as an artist, is to “keep knocking on doors and making phone calls” in pursuit of a job. “If you make a lot of phone calls, eventually something comes through,” she advised. Bauer always dreamed of working for Disney and started with a job at an animation company, making movies of Bible stories. There she painted cells. She worked […]

Author stops in Rockford on national book-signing tour

May 20, 2010 // 0 Comments

by RICH ZECK Police officer and author Barry W. Ozeroff from Portland, Ore., pulled into Frenz Coffee House last week to sign copies of his latest book “The Dying of Mortimer Post.” The author is on a national book promotional tour that started in Oregon and goes to Ohio, down to Florida, then to San Diego and back home to Oregon—all in the month of May. Since coffee houses are a staple in the northwest, Ozeroff chose Frenz over a chain bookstore to promote this deeply insightful human journey of a man torn by life’s experiences. The book is about Mortimer Post, who is the quintessential late-‘60s American teenager. He is a college-bound physics major from a good family, engaged to his high-school sweetheart, and is at the forefront of his version of the American dream. Then, in 12 short minutes, he faces a loss so devastating it marks the end of his living and the beginning of his dying. But as the opening sentence suggests, some deaths are slower than others. Mortimer’s takes a lifetime to complete—a lifetime best described not as a series of unfortunate events, but a series of unbearable tragedies. Spanning four of America’s most significant decades, “The Dying of Mortimer Post” takes the reader from the protagonist’s coming of age in the Pocono Mountains to the massacre of Vietnamese civilians at My Lai. After the searing end of his military career, the reader accompanies Mortimer on a nationwide quest for understanding and healing. On this journey of discovery, he finds both happiness and sorrow in the backwoods of rural Mississippi, then a much darker side of himself on the unforgiving streets of Los Angeles. Only when he has lost everything and is finally ready for the release of death, does Mortimer discover that he already has the one thing he’s spent a lifetime seeking, and with it, the chance to finally live again. At once exciting, poignant and disturbing, “The Dying of Mortimer Post” is a stark exposé of a man torn by tragedy as he struggles to make sense of a senseless world. A true epic, it is part love story, war chronicle, police saga, and all tragedy. More than anything, it is a tale of redemption in a […]

Where can Rockford go for questions on aging?

April 8, 2010 // 0 Comments

by RICH ZECK When talking with older adults, a common question arises: Who can I call for help? Sadly, many older adults and their family members are not sure who to call for help. A local program helps to take the guesswork out of who to call for age-related questions. The outreach and assistance program provided by Gerontology Network serves individuals aged 60 or older in Kent County. Trained social workers are available to help answer questions and identify services throughout West Michigan that best meet the needs of older adults. The outreach specialists can help individuals with a wide variety of needs, including but not limited to Medicare and Medicaid, housing and utilities, meals and food pantries, legal aid, prescriptions, transportation coordination and social activities. This program is funded in part by the Kent County Senior Millage and, because of a generous gift from the Edward M. and Della L. Thome Memorial Foundation, it is able to extend its hours to better serve older adults in the community. Trained staff is available to answer questions Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. “Thanks to the support of the local community through Kent County Senior Millage, we have been able to assist nearly 500 adults this year alone,” said Brooke Zehr, outreach specialist at Gerontology Network. “Now with the grant from the Thome Foundation, we are able to not only extend our service hours, but we can reach more individuals across West Michigan.” Gerontology Network’s programs like the outreach and assistance program work together to enhance the quality of life and promote independence of older adults. If you or a caregiver of an older adult have questions, pick up the phone today and call toll-free 1-800-730-6135. There is no fee for the service, but donations are accepted. If you have questions, Gerontology Network can help. Call them today or go online for more information at and find out what your options are. Gerontology Network is located at 800 East Beltline Ave. NE, Grand Rapids.

Community says goodbye, Ram Nation

March 26, 2009 // 0 Comments

by RICH ZECK The Ram Nation was more than just a store with hip styles and every kind of Rockford paraphernalia; it was a business that defines what the American entrepreneurial spirit is all about. People may see the store’s closing as a sign of the times-but don’t feel sorry for owners Kevin and Rachelle Butler. This couple is passionate about their community and they decided to take the risk. They saw an opportunity and never looked back. Kevin states, “We have never been shy about taking risks.  There have been many times that we took a risk and it turned out very well.  Sometimes things work out great, sometimes they don’t, but we can’t be afraid of falling down.” Many of us have fallen down or experienced a failed opportunity just like the Butlers. We have a choice to either stay down or as Kevin says, “it’s time to turn the page and open the doors to the next opportunity.” This Saturday, March 28, ends one chapter for the Butlers as they liquidate everything in the store.  They will be selling everything at 70 percent off. You can be sure that they will continue giving away warm welcomes and a friendly smile to the people who supported them through their endeavor until the last sale. Running a small business is not always the dream that most people envision it to be. There are many ups and downs, lots of sweat and tears, along with many hours. Did I say long hours? However, without a strong supportive community like Rockford, many small businesses would never make it as far as they do. As a last parting gift, the Butlers plan to donate $1,000 to Rockford Public Schools Student Activities. The next time you think about going to the mall to shop or eat at a restaurant, think about spending those dollars right here in your town. Every dollar you spend, no matter how small, makes a difference. We are a generous and supportive community that stands behind our locally owned businesses and on behalf of all of us and the Butlers, thank you.

Sick of Gloom and Doom? Rockford Reports Positive News

February 26, 2009 // 0 Comments

by BETH ALTENA We need to get over our pride and ego and get on with our lives, Frenz Coffehouse owner Rich Zeck believes. He is one of many local businesess people who haven’t bought into the news that we are going through the worst of times. “I can speak for myself because I have lost my job,” he said of a former high-paying career. Zeck opened his own shop after the job loss and also works another part-time job. Zeck said he believes Americans have allowed their financial fear to dominate their lives and this has made things worse. “What if there were no newspapers and no televisions? The economy ”d go about our business and have a life.” He believes the stockmarket slumps follow each dire news report as people hunker down, afraid to spend money and get on with things. Zeck, who is also a college professor, said he understands the economy is a hot topic and his students want to discuss it at length. “It’s such an emotional issue,” he said. Zeck believes there is plenty of good to be learned and practiced in tough times. He said friends, neighbors and families helped each other out to make it through the Depression. We should take a page from that chapter of history. “I knew we were in big trouble when people came in worried about the cost of a barrel of oil and gold,” he said. “That makes no difference to most people.” Putting hope in corporations and companies rather than in people is part of the error behind economic troubles. “Two hundred years ago you were a seamstress and I was a farmer,” he said. “We helped each other out and did business together.” Doing this today is what we should be doing, Zech believes. As a coffee shop owner, he has sent customers to the other coffee shops in town. “Too often it’s ‘Me, me, me.’ It’s not me, it’s just us.” He is a firm believer in paying it forward. “If we all took the time to help someone else out, what would that do?” he asked. Zeck gave the example of people who have lost their jobs. “Get out and volunteer,” he said. “People lose their jobs, […]