Rockford Area Historical Museum

Video of Sinatra interview, audio available online

February 9, 2012 // 0 Comments

Mark Randisi, the star of the upcoming “Sound of Sinatra” fundraiser for the new Rockford Area Museum (RAM), was in town on Tuesday, Jan. 24 to spend the day promoting the show, which will be presented on Saturday, Feb. 18 at Rockford High School (RHS). Randisi’s visit started with dinner on Monday evening with several members of the Rockford Historical Society, including the Society’s president, Terry Konkle. Tuesday was busy, starting with an appearance on Channel 13’s “Take Five and Company,” where he sang a song from the show and was interviewed by Catherine Behrendt. His love and respect for Frank Sinatra’s music was apparent as he talked about the show and the incredible Johnny Trudell Big Band that will be accompanying him at RHS. He also mentioned the scheduled appearance by the Rockford Community Children’s Choir that will join him onstage to perform Rockford’s version of a famous Frank Sinatra scene in which he sang the song “High Hopes” with a group of youngsters. You can see that television appearance by going to and clicking on the Take 5 page. His next stop was at the studios of WJRW AM, where he was interviewed by John Gonzalez, the entertainment editor of the Grand Rapids Press and host of “Going Gonzo,” his WJRW entertainment show. That interview also displayed Randisi’s love for the music he performs, as well as talking about his singing career which started when he was “discovered” about 14 years ago singing Sinatra songs at karaoke bars in the Detroit area. Gonzalez learned that Randisi was working in his family’s commercial painting business when the owner of a chain of Detroit area restaurants and clubs heard him and hired him immediately. That was the end of Randisi’s involvement in the family business and the start of a singing career that has literally taken him throughout the U.S. and to Europe where he has performed with big bands and symphony orchestras. After lunch, Randisi visited RHS, where plans for the show were discussed. To say that he was impressed with the facility and the staff at the school would be an understatement. Randisi said he has performed shows in many facilities that did not compare with what we have right here at […]

Indian chief cemetery mystery solved

September 15, 2011 // 0 Comments

The”mystery body” answer came from the Rockford Area Historical Museum, Pederson Funeral Home’s Dave Pederson and from Rockford’s’ Christine Marcus Stone. Questions of “Who and why?” are the norm as the Rockford Lions Club and the Rockford Garden Club bring this forgotten cemetery back to life. Hidden under brush and undergrowth are long-forgotten, broken and illegible headstones that once meant “the world” to their children and spouses. Stone was the instigator of the reburial of the Grand River Indian Tribe’s Chief Ogema. His skeleton was unearthed in 1974 during the construction of a home on Prospect Hill at the corner of Ramsdell and Ten Mile Road. Turned over to the police, the remains found their way into Pederson’s care after Michigan State University had determined they were of a Native American. Somehow the plans to rebury the chief came to the attention of Stone and she, a Navajo descendent, asked that his spirit be put to rest properly with traditional Native American burial rites. In the dark of the morning on April 30, 1975, Stone, Ross Morgan, a Mohawk, and John Bosin of the Kiowa people gathered in the basement of Pederson Funeral Home and wrapped Chief Ogema in a traditional Native American blanket along with their traditional “medicine.” Dave Pendelton and Father Cusak joined the trio in starting the ceremonial fire and watched as the traditional sunrise burial ceremony took place. Stone remembers her surprise at the large gathering of families and children who rose early on that frosty April morning to be part of this traditional rite. Prominent among the throng were Rockford legend Clarence Blakeslee and Homer Burch, who had both played a major part in the retrieval, burial and placement of the stone honoring Chief Ogema. In the ‘60s, the Daughters of the American Revolution determined that there were 119 graves in the cemetery starting with 1849 and ending in 1926. However, Pederson recalls that, up to about 25 years ago, he had handled the re-interment of three or four more similar Native American remains. So, the questions continue as the work continues to make the cemetery presentable. Perhaps, the biggest question is: “When finished, what do we want it to be?” It’s the community’s treasure. What do you want it […]