Individuals made Rockford what it is today by BETH ALTENA “Service is the rent we pay for out little spot on this Earth.” This attitude was exemplified in the life led by the late Lynn Gill, who along with his wife LaZelle (Zell) were the lone addition to the Rockford Area Community Endowment (R.A.C.E.) Recognition Plaza. A ceremony took place Tuesday, May 28, beginning with the R.A.C.E. annual meeting at City Hall and ending at the plaza, located on the west side of the Rogue River by the dam. Zell Gill, before a large crowd of well-wishers at the Plaza, spoke with dignity and said the chance to help Rockford become what it is today has been a great honor for herself and her late husband. A plaque with her and Lynn’s name will serve as a permanent tribute to the contributions the couple have made to Rockford. Rockford City Manager Michael Young and the Rockford Area Historical Society nominated the couple and both Young and Historical Society President Terry Konkle spoke during the ceremony. Young talked of his experience of the couple. “In 1995 when I came here, whether it was God’s will, he put me right next to the Gills,” he said. Young described how fortunate his family felt getting to know the Gills and of their kindness and generosity. He noted that when his daughters ran away from home, as kids usually do during their childhood, his girls, ages 3 and 4, ran away to the Gills’ home next door. The Gills were very active in Rockford and are people that were well known as well as universally admired. According to a biography compiled by the Historical Society, the Gills moved to Rockford in 1940. Lynn Gill passed away in March 2009, and Zell still lives in the house they built on Dayton Street. The couple lived their lives with service as a major factor in their activities. Lynn was from Big Rapids, where he graduated in 1935 as salutatorian of Big Rapids High School. He and his brother were well known as semi-pro baseball players. Lynn was inducted into the Mecosta County Baseball Hall of Fame in 1991. Zell was from Reed City and also had a love of sports. Both […]
Rockford Area Historical Society
The Rockford Area Historical Society has successfully taken the first step toward its goal of moving the current Rockford Museum to its new site in the courthouse building that was vacated by the 63rd District Court in November 2009. Funds donated and pledged by area businesses and residents now total over $200,000, enabling the Society and the City of Rockford to enter into a lease agreement for the building. Over $100,000 is still needed to finish paying for renovations to the building and the creation of the exhibits that are planned for the new museum. In its new location the new museum will serve the community by offering expanded hours, more parking, better accessibility, and exciting interactive exhibits that will appeal to visitors of all ages. Additional fundraising activity will include an auction that will include online, silent and live auction events. The auction is being planned for late August or early September. The exact date will be set as soon as it can be determined when renovations will be completed to the point that the old courthouse will be ready for “visitors” This will be an exciting event. Current plans are to combine the online auction that will run for a period of time, a silent auction with items available for viewing for several days prior to a Saturday finale, and a live auction on that Saturday afternoon. The museum auction committee needs your help. Auction items ranging from vintage furniture, household goods, cars, boats, and power lawn equipment, to electronics, appliances, airfare, and vacation rentals such as condos and cottages, are being sought. Look around—if you don’t need it, maybe we do! Businesses are encouraged to also consider donating office equipment, services, or gift cards and certificates. Flyers with all the details will be available from area merchants soon, or you can call (616) 485-4144 any time to make donation arrangements or to get additional information. Historical Society members and volunteers are also now giving area residents an opportunity to have a little fun while making a small cash donation in a very unusual manner. This is a true win-win situation with a little mystery through the use of “scratch-off cards.” Anyone wanting to make a small donation can scratch off a spot […]
by TERRY KONKLE President, Rockford Area Historical Society The bears of Clayton Cahill will be the focus of the column for this week. Several readers called me with questions about what happened to them. With lots of help and a bit of research, some interesting parts of Rockford’s caged bear history were revealed. Jim Eadie got things started by telling me that one of the bears was shot and killed. It seems that the bear got loose and wandered out to Wolven Street and into the yard of Howard “Red” Wolven. “Red shot the bear” said Eadie. My next step was to see if the circumstances of the shooting could be found. Howard Wolven is deceased, but a phone call to his son Mike proved to be very profitable. “My mother and father and Les Paepke and his wife had been to a pancake supper, and my dad took the Paepkes home,” said Mike. “My mother glanced out of a window and saw a bear. She got the dog inside and when my father returned she told him, and he went out and saw the tracks. Then he decided to go get Les to help and the two of them, armed with a 32 Winchester and a 20 gauge shotgun, went out to track the bear.” Mike continued, “My dad was in front and Les was the backup. Suddenly the tracks ended by a tree. My father looked up and the bear was sitting on a limb. When he raised his gun to shoot, all he got was a ‘click’ but his second try was successful. The bear fell out of the tree dead. Les, the backup, then found that he did not have a shell in the chamber of his gun.” Neither knew that the bear belonged to Mr. Cahill. My thanks to Jim and Mike for the history of one bear. Ken Ploeg, whose father owned Morton Motor Sales, knew the story of the second bear. It died in the cage on Jericho Street. Ken, who often drove the firm’s wrecker truck, got a call to see if somehow the bear could be removed from the cage and transported to another location using the wrecker. “I went there and was able to hook […]
The Golden R reunion, suggested by Lyle Bennet, was first sponsored in 1987 by the Rockford Area Historical Society in conjunction with Michigan’s Sesquicentennial celebration. Due to the great response from alumni, the original committee, headed by Clarence Blakeslee and Maxine Marcott, voted to make it an annual gathering to be held the last Saturday in June. This year the class of 1962 will be honored at the annual luncheon held in the Rockford High School cafeteria. Also in attendance will be members of previous graduating classes. Total attendance will exceed 325 this year. The Golden R Club also awards a scholarship to a high school senior. Each year, 35 former grads volunteer to bring the event to fruition.
by TERRY KONKLE President, Rockford Area Historical Society Recently I have spoken with several people about some of my “Nuggets of Rockford History” questions. Helen Hessler and Gene Berry knew that the “Golden R” meets on the last Saturday of June each year and honors the Rockford High School class that has currently reached the 50-year mark. Other classes prior to 1962 are also included with many represented. This year the class of 1962 will be featured, and it is a special group for me. I was their class advisor in my second year of teaching. Actually, they taught me a lot. My wife and I will be at the “Golden R” meeting and also at the class reunion later that day. I had a nice phone conversation with Patty Burch, who had favorable things to say about Zell Gill. Later, at a meeting I attended, Steve Ellis told me that Zell had influenced him to serve on various groups. He mentioned the Library Board and H.U.D. Zell influenced a “good” man. Then, at Arlo Elkins’ Memorial service, his brother Dan mentioned that he knew Ruth Streeter and Zell Gill and had read my questions about them. Dan is a member of the class of 1962 and will attend the reunion next month. One way that he keeps in touch with our town is by reading The Rockford Squire. Here is a new “Nuggets of Rockford History” question, which was prompted by the recent sightings of a bear in our area. “What well-known Rockford person kept a bear caged on his property for a time?” Contact me at (616) 866-0530 with your answers and comments. On Thursday, June 7, the historical society will have its annual potluck meeting at 6:30 p.m. at the Community Cabin, 220 N. Monroe St., Rockford. Officers will be elected for our new season. The meeting will be our last until we begin new programs in September. The society, as a group, does not meet in June, July or August, but our board and committees will continue to work. As readers know, we have a lot going on, and I will continue to keep people informed. We will set up at the present museum location for the Start of Summer Celebration […]