Terry Konkle


July 19, 2012 // 0 Comments

by TERRY KONKLE President, Rockford Area Historical Society Readers have another week to answer the last “Nugget of Rockford History” question. I have received several correct answers to “Who was Thor?” and also some Thor stories. I will use the column next week to cover the Thor information. Contact me at (616) 866-0530 with your Thor details! While talking with a Rockford High School graduate at the Golden R meeting on June 30, 2012, I was surprised to hear that that person did not know our town had a museum. The Golden R committee sent out museum fundraising materials with their invitations this year and that was the first this out-of-state resident had heard of our museum. Later, that same day I spoke with a 1962 Rockford graduate who said, “I know we have a museum, but where is it, and when is it open?” He followed with, “Where will the new museum be?” Earlier that same day we had a booth set up at the Rockford Farmer’s Market with our scratch-off fundraising cards and many helped us and also asked how we were progressing. Sunday morning I wrote down some statements that might help answer some questions. It is a fact that Rockford does have a museum that is presently located on East Bridge Street beside the Rockford Dam. The Rockford Area Historical Society has run the museum using volunteer directors and volunteer help in a building that has no bathroom or running water. The building is owned by the City of Rockford and leased by the Society. It is a fact that the Society has signed a lease with the City to move into the vacant 63rd District courthouse. When we move into the new building, our lease on the present museum will end. The City will control what happens after we leave. We will hire a part-time museum director and be open at least 22 regular hours a week when the move is made. Volunteers will still be important to running the museum. It is a fact that the Society has raised enough money to renovate the building and is working with the City to follow the lease agreement as work begins. When the courthouse building is renovated, an auction will be […]

Rockford Area Historical Society News & Update

July 12, 2012 // 0 Comments

by TERRY KONKLE President, Rockford Area Historical Society Several people have contacted me asking if I could do a column about Thor. Because many readers may not know about Thor, let’s ask the following “Nugget of Rockford History” question:  Who was Thor? Contact me at (616) 866-0530 with your answer and also with your Thor stories. With your help, the story of Thor can be presented and another positive part of our area history can be revealed. Last week I mentioned that the Rockford High School class of 1962 was inducted into the “Golden R” on Saturday, June 30, 2012. Many 1962 graduates attended the luncheon during the afternoon, and then the held their own reunion that evening at the Rockford Sportsman’s Club. As the advisor to the class, I attended both events. My wife also was at the two functions, and we agreed that the day was an enjoyable one for us. Both of us consider many of the members of the 1962 class our friends because we have known and remained in contact with many of them over the years. Some of them babysat our children while others worked in the area, and Bruce VanWingen became a teacher at Rockford High School and was a colleague for years. He even introduced me to computer possibilities in the year 2000. On the night of the reunion, we met many class members and shared lots of history. Their experiences were interesting to learn about and covered all facets of life. It did seem to me that laughter and good feelings were quite prominent. I spoke with many of them, and wish that I could have talked with more. The class to me was and always will be special. They have certainly made their mark on the world! Several members of the class were very interested in our new museum project and stated that they intended to make donations. I found this very positive because when they were in school, Rockford did not have a museum. They just want to help. Many offered auction ideas and wished us luck with it. Some, who live in the area, will hopefully donate their items. Last week, I was asked when the auction would take place. The answer is: […]


July 5, 2012 // 0 Comments

by TERRY KONKLE President, Rockford Area Historical Society Two people contacted me with the correct answer to the last “Rockford Nugget of History” question. Helen Hessler and Carole Christensen knew that Lyle Bennett came up with the idea of having a “Golden R” reunion each year. The first meeting of the group was in 1987 when the Rockford Area Historical Society helped sponsor the event at the time of the sesquicentennial celebration in Michigan. The initial meeting was held in the building on North Main that had been our high school from 1923 to 1960 and was so well attended and enjoyed that the committee headed by Mr. Bennett and Maxine Marcott decided to make it an annual affair. The last Saturday in June became the chosen date and the group has met every year since then. The positive tradition continued last Saturday, June 30, 2012 as the graduates met for the 26th time. Rockford graduating classes become eligible for membership in the “Golden R” when they reach their 50th reunion, so this year the class of 1962 was the honored group. Many 1962 graduates were present Saturday along with hundreds of others from earlier classes. Over the years I have attended several Golden R celebrations for various reasons, but this year I was there in a more official capacity because I was one of two advisors to the class 50 years ago. Tom Weeda was the other. Readers need to know that the occasion features a luncheon at noon, where those attending sit with others from their Rockford class. Prior to the meal there is an hour-and-a-half time period set aside for signing in and then meeting and talking with classmates and friends. It is amazing to watch and take part in the fellowship and to hear the stories and memories that are part of it all. It is really a special time in Rockford history. This year Gene Berry (class of 1954) served as master of ceremonies at the meal, as he has done before, and his efforts were well appreciated because he does a fine job. When people were finished with the meal, a short program followed. Rockford Superintendent Dr. Michael S. Shibler talked about the state of the Rockford school system, […]

Rockford Area Historical Society News & Update

June 28, 2012 // 0 Comments

Second-graders visit Rockford by TERRY KONKLE President, Rockford Area Historical Society This week, Kathy Christensen, who is an officer (recording secretary) in our society and a long-time volunteer helper with the second-grade museum tours, has written the following information on this yearly event. My thanks go to her for her positive efforts. Usually in May, when the snow has gone and weather warms, second-graders from Rockford Public Schools have a chance to visit our town as part of their curriculum to learn about Rockford’s local government and history. Students from all eight of the district’s elementary schools participate along with their teachers and the many helpful chaperones that accompany them. Each class takes turns visiting the Little Red School House and the Pioneer Cemetery located by North Rockford Middle School. They also come downtown to tour the Rockford City Offices, the Rockford Fire Department and the Rockford Historical Museum. In most cases the students and adults walk from place to place and usually have lunch from one of our local eating establishments. At the museum, we cover early life in Laphamville, now Rockford, and the ongoing development of our area. Our primary volunteer speaker is Linda Critchell, a retired Rockford elementary school teacher. Linda speaks with the students about the logging industry, a major industry in Michigan, and how the trees were cut, floated down the river and processed at the mill. She discusses the building and running of Smith Lapham’s saw mill here on the Rogue River, and the part it played in the fundamental beginnings of Rockford. Using artifacts from the museum, she covers the many aspects of early life at home without indoor plumbing and electricity and how people coped with the inconvenience. With pictures on the wall, she makes sure they see Smith Lapham and tells them about a train wreck in Rockford when the White Pine Trail was, in fact, a railroad track for the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad. All of the items we have in the museum are donated by Rockford residents. So, with the help of loyal museum volunteers, the students have a chance to see and ask questions about early attire worn by women and children, the school and sports memorabilia from our schools, an antiquated […]

‘Very special couple’ inducted into Recognition Plaza

June 14, 2012 // 0 Comments

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 […]

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