Citizens of the Year: Van Havels and Johnsons 2002

Written by David Green.

 Gayle and John Van Havel

How did you end up in Morenci?

John: This is my ancestors’ home since 1840.

Gayle: I got married, asked where I was going to live and asked how to spell it.

How long have you lived here?van_havels

John: 61 years

Gayle: 41 years

List the top three things you like about Morenci.

John: Friendly people, good schools, and an attitude to get Morenci going again.

Gayle: The people in Morenci act like a family. When someone needs help, people seem to come forward to help without being asked. It is a safe place to live. You can walk at night and feel safe.

How have you seen Morenci change over the years?

John: Several businesses have ended and we have empty buildings. Also, many new people have come into the area.

Gayle: Businesses come and go or move to other buildings. People are starting to take care of their homes.

List some of your contributions to the community.

John: I’m a life-long, active Methodist Church member. I’ve served several years on city council and I am a former board of education member. I purchase and refurbish old houses. I am a member of the Morenci Area Historical Society.

Gayle: Working with Kiwanis projects and functions. Organized dinners and style shows to raise money for the historical society. Help problem solve the needs of the elderly. Very active in projects at the Methodist Church. Parish nurse program allows me to work with all churches in the community. Developed and presented health education programs. Gave of time and talents to work in health fairs and clinics. CPR training in the schools.

Describe your most difficult day on the job.

John: As a retired school teacher and administrator, seeing certain students struggle at school and knowing that without parent support and discipline, they would not succeed in the world, or were headed for trouble.

Gayle: Meeting an ambulance at the emergency room and knowing the person being brought in.

What’s the most rewarding part of your job or community work?

John: Seeing a finished project come together as I envisioned that it could.

Gayle: The feeling that you have improved the quality of life for others.

How long have you been married? Who is your family?

John and Gayle: Married 41 years. Children and spouses: John (and Deb), Jeff (and Teresa), Jerry (and Lisa) and Jason (and Carla). Twelve grandchildren.

What is one thing your spouse does that impresses you?

John: Gayle can put together colors from miles apart and they match. Also, her hard drive for education and helping others.

Gayle: He’s always willing to do something to help others.

What’s your most embarrassing moment experienced in public life?

John: When I was removed by city council as board chairman of the EMS without any prior warning of dissatisfaction.

Gayle: My most embarrassing moment was when my husband’s name was spread over the Adrian and Morenci papers as having been removed from the Morenci EMS board without his knowledge.

If you have your life to live over, what would you do differently?

John: I would have grandchildren first, before children, since they are a lot more fun to raise and see grow up.

Gayle: I wouldn’t enter two professions that require you to do everything with no money, such as nursing, teaching and farming.

 

Adam and Gail Johnson

How did you end up in Morenci?

Adam and Gail: In 1980, Adam and I left the Washington, D.C. area and made the decision to purchase the hardware store in Morenci. It was a major decision to change careers, but a decision that we have been happy with. Morenci has been a great town in which to raise our two children and after 22 years we feel we have been influenced and impacted by so many.johnson_adam__gail

How long have you lived here?

Adam and Gail: 22 years

List the top three things you like about Morenci.

Adam and Gail: We like the friendliness of the people, the school system and the golf course so close to town and the accessibility of areas for hunting and fishing.

How have you seen Morenci change over the years?

Adam and Gail: Morenci has had so many changes—business and industries going and others taking their places. All and all, I do not think Morenci changes much, but current projects are expected to update the business area. Also plans are being made to update our educational buildings and we have seen continuing improvement in out school system.

List some of your contributions to the community.

Adam: School board member, MBA member, wrote articles for the Morenci Observer dealing with hunting and fishing, original member of DDA board and original downtown beautification project, spent time on the Christmas drawing event, started the Rex Riley Kiwanis Scholarship with Duane Dunbar, Mel Oberling and Joe Damman, started and maintained the Soup and Pie Supper fund raiser for the Rex Riley Scholarship, chairman of the local United Way drive, president of the Lenawee United Way Board of Directors, Kiwanis member, participates in the community Meals on Wheels program, Wishing Tree volunteer, almost Kiwanis president, video taped varsity football games for 15+ years, on selection committee for the new police chief, chairman of the Kids First Committee for the feasibility of the new middle school.

Gail: Hospital board member, MBA member, put together advertising booklet for the Rex Riley Soup and Pie Supper, started the city-wide garage sale, assist Jack Sampson with America Legion pancake supper booklet, started Christmas drawings and ran for 10-12 years.

Describe your most difficult day on the job.

Adam and Gail: Going back to work when our building burned down.

What’s the most rewarding part of your job or community work?

Adam and Gail: Being an active member of the community in which we live, working with others, helping others and knowing that some of what we do makes a difference.

How long have you been married? Who is your family?

Adam and Gail: We have been married 38 years and have two children Ron and Jennifer. Ron and his wife Jerri live in Chicago. Jennifer and her husband Joe and our two grandsons, Andrew and Adam, live in Tecumseh.

What is one thing your spouse does that impresses you?

Adam: Gail is always very supportive of me and any project that I get involved in.

Gail: Adam always impresses me with his determination and dedication when he is asked to serve on a committee. He has helped me many times with projects I get involved in.

What’s your most embarrassing moment experienced in public life?

Gail: the Womanless Wedding—twice.

If you have your life to live over, what would you do differently?

Adam: I would have hair.

    – June 19, 2002 
  • Front.cross
    HUDSON RUNNER Jacob Morgan looks toward the top of the hill with dismay during the tough finish at Harrison Lake State Park. Fayette runner Jacob Garrow focuses on the summit, also, during the Eagle Invitational cross country run Saturday morning. Continuing rain and drizzle made the course even more challenging. Results of the race are in this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.
  • Front.crossing
    Crossing over—Jim Heiney was given a U.S. flag to carry by George Vereecke (behind Jim in the hat), turning him into the leader of the parade. Bridge Walk participants cross over Bean Creek while, in the background, members of the Morenci Legion Riders cross the main traffic bridge on East Street South. Additional photos appear on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.hose Testing
    HOSE safety—The FireCatt hose testing company from Troy put Morenci Fire Department hose to the test Monday morning when Mill Street was closed to traffic. The company also checks nozzles and ladders for wear in an effort to keep fire fighters safe while on calls.
  • Front.starting
    BIKE-A-THON—Children in Morenci’s Summer Recreation Program brought their bikes last Tuesday to participate in a bike-a-thon. Riders await the start of the event at the elementary school before being led on a course through town by organizer Leonie Leahy.
  • Front.train
    WRECKAGE—Morenci Fire Department member Taylor Schisler walks past the smoking wreckage of a semi-truck tractor on the north side of the Norfolk and Southern Railroad tracks on Ranger Highway. The truck trailer was on the south side of the tracks

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