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.sculpta
    SCULPTORS—Morenci third grade students Emersyn Thompson (left) and Marissa Lawrence turn spaghetti sticks into mini sculptures Friday during a class visit to Stair District Library. All Morenci Elementary School classes recently visited the library to experience the creative construction toys purchased through the “Sculptamania!” project, funded by a Disney Curiosity Creates grant. The grant is administered by the Association for Library Services to Children, a division of the American Library Association.
  • Funcolor
    LEONIE LEAHY was one of three local hair stylists who volunteered time Friday at the Morenci PTO Fun Night. Her customer, Aubrey Sandusky, looks up at her mother while her hair takes on a perfect match to her outfit. Leahy said she had a great time at the event—nothing but happy clients.
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    LEARNING THE ROPES—Kristy Castillo (left), co-owner of Mane Street Salon, works with Kendal Kuhn as Sierra Orner takes a phone call. The two Morenci Area High School juniors spent Friday at the salon as part of a job shadowing experience.
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  • Front.winner
    REFEREE Camden Miller raises the hand of Morenci Jr. Dawgs wrestler Ryder Ryan as his opponent leaves the mat in disappointment. Morenci’s youth wrestling program served as host for a tournament Saturday morning to raise money for the club. Additional photos are on the back page.
  • Front.bank.2
    SHERWOOD STATE Bank opened its Fayette office at a grand opening Friday morning, drawing a large crowd to view the renovated building. Above, Burt Blue talks to teller Cindy Funk, while his wife, Jackie, looks around the new office. The Blues missed the opening and took a quick tour on Tuesday. Few traces remain of the former grocery store and theater, however, part of the original brick wall still shows in the hallway leading to the back of the building. The drive-through window should be ready for customers later in the month.
  • Front.carry.casket
    CARRYING—Riley Terry (blue jacket) and Mason Vaughn lead the way, carrying an empty casket outside to the hearse waiting at the curb. Morenci juniors and seniors visited Eagle Funeral Home last week to learn about the role of a funeral director and to understand the process of arranging for a funeral.
  • Front.make.three
    FROM THE LEFT, Landon Wilkins, Ryan White and Logan Blaker try out their artistic skills Saturday afternoon at the Morenci PTO’s first Date to Create event. More than 50 people showed up to create decorated planks of wood to hang from rope. The event served as a fund-raiser for miscellaneous PTO projects. Additional photos are on the back of this week’s Observer.

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