John Van Havel clears 18-gallon mark for blood donations 7.23

Written by David Green.

After a recent blood drive in Morenci, John Van Havel stopped in the Observer office to say that he might be in first place now that Jack Smith has moved away and Arnold Smith is no longer donating.

He isn’t sure, but he just might be Morenci’s chief donor.

He swapped his 17-gallon pin for one with the number 18 on it earlier this year and he’s slowly moving his way on up.

John remembers his first donation—just a short 53 years ago. He was studying at Michigan State University and, like all males of the day, participating in the mandatory Reserved Officers Training Corps (ROTC).

“We had drill once a week and if you gave blood, you were excused from drill,” he said.

He just kept on donating after that, but he didn’t get serious about it until about 10 years ago. “Getting serious” means hitting every blood drive that comes along.

He missed one a few years ago when he was vacationing in the Upper Peninsula because he couldn’t locate a drive. Due to his inquiry phone calls, he received invitations from Petoskey and Escanaba for two years.

After John earned his 18-gallon pin, he saw Wayne Carpenter from Jasper.

“How many?” John asked.

Wayne started holding up fingers from both hands, two repetitions.

“Son of a gun!” John answered.

He knew what was coming from Wayne.

“He and I have been friends for decades and we have a friendly contest,” John explained. “But he’s so far ahead of me.”

Wayne became a regular donor before John made the decision and he’s somewhere up in the 20-gallon range. He always seeks out blood drives on vacation and he even has some Canadian donations to his credit.

Blood donations have fallen in recent years, but John has no intention of backing off. Dale Storrer is threatening from below, and who knows—Wayne could retire early and John just might have a chance to catch up.

  • Front.splash
    Water Fun—Carter Seitz and Colson Walter take a fast trip along a plastic sliding strip while water from a sprinkler provides the lubrication. The boys took a break from tie-dyeing last week at Morenci’s Summer Recreation Program to cool off in the water.
  • 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.drum
    on your mark, get set, drum!—Drew Joughin (black shirt), Maddox Joughin and Kaleea Braun took the front row last week when Angela Rettle and assistants led the Stair District Library Summer Reading Program kids in a session of cardio drumming. The sports and healthy living theme continued yesterday with a Mini Jamboree at Lake Hudson State Park arranged by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Next week’s program features the Flying Aces Frisbee show.
  • Front.art.park
    ART PARK—A design created by Poggemeyer Design Group shows a “pocket art park” in the green space south of the State Line Observer building. The proposal includes a 12-foot sculpture based on a design created by Morenci sixth grade student Klara Wesley through a school and library collaboration. A wooden band shell is located at the back of the lot. The Observer wall would be covered with a synthetic stucco material. City council members are considering ways to fund the estimated $125,000 project and perhaps tackling construction one step at a time.
  • 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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