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.

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