Citizens of the Year: Van Havels and Johnsons 2002

 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.web
    NICE WORK—A spider remains at the center of a web, awaiting visitors, during a moist morning last month. The was built in front of Eagle Funeral Home in Morenci.
  • Front.bridge Cross
    STEP BY STEP—Wyatt Stevens of Morenci makes his way across a rope bridge Sunday during the Michigan DNR’s Great Outdoors Jamboree at Lake Hudson Recreation Area. The Tecumseh Boy Scout Troop constructed the bridge again this year after taking a break in 2016. The Jamboree offered a variety of activities for a wide range of age groups. Morenci’s Stair District Library set up activities again this year and had visits with dozens of kids. See the back page for additional photos.
  • Front.bridge.17
    LEADING THE WAY—The Morenci Area High School marching band led the way across the pedestrian bridge on Morenci’s south side for the annual Labor Day Bridge Walk. The Band Boosters shared profits from the sale of T-shirts with the walk’s sponsor, the Morenci Area Chamber of Commerce. Additional photos are on the back page.
  • Front.eclipse
    LOOKING UP—More than 200 people showed up at Stair District Library Monday afternoon to view the big celestial event with free glasses provided by a grant from the Space Science Institute. The library offered craft activities from noon to 1 p.m., refreshments including Cosmic Cake from Zingerman’s Bakehouse and a live viewing of the eclipse from NASA on a large screen. As the sky darkened slightly, more and more people moved outside to the sidewalk to take a look at the shrinking sun. If you missed it, hang on for the next total eclipse in 2024 as the path comes even closer to this area.
  • Cecil
    THE MAYOR—Cecil Schoonover poses with a collection of garden gnomes that mysteriously arrive and disappear from his property. Along with the gnomes, someone created the sign stating that he is the Mayor of Gnomesville. He hasn’t yet tracked down the people involved in the prank, but he’s having a good time with the mystery.
  • Front.rest
    TAKE A BREAK—Last Wednesday’s session of Stair District Library’s Summer Reading Program ended with a quiet period in a class presented by yoga instructor Melany Gladieux of Toledo. Children learned a variety of yoga poses in the main room at the library, then finished off the session relaxing. Additional photos are on page 7. Area children are invited to visit the library today when the Michigan Science Center presents a flight program at 11 a.m. and roller coasters at 1 p.m.
  • Front.batter
    THE DERBY—Tyler “Smallpox” Flakne of Minnesota’s Home Run League All-Stars goes for the fence Friday night during the National Wiffle League Association’s home run derby in Morenci. This year the wiffleball national tournament moved from Dublin, Ohio, to Morenci’s Wakefield Park. During the derby, competitors had two minutes to hit as many home runs as possible. The winner this year finished with 21. See page 6 and 7 for additional photos.
  • Front.green Screen
    OUT OF THIS WORLD—Elizabeth McFadden and Elise Christle pose in front of the green screen as VolunTeen Noah Gilson makes them appear as though they are standing on the Moon. More photos from the Stair District Library’s NASA @ My Library program are on page 12.
  • Front.fireworks
    FIREWORKS erupt Saturday night over Morenci’s Wakefield Park during the waning hours of the Town and Country Festival. Additional festival photos are inside.