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November, 2016


Michigan Military Heritage Museum Opens its Doors in Grass Lake

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Dennis Skupinski is a military history buff.  He has been collecting World War I items, uniforms, and artifacts, since 1970.  “I concentrated on World War I because it was easy to find stuff and was inexpensive at the time.  I focused on junior officers and ordinary ranks and combat uniforms because those were the men who wore the uniforms who served in the war.”

The Michigan Military Heritage Museum, where many of Skupinski’s items are on display, opened its doors last Friday to display a timeline of U.S. wars that honor veterans from the Revolutionary War in the eighteenth century to the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Our mission is to tell the stories of the vets,” said Marilyn O’Leary, president of the Grass Lake Area Historical Connections.  Development of the military museum stemmed from the need for space to house the military items at the Coe House, the headquarters of the GLAHC.

Over 100 guests stopped in on Friday.

The new museum is a project under the umbrella of the Historical Connections.

Each section in the well-lit museum focuses on each successive war and tells the story of the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines past and present, through donations from veterans themselves and their families.  Continual support is appreciated.    

People who have military items in their attics and basements should consider donating them to the new veterans memorial, O’Leary said.

“At the end of the day it’s for the good of community,” said Scott Gerych, curator of the museum who served in Operation Desert Storm in 2003 and 2004.  “We made it through the traffic.”     

O’Leary realized that a stand-alone museum was needed when the military room at the Coe House couldn’t contain all the donations of uniforms from foreign wars, most of which were stored in closets.  The military room at the Coe house on West Michigan Avenue included a variety of uniforms, primarily from the first and second world wars.  Items on display at the Coe House were transferred to the new museum on North Union Street as a genesis for the impressive display.

These displays illustrate the struggle that the United States of America retains its status as a bellwether of freedom and prosperity across the globe.     

Skupinski understand this.   Items collected by Skupinski were put on display in the gallery of the museum.  The visitor enters the gallery to see more than 30 soldiers from several European countries that fought on the Western Front during the First World War.

Skupinski said he felt gratified by the prominent placement of his substantial World War I collection.  “I didn’t like seeing the uniforms on hangers,” he said.  I wanted them to stand up and display themselves.”

Currently Skupinski, who studied at West Point as the Vietnam conflict came to a close in the mid-1970s, is working to create a World War I Centennial Commission, building websites and producing monthly videos on YouTube.    

The United States of America entered World War I, ‘the Great War,’ in 1917 and fought with allied forces until Armistice Day, November 11, 1918 when the bells of freedom rang from cathedrals throughout Western Europe.

Leaders of the movement, O’Leary and Gerych, have reached out to local veterans to support the new exhibit.

Many have responded.      

“The Grass Lake Historical Connections have an interesting collection of historical items,” said Dann Todd, commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Grass Lake Post 10194.  “The fulfillment of their vision of a detailed, historically accurate, and a sustainable operation would be a positive addition to the range of facilities in Grass Lake.”

In other words, Grass Lakers should visit and support the Military Museum.    

The centerpiece of the museum is the century’s old cannon on loan from the Detroit Historical Society.  Grass Lake received the cannon earlier this year, a weapon forged in the 18th century under the reign of King George III.  The cannon, and others like it, was discovered at the bottom of the Detroit River where it lay hidden beneath the silt until divers discovered them.

Cevin’s Collision on Wolf Lake Road sandblasted the canon and treated it with an acid to protect it from entropy and make it black and cold as it was when the British blasted foes in days of yore.  “I clean up the rust on it,” said Cevin Miller, who owns the shop with his wife Kim.  The cannon was on display on Grass Lake Heritage day on September 10, the day before the 15th anniversary if 9/11.  “It was heavy,” Miller said, about 1,200 pounds.  Not something you see every day.”

State Senator Mike Shirkey attended the soft opening of the museum.  Speaking to a reporter the senator choked up over the recognition of the men and women who served and died for our country.  “They chose to be standing in their boots,” he said.  “They knew the cost, involved themselves in personal sacrifice.  It happens today.”

The next phase of development of the museum is a Cold War memorial.

One of the exhibits I found to be most intriguing is the U.S.S Indianapolis.  Non-distinct beneath its glass display, documents record what happened when the naval vessel that delivered the Hiroshima bomb to the South Pacific along with the Nagasaki bomb that ended World War II.  After two Japanese torpedoes slammed into the Indianapolis, the vessel sank in twelve minutes, 1,100 men went into the water.  Crew survivors faced a harrowing nightmare as the ship sank in shark-infested waters in the Philippine Sea.  Sam Worthington of Jackson was the helicopter pilot who discovered the survivors of the Indianapolis and steered rescuers to the sailors bobbing in the water in life jackets.

“War is hell,” Civil War General William Sherman told his troops at Gettysburg.  Sherman’s words cut across generations: World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and Zero Dark Thirty.  Let none who have served be forgotten. The U.S.A has weathered worse situations than we face today and she always survives.  Support the vets and the mission of the Military Heritage Museum.  God Bless America.   

The Michigan Military Heritage Museum is located at 153 North Union Street in Grass Lake.  Operating hours are Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday, from 11 a.m. to five p.m.

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Photos by Scott Bray

Record Voter Turnout for Grass Lake

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Grass Lakers came out in flocks to vote this election. A record 74.4% of registered voters in Grass Lake cast their ballots this election. A total of 2,570 people voted today with another 721 absentee ballots returned. Lines were steady at the polling places, sometimes lined up out the door. One voter who declined to give his name said he had been voting for 60 years in Grass Lake and this was the first time he has had to wait like this to cast his vote. Wait times varied depending on the precinct and the time of day. Early morning voters said they were waiting 10-15 minutes while mid afternoon voters reported waiting as long as 30 minutes. Others timed it just right and said they had no wait at all.

In the Village race for Trustee, it looks like there will be two new members on the council as challengers Gina Lammers and Joel Grimm were the top two vote getters with 365 and 289 votes respectfully. Incumbent Carolyn Rees kept her seat with 248 votes while incumbent Cheryl Vicory lost her seat with 217 votes. All counts are unofficial until certified by the County.

Grass Lake continued its tradition of voting Republican.
Donald Trump received 1,959 votes
Hillary Clinton received 1,059 votes
Gary Johnson received 157 votes

The Library millage was also voted upon favorably in Grass Lake with 1,957 yes votes versus 1,102 no. The library millage is a countywide vote.

Managing an election is no small task. It took a small army of folks to run the elections in Grass Lake. According to Grass Lake Charter Township Clerk Cathy Zenz, they showed up before 6 am to be ready for the polls to open at 7:00 am. That doesn’t include the days of setup prior to the election. Over 20 election workers worked from 6 am till late into the evening. As of the writing of this story at 10:15 pm, election workers were still busy at the Township Hall finishing all the requirements to report the elections to the county.
Grass Lake Charter Township Deputy Clerk Gail Harris said things went “A lot smoother than we expected.” Zenz said “everyone did a great job and helped it run as smooth as possible. I couldn’t ask for a better group of workers.”

Winter Farmer’s Market

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Mobile Winter Farmer’s Market in Grass Lake

Chelsea Farmers Market, a program of St. Joseph Mercy Chelsea, is partnering with the Grass Lake Farmers Market to offer a mobile winter market this season. We will be located in downtown Grass Lake on Main St, Mondays 5 pm – 7 pm, November 2016 through April 2017. Just look for the signs!

Customers may order a pre-made “share” or “basket” of products compiled from different vendors that sell at the farmers market during the regular summer season. Each basket is worth $20 or $40, and should be ordered ahead of time. Baskets are pre-assembled and include fresh vegetables and greens, baked goods, and specialty items like eggs, coffee, honey, jam etc. Submit your order ahead of time to reserve a basket.

Get more fruits and vegetables when you spend your SNAP Bridge Card dollars at the mobile winter farmers market. Through the Double Up Food Bucks Program, we are able to offer double the amount of food. Spend $10 off your Bridge card and get the $20 value basket, or spend $20 for the $40 value basket. Other payment options include cash, check or credit card. See our website or call Stephanie at (616) 734-9123 for more information.

We are a “mobile” market because pickup will also be offered in the towns of Manchester and Stockbridge. See our website for dates, times, and locations.

All proceeds go back to the farmers and vendors.

Comcast Eyeing Expansion Into Grass Lake

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Comcast Corporation, one of the nation’s largest video, high speed internet and phone providers to residential customers is looking into potentially expanding into the Grass Lake area.

John Gardner, Director, External Affairs for Comcast recently sent a completed Michigan Uniform Video Service Local Franchise Agreement to Grass Lake Charter Township for their review and signature. The agreement was signed and returned. The agreement is the first step in establishing cable and/or internet within Grass Lake Charter Township. It is required by Michigan law under Act 480 of 2006.  According to the act, it’s purpose is to promote competition in providing video services in this state; to ensure local control of rights-of-way; to provide for fees payable to local units of government; to provide for local programming; to prescribe the powers and duties of certain state and local agencies and officials; and to provide for penalties.

Currently Grass Lake is serviced by WOW (Wide Open West) for cable, internet and phone and Frontier for phone and internet. These agreements are not exclusive and allow for competition within the Township. Grass Lake Charter Township receives a quarterly fee from WOW for each of their cable subscribers. These fees amount to approximately $7,500 annually.

According to Michelle Gilbert, Vice President – Public Relations and Social Media, Heartland Region at Comcast, “There is no set timeframe” for the next steps. “This is step 1 of a multi-step process” she said. “Sometimes these project plans are several years out. Sometimes its two or more years”. One of the things that “sometimes makes a difference in prioritizing projects” is customer interest. She encourages residents interested to submit a petition or other social media pages to gauge interest.

From Comcast’s website, Comcast Corporation (NASDAQ: CMCSA) is a global media and technology company with two primary businesses, Comcast Cable and NBCUniversal. Comcast Cable is one of the nation’s largest video, high-speed Internet and phone providers to residential customers under the XFINITY brand and also provides these services to businesses. NBCUniversal operates news, entertainment and sports cable networks, the NBC and Telemundo broadcast networks, television production operations, television station groups, Universal Pictures and Universal Parks and Resorts.

Meet the Candidates: Joel Grimm (challenger)

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Grass Lake Village Board of Trustees candidate Joel Grimm is focused on the future of the village and the township by extension.  He believes in smart growth, acknowledges the need for residential and commercial development, but fears potential fallout—urban sprawl and traffic—and wants to ride the brakes.

This is the third of four personal profiles on candidates running for the Grass Lake Village Board of Trustees.  Incumbent trustees Carolyn Rees and Cheryl Vicory are running to hold their seats against challengers Gina Lammers and Grimm.  The election is scheduled to be held on Tuesday, November 8th.


On a recent Saturday morning the Grimms, Joel and Erica, his wife of 10 years, invited me to their house for coffee and to talk about the election.  An amicable greyhound greeted me at the door.  “We have two,” Grimm says.  “The other one’s out in the yard.”

The candidate is dressed in black slacks, sandals, a crisp white shirt, and a necktie.  He could pass for a minister or a blues musician.  After the interview the couple traveled to a wedding in Muskegon.

The dogs help Grimm campaign.  Walking them in the evening provides opportunity to politic in his neighborhood, to meet new people and to strengthen allegiances with those who already know the Grimms.


In the kitchen the flavored coffee burbles and steams.  Grimm, 33, is the son of a Lutheran pastor, Dale Grimm, who serves at the Church of Our Savior in Chelsea.    

The couple reminisces about their trip to Egypt and the Holy Land.   In the Hebrew Scriptures the prophet Joel speaks of “the Day of the Lord,” when an invasion of locusts ravages the nation of Judah, the kingdom theocratic.  Grimm is neither fire nor brimstone.  He bears a mild disposition, a cerebral mien, describes himself as being “very analytical, conservative, open-minded.”  Erica chimes in: “He’s hard-working, self-motivated,” she says then turns to her husband: “You complain a lot.”

The squeaky wheel gets the oil.   

Their trip to the Holy Land was a religious sightseeing tour “to understand Scripture better,” Grimm says.   

It was easier for the couple to enter Egypt and Israel than it was to leave Egypt.  Egyptian customs officials gave him a hard time over a bag of rocks in his luggage.  These were not just any rocks, but stones gathered from the traditional site where David toppled Goliath with a sling and a stone.

Despite the hassle the trip provided the Grimms with a three-dimensional perspective on the Bible.  “It puts a picture in your mind when you read it,” he says.


Joel Christopher Grimm was born November 20, 1982 in Wishek N.D.  His father the pastor moved the family with each pastoral assignment.  “We lived in Wyoming, in Canada, Alberta, and Idaho in a town with a population of 12.  My family made up half of the population.”

Grimm graduated from Chelsea High School in 2001.  He earned an Associate Degree in Criminal Justice from Washtenaw Community College and a Bachelor Degree in Family Life and Social Services from Concordia University in Ann Arbor.  A “bus stop ambassador” he works for the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, a not-for-profit organization that operates the public transportation system in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti.

At work in that urbane setting Grimm keeps his ear to the ground in Grass Lake.  As a candidate Grimm includes in his platform the urgency of maintaining local flora and fauna.  Wetlands and natural resources must be preserved and protected in light of commercial and residential growth in the village and the township regardless of how high the carpenters raise the roof beams with mitigated growth, the candidate says.    


“I can see Dollar General from my back yard,” he says peering out the window and directing me to the location where the future store will be erected.  He chafes at the store with its yellow standard and drab brick façade.  “I’m a Nimby,” he continues, referring to the acronym that means “not in my back yard,” a pejorative term invoked by residents who don’t wish to have commercially zoned businesses too close to home, such as wind farms atop bucolic mountains or within eyesight of Martha’s Vineyard.  The mindset of the Nimby, according to the Urban Dictionary, is Nymbism.       

“Grass Lake is going to grow,” he says.  “But we need to be concerned about our ecosystem, keep Grass Lake a small rural town where you know your neighbors.”

Grimm doesn’t see himself as a politician in the conventional sense but he is civic minded and has studied up on the issues enough to offer constructive, or not so constructive criticism.  “The political scene (in Grass Lake and nationally) is falling apart and we need to do something.”


Joel and Erica support the proposal for a millage increase to support services in the Jackson Library.  On Election Day county voters will decide whether to approve a .5 mill increase to maintain library amenities in Jackson County.  Erica is a non-library staffer at the JDL; she works in Brooklyn and Napoleon.  “We have to stay relevant,” she says.

“I believe education is needed for Jackson County,” her husband adds. “The library brings safe places for children after school and the library enhances education.”

‘IN MY FRONT YARD’        

Earlier this year tragedy struck at the house of Grimm.  In September a silver maple tree as big as the spawn of a California redwood uprooted itself and caused damage to the Grimms’ 1998 Aliner camper and their 1999 Saturn.  According to a report published in the Grass Lake Times dated September 4, the trunk measured nearly 10 feet in diameter.  The tree toppled over, collapsed like a dying star.

“Huge tree,” Grimm says, eyes widening as he recalls what happened.  “No wind or storm.  We didn’t hear a thing.  Neither did the dogs.”     


Future Grass Lakers will shape the village in ways that the current population can’t imagine, Grimm agrees, despite the outcome of next week’s election.

As a potential trustee Grimm is focused on the here and now but also sees the bigger picture regarding the future of Grass Lake.  Their portable computers open on the table, the Grimms check out statistics and demographics in the area, statistics that report that the average age of Grass Lakers is 38 years old.     

“Grass Lake needs younger families,” he says.  “I see a big urban sprawl coming this way.  Ann Arbor is a good place to work but I like the country atmosphere here.”

Previous candidate profiles can be found online at: