Wednesday, January 31, 2007

His Spirit Will Always Be There

From The Grand Rapids Press, Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Hundreds pay respects to Abney
By Charles Honey (Press Religion Editor)

GRAND RAPIDS -- Eunice Hill-Guillory came to the church about 10:15 a.m. Tuesday to say goodbye to Bishop William C. Abney. More than two hours later, she was still there.

The Wyoming woman was among hundreds who filed through Bethel Pentecostal Church Abundant Life Center, paying their last respects to the man who had been their beloved pastor for 45 years.

"I don't want to leave him," Hill-Guillory said after viewing Abney's body in Bethel's colorful sanctuary. "He showed me how to love, no matter what. He's the only reason I got through."

It was the first day of public visitation for Abney, who died Feb. 23 at age 80. He was to lie in repose at Bethel until 5 p.m. today, to be followed by a private memorial service.

Abney's body was also on view Monday at Greater Grace Temple in Detroit.

People left flowers and teddy bears around Bethel's outdoor sign, which read: "Bishop, you didn't complain" -- a reference to Abney's favorite hymn, "I Won't Complain."

Recordings of his renowned singing played in the sanctuary, and CDs, DVDs and tapes were on sale in the lobby.

A steady stream of visitors flowed past his flower-framed casket near the altar. Abney's hands were folded peacefully on a brilliant purple, green and gold robe.

Gennie Washington burst into tears after seeing him.

"Everything comes to an end, but it's just hard to say goodbye," said Washington, 53. "It's hard to let go of someone you love."

Ethel Thomas serenely reflected on the loss of "a man of God."

"I feel lost, but I know he's OK," said Thomas, 74. "His spirit will always be here, always be with Bethel."

Charles Booker said the pain Abney endured in his final years from diabetes and other ailments tempers sadness at his passing.

"I'm happy because he's not suffering, but I'm hurt because I'll miss him," said Booker, 44, head of Bethel's men's ministry. "You want to see him in a better place, and he is. He's whole again."

Ricky Wilson leaned on a cane as he recalled Abney's acts of generosity and his undiscriminating love.

"Everybody was somebody. No matter how bad you were, he was there to extend what Jesus did -- showing love, being a good neighbor," said Wilson, 54.

"I always thought he would be here till God comes back."

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This is not my work. It is just too good to hide from Google.

Note that as long as MLive keeps the article up, you can access the original by clicking on the link at the top of this entry.

Want to see the rest?

Bishop William C Abney Visitation Schedule

You can probably find this in Wednesday's Grand Rapids Press, but for those out of town, here it is:

Note the links to the map for Resurrection Life Church for those of you from out of town.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

I'm just not paying attention

So today I click over to the web site of Wm. K. Walthers, Inc., probably the world's premier manufacturer and distributer of model train products, only to see this:

Bruce J. Walthers

Bruce's father (William K) formed the company during the Depression to have a job and to give others access to products that just weren't available (most places) locally. Bruce took over from his father in the late 50's and passed the reins to his son (Phillip) in the mid-80's. The William K Walthers company has acted as a nation-wide and international distributer for many operations that are little more than a garage shop. ... And they have been doing this since long before the Internet.

You know how excited children get when the Christmas Toy catalogs come out? Something similar occurs each Fall when Walthers publishes their HO and N&Z Reference Books.

It is something to see the expansion of products that has occurred in the last 18 years. When I returned to modeling after the birth of my son, I found little had changed since my youth. Atlas and Life-Like still produced the same structures and Campbell had their craftsman wood structures that one had to build in miniature using the same methods as used on full size buildings. Now there is an amazing wealth of materials to work with, from detailed plastic models of all devise to elements of your favorite (now fallen flag) railroad.

We will miss you Bruce and all that you have done for the NMRA and modellers everywhere.

Monday, January 29, 2007

The Gerald R Ford Museum during the Day

Crypt located in the light blue circle.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Gerald R Ford Museum at Night

Image slightly foreshortened. Crypt located right below the timestamp on the picture.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Grand Rapids Loses Another Son

From The Grand Rapids Press, Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Bishop Abney leaves spiritual legacy
By Charles Honey (Press Religion Editor)

GRAND RAPIDS -- On the day Bishop William Abney died, memories of his kindness flooded back to those who loved him.

Famed gospel singer the Rev. Marvin Sapp remembered posing for his high school senior picture in a suit Bishop Abney had given him.

The Rev. Dennis McMurray spoke warmly of the Bible commentary his "spiritual father" gave him as he encouraged him to enter ministry.

And Shellie Cole-Mickens recalled a pastor who believed in her when no one else did, putting her in charge of his church's audio ministry after she left prison as an ex-crack addict.

"I would not be the woman I am today were it not for Bishop Abney," Cole-Mickens said Tuesday, following the beloved clergyman's death at age 80. "He breathed life back into me."

Such stories could be repeated thousands of times about the man who led Bethel Pentecostal Church Abundant Life Center for 45 years and was known around West Michigan and the country as an inspirational man of God.

"This city will miss him; this world will miss him," said McMurray, pastor of Renaissance Church of God in Christ. "This man was a world ambassador for Christianity."

"Our community has lost a great spiritual leader," said Mayor George Heartwell.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm called him "a pastor among pastors" who had "an extraordinary ability to cross denominational and racial lines."

In his last public appearance, Bishop Abney praised the governor at her inaugural prayer service at McMurray's church Jan. 7. He spoke weakly from a wheelchair, but his spirit appeared strong.

The bishop's health declined rapidly in the week leading to his death, which occurred shortly before 9 a.m. Tuesday. He died surrounded by family members at Faith Hospice in Byron Center.

"We're saddened because we're human, but we know that as Christians this is not the end of the story. He's in heaven," said the Rev. Janathan Abney Austin, one of his two daughters.

"He's in a place he lived all his life to go."

Bishop Abney shed a tear but was at peace shortly before he died, said the Rev. Jathan Austin, the bishop's grandson and successor as Bethel's pastor.

"It's an awesome loss, but we're grateful he's no longer suffering," Jathan Austin said.

Bishop Abney had battled health problems in recent years, including diabetes-related kidney dialysis and failing eyesight, high blood pressure and degenerative bone disease in his hips.

He underwent surgery July 9 to remove a blood mass from the surface of his brain, the result of a fall in May. The surgery came two days after he announced his retirement and was followed by weeks of rehabilitation.

He made a dramatic return to the church Aug. 31 during a weeklong celebration of his 45 years of ministry and 80th birthday.

Clergy from across the country joined more than 1,000 worshippers for the occasion. A large turnout also is expected for his funeral, to be held Feb. 2 at Resurrection Life Church in Wyoming. A celebration concert will be held Feb. 1 at the same church. Bishop Abney will be lying in state for public viewing at Bethel on Tuesday.

The events will honor a man known as an inspired preacher and spirited singer. Under his leadership, Bethel produced a famous gospel choir as well as the hit-making DeBarge family and the renowned gospel singer Sapp.

"One of the greatest voices ever to live," Sapp said of the pastor who nurtured his musical skills as a teen.

"He was a voice for the oppressed and the poor and the downtrodden," said the Rev. Ed Dobson, retired pastor of Calvary Church who worked with the bishop on the EEC. "He modeled the Jesus way through a life devoted to others, black or white.

"God is saying, 'Well done, you good and faithful servant,' because he certainly was that."

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Bishop Abney has spent the last 45 years making a difference in our community. This includes founding a now well-known church and a (charter school) academy that is of the expect more (as in we expect more of you, child) style. His children (and grandchildren) continue in his cause, so Grand Rapids will not lack for stirring leaders.
This is not my work. It is just too good to hide from Google.

Note that as long as MLive keeps the article up, you can access the original by clicking on the link at the top of this entry.

Want to see the rest?

Night Time in GR

President Gerald R Ford's resting place is in the lower right corner of the first picture. The glowing tent on the right of the second picture is the Central Station of The Rapid.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

A Dignified Resting Place

President laid in crypt designed by Jenison resident 25 years ago
by Jeffrey Cunningham

Tuesday, January 9, 2007
Grand Valley East Advance

This is not otherwise on the web. This really should be on the AP or UPI wire.

Ray Sheler was just 33-years-old in 1979 when his design firm was hired by Grand Rapids architect Marvin J. DeWinter to design the landscaping for a project that would forever change how the world viewed the City of Grand Rapids.

"At the time I knew I would never work on another project like this," Sheler, of Jenison, recalled last week.

The project in this case was the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum for which DeWinter was the architect.

Sheler had worked for DeWinter on several other projects in West Michigan, but their work on the Gerald R. Ford Presidnetial Museum was their best work, Sheler said. "It had to be."

Twenty-five years have passed since the museum was dedicated, but the shining moment for the museum may have been under the national spotlight as the host for last week's public repose and final resting place for the 38th president.

DeWinter, 74, is retired as an architect but still works in land development. Sheler, 60, is also retired. He suffered a stroke four years ago and while he has fully recovered physically from the stroke, he is still working daily to regain the ability to talk.

Sheler and DeWinter would work on several other projects around Grand Rapids in the 1980s, but have not worked on any projects since.

Still, they remain linked via the Ford Museum, although to most it is DeWinter's
name that is associated with the project. DeWinter designed the triangular building that sits on the creast of the knoll that created a vista of Grand Rapids.

Many may not recall, Sheler said, that he designed the landscaping, the reflecting pool, and the crypt where the former president is now buried.

At the time the museum was designed, the building that DeWinter designed was called "Celebration of Space" and the grounds and exterior facilities, which were designed independently by Sheler, were called "Celebration of Water."

The 44,000-square-foot building cost $11 million and dedicated in 1981.

Since it was dedicated 25 years ago, the two "Celebrations" have grown together as the two designers had intended.

Over the last week, the museum and grounds have been on display as the country and world said their final farewells to the late president Ford.

DeWinter said after the funeral that he was pleased that the building and grounds continue to reflect the modest man for which it was built. "We used basic materials - concrete and glass for the building that reflected Ford the man," he told the Advance last week. "If I was designing this building for another president, I would have used different materials."

He said he also appreciated that the area around the crypt has grown up to become a "dignified cove for Ford's final resting place."

Originally Ford hadn't thought about where he was going to be buried, DeWinter said. "There wasn't much input originally as to Grand Rapids being Ford's final resting place," he said.

As part of the design process for the museum itself, DeWinter visited the libraries of former president Harry Truman and Herbert Hoovers and realized that both of the late presidents were buried at their libraries.

The Ford library is at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. DeWinter wondered after the visits to the other presidential libraries what Ford thought about being buried in Grand Rapids. "So I asked Mr. Ford what he thought and he said that he would talk to Betty about it and get back to me," DeWinter said. "They decided it would be good (to be buried in Grand Rapids) and they left the design up to us."

DeWinter originally hired Sheler's firm to design the landscaping for the museum in 1979 because the two had worked together on other projects.

In the end, Sheler would design not only the landscaping for the 20 achres but the reflecting pool and fountain, and eventually the placement and design of the crypt where the Fords were to be buried.

Sheler said the design of that space was rather simple. "I just looked at the area and kind of pulled the design out of the air," Sheler said last week as he sat at his home on Lamplight Drive in Jenison, going through the design plans for the crypt and reflecting pool.

The engineers would figure out how to make everything work, like how to move the slabs of concrete that cover the crypts, he said. "But the actual design of the crypt and the landscaping plan arouns was mine and it was nice to see that 25 years later, it looks good."

Sheler also pointed out that it was his idea to plant a large white pine tree on the grounds. "It is the only tree that grows naturally in all 50 states," he said.

Over the last 25 years, DeWinter's name has remained associated with the museum as the designer of the building. While Sheler's name is not associated with the project as frequently, Sheler said he takes that in stride. "It takes many to build something like this and many to design something like this," he said. "Yes, I would like for people to know that I designed the outdoor parts of the Ford Museum - but I was glad to have just the chance to work on the museum and I know what we did together," he said.

In the end, everyone who worked on the project did thier best and last week when President Ford was laid to rest, that was all that mattered, Sheler said. "I was proud."

There are pictures attached to the article of both Mr Sheler and the crypt. The caption on the crypt picture implies that the receiving vaults for President and Mrs. Ford lie behind the vertical concrete slabs that form the semi-circular wall of the crypt and on which are mounted their names.

Note that as long as MLive keeps the article up, you can access the original by clicking on the link at the top of this entry.

Want to see the rest?

Use of U-M blanket warms his heart

From The Grand Rapids Press, Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Grad sees memento used in Ford funeral
By Tom Rademacher (Press Columnist)

Mark Harmsen cherished for nearly 30 years the stadium blanket given to him by his parents upon his graduation in 1978 from the University of Michigan.

Yet it took only a phone call last Tuesday for him to part with it -- and with the bittersweet knowledge he would never hold it again.

The next day, Harmsen was surprised and overcome with emotion while watching live coverage of President Gerald R. Ford's funeral, to see his blanket folded on a pew and serving as a somber substitute for Bo Schembechler, the late U-M football coach who was invited to serve as one of Ford's honorary pallbearers.

In ensuing TV coverage, Harmsen was moved as well to see that Ford's widow, Betty, carried the maize and blue blanket on her lap as she visited her husband's interment site by wheelchair at the presidential museum.

"I was just stunned," said Harmsen, a real estate developer who lives in Plainfield Township. "I got incredible goosebumps."

Harmsen was tapped for the blanket by friend and former U-M running teammate Greg Meyer, who represents the university.

"Greg said 'I can't tell you what it's going to be used for,'" said Harmsen, "and that I wouldn't get it back, although he did offer to replace it."

Harmsen provided the blanket with no questions asked, and wasn't sure what role it would play until he tuned in to coverage of the funeral last Wednesday at Grace Episcopal Church in East Grand Rapids.

What made Harmsen's contribution even sweeter is this: Harmsen, like Ford, attained the rank of Eagle Scout as a youth, and while a member of the very same troop to which Ford belonged, No. 215.

Harmsen said he never got the chance to meet Ford or shake his hand, and hopes that, when Betty Ford glances at the blanket, "it serves as a reminder to her of the countless number of people who didn't have the opportunity to tell her husband our stories."

Looking skyward

While Harmsen and others were watching Ford's funeral on TV, John H. Cooper of Grand Rapids was outside the church during the service, casually scanning the skies with a powerful set of binoculars.

"I guess it goes back to my days with the Air National Guard," said Cooper, 65, referring to the years he served, from 1962 to 1968. "I'm always scanning the horizon and field of view."

What he beheld overhead as the funeral was in its closing moments is something he will never forget: What he insists was a lone American bald eagle circling far above the intersection of Hall Street and Plymouth Avenue SE.

"I had a pair of 10-by-50 binoculars so I could get a good view of the funeral party," he said. "Then I looked up in the sky and saw this solo bald eagle."

He spotted East Grand Rapids Mayor Cindy Bartman standing nearby, and invited her to look. She doesn't dispute his assessment: "With the binoculars, you could clearly see the white head," she said. "And we have had reports of bald eagles on Reeds Lake."

If Cooper's sighting isn't riveting enough on its own, know this: Cooper was holding an itinerary of the funeral proceedings that had been printed and distributed that morning by The Press.

According to Cooper's best guess, Sgt. First Class Sgt. Alvy R. Powell of the U.S. Army Chorus broke into his solo piece just moments after Cooper spotted the eagle.

The song Powell boomed out that afternoon in his trademark bass-baritone?
"On Eagle's Wings."

Kids sent cards

On a less-somber note, but entirely entertaining, Caledonia resident Laura Bartleson still is recounting the joy she experienced 34 years ago when, as a teacher at Oakdale Christian School, she invited her first-graders to write birthday cards to then-President Richard M. Nixon.

Then-Congressman Gerald Ford delivered the messages, and had them entered verbatim into the Congressional Record of Jan. 9, 1973.

A kid of 6 then, Tom Knol included a $1 bill with this note (original spelling): "From Tom Knol. I put a doller in. I voted for you. I am gladd that you wan." He then added, "Happy Birthday presdent Nixon, when you are haveing a picnic I hop the rain dusint spoyul it."

Knol lives in Caledonia now and works in sales. He said Monday that he only vaguely recalls the letter he wrote.

If Knol's name sounds familiar, it's because he grew up to be something of a political hopeful himself -- running unsuccessfully for both the Grand Rapids city and Kent County commissions.

Bartleson shared this week that Ford's decision to enter the kids' letters shows Jerry Ford was "the guy next door who loved to laugh."

Tom Rademacher's column runs Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. E-mail:
This is not my work. It is just too good to hide from Google.

Note that as long as MLive keeps the article up, you can access the original by clicking on the link at the top of this entry.

Want to see the rest?

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Grand Rapids Press Gerald Ford Special Editions

The GR Press has published three special editions about President Gerald R Ford since his death.

December 27th: Gerald R Ford - A Man of Character
A history of his life from the University of Michigan, through the Navy in World War II, the US House of Representative, and the White House.

January 3rd: Farewell to our president
The Washington Funeral, his body arriving in GR, the houses where he lived, and covering people waiting to visit him in repose.

January 4th: He Was One of Us
His Funeral in EGR and burial in GR, reminiscences from local people, more stories about the family, and a chronicle of the repose vigil.

If you wish a hard copy of the commemorative edition, you may contact The Grand Rapids Press.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

For those of you who could not be present

C-SPAN is offering a DVD package covering the Gerald R Ford Funeral.

The Gerald Ford Funeral Video Compilation features official ceremonies in Washington, DC, services in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and final interment at the Gerald Ford Presidential Museum. Official events in Washington include the arrival at Andrews Air Force Base, the funeral motorcade to the Capitol, official funeral services in the Capitol Rotunda and the National Cathedral.

Package price is listed as $24.95

They also have offerings of Reagan's Classic Speeches and Funeral, plus a two pack which contains both.

Update: Life Portrait of Gerald R. Ford is also available from C-SPAN.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Gerald "Our" Ford is back in town

On the way downtown

President Gerald "Our" Ford arrived in GR shortly before 3pm this afternoon. I was among the many people who lined the roads on his way downtown. (Picture is a bit blurry because I was using the multi-picture mode on the camera.)