A look back at 2018 news and newsmakers
It’s been quite a year in our patch of peninsular paradise with newsmakers ranging from weather to Wise Men and Meijer to marijuana. Here’s a few of the highlights and lowlights we covered during this past spin around the sun.
Gerber Hospital turned 100 and Gerber Life was sold.
The hospital hit the century mark with some fanfare and saw a changing of the guard as well when Randy Stasik announced the end of his decade long run as President of what is now called Spectrum Health Gerber Memorial.
Nestle let go of the Gerber insurance brand with the sale to Western & Southern Financial Group for a cool 1½ billion bucks.
White Cloud emerged from the fires that razed the city’s Board of Public Works building and the Eagles club with new structures. The city also saw the county’s first medical marijuana dispensary White River Wellness appear on the north end of town as it awaits permission from the state to open.
Fire also closed up the unique lakeside dining opportunity known as Smuggler’s Cove in August much to the dismay of lake resident regulars and patrons from near and far.. No word as yet on whether there will ever be a reopening.
In early February ice issues forced closure of the road over Hardy Dam then later in the month flooding brought response from the always well prepared (thank you Abby Watkins) team from Emergency Management to ensure the safety of our river residents. The same group responded when the early May Oak Wildfire in southeastern Brooks Township consumed a bit over 100 acres of National Forest as well as the attention of folks near and far.
In April the long awaited groundbreaking of the Meijer store in Fremont and the community has been champing at the bit ever since as folks await the April 2019 opening (just three months away!).
In late October Judge Graydon Dimkoff was removed from office just two months from his December 31st retirement under the spectre of harassment accusations. He responded via a television interview denying any inappropriate action on his part.
The following week, in a two person race for the seat he was retiring from on the probate bench, local attorney Melissa Dykman emerged as the winner.
Four new commissioners take their spots on the 7 person county board in January after the November elections and the recreational marijuana law that passed statewide spurred Newaygo and Grant to ban recreational marijuana outlets. Medical marijuana licenses, however, were granted in Brooks Township and the cities of Newaygo and White Cloud earlier this year.
Best sports story of the year? The Holton High School football team pulled off the improbable. The scrappy Red Devil squad shook off a late season slide that caused them to barely squeak into the postseason then regrouped and made a historic run to the D8 semi finals. Holton’s remarkable run ended a game short of a Ford Field appearance as they were stopped by the Reading Rangers who would claim the state title the following week.
Recreationally, a group of dedicated paddlers freed up a water route on the White River from the Cloud to Hesperia and progress continued toward the ambitious project “The Dragon” a non motorized path that will allow bikers and hikers to circumnavigate Hardy Pond.
The Dogwood not only brought in a wide variety of top level entertainment to our area they embarked on an ambitious project to provide easier access to the much valued venue. While construction progresses, fundraising efforts continue with donations received from throughout the community.
LionHeart brought “Mary Poppins” to the Grant Fine Arts Center for their annual musical, a timely choice given the recent release of the new movie version.
And, of course, there were the Wise Guys.
No article this year, including the Meijer stories that tend to catch fire on our pages, came close to the response we got from the Wise Men controversy that culminated (for the time being) in a school board decision to not remove them as requested.
Has this one been put to rest? Perhaps not, but this year the Wise Men returned to their place on the hill overlooking Newaygo and despite the furor that put the town on TV and lit up social media, the Wise Men stayed.
These are just a few of the stories that found themselves on our pages in 2018.
Missed any? Go to our home page and type in a word or two or a bit of subject matter in our Near North Now search box and you will be transported to the story.
And now it is 2019.
No one knows for sure what will crack the local headlines this year. We live in an area that is experiencing change in many ways and the coming year will shed some light on how those changes will affect our community
Whatever comes down the pike we will continue to strive to bring you the stories as they unfold all the while entertaining you with our columnists, reviews, feature articles and your input from letters to the editor and guest articles.
In the meantime enjoy your New Year, embrace change, eschew obfuscation, when given the choice of being right or kind, choose kind, and above all watch for the proliferation of those pesky shoes alongside of the road.