MAY-JUNE  2008


Wednesday, July 9
, 7 p.m. at the Saugatuck High School Media Room, John Thomas, the son of Ev Thomas, talks about growing up in the Douglas area. The word on the street is "young" John has the same gift of gab that made his father so popular.

Wednesday. August 13, Annual Potluck Picnic at Mt. Baldhead Park. Chips and dips at 6 p.m., dinner at 6:30. We always have great homemade delicacies and no one leaves hungry!

Wednesday, September.10, at 7 p.m.,  Official Opening of the Old School House. We will have an opportunity to tour the building , and learn how we will be able to use the facilities of this new learning center.


It has been a great time thus far, renewing friendships and acquaintances and getting to know some of our gifted and passionate members. I hope to get to know many more of you and to have us all work together to bring the Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Society to the next level of pride and excellence.

There is an item of unfinished business and, as a result, a need for clarification on the policy concerning acceptance of financial donations. The Society has and will continue to accept unrestricted financial donations and greatly appreciates the many gifts supporting our mission.

A transition workshop took place May 29 to help the new board fully understand the focus presented to us and to help us begin implementing the new structure of the society that you have been reading about over the past year. To help facilitate these new functions the new board held a workshop on June 14 and discussed and assigned members of the "at-large" board who will act as Liaisons between the committees and the board to bring  consistency which will then allow the committees to concentrate on what they do best.

In order to share the entire scope of the tasks set before us, we will be conducting a series of meetings with the individual committees to give you the opportunity to articulate ideas and plans both short and long term, that will enable us all to envision the best way to incorporate those ideas into the larger picture. Change is constant and so should our ability to improve. Input from the committees and volunteers is essential to improvement and success.  The board will have a follow-up workshop within the next few weeks and will then be able to communicate the liaison appointments in the July Newsletter and at the monthly meeting. 

We have many opportunities to offer the community and will soon be able to present one of our treasures and passionate projects later this summer when the Old School House Discovery Center will be opened.  

As members of the Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Society we come together as a community to share our passion and talent and to be good stewards.  It is an honor to be associated with all of you.

As this is a combined newsletter for May and June, Kit told me I had to keep it short.  There is much more to talk about and we will continue to keep you all informed.

Thank you  to all


Renovations at the Old School House have reached the exciting stage with the installation of drywall this past week! Soon you will see exterior painting begin and installation of the brick sidewalk leading to the front door. The main floor is scheduled to be completed at the end of the summer with the lower level and second floor finished as funds become available. Click HERE for the latest photos.

Please understand that we continue on a pay-as-you-go schedule and are still in need of additional funds to complete this project!

The Old School House project committee hopes that you will reserve the evening of September 10 (our regularly scheduled Society meeting) for the official ribbon cutting ceremony! Our program will be the unveiling of the School House at that point with a show and tell of the discoveries to be found within its walls. Final plans of the Back-in-Time Pathway will also be explained. So mark your calendars now!


Judi Vanderbeck, chair of the Bowl-O-Rama reports: Our June 5 "friendraiser" was a huge success. We had 38 bowlers who collected pledges and bowled their hearts out to support the Old School House Project.

The silent auction "street baskets" and raffles were a big hit, too, bringing in more monetary support for our project. We totaled about $3,700 and lots of new friends. The best part was the great fun we were ALL having.

Dottie Lyon from the Old School House committee wrote, “Thank you Judi Vanderbeck for the fun Friend Raiser at Lakeview Lanes. And thanks also to the bowlers who participated and our local shop owners for their donations for the Silent Auction. Let's do it again!”

The members of the Society were sorry to hear of the death of Robert Dexter "Bob" Johnson on June 7, 2008, at the age of 78.

He was a graduate of Marquette University in engineering and worked for Boeing Corporation, retiring in 1981. He first came to Pier Cove as a child with his family, and spent most summers of his life in the area.

Bob was a charter member of the Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Society and served as Vice-President of the Society and then as the organization's third President 1990-1991 and accepted the office again 1994-l997. He received the Lorenz Award of Achievement in 1998 for his dedication.

He is the person who insisted the Society file for a 501(C)3 non-profit corporation status because he figured if we were ever to reach our goals, we should be properly organized. He served on the initial steering committee to plot the course for the development of the museum and he applied for the Society’s first grant which was used for the museum.

Bob was also the organizer behind the Lorenz Award, an annual award for leadership named for our fourth president, Charles J. Lorenz. He served as committee chair and took care of the plaque details. He was very busy behind the scenes.

Bob and his wife Ellen established an endowment fund through the Allegan County Community Foundation in honor of their son, John B. Johnson. designating the  Historical Society as recipient of the interest.

He was the man who campaigned ceaselessly to get the Society to move forward with the restoration of the Francis Lifeboat. He researched its history, its construction, and managed to amass two boxes of Francis Lifeboat material. Many of us still remember him just beaming with pride when the restored lifeboat was dedicated at the museum opening in 2006. How he would have loved to see its planned place of honor in the Old School House gardens.

One of the last Society activities he was in involved in was the purchase of the Old School House. I remember him celebrating with us as the final papers were signed.

This spring I received a phone call from Bob and he wanted me to stop by and pick up some of the Society records. He wanted everything in the Society to be in its rightful place. He had a simple, deep love for the Society and its members had a love for him. He will be missed.

Peg Sanford


Eleven new officers and board members, inaugurated at our May 14 meeting, now will roll out a newly enhanced organizational structure with new by-laws intended to streamline the Society's operations and programs and to facilitate its continuing growth.

Our new by-laws, approved late last year, will move SDHS governance away from the earlier committee-chair structure toward a member-at-large structure. This change frees committee chairs to concentrate their efforts within their committees' special interest, and relies on board members-at-large for general oversight of Society functions and decisions on Society policy, direction and operation.

For guiding these changes, our new president, Kathy Sturm (nee Tisdale), a native of Douglas, now residing in Saugatuck Township, brings us great credentials as Manager of Programs for the International Society of Architectural Historians (SAH, Chicago) and previously, General Manager at American Express Business Travel.

Vice-president Jon Helmrich, who founded and runs an international television consultancy here, is perhaps best known locally for his monthly radio interview/talk show, "The View from the Dunes," on WGVU.

Secretary Jane Osman, an active SDHS volunteer, is a former Latin teacher and with her husband, Al, operates commercial greenhouses and gardens in Holland.

Treasurer Stacy Honson, CPA, operates her own accounting practice in Saugatuck and has broad experience with not-for-profit clients. 

New Board Members-At-Large are:

w Ken Carls, graphic designer and Lorenz Award winner, previous SDHS board member and Publications Chair from 1994-2006
w Bill Hess, recently  elected to the Saugatuck City Council, who also serves on the Planning Commission and as SDHS Museum Volunteer Coordinator
w Steve Hutchins, Saugatuck Board of Education President and SDHS Museum volunteer
w Ed Kelly, former executive with ARAMARK and still active in Chicago charities working with the underprivileged
w Harold Thieda, who heads the Society’s Archives Committee, oversees our Walking Tours program and previously was an SDHS board member
w Mary Voss, also a previous SDHS board member, earlier worked at the Holland Museum, now registers acquisitions for the SDHS Archives and recorder of our volunteer hours
w Nancy Woods, former Vice President for Extended Learning at Kalamazoo Valley Community College, with extensive not-for-profit experience in fundraising and planning.

"With the new officers, board and by-laws now in place," President Sturm says, "we plan to focus on more efficient ways to utilize the talent, energy and passion of our volunteers, with an emphasis on stronger central communication.  We also will give priority to maximizing the benefits from SDHS facilities, especially our Old School House Discovery Center, while broadening volunteer participation and developing new fiscal opportunities within the Society.  So while our governance structure is being improved," she emphasizes, "our mission as a Society remains unchanged." 

In order to facilitate communication with the new board, their email addresses are listed below:

President: Kathy Tisdale Sturm.
Vice President: Jon Helmrich. Treasurer: Stacy Honson.
Secretary: Jane Osman.
Ken Carls.
Bill Hess.
Steve Hutchins.
Ed Kelly.
Harold Theida.
Mary Voss.
Nancy Woods.
Director: Fred Schmidt.


The Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Society established the Volunteer Award in 2003 to honor outstanding service to the Society.

The 2008 Volunteer of the year is Judy Hillman. She is the principal designer for the museum exhibitions since 2002 and chairs the museum's design group. She spends hundreds of professional hours each year working with the curator on the exhibit concept and then with the design group on implementation.

Judy is a hands-on person, not only does she work on the concept and design, she is also at the museum clearing out debris from the previous year’s exhibit, she is slinging a paint brush, she is putting up the text information, and she is serving as a cheerleader for the exhibit committee.

Each year her work and the work of her committee produces the same results: the Society has another excellent exhibit.

Judy has served on the Heritage Preservation Awards committee for many years and also served as the 2008 chair of the awards committee.

Congratulations Judy!



This issue is a combined May and June issue of the Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Society newsletter. Because of the abundance of important news, some of it historic, a portion of the center section which is usually used to print primary history material of the area is being used to expand the news columns.

With the reorganization of the Society there are plans for new publications and altering the old-fashioned mode of delivery which will change our communications facade, but not our mission.       

                        Kit Lane, newsletter editor


The Charles J. Lorenz award is given each year to recognize distinguished leadership service toward fulfilling the mission of the Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Society by providing “leadership to enable the community to understand its past, and use its history to shape its future and preserve its quality of life.”

The recipient of the 2008 Charles J. Lorenz Award is Dick Haight. Working alone, and sometimes with a small group, he has taken our Society from the pen and paper world of the 19th Century straight into the 21st Century.

Dick has designed and planned the technical and media needs of the Society for many years. He conceived, developed, and maintained the Society’s first website. He designed and maintains the delivery system for the interactive displays at the museum, and for our partners at the SCA and Saugatuck Public Schools. He also designed the indexing system for the back newspapers which may ultimately be used for photos and archives.

Dick also was instrumental in organizing our tech center where one may access and print old pictures, where back issues of the Commercial Record were digitized and may be accessed, and cemetery records are being collected.

Each award-winning museum exhibit depends on the historical society's archives and the expertise of its tech center volunteers. Dick Haight is the man behind the technology!


The Tuesdays 'til Noon series of lectures, following the theme of this year's exhibit, "13 Moments in Time: The Artist as Storyteller," will begin July 8 and continued into August.

The tentative schedule is:

w July 8 - Anne Corlett Wiley with "A Century of Corletts Paint the Lakeshore."
w July 15 - Kit Lane with "The Roads to Saugatuck."
w July 22 - Ellen Sprouls with "Capturing Moments in Time; The Viewer as Interpreter."
w July 29 - James Schmiechen with "May Francis Heath: Artist and Storyteller."
w August 5 - Don Olendorf with "Bill Olendorf: Saugatuck and Ox-Bow Create an Artist."
w August 12 - to be announced.

There may be other presentations in August added to the schedule if the opportunity arises.

The Tuesdays 'til Noon program begins at 11 a.m. at the museum in the south gallery. There is a fire marshal mandated capacity for only 50 guests each day so plan to arrive early to get a seat.

The programs end promptly at noon when the museum opens for the day.

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