Wege set an example for the rest of the country
By Emma Palova
EW Emma’s Writings
Lowell, MI- A real friend without pretense, an honest, generous man at ease with himself wherever he went.
That best describes philanthropist Mr. Peter Wege, who passed away on July 7th at the age of 94.
Most people in the greater Grand Rapids Area knew of Wege, but very few met him in person or knew him directly.
I belong to the smaller privileged group. I met Wege in person at the Franciscan Life Process Center on April 23, 2008 at a community breakfast in honor of his preservation efforts.
“One couldn’t help but be touched by his presence,” I wrote at the time in an article for the Lowell Ledger and other freelance publications.
His personality was shining through and lighting up the meeting room on a dark gloomy April morning. It lit up a ray of hope for the Heffron family, who were one of the first farm families to preserve land in Grattan Township.
“We should have been preserving since 1950,” he said time. “It should be as normal as kindergarten. It has taken us 40 years to get it started.”
Wege, an astute businessman, was first and foremost, a visionary. His father Peter Martin co-founded Metal Office Furniture, now Steelcase, and the largest office furniture manufacturer in the world. Wege joined Steelcase in 1946 and worked in different executive posts including sales, research and design, and as an officer on the Board of Directors of the Steelcase Foundation. He retired as vice-chairman of the Steelcase Board in 2000. Wege made Steelcase famous as one of the earliest environmental manufacturers in the world. The office furniture maker went “green” long before it became trendy.
Wege always made sure that people knew it was his father’s innovative genius that provided the wealth he gave away to make life better for others.
Wege’s passion for the environment originated in his service to the country as a World War II pilot. While flying from Dallas on a training plane, he wanted to stop in Pittsburgh, but couldn’t find it in the smog in the middle of the day.
“That jarred me,” he said at the preservation breakfast.
Inspired by Health Education and Welfare Secretary John Gardner, Wege embarked on a lifelong mission to save the planet in 1967. That year he established the Wege Foundation in honor of his parents Peter Martin and Sophia Louise Wege.
Wege was a firm believer in doing things together for the better of civilization and to preserve the planet.
“We have to think about what we are doing to this country,” he said in 2008 at the Franciscan Center.
Wege loved the northeast Kent County area that he helped preserved.
Driving around the farmland in Vergennes in Grattan townships you will find bright blue and green signs with a red barn on it. These designate the preserved land through easements funded by Wege. They include area farmers from Heffrons to Konings and Wilcox.
In donating farmland preservation easements, and other conservation efforts Wege wanted to set an example for the entire country.
Wege often visited with the Franciscan Sisters. When the Franciscans came to the area in the early 1970s, he donated 230 acres to what had become the Franciscan Life Process Center.
“He believed in our mission,” said center director Sister Colleen Ann Nagle. “He helped us meet people in the area and to raise money.”
Wege served as the chairman of the advisory board for the Franciscan Center. He participated in many fundraisers.
“He was genuinely interested in anything that would help people,” said Nagle. “He was one of those special people where you do not have to put on any pretense.”
And Wege, who kept a farmhouse on the Franciscan property, always stayed in touch with the center and its mission. He attended events and meetings on regular basis, and moreover Wege brought people with him to the area.
“He would just stop in the kitchen for a cup of coffee,” said Nagle. “That’s the kind of person he was.”
Most people will remember Wege for his unbelievable generosity and honesty, as well as for his versatility. Although best known as an environmentalist, Wege was also an author, poet, painter, photographer and an accomplished athlete.
He liked to say, “Educate, Educate, Educate.”
That is why he co-founded the Wittenbach Wege Agriscience and Environmental Education Center in Lowell along with many of other nature centers.
A business man, Wege coined the word economicology to define his advocacy for striking the right balance between a healthy ecology and a profitable economy. He wrote two books titled Economicology, the first in 1998, and the sequel in 2010. In both books Wege wrote his version of the Eleventh Commandment:
“Thou shalt not commit abuse against the environment, but rather honor it with respect for sustaining life.”
That commandment summarizes Wege’s life philosophy.
“He will be missed for the person he was,” said Nagle.
Thank you Mr. Peter Wege for living in our times, and for giving us the inspiration, passion and love to follow you.”
Copyright © 2014 story and photos by Emma Palova
Summer is in full swing, don’t miss out on anything
The Kris Hitchock and Small Town Son country rock band played on the opening night of the Riverwalk Festival Friday.
For full schedule go to http://www.lowellchamber.org
see Sarah Harmon’s story on local events page
Check out my newly redesigned writing blog http://editionemma.wordpress.com
Comment on your writing good or bad habits.
Originally posted on editionemma:
Acquire the 10 traits of all successful bloggers & writers
Even Earnest Hemingway was a disciplined writer in the morning.
2-Regularity. Not just in the digestive tract.
Post on regular basis otherwise you will lose your following.
Inspire yourself, don’t wait for inspiration to walk into your room. Go beyond the cyberspace.
Don’t wait to write until something occurs. Seek it out on your own. Ask yourself questions.
5- Innovation. Reinvention.
Keep reinventing yourself. After all, books, articles and stories are all just rehashed words from the past. Put them in the right order.
6- Perseverance. Determination.
Don’t give up in face of adversity.
Organize and reorganize again. Shuffle and reshuffle words.
Outline complex subjects.
9-Be choosy. Be specific.
Choose the right subject for you. No generic meandering or beating around the bush here.
Know what you…
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July 4th on the Big Muddy
EW Emma’s Writings
I like simple things: a cheap glass of wine, a good book, a new picture of my grandchildren and a sturdy lawn chair. I also LOVE the 4th of July. It’s one of my favorite holidays. I love the heat, humidity, picnics, parades, fireworks and time with family.
Each July fourth we load up Sara (my trusty SUV) and head north to the big muddy, the Mississippi river. We have our annual fish fry waterside. My husband, son, nephew and brothers-in-law are all sport-fishing enthusiasts, who do their best to accumulate a sizeable catch. If the catch is small (something a fisherman does not like to discuss) we hit the Piggly Wiggly for fried chicken. The day revolves around good food and conversation.
On the morning of the fourth, we start out with homemade mini donuts deep fat fried on the patio. There is nothing better than a warm donut with your morning coffee!
Midday we heat up the fish fryer and begin breading and cooking the fish. Once it is ready we bring out the corn on the cob, watermelon and a crazy good mixture of midwestern potluck fare. After the fish fry, the kids are busy with squirt guns, swimming, boat rides, jumping off the dock and fishing.
A few years ago we started a new tradition, at dusk we launch Chinese paper lanterns: one for each of the grandchildren. The kids line up by height and the parents help with the launch. Last year, long after the last lantern had flown over the western bluffs, my grandson pointed to the eastern sky and said, look grandma that one made it around the world already!
Meanwhile, a campfire is lit and the adults pull up their lawn chairs. The kids bring out the sparklers, sizzling snakes and their renewed enthusiasm. Sometimes I wonder where they store all that energy. And since we have not eaten enough, the marshmallow forks and pie makers magically appear. We make s’mores, campfire pies and roasted marshmallows before the fireworks begin.
There are several small communities on the big muddy who have fireworks and from our vantage point we can usually see three to four different displays. Sonic booms go on into the wee hours of the night and if the mosquitoes cooperate you can watch the fireworks until almost three in the morning!
I think my favorite part of the holiday is spending time with family. The campfire brings out the stories and embarrassing – the better. One of the uncles, who liked his beer, cut down a light pole with his chainsaw because he ran out of firewood for the campfire. On another occasion, he sunk his boat and motor while it was tied to the dock.
We are also very fond of corny jokes. My father in law was a master; he could entertain a crowd for hours. His standard comeback has now become a one liner for his great grandkids. When he was asked, where did you catch that fish? He would reply, I caught him in the lip. It’s really funny when a three year old delivers the punch line.
Hopefully, one of my great- grandchildren will be sitting by a campfire on the banks of the big muddy retelling stories and corny jokes for years to come.
Copyright (c) 2014 story by skgroen photo by Emma Palova
Saint Patrick establishes traditions
By Emma Palova
EW Emma’s Writings
Parnell, MI- I love this Irish unincorporated settlement in the middle of nowhere. I got hooked on it almost 20 years ago, when we were looking for a place to build a house. We found it right here in northeast Kent County, Michigan, some 6,000 miles away from home in former Czechoslovakia.
“I am going to like it here,” I said to my husband Ludek as we drove past the white country church and the old general store.
I can easily list all the establishments in Parnell. There are the Saint Patrick’s Church and school, the cemetery and the Parnell Grocery store.
The parish with its parishioners cement Parnell as they have for the last 170 years. The annual Saint Patrick Festival is the biggest event of the year in the community. It always takes place at the end of June far from the actual feast of Saint Patrick on March 17. But, the weather is better, although unpredictable.
Over the years, the festival weather has been from jacket cold to bikini hot.
We found out about the Irish festival early on through channels in Lowell. We’re not Irish by any means, but we lived in Montreal which has a big Irish heritage. We went to the Saint Patrick’s parade there which was complete with bagpipers in skirts.
Saint Patrick festival has become a family tradition, a homecoming when we all get together. My daughter Emma Palova-Chavent usually flies in for Saint Patrick Festival from France.
Dave Simmonds’ bluegrass band Easy Idle that played on Friday festival nights inspired her wedding music and dance back in 2009.
This year, the Conklin Ceili Band played on Friday night. Even without closing my eyes, I could see Michael Flatley and his troop dancing to the Irish band.
I can’t dance the jig, but I can certainly appreciate it.
The Las Vegas night, preceded by the auction, takes place on Saturday nights. I tried my luck a few times and I’ve always lost.
The big get together day is Sunday. After the mass, it’s time for the popular chicken dinners. My parents Ella and Vaclav Konecny always come from Big Rapids to share this special time.
I am not a chicken lover, but the grilled chicken with mashed potatoes, corn, cole slaw and apple sauce is delicious. And the desserts baked by the parishioner women are awesome.
“I don’t have to cook,” mom said victoriously.
Moreover, Saint Patrick parish festivals started popping up around Michigan, according to mom.
“We had one last week in Big Rapids and it raised $18,000,” Ella said.
Much like back in 1850 when the chicken dinners started, I introduced my future daughter-in-law Maranda Lynn Ruegsegger to the tradition.
“I always had to work,” she said. “I am excited.”
Longtime parishioner Ed Donahue said the chicken dinners evolved into the three-day festival. Donahue has been in charge of the dinners.
“It’s a lot more than a fundraiser,” Donahue said.
It is more than a fundraiser. Freelance writer Maryalene LaPonsie received the Dorothy Award after the 5K run Friday for enduring hardship. LaPonsie has been raising five children as a single parent after her husband Tom passed away last year.
“I think the festival weekend may have breathed some new life into me,” LaPonsie wrote on Facebook. “I feel better than I have in a while. Hopefully that will carry over to tomorrow when the alarm goes off.”
LaPonsie wrote that she was honored to get the award.
“The only reason I can persevere is because of you my friends,” LaPonsie wrote. “You who pick me up when I fall, you who cheer me on when I despair, you who rush in when I falter.”
Saint Patrick parish festival is definitely more than a fundraiser for the church and the school. It is bonding time for families like ours and Irish descendants far away from home.
Copyright © 2014 story and photos by Emma Palova
Happiness engineer resolves computer drama
By Emma Palova
EW Emma’s Writings
Lowell, MI-Happiness comes in many forms. What brings a smile to your face?
A WordPress happiness engineer brought a smile back to my face.
I panicked after I lost two-thirds of followers of EW Emma’s Writings on Monday. The photo below depicts exactly what I felt like. The caricature is by Olin Pink
“Losing followers, including shares and subscriptions, is like losing gold or accounts,” I wrote in the original story that I have decided to completely rewrite.
The help I received was efficient, fast, analytical and comforting. Each email ended with “Cheers.”
I got links that narrowed down the problem and finally resolved it with a best wishes farewell.
Happiness engineering reminds me of Russian nesting dolls. Happiness engineers work to narrow down the problem and what caused it.
The happiness engineers around the world work as a team until the problem is solved.
The WordPress support distributed team works in a similar environment like the users, according to a presentation by happiness engineer Andrew Spittle. Here is an excerpt from Spittle’s talk at a 2013 conference in San Francisco.
The second principle I hold to be true is that happy people are most inclined to share and spread that happiness.
We’re Happiness Engineers, right? We don’t want to create a culture of sadness. That’s not going to help our users. If we can orient decisions toward increasing our happiness then it will also inevitably increase our users’ happiness.
We can step back from the pressure, trends, and isolation of any particular geographic area. There isn’t a central, geographic ideology that’s predominant. The languages, values, ideas, and lifestyles of our team are distributed around the world, just like our users.
That built-in geographic distribution, what I earlier called being location-agnostic, means we can say No to a lot of things. A lot of things people assume to be required of a customer support gig we don’t need to worry about. In our day-to-day work we have:
We have no set shifts. We prescribe no particular schedule. And we ensure that no one pulls a graveyard shift.
Thanks to the entire support team and especially to the angel happiness engineer somewhere out there in that vast Internet space.
Copyright © 2014 story and photo by Emma Palova