Sharon L. (Rothi) Yonker

Service to GHAPS/Society – Class of 1962

Sharon Yonker '62Sharon Yonker graduated from GHHS in 1962, and she is truly a lifetime Buccaneer. Her love for others and the GHAPS community has made the Grand Haven school district a better place for all.

After graduating from Central Michigan University in 1966, Yonker taught various grade levels at a variety of schools. Her most fulfilling teaching position, however, was at Elliot School and Central High School, teaching alternative education. Yonker excelled in helping her students succeed in this setting, working tirelessly to develop unique strategies to help students learn, with the ultimate goal of helping all of “her kids” graduate.

Yonker made a tremendous impact in the lives of her students, both in and out of the classroom. If students needed help with their studies or someone to listen, Yonker was there. If they needed food, she fed them. If her students needed a ride, she made sure they arrived safely at their destination. Her commitment and dedication to her job and her students was unrivaled, and the impact she made on so many students is unparalleled.

Not content to relax after retiring in 2005, Yonker continued her passion for helping others. She continues to support, develop and contribute to GHAPS and the entire Grand Haven Community without the need for pay or recognition. Most nights during the school year, she can be found transporting sports fans in the GHAPS golf cart between the parking lot and the sports fields.

Yonker’s work is still not done, and the list of contributions she has made to the entire Grand Haven community is lengthy. She serves as the Buc Boosters Membership Committee chairperson, sells tickets at nearly every home sporting event, assists with the Buc Open fundraiser each year, and knits hats for students in need.

Perhaps Yonker’s greatest contribution is her involvement in BUCS Pride, an organization that helps local families who are affected by cancer. She is one of the founding members of BUCS Pride, and spends countless hours organizing purple shirt games at GHHS, selling t-shirts to support her cause, and doing everything she can to help those battling cancer in our community.

Witherell, Gerald A.

Service to GHAPS / Society – Class of 1955

gerry_witherellGerry Witherell has made a living as the owner of a real estate and insurance business in Grand Haven, but he has made it his life’s work to make Grand Haven a great place to live. He has chaired or co-chaired fundraising drives for United Way, the YMCA, the North Ottawa Community Hospital expansion, the Tri-Cities Historical Society’s Akeley building, the restoration of the Central Park fountain, and the Hospice House at Heartwood Lodge.  He was also instrumental in the startup of the Grand Haven Downtown Development Authority.  He organized big band performances on the waterfront in the 1970s and, in recent years, the weekly concerts in Central Park all summer long. He was an organizer of Grand Haven’s sesquicentennial celebration in 1984 and the restoration and rededication of Grand Haven’s boardwalk in 2010. He was a founding member of the Board of Directors of Grand Haven Bank and has served on the Board of Light and Power since 2005. In 2002, he received the DuBridge Community Service Award from the Chamber of Commerce and in 2011 its Lifetime Achievement Award for community service.

Johnson, F. Martin

Service to GHAPS / Society – Class of 1953

martin_johnsonClass valedictorian and president, Mart Johnson attended Stanford University, graduating with honors and receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering in 1958. He served in the United States Navy, achieving the rank of Lieutenant. He attended Harvard Business School, earning an MBA in 1963. During his time at Harvard, Johnson was inspired to create a corporation from long-held and successful family partnerships headquartered in Grand Haven.

After working as an economist for the American International Oil Company in New York City for two years, Johnson returned to Grand Haven to join Grand Haven Stamped Products (GHSP). He implemented his idea of consolidating family-owned partnerships into a modern sustainable corporation. Over a 40-year career, he held many leadership roles and eventually retired as JSJ’s Chairman of the Board in 2005.

While fully committed to the demands of leadership at JSJ, Johnson served on several boards, including as a trustee of North Ottawa Community Hospital and its second chairman; on the first board of the Grand Haven Community Center; as a trustee and president of the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation; as a fund drive chair for the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District; and as chairman and trustee of Alma College for thirty years. Johnson also served as chairman and director of the Michigan State Chamber of Commerce, co-chair of the Economic Alliance, and on the boards of the Grand Rapids Symphony and Princeton Theological Seminary, in addition to serving as an elder and trustee of First Presbyterian Church.

Anderson, Ronald L.

Honorary Award for Service to Grand Haven Area Public Schools

ron_andersonA teacher of biology and physical education at GHHS from 1960-1996, Ron Anderson was known as a pioneer of education with a heart for all students. He developed two popular classes, Michigan Wildlife and Greenhouse biology, to make science come alive for students who struggled with traditional science curricula. He was co-leader of the Rifle Club, worked the chain gang for football games, was a judge at track meets and the voice of Buccaneer basketball from 1969 until 2000.

In 1985, when GHHS introduced Science Olympiad, Anderson began coaching as many as four subjects a year. He left high school teaching in 1996 to become the district’s elementary science coordinator but continued to coach high school Science Olympiad teams until he retired in 2000.

Anderson continued to teach the community’s children even after retiring, as a team teacher for elementary student experiences at the Campbell Biological Field Station in West Olive. He joined the board of directors of Michigan Science Olympiad in 2000, a position he still holds, and until 2012 was the national director for the bridges and towers event.

Bright, Walter W

Honorary Award for Service to Grand Haven Area Public Schools

walter_brightRaised in Pennsylvania, the son of a school superintendent, Walter Bright graduated from Smithport (PA) High School in 1941 and began attending Westminster College, but in 1942 WWII interrupted his studies. He enlisted in the US Army, serving as an anti-aircraft artilleryman from 1942-46. After the war, he attended the University of Michigan, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics in 1949 and a master’s degree in educational administration in 1952 (which he earned while holding down teaching jobs in the area).

Bright first came to Grand Haven as principal of Central Elementary School in 1953. In 1955 he left to serve as superintendent for the Capac and then Escanaba school systems, returning to Grand Haven to become the high school principal in 1964. From 1966 to 1978 he was the assistant superintendent for curriculum instruction.

As the leader of the professional staff, known to be a tough but fair boss, he worked collaboratively to create goals and standards for all grades, which enabled Grand Haven graduates to be very competitive at the college level.

Verplank, L.J. “Midge”

Service to Grand Haven Area Public Schools/Society – Class of 1948

Quiet philanthropist and local businessman Midge Verplank is the Co-chair of Verplank Dock, Verplank Trucking, Asphalt Paving, Inc., and serves on the Boards of Shape Corporation and Light Corp. These are just a few of the hats he has worn for his family’s many successful ventures, including Co-founder of Shape Corporation and its affiliated businesses.  And while his thriving companies contribute much to our local economy and quality of life, he has always personally devoted significant time and energy to enhance our community.

His long list of community service includes serving as a Trustee on the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation Board of Directors and Chairing its Investment Committee, serving on the original Spring Lake Library fundraising committee,  and Co-chairing the $2.5 million campaign for the new Spring Lake Library we enjoy today. He is also a supporter of the Grand Haven High School Athletic Complex, the Spring Lake Yacht Club, the West Michigan Yachting Association and the University of Michigan Athletic Department. He and his brother Gary’s significant Challenge Grant helped raise a million dollars toward the preservation of North Ottawa Dunes. In 2010 he received the Chamber of Commerce Lifetime Achievement Award.

Verplank, Gary

Service to Grand Haven Area Public Schools/Society – Class of 1958

Gary Verplank, is co-founder and CEO of Shape Corp., Light Corp., Finish Corp., Bio-Solutions, Net Shape, Pliant Plastics, and other affiliated local companies that employ more than 1,300 area residents and contribute tremendously to the community in countless ways.

His community service roles include being a member of the Ferrysburg City Council, Vice President of the Chamber of Commerce of Grand Haven, Spring Lake and Ferrysburg, President and Board member of the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation, Chairman of the North Ottawa Community Coalition, and past Spring Lake Yacht Club Commodore and Board member.

Gary’s honors include being recognized by the West Michigan Business Hall of Fame, and he is the recipient of the Chamber of Commerce Outstanding Citizen Award and Lifetime Achievement Award.

Among his many philanthropic causes are the Grand Haven and Spring Lake High Schools, the GHHS Science Olympiad Team, the GHHS Excellence in Service Program, Buccaneer Stadium, Grand Haven D.A.R.E Program, Spring Lake Bike Path, Grand Haven Community Foundation, Greater Ottawa County United Way, Imagination Station, Spring Lake Junior Sailing Association, and Spring Lake High School sailing team. At Shape Corp. he established a Giving Back program that enables employees to perform volunteer community service during their work hours that helps hundreds with needs in the community. He and his brother Midge’s significant Challenge Grant helped to raise one million dollars toward the preservation of the North Ottawa Dunes.

Gary received his B.S.E. in Industrial Engineering degree from the University of Michigan. He resides in Spring Lake, and has three children and five grandchildren.

Anderson, Leonard

Service to GHAPS / Society – Class of 1955

Anderson001Len Anderson was active in athletics and drama. He starred in track and was a member of the 1953 undefeated football team and the 1954 team that won the State Champion title. Len began college at the Rochester Institute of Technology and graduated from Western Michigan University with a degree in Printing Management. He worked for Pippel Paterson Printing and Gilson Printing before becoming a partner with a newspaper & printing company named Whitelaker . He learned the brokerage business at H.B. Shaine before founding Anderson and Co., which later became part of Stifel Nicolaus.

Len saw the value of education early-on. He worked his way through high school and through college. A determined and hardworking businessman, Len continues to use his business acumen to create opportunities for others. His legacy of volunteer service and community involvement is inspirational to us all. With an overpowering desire to be productive, he has worked tirelessly to help make transformative changes in the lives of at-risk children and underprivileged families.  His advocacy and fundraising efforts for numerous causes have made an impact in his hometown of Grand Haven and surrounding communities.

Among the many boards and organizations he’s served are Grand Haven Community Hospital, NASD Conduct Committee, the Trelawny, Jamaica Clinic Project, Spring Lake Rotary, Grand Haven Community Foundation and the Grand Haven Schools Foundation.

Now retired, Len lives in Spring Lake with his wife Wanda. He enjoys outdoor sports and spending time with his children and grandchildren.

Badcon, Donald

Service to GHAPS / Society – Class of 1936

Badcon001Donald Badcon is being honored posthumously.  He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism from the University of Michigan in 1940. He loved music and played French horn for four years in the University of Michigan Marching Band. He served in the U.S. Army in Europe during WW II.

For 30 years, Don was Sports Editor and one man Sports Department for the Grand Haven Tribune. He covered Grand Haven, Spring Lake and Fruitport contests. He was both a statistician and historian who compiled an extensive history of local sports information. He enjoyed playing tennis, ping-pong and basketball.

Don was a charter board member of the Muskegon Area Sports Hall of Fame and of our local YMCA. He was involved in the Boy Scouts for many years and organized the Tri-Cities Kids Baseball League in 1954. He was also a member and publicist of many organizations in promotion of sports.

On October 13, 2010, Don was inducted into the Basketball Coaches Hall of Honor in Lansing, MI.

Don is survived by his wife Winifred, who lives in Holland

Jacobson, Alvin E.

Service to GHAPS / Society – Class of 1940

Jacobson0011Al is being honored posthumously. At GHHS, he captained the football and basketball teams. Al enrolled in the pre-engineering program at the University of Michigan and the reserve officers training corp. In April, 1944, he graduated from submarine school as an ensign and was assigned to the USS Flier. On August 13, 1944, while on patrol in the Philippines, Al’s submarine hit a mine and sank. He was one of only eight survivors, making them the first Americans of the Pacific War to escape, avoid capture and return from a sunken sub. Al’s relentless pursuit of the sub’s location, and the documentation it produced, was credited with its discovery, sixty-six years later. The circumstances surrounding the survival of the eight have been the subject of three recent books and a documentary. Al, the last living survivor, passed away just months before the submarine was found.  One of Al’s sons and a grandson were with the divers and film crew when it was located. A memorial service was held August 13, 2010 for the families of the 78 men who lost their lives, giving these families the closure Al had wished for them.

In 1946, Al returned to the University of Michigan and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering.

Al was President of the Grand Haven Brass Foundry and a founding director and former Chairman of JSJ Corporation. He served as a trustee on numerous boards, was a Rotarian, and was involved in many community projects including Grand Haven’s brass river and sundial, YMCA, Ski Bowl and the GHHS pendulum project. The Grand Haven Chamber of Commerce presented him with the Outstanding Citizen Award.

Al is survived by his wife Mary, two sons, a daughter, and eight grandchildren.