Service to GHAPS / Society – Class of 1936
Donald 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
Service to GHAPS / Society – Class of 1940
Al 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.
Service to GHAPS / Society – Class of 1939
At GHHS, Charles Rycenga, Jr. played Buccaneer football as a fullback and captained the basketball team his senior year. In 1942, he enlisted in the Navy and served in the South Pacific until 1945.
He attended Grand Rapids Junior College and obtained his Associate Degree in Business from Davenport College. In 1947, Chuck joined his brother, Louis at Rycenga and Sons, a wood and sawmill business their father had started in 1931. The business thrived after WW II, building garages, cottages and eventually, pre-fabricated homes. They developed many local subdivisions including North and South Holiday Hills, Swiss Village, and Dermshire Forest.
Chuck has always been dedicated to community activities and community goals. His work reflects his spirit. Chuck has served our community on numerous boards and commissions including the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation, Grand Haven Rotary, Grand Haven Planning Commissions and the Salvation Army. He was the President, Founder and Chairman of International Aid. He helped teach GHHS students how to build homes from the ground up and committed to donating one house a year for the program.
Chuck and his wife Non have two daughters, one son, 15 grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren.
Chuck and Non’s philanthropic deeds to the community are legendary. Chuck has been a guiding force for Habitat for Humanity, has made it possible for scores of high school students to go on to college, and, through a 40 acre donation of land in Spring Lake Township, has allowed the Rycenga Recreational Park to become a reality.
Service to GHAPS / Society – Class of 1983
Col. Troy Van Bemmelen earned his degree in Design Mechanical Engineering at Michigan Tech University. He enrolled in the Air Force ROTC program and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant. After attending Undergraduate Pilot Training, he was selected to fly bombers and was assigned to Minot AFB, ND flying B-52’s.
As a top notch pilot, he was hand- picked to be part of the B-2 Stealth Bomber Team at Whiteman AFB, MO in 1996. His missions included flying in the NATO air operations in Kosovo in 1999 and again in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He was deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Troy has been selected to command the Fifth Operations Group, Minot AFB, ND where he will be in charge of flying operations for the B-52 aircraft.
Troy is a nationally ranked racquetball player and will compete in the 2010 U.S. Open National Racquetball competition. Col Van Bemmelen has recently relocated to Minot, ND with his family.
Service to GHAPS / Society – Class of 1914
Charles Conklin was the first Grand Haven native to make the supreme sacrifice on the battlefields of France during World War I. While serving with the 160th United States Infantry, Conklin died from wounds received in action on May 7, 1918. The Grand Haven American Legion Post 28 is named after Charles A. Conklin.
In high school, Charles was prominent in athletics, particularly baseball, and took an active role in all school affairs. Upon graduation he enlisted in the Ohio National Guard at Cincinnati, where he was employed. He was the only son of Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Conklin.
Service to GHAPS / Society – Class of 1944
Don Constant graduated from Grand Haven’s Central High School in 1944 and served in the Army before enrolling in Western Michigan University and subsequently earning a Master’s Degree in 1951. He was a teacher of U.S. and World History in Grand Haven from 1951-1986.
Don coached football, basketball and tennis and was a line coach for the 1953 undefeated football team. He was the first GHHS coach of any sport to be inducted into the Michigan Coaches Hall of Fame in 2002.
Don lives in Grand Haven and remains a member of the Tri-Cities Historical Museum and is active in his church.
Service to GHAPS / Society – Class of 1940
Gene Rothi graduated from Grand Haven’s Central High School in 1940 and entered the Army Air Corps in 1942, serving through 1945 as a pilot. He married his wife, Ruth, in 1943 and they had four children. His nomination read, “While his deeds and success as an athletic coach, teacher and counselor deserve consideration, it was the way he led his life and the positive influence he had on everyone he met that set him apart as someone very special. Simply stated, Mr. Rothi led his life by the Golden Rule.
Gene coached football (head coach of the last undefeated team in 1953) and tennis, was Grand Haven Young Man of the Year in 1956, Grand Haven Volunteer of the Year in 2002, Regional Director of the Lake Society for 23 years, Past President of the YMCA and involved in numerous other community activities.
Gene Rothi died in 2004. In 2007, the football field at Buccaneer Stadium was named in his honor.