There are few times in my memory when an entire community has gathered together to say "Thank you, and well done!" to somebody that truly deserves it. This evening was a sterling example of why I choose to live in this community.
Life in Bear Lake, Michigan is an experience to savor, and has a charm that touches all who journey thru here. This is a very small (well, ok, it's teeny tiny) village and township in the upper left hand corner of the lower peninsula of our state. To call it Americana would only trivialize the beauty of our area, and our many varied neighbors and friends. One of those neighbors, and personal friends, is a truly great man, that goes by the name of Fred Alkire.
Fred may only reach a few inches over five feet in height, but his stature is that of a gentle giant. He has held many titles in his life, but would be quick to point out that husband and father are the most important ones. He held many jobs, each one to serve his community, and family, rather than chase after the almighty dollar. He is the kind of man that makes you feel good about yourself, while you try to improve who you are. His easy smile, and unassuming ways belie the true warrior that he is. You don't bullshit Fred Alkire, and he doesn't give any. He is as honest as the day is long, and will be there for you till the cows come home.
This weekend is a celebration of our bucolic village. Oh sure every little village and town throws itself a party in the Summer, but that's part of why we love it so much. During Bear Lake Days, on Saturday evening, we have a parade. Our local Boy Scout Troop is always in the parade, and we have a lot of fun. For many years, Barb and I (as Assistant Scout Leaders) would trod along with our little troop, and watch as these young boys would magically become sterling examples of young men. And all the while, our Scout Leader, year in, and year out, for five decades, was that same man; Fred Alkire! He has an astonishing record in Scouting, having sponsored 44 Eagle Scouts, and also having been at Scout Camp for some 38 years in a row! This man first guided young boys into Eagle Scouts the same year that Neil Armstrong trod upon the Moon. Along the way he also been instrumental in guiding the local government of our Township and Village, and has guided the community in much the same way as he has guided our boys. Fred never accepts anything less than your best, because that is just what he always gives back.
And tonight, our community did indeed give back! Fred, and his long time Assistant Scout Leader, Red (Yes, Fred and Red, it was quite a show) were the Grand Marshalls of the parade. And just behind that float were 22 of the 44 Eagle Scouts that graduated in his tenure! These young, and not so young, men came from all over America just to honor this one man. Fred truly stands as a giant. My life, and so many more, have been made better by his leadership, his devotion, and his love. God bless you Fred, I will always look up to you!