Congratulations to our 2019 Grand Marshals:
Roger Caris & Helen (Mrs. Caris) Hamler
Helen was born on a farm, just outside of Gowen, to Arnold and Virginia Hamler. They moved to Clifford Lake when Helen was around 3 years old. She attended Clifford Lake Country School, Stanton Rural Agricultural, Stanton Union, and Central Montcalm Schools. She was a member of the very first Central Montcalm Graduating class, in 1964.
Over the summers of her high school years, Helen worked for a local attorney and Justice of the Peace by the name of Benjamin W. Franklin, whose office used to be in the current Chemical Bank parking lot. After high school, Helen attended Northwood. After Graduating from Northwood, in 1965, she applied for a position at the Montcalm Area Intermediate School District, and started working there in August of 1965. While she was working for the ISD, Helen began taking classes from Montcalm Community College, before the college had any buildings. The classes were offered at Central Montcalm Schools, while the college facilities were being constructed. She was also a member of the first graduating class of MCC.
When Helen started working for the ISD, it was located in the former home of Dr. Seeley, on the corner of Pine and Camburn. The office was later relocated to its current home at 621 New Street, which used to house a pop-up trailer factory. Helen continued to live with her parents at Clifford Lake, and moved with them to their new home on New Street around 1996/1997. Since the fourth grade, Helen has been a member of the First Baptist Church of Stanton.
Roger was born at Alma Hospital, in 1947, to John and Elizabeth Caris. He attended Vestaburg Elementary, Middle, and High Schools, graduating in 1965. He received an appointment to West Point, and graduated from there in 1969. After graduating, he served approximately 11 years in the Army. He was stationed in Germany, Vietnam, the Virginia/DC area, and also the Grand Ledge/Lansing area.
During this time, Roger obtained his MBA from the American University, and became interested in running, and ran several marathons. He ran the Boston Marathon twice, the JFK 50 miler twice, Pikes Peak Marathon, the original Marathon in Greece, and about 20 other marathons.
While he was stationed in the Virginia area, he met, and married Stephanie Pinney, and had four children, 3 boys and one girl. When the children were 2, 5, 6, and 11 years old, Stephanie passed away from a rare form of cancer, leaving Roger a single parent. Roger’s mom offered to help with the children if he moved back to Vestaburg.
After leaving the Army in 1980, he managed a law firm in East Lansing for 7 years. When he moved back to Vestaburg, he worked in sales, selling a Bible Training Program to help parents with family devotions/homeschooling. He substitute taught for a year at Vestaburg Middle/High School. Next, he worked at Lenco Machine & Tool (now Advanced Farm Equipment) for four years, then 8 years as a Contract Manager for Gratiot Community Mental Health. Now he works as a private contractor in health insurance sales with United Insurance Group.
In 1997, Roger ran for a position as a Montcalm County Commissioner, where he served for a period of 16 years. Roger has been a member of First Baptist of Vestaburg all the years he resided in Vestaburg.
Roger and Helen first met in their mid-teens at local area church youth activities. They dated on and off during high school. During Roger’s years at West Point, they corresponded regularly. About three years after Roger moved back to Vestaburg, he and Helen began dating casually, again, and got married in 1998, in a small wedding chapel in Virginia Beach. Before getting married, they both discussed the importance they felt in remaining in Montcalm County. Their Children live in Atlanta, GA, Spring Lake, NC, and Gilbert, AZ, and they get to see them several times a year.
Upon retiring, Helen began sponsoring animals at the Montcalm County Animal Shelter, and enjoyed walking the trail and around Stanton. They both worked very hard to save the Shelter, but to no avail. Shortly before the end of the shelter, Helen became acquainted with Cannonsville Critters, a 501(c)(3) non-profit cat rescue, that had just recently gotten started. She spends a great deal of her time and efforts, helping Cannonsville Critters. Tom and Michelle Hocking, the owners of Cannonsville Critters, say, “Over the years of Helen’s support and involvement with us, she has helped us save hundreds of cats (400 in 2018, alone). We wouldn’t be where we are today, without Helen.”
In their retirement, they also found a mission in purchasing properties within the city of Stanton, to renovate, improve, and upgrade to make “nice housing available for folks.” Helen states, “We have attempted to make each home one in which we would feel comfortable living in ourselves, with a goal to improve and enhance the neighborhood in which each house is located. Besides our second home on New Street, we have four nice properties, plus a duplex that we take pride in, on making and keeping as an asset to the City of Stanton. We enjoy living in Montcalm County and love our second home in Stanton and are thankful for each of our renters who help make our Stanton endeavors successful and rewarding. We appreciate being asked to serve as this year’s Grand Marshals for SOFD.
Roger and Helen would also like to express their thanks and appreciation to the Stanton Fire Dept, the City DPW, and their many friends and neighbors. The Cannonsville Critters volunteers, the Hockings, Sheridan Animal Hospital, their handyman Neil, and to their neighbor Charlene, who saw their recent house fire and called in the alarm. “Because of the community, we still have our home, and look forward to having repairs and renovations completed this summer.”
–Special Thanks to Tom Hocking for authoring this tribute to Helen & Roger