October 30, 2014

Colleagues remember Cummings

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MUSE Director John Cummings passed away on Dec. 11, leaving behind a legacy of improvements in Arenac County.
By James Kuch
Staff Writer | news@arenacindependent.com
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ARENAC COUNTY — Colleagues and co-workers are trying to pick up the pieces left when Michigan State University Extension Director John Cummings passed away Dec. 11.

William Carpenter, district coordinator for the MSUE, District 4, was Cummings’ mentor, and said his loss will take awhile to get over for the MSUE and Arenac County.

“John was always interested in doing something positive for the community,” he said.

A resident of Sterling, Cummings was involved in a number of projects in Arenac County. Including his position of director at the MSUE, Cummings was a member of various boards, like the Areanc County Economic Development Corporation Board, where he was the director.

Curt Hillman, chairman of the Areanc County Economic Development Corporation Board said Cummings spent a large amount of time applying for grants that would improve the county.

“John was someone who very detail orientated,” he said. “He knew how to get things done.”

Hillman said the passing of Cummings will set the board back.

“We are definitely lacking influx now,” he said. “Finding someone to fill that position will be hard; that is not an easy job.”

As for the MSUE, Carpenter said there is no timetable for when the position of director will be filled.

“I am very impressed with the work that the (Arenac County) Extension staff is doing,” he said. “The have a great commitment to their work and to the MSUE.”

As a mentor, Carpenter said he got to know Cummings very well.

“We (MSUE) decided to start a mentoring program, and for over a year I was John’s mentor,” he said. “John and I would talk frequently and chat about different issues.”

Carpenter said one of the projects Cummings was working hard on was the start of a community garden.

“John was hoping to clear a path to start a community garden,” he said.

When Cummings passed away, the Arenac Conservation District decided to continue his work with the community garden. Administrator for the district, Dawn Hergott said the district help make the community garden grow.

“We are going to have a farmers market there this year, and maybe someday we can get a building out there,” she said.

Hergott said Cummings came to the district with the idea of starting the garden early in 2010. The garden is located on an acre and a half plot of land on Pine River Road in Standish.

She said that Cummings will be missed.

“The MSUE and the conservation district work together really well,” Hergott said. “John would always come to us with questions, and we would always go to him.”

Carpenter said it will take time, but Arenac County will be able to move on.

“John was truly a great guy to work with,” he said. “He did a fair amount for industry and small business in (Arenac County). But, mostly, he was a man who cared about his family and community.”

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