I had the pleasure of walking through parts of the southern half of Oak Hill Cemetery with some of the donors of the Grand Rapids Community Foundation on Wednesday, September 24. This group of people is representative of hundreds who have over the years contributed generously to a fund that has been used to support many community activities and resources in Grand Rapids. In the course of the walk at Oak Hill, it was interesting to note just how extensive is the relationship between the GRCF and Oak Hill Cemetery. Many of the great donors to this community fund lie at rest, often within just a few feet of each other, within both halves of Oak Hill. Some of the names are well known to us, such as Bissell, Blodgett, Herpolsheimer and Sligh, though some, among our greatest benefactors, are less known today, like Wylie, Metz, Wilcox and Raniville.
Among those whose names have slipped from common knowledge, and who rest at Oak Hill, is that of Lee M. Hutchins, the founder of the Grand Rapids Community Foundation. Mr. Hutchins, born in Wisconsin in 1854, opened a drug store in Ionia at the age of 17, and later arrived in Grand Rapids in 1898 to become secretary/treasurer of the Hazeltine Perkins Drug Company, an early local manufacturer of pharmaceuticals, an association that continued for the rest of his life.
During all of his adult life, Hutchins was dedicated to the health and success of his adopted community, and in 1922, with a donation of $25.00, founded and created the Grand Rapids Community Foundation. The new entity quickly attracted the attention and support of many others in the city, and as a result is today a major force in planned charitable giving in Western Michigan.
It was a pleasure to show some of the donors of the Foundation some of the fascinating history of our city, including the resting places of so many who have shared their resources to make it a better place to live over the last ninety-odd years.
Do I really need to keep saying what fascinating things can be found in our cemeteries?