We have all heard that hard work and dedication can lead to great success, and when we think of “success”, we probably have a particular image in our own mind of what that looks like. When we think of someone who is a “philanthropist”, we probably think of a similar image. It’s likely not an image of a man in overalls and steel-toed boots surrounded by turkey feathers.
Many years ago, John Zachel – working as a newsboy for The Toledo Blade in Ohio – was befriended by Harry and Jennie Grove, who eventually became his foster parents. The Groves made John a true part of their family; the family’s farming business, which the Groves later started in Lachine, Michigan, became his interest and passion.
In 1949, John started his own turkey farm in Morenci, Michigan (where he also met his wife, Marguerite, and together had three children: Gretchen, Bob and Courtland). John worked his turkey farm tirelessly.
He valued hard work, and he cared deeply about children and his community. He was also ahead of his time in realizing the importance of supporting education for skilled trades. His own work and experiences illustrated the importance of these jobs, and the life it could provide for students in his community; particularly Hillman High School – his alma mater. It was these things which inspired him to create a scholarship to support local students who would study a skilled trade, and he did so as a way to honor the foster parents he cared for so much. To date, the Harry and Jennie Grove Trade Scholarship is one of the largest scholarship funds at the Community Foundation for Northeast Michigan (CFNEM).
In 2014, at the age of 93, John was still running his turkey farm. He enlisted the help of his foster nephew, Gary Grove, and his wife, Kay, to help him set up the scholarship fund through CFNEM in honor of his foster parents.
Then, in January 2018, John called the CFNEM office to enrich the fund with a second significant donation to the fund. His words to Program Director Julie Wiesen were, “We’ve gotta take care of the kids.”
“He was concerned the Harry and Jennie Grove Trade School Scholarship wouldn’t be enough to support the students,” said Wiesen. “He cared about this so much, and he wanted to make absolutely certain the fund would provide significant awards to help students with their education. It was obvious how much this meant to him.”
Two days later, John passed away at the age of 96. The photo we have of him, is this one: Mr. Zachel at work on his farm. An unassuming community member has left a legacy in his foster family’s name that will impact generations of other hard workers.
Every single one of us is a philanthropist, and we all have a legacy.
The Harry and Jennie Grove Trade School and Post-Secondary School Scholarship Fund will provide multi-year scholarships for students from Hillman High School who earn a certificate or degree in a skilled trade such as electrician, plumber, HVAC, welder, auto, diesel, air craft repair and maintenance, surveying, etc. This award will truly make a difference for generations to come.