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Businessman, futurist Drummond dies

 

Greg Chandler

Staff Writer

Don Drummond, who was involved with ongoing programs and successes in Barry County, died Saturday, Feb. 29. He was 84.

In April 1987, Drummond, a businessman, had invited five local business and community leaders to a meeting at his house. The invitation letter suggested Barry County was going to grow and develop in the future, and a process was needed to manage the growth in a way that was sustainable and favorable for the community.

“He was very concerned about what was going on in Barry County. There were some conversations with Michigan State University about the growth, because [development from] Grand Rapids was coming down on us,” said Fred Jacobs, president of J-Ad Graphics and a friend of Drummond's. “They were really concerned about the farmland we had.”

That initial meeting led to the founding of the Barry County Futuring Committee, which Drummond would chair for the next four years. More than 1,500 county residents responded to a survey of what they wanted the county to be going forward. Action teams were established that focused on specific issues such as economic development, the environment, land use and quality of life, with more than 100 people eventually getting involved.

The committee's efforts would lead to the development of such organizations as the Thornapple Arts Council, Leadership Barry County and the Barry Community Resource Network, as well as construction of Kellogg Community College's Learning Center just west of Hastings.

Drummond also served as vice president and general manager at Flexfab and was an original board member of the Barry Community Foundation.

“Don was probably one of the most visionary men I ever met,” said Jacobs, who replaced Drummond as chairman of the Barry County Futuring steering committee in 1991 after Drummond resigned. “He really wanted to make a difference. He really pushed this whole futuring movement to study what issues we could work on.”

Tom Mohler, a longtime friend who was part of the Futuring Committee, said Drummond had an ability to bring people together.

“Don was one who could sit down in a group of dissimilar people and come up with common elements that we could agree on, and sometimes that was difficult,” Mohler said.

“He was always able to add a calming presence to sometimes-volatile situations, and bring in that little element of humor.”

Jim Toburen, automotive business unit director at Flexfab, called Drummond a mentor, a colleague and a great friend.

“He challenged my way to approaching work problems and even then, made me laugh,” Toburen said.  “He was always looking for problems to solve and encouraged me to do that. He could always see the core issues.”

Erin Welker, Drummond's stepdaughter, said Drummond had a genuine interest in helping others grow and succeed.

“He wanted people to live their best lives,” Welker said. “He wanted everybody to have opportunity. He opened every door he could.”

Born in Peoria, Ill., Drummond worked a series of part-time jobs to put himself through school at the University of Illinois, where he sang in various glee clubs. It was there that he met his first wife, Susan Black, whom he married in 1957.

After college, Drummond moved to Columbus, Ind., where he rose through the management ranks at Cummins Engine Co. He and his family later moved to England, where Cummins had sent him to build an engine manufacturing plant.

In the mid-1970s, the family returned to the U.S., where he first worked as vice president of manufacturing at Zeeland-based office furniture giant Herman Miller, and then moved to Hastings in the early 1980s after he was hired at Flexfab.

“[Flexfab] picked him up because of his visionary leadership,” Jacobs said.

In addition to his work on the Futuring Committee, Drummond and his wife started Fiberfest, which later became the Michigan Fiber Festival, held annually at the Allegan County Fairgrounds. The Drummonds raised more than 300 angora goats on their farm near Freeport.

Susan Drummond, educator, author and farmer, died of cancer in 1995.

Don Drummond married his second wife, Sandi, two years later. In his retirement, he played an active role in the construction of the current First Presbyterian Church campus on M-37 in 2009, and undertook church mission trips to Mexico, Costa Rica and Honduras. He also served on the board of Noah's Ark Preschool, which is headquartered at the church, Sandi Drummond said.

Along with his wife, Sandi, he is survived by three children from his first marriage, Dike (Sherri) Drummond, David (Annie) Drummond, and Dana (Jim) Yarger; stepdaughter Erin (Matt) Welker; brother Roger Drummond and family; nine grandchildren and one great-granddaughter.

A celebration of life service for Drummond will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at First Presbyterian Church, 405 N. M-37 in Hastings. Visitation will be one hour before the service. A luncheon will follow the service. Funeral arrangements are being handled by the Girrbach Funeral Home.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be sent to Noah's Ark Preschool (noahsarkschool.org/donate.html), First Presbyterian Church or the Barry County Parkinson's Support Group at the Barry County Commission on Aging, 220 W. State St. (barrycounty.org/commission_on_aging_new/donations/php).

 

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