This photo of Brianna Fitzsimons and the late John K. Gore, who died March 21 at 79, was taken at the bell dedication in Vandalia in October 2009. She received a Danforth Award in 4-H and is first runner-up to Miss Cassopolis. She will be graduating at the top of Edwardsburg High School's Class of 2010 and has been accepted by the University of Michigan and Michigan State University. She won a $2,500 scholarship for this essay.
This photo of Brianna Fitzsimons and the late John K. Gore, who died March 21 at 79, was taken at the bell dedication in Vandalia in October 2009. She received a Danforth Award in 4-H and is first runner-up to Miss Cassopolis. She will be graduating at the top of Edwardsburg High School's Class of 2010 and has been accepted by the University of Michigan and Michigan State University. She won a $2,500 scholarship for this essay.

Archived Story

December essay on Gore wins $2,500 scholarship

Published 8:30am Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Brianna Fitzsimons of Vandalia, who will be one of the top graduates at Edwardsburg High School, entered this essay in the RARE Foundation’s “Everyday Heroes” contest last December.

RARE’s purpose is to engage young people in identifying everyday heroes throughout Michigan and through the process of discovery and writing, to become inspired about life’s possibilities.

Brianna was notified a few weeks ago that she was the winner of the contest, for which she will be awarded a $2,500 scholarship.

The subject of her essay, longtime Penn Township SupervisorJohn K. Gore, 79, who died March 21, received the RARE Foundation’s Everyday Hero award.

Brianna, Miss Cassopolis first runner-up, is the daughter of Sprague and Lisa Fitzsimons.
Her mother is Penn Township clerk. Her grandfather, Paul Rutherford, is Penn Township treasurer.

By BRIANNA FITZSIMONS

“The true measure of a man is how he treats a person who can do him absolutely no good.”

This quote by Samuel Johnson exemplifies my “Everyday Hero” John K. Gore.
Growing up, I knew John as my “Birthday Boy.”

We share the same birthday, and as he likes to put it “we’re just a few years apart.”
In reality, John is in his late 70s and I just turned 18.

With age and experience, John has acquired wisdom that I can only hope to achieve in my lifetime.

John worked with my mother and grandfather on the Penn Township Board for many years.

I always knew that he was an exemplary citizen and government official, but until recently, I did not realize the extent of his community service, leadership and generosity.
A year ago, John reluctantly retired from his post of Penn Township Supervisor due to health issues.

I was honored to assemble a scrapbook for his retirement party.

It was at this event that I became enlightened as to just how special John is.

From the notes I received for the scrapbook and the speeches given at his party, I discovered how privileged our community is to have such a benevolent leader.

John’s contributions are not limited to Penn Township.

He has served on over 14 community boards throughout southwestern Michigan.

He was the founding member and/or president of several of these.

Some examples are: Cass County Human Services Commission, Twin Counties Community Correction Center, Friends of Cass County Library and the Southwestern Michigan College Foundation.

John was instrumental in organizing an area ambulance service which covers four townships.

He led the authority responsible for building a brand new courthouse.

John served as a personal representative for a boy who was tragically orphaned under controversial circumstances.

He protected the boy from the media and community backlash, as well as managed his inheritance.

These are just a few examples of John’s many accomplishments.

While John’s resume is impressive, most significant is the manner in which he serves.
John’s gifts of compassion, patience, intelligence, generosity, humor and dedication are always evident.

A prime example occurred when the Penn Township Board was hearing complaints about a difficult and unreasonable resident.

John’s simple reply was, “That’s all the more reason to be kind to her.”

Another example took place when an outspoken opponent of a public sewer project personally and publicly attacked John.

Later, that same person received a letter of recommendation from John for the position of sewer construction inspector.

John has not only served the public as a whole, but he also impacts the lives of people around him.

He once visited a young man recuperating from heart surgery and upon leaving, gave him a $100 bill.

At the retirement party, that same man shared the story and stated: I still have that hundred dollars and will pay it forward.

Several people think of John as a surrogate father, ranging from a probate judge to a self-employed laborer.

I believe so many people connect with John because of his unassuming and humble attitude.

He doesn’t judge, hold grudges and is overflowing with support.

Personally, John has always been there to congratulate me on my accomplishments, large and small.

He calls to say he’s proud to read my name listed in the Principal’s Honor Roll.

He tells me that I make the best chocolate chip cookies in Michigan.

I turn to John for all types of advice, most recently my choice of college.

Instead of trying to funnel me to his alma mater, he encourages me to find the best fit for my talents and preferences. (Although, MSU might be where I’ll end up.)

Most importantly, John inspires me to use my gifts and talents to make a difference.

Although considered an “Everyday Hero” to many, he is so much more than that.

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