Cassopolis-Edwardsburg top stories of 2015

Published 12:30 pm Thursday, December 31, 2015

It was a tough year for many in the Cassopolis and Edwardsburg communities.

Among the top stories of 2015 were Lunker’s closing after 30 years, the Cassopolis United Methodist Church losing its pastor and the owner of the Maple Cafe in Edwardsburg being killed in an accident.

Leader Publications’ editorial staff created the list based on stories that were most read, most talked about and most impactful in the community.


Lunker’s closes

A steady stream of people filed in and out of Lunker’s June 11, just hours after the Edwardsburg outdoor sports store and restaurant announced it was closing its doors.

Some of the people were redeeming gift cards they had purchased earlier.

Others had no idea the 30-year-old business had closed.

A store manager referred all questions to a press release that said Lunker’s has been placed into receivership — a type of corporate bankruptcy — by Teacher’s Credit Union, which provided Lunker’s with a commercial loan years ago.

It went on to say that Lunker’s never fully recovered from the recession eight years ago.


Church loses pastor

The Rev. Benjamin David Hutchison resigned as pastor of the Cassopolis United Methodist Church in mid-July.

Hutchison came to the Cass United Methodist Church three years ago. He resigned July 13 after being given the choice between being fired or resigning by West Michigan Conference of the United Methodist Church Superintendent the Rev. John Boley.

Hutchison says he resigned because he faced being fired for having a gay partner.

The fact that Hutchison was gay was known by many of the church members as well as many in the community. He said he had not been asked about his partner until that day.

The Rev. Benjamin David Hutchison’s marriage to partner Monty Hutchison on the historic Cass County Courthouse steps drew national attention July 17.


Maple Cafe owner dies

Philip Philippou, 48, owner of Maple Cafe in Edwardsburg, died in a two-vehicle crash Sept. 5.

The accident occurred on M-62 south of May Street in Edwardsburg.

The investigation indicated that Andrew Clark, 46, of Granger, Indiana, was southbound on M-62 and crossed over the center line resulting in a collision with Philip Philippou, 48, also of Granger, who was northbound on the roadway. Philippou was pronounced dead on scene. Clark was taken to South Bend Memorial Hospital where he died as a result of his injuries.


Cass County jailbreak

Cass County was placed on high alert for several hours in late September, after an inmate walked away from work detail at the Cass County Jail.

Authorities with the Cass County Sheriff’s Office and other local agencies staged a manhunt that lasted a little more than 24 hours following the escape of 20-year-old Jason Matthew Graham from the county jail complex, located in Cassopolis. His escape prompted the county to contact several residents informing them of the escape. The Dowagiac Southwestern Michigan College was even briefly placed under lockdown.

Graham, of Three Rivers, had been serving a 330-day jail sentence when, while ordered to take out garbage to the dumpster outside the complex, decided to flee from the premises Sept. 26. His flight ended a day later, when police found him in Three Rivers.

Graham was later sentenced for his escape in Cass County Court, where Judge Michael Dodge gave the man a two-year prison term.