STRANGE GH: Residents make good on decades-old debts

Apr 30, 2012


The envelope, postmarked Grand Rapids, told the tale of a theft that took place 20 years earlier by the author, who was a boy living in Grand Haven at the time.

The letter read:
City Council of Grand Haven,
Over 20 years ago to prove I was not a sissy I took a ten cent item from a dime store counter in your city without paying for it. I did not use it. I buried it. It was the only item I have ever taken in my life. It always bothered me, please accept this quarter in payment.
Sincerely, A Hopeful Christian
P.S. - I am enclosing two quarters as I understand there are two dime stores in Grand Haven. I do not know which one it was. Please give each one a quarter so I may be sure the right one gets it.

City Manager Terrill honored the request, giving each dime store one quarter. The identity of the “Hopeful Christian” remains unknown.

In March 1985, 83-year-old Rena Boeve reimbursed Ottawa County for a $98.10 delinquent 1938 hospital bill. Her payment, a check for the amount received by Ottawa County clerk Dan Krueger, was addressed to “The Superintendent of the Poor,” a then-defunct agency.

Larry Hilldore, then director of the Department of Social Services, guessed that the money would be returned to Mrs. Boeve, a widow, and the 47-year-outstanding debt likely would be waived. The hospital bill was issued in 1938, services for treatment Mrs. Boeve received after an automobile crash the previous year.

“She couldn’t afford to pay us (when she received the bill) because she didn’t have any money,” Hilldore told the press. “She always did think about (the bill), though.”

Rena Boeve died, without a guilty conscience, in Holland on Jan. 14, 2003. She was 100 years old.

Not all good samaritan tales end on an inspirational note. One such case is that of 55-year-old Grand Haven resident Douglas Harmsen, who imagined he was performing a good deed, but died tragically on July 28, 1974.

Harmsen had been shopping with his wife at a local department store when he heard a woman had lost her brown-colored purse. While driving through Ferrysburg later that day, Harmsen spotted a purse matching the description lying on Third Street, so pulled over to retrieve it, thinking he had found the missing woman's purse.

However, when he reached for the purse, it moved farther out into the road. Harmsen then realized he was on the receiving end of a prank. The purse was attached to a string by children hiding across the street in the bushes.

“I assume that when he realized it was a joke, he turned to cross the road, headed back to his car,” Bob Gesiakowski, Ferrysburg chief of police, told the Grand Haven Tribune. “That is when he was hit by a car.”



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