Fair bench dedicated to 4-Her Kevin Fuller

BIG RAPIDS – Those walking through the Mecosta County Fair Grounds in future years will see a bright yellow bench with the name Kevin Fuller on it.

MEMORIAL: In remembrance of one of their own, the Grant Center Pioneers 4-H Club dedicated a bench with Kevin Fuller’s name and years of birth and death (1994-2011) in front of the Exhibit Building of the Mecosta County Fair Grounds. The words “WE THANK GOD FOR THE TIME WE HAD WITH YOU” are etched on the bench as well. Pictured here, the group poses with Fuller’s parents, Dan and Norene Fuller. (Pioneer photo/Nico Rubello)

They might sit down, resting their weary feet for a moment. They may read the inscription below the name: “WE THANK GOD FOR THE TIME WE HAD WITH YOU.” Whatever they do, hopefully, when they see the bench, they will remember Kevin Fuller, said members of the Grant Center Pioneers 4-H Club.

On Jan. 27, the Morley Stanwood High School student was pronounced dead at the scene of a car accident. A passenger in the other car died later from critical injuries, and the driver of that car was injured as well. Slick road conditions were believed to have played a role in the accident.

The Grant Center Pioneers dedicated the bench to Fuller’s memory.

Also this week, fair-goers will see a stall in the pig barn dedicated to his honor. Friends and family have written messages on photo boards in the stall. “Miss you greatly,” wrote one person. Another reads, “You are truly missed and loved.”

Those who knew him within the group say Fuller was an easy-going, but reliable and competitive, 16-year-old. Born and raised on a Big Rapids farm, he showed pigs, goats and rabbits. This would have been his sixth year with the Grant Center Pioneers.

Fuller’s father, Dan Fuller, said his son was making preparations for this year’s fair prior to his death.

“It just didn’t work out,” said a tearful Fuller. “That boy was awesome. It’s like a bad dream. … I just can’t articulate how proud I am of this club.”

During past fair weeks, Kevin Fuller was often seen laughing or playing Apples to Apples with friends. Usually he was in the pig or goat barns, taking care of his animals.

IN MEMORIAM: David Lytle observes the pig stall that is serving this year as a memorial to Kevin Fuller.

The bench was welded together by Mecosta-Osceola Career Center’s welding program. Welding instructor Kelly Cushway has three daughters in the Grant Center Pioneers.

One of them, Kelsey, said Fuller was always laughing and joking, bringing people’s spirits up.

“He was funny,” she said. “Pretty much everybody got along with him.”

Adam Kehr – a close friend who knew Fuller through the 4-H club as well – helped prepare the bench for painting, which was done by M&M Collision Center. M&M also installed wood boards for seating.

“He was just one of those kids who did anything for anybody,” Kehr said. “You didn’t have to be from his club; you didn’t even have to a part of 4-H. He would have helped you no matter what – anytime.”

But come fair time, Fuller had a definite competitive side.

Last year, somebody challenged Fuller, saying they could enter more items into non-livestock competitions than he could. He went on to submit 23 items, including cookies, candy, photographs, a free-standing scarecrow, metal armor and science projects from school, his dad recalled.

One of Fuller’s main competitors was his cousin, Savanna Hopkins, who lived near him, went to the same school and is a member of the Grant Center Pioneers. The 4-H competitions the two had were always light-hearted, and it never mattered who won, she said.

“It was always Kevin’s idea to clean my stall for me. I never asked; he just did it,” Hopkins said. “He was really important to all of us. He was a big part of this club.”

DEARLY MISSED: Savanna Hopkins, 17, writes a note to her cousin, Kevin Fuller, who died in a car accident in January. This would have been Fuller’s sixth year with his 4-H group, the Grant Center Pioneers, of which Hopkins was a member.

Fuller served as treasurer of the Grant Center Pioneers for the two years prior to his death.

On Wednesday, Hopkins visited the stall serving a memorial; she wrote a message to him.

“I just wrote that I missed him,” she said. “I really miss the competitive side.”

Yet with Fuller, it wasn’t necessarily about winning first-place, recalled Grant Center Pioneers co-leader Cindy Benket.

“Sure he wanted to do good and place good, but that wasn’t really what it was all about,” she said. “It was doing your best and having fun and enjoying taking care of your animals.”

Within the group, Fuller was a leader. Benket said he was someone she would ask to demonstrate proper showmanship techniques, such as how to keep the pig in front of you, to other kids.

“You didn’t even have to ask him to do anything,” she said. “If he saw that it had to be done, he would just go do it.”

Two years ago, Fuller was showing an uncooperative goat before fair judges, yet he never showed frustration the way others would have. It never phased him, Benket remembered.

“What I remember about Kevin was just how easy-going his personality was,” she added. “He never got frustrated with his animals if they weren’t behaving right. He just always was calm.”

The first few times the Grant Center Pioneers met after the accident, everyone was extremely somber.

“It was a new experience for a lot of these kids to deal with something like that,” Benket said. “The fair setting, to me, brings it all back again. You just know he should be here.”

Another club co-leader, Venus Aris, said fair week has been a particularly emotional one so far.

“Hopefully (the bench) will be here for 50 years,” Aris added.

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