Stoltz’ Honored Sunday for Battle Creek History Preservation
Garth (Duff) and Joyce Stoltz’ lifelong love for and commitment to the preservation of Battle Creek’s extraordinary history will be celebrated when the Regional History Museum, 307 W. Jackson St., hosts a. “Making the Dream Come True” public open house in their honor June 12 from 2 to 4 p.m.
The Stoltz’ have been Battle Creek residents for nearly 40 years, moving here when Joyce was hired as a nursing administrator at the Battle Creek Sanitarium. Prior to their move to Battle Creek, they devoted three years to delivering medical care on a Navajo Reservation in an isolated, impoverished area of Utah.
Duff has worked in maintenance at the Sanitarium, as a security supervisor with the former Battle Creek Health System and with Cereal City USA, and until his recent retirement, as manager of Historic Adventist Village. Joyce, a registered nurse, is retired from Battle Creek Health System. The couple has two adult children and six grandchildren.
Duff’s preservation pursuit began with wanting to learn more about the work his great aunt “Doctor Anna” did as a practitioner with the Battle Creek Sanitarium under the direction of Dr. John Harvey Kellogg. That history is intertwined with both the roots of Adventism and the beginnings of the cereal industry in this city. Duff and Joyce are Adventists.
Regarded as one of Battle Creek’s unofficial historians, Duff has been super sleuth, dumpster diver, and passionate persuader in his quest. He is pat rat, public speaker, and patcher of roofs, walls, and potholes all to protect historical treasures.
While Joyce will quickly claim that Duff is the one who has worked to save irreplaceable local history, the fact remains that behind every persistent man is a persevering woman.
“I could not calculate how much money he has spent over the years, but it is probably most of his income,” she says. “He has always believed in and seen the importance of history.”
In addition to incalculable dollars, Stoltz has committed inestimable numbers of hours hoping to achieve in his lifetime, the creation of a public museum that provides safekeeping for valuable artifacts and historical photographs and documents. Historic Adventist Village is one such lasting achievement. Others were the Dr. John Harvey Discovery Center, now a part of Historic Adventist Village, and the museum which operated for a time out of the city’s first cereal factory, now the site of Grace Health Center at the corner of Washington and Emmett streets.
Duff Stoltz is credited with rescuing buildings important to Adventist History, now a part of the Village and visited by thousands from around the world each year. He retrieved one-of-a-kind artifacts from the Fieldstone Building before it was demolished in 1985 and items from various Battle Creek manufacturing plants including the H. G. Sherman Co, Union Pump and Clark Equipment. His determination and passion have made him a visitor to dozens of antique, second-hand, and thrift shops across the United States in search of Battle Creek history. It was Stoltz who tracked down a cherub, once part of a fountain from the Sanitarium that somehow ended up in Hastings. And, it was Stoltz who saved the cupola from the Fieldstone Building that now makes its home within the Children’s Garden of the Leila Arboretum.
In 1988, when Post Cereal Company replaced some equipment, Stoltz was asked if he would be interested in acquiring the company’s Grape Nuts grinder which had been used from 1928 to 1988. The grinder proved to be five feet in diameter, weighing 5,180 pounds, not something you and a couple of strong friends lift onto the back of a pick-up truck. The cast iron device has had a home in the Stoltz’ backyard for many years where he constructed a building over and around it to protect it until it can have a permanent home with the Museum.
Duff has been featured in numerous articles by major newspapers, periodicals and film documentaries including the British Broadcasting Corporation.
Among pieces of history Stoltz, sometimes with the help of other preservationists, has saved are a copper stem kettle used to flavor cereal syrups in the 1880s, many books written by or about Dr. Kellogg’s views on health and nutrition, colonics machines, a light box, exercise horse, ergonomic chairs, sinusoidal current machine purported to balance electrical currents in the body, and a seemingly endless number of boxes and files filled with photographs and documents.
Over the years, those who know Stoltz have come to affectionately refer to these things as “Duff’s Stuff.” Many of those items are now a part of the Regional History Museum. Several will be on display during the open house and a special fund has been established in the Stoltz’ name to help with the long-term care and keeping of these artifacts. Contributions to the fund can be made in care of the Regional History Museum and designated for the Stoltz Fund.