Harold Brander, Sr. turned 99 years young on October 2, 2011. He is the long-time owner of Kutsche Hardware, which has the proud distinction of being the oldest retail store in West Michigan, having opened during the Civil War in 1862.
More impressive still is Harold’s vivacious spirit, which is evident from the first moment you speak with him. While sharing tales of his colorful 99-year history, he has a flair for imparting on you numerous “side notes” – little pearls of wisdom ranging from stock tips to the importance of giving back to the community – all strung together to form the kind and generous individual he embodies today.
Harold’s connection with the Ronald McDonald House is relatively new, less than four years actually, but the impact of his generosity will be felt for years to come.
It was in 2007, just days before his 95th birthday, when he heard the house was in need of a new shuttle van. Every day, the Ronald McDonald House van and its volunteer drivers do the important job of shuttling families through town, to and from hospital and doctor visits. The current van had many miles and wasn’t equipped with newer safety features, such as the LATCH system for car seat installation.
Upon hearing about this need, Harold decided to gift the house with a brand-new minivan. He gave the van in memory of his wife of nearly 70 years: Nell. Nell passed away on November 8, 2003. Harold laid his beloved wife to rest on her 89th birthday, placing a birthday card by her side as he said goodbye.
For Harold, Nell’s memory lives on through charitable acts. As he shares memories of his wife, Harold reflects on her lifelong generosity and selfless giving to others. So he keeps giving, with each gift bearing Nell’s name and memory.
But it is Harold who best sums up his actions: “You don’t reap unless you sow.”
“And Nell did a lot of sowing.”