Staff & Volunteers

Amazing People Helping Preserve Our History

Benzie Area Historical Society Leadership

Matthew Varnum

Executive Director

In June 2023, the Benzie Area Historical Society was pleased to announce the hiring of Matthew J. Varnum as our new Executive Director.  Matt brings over 10 years of museum experience with the Sable Points Lighthouse Keepers Association, in Ludington, Michigan, where he has served as Museum Curator for the past eight years.  In his work there, which encompasses four lighthouses, Matt managed and trained over 300 volunteers, including recruiting, training, scheduling, and overseeing tour operations.  He also created new exhibits, cared for collections, developed community partnerships, gave presentations, wrote newsletter articles, and introduced new technology into their operations.  Matt received a bachelor’s degree in History with a minor in Museum Studies, as well as a master’s degree in Public Administration, from Central Michigan University. 

Matt brings an enthusiasm for making history fun and interesting, and he has a strong background working with volunteers, donors and museum visitors.  When not working, he enjoys hiking, kayaking and outdoor adventure.  The BAHS is looking forward to Matt’s leadership and guidance, helping us continue to grow and develop as a museum and a community partner.


Larry White


Larry White joined the BAHS Board in 2020 and has served as President since Fall 2023.  Previously, he served as Vice President (2021-2023), chaired the BAHS Collections Committee (2020-2023), and he currently serves on several other board committees.

A retired computer professional with leadership experience across several Fortune 500 companies, Larry brings technology skills as well as experience with business development, strategic planning, financial management, marketing and human resources. 

Larry has a deep interest in preserving stories about the past, especially through the lens of oral histories, photographs and film.  As a descendant of an early “summer” family on Crystal Lake, his extended family has owned property on the north shore since 1903.

In retirement, Larry and his wife Carole enjoy time at Crystal Lake, especially summer visits with their children and grandchildren.

Steven Veatch

Vice President

Steven Veatch has an MA in management from Webster University and an MS in Earth Science from Emporia State University. Veatch retired from El Paso County’s Information Technologies Department (Colorado) and taught earth science classes for the Continuing and Professional Education Services department at the Colorado School of Mines. He also served in the U.S. Naval Reserves. Veatch is a writer of poetry, essays, book reviews, science and history articles, and professional papers. He has contributed chapters to these books: Field Trips in the Southern Rocky Mountains (Field Guide 5), The Paleontology of the Upper Eocene Florissant Formation, Colorado, and The World’s Greatest Gold Camp: An Introduction to the History of the Cripple Creek and Victor Mining District. Some of his poetry has appeared in Kansas City Voices, Colorado Life, and Deposits Magazine, among others. A Colorado native, he now lives in Grand Traverse County with his wife and teaches writing at the Oliver Center for the Arts.


Trudi Hook


Trudi Hook joined the board in 2010 and has served as bookkeeper and Treasurer since 2010.  She is chairperson of the Finance Committee and a member of the Executive Committee.  Trudi has served as bookkeeper at both for- and non-profit organizations and currently works as a church auditor and election pool inspector.  She also volunteers as her church’s treasurer, is secretary/treasurer for the Beulah Boosters and past treasurer of United Methodist Women.  Trudi and her husband, Dan, began visiting Crystal Lake in 1967, and they happily retired to Beulah 15 years ago.

John Collins


John and his wife Lynn grew to love the NW corner of Lower Michigan during years of vacationing at the Watervale Inn. They now call Michigan home after a stint of living in New York City. They toggle back and forth between their home on Platte Lake and an apartment in Manhattan, spending the majority of their time here in Michigan.

John has been active in non-profit and tax-exempt organizations including leadership roles in educational, church, and community service activities. John is the immediate past Board Chair of the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy. He is active in various Benzie County community service organizations and served previously on the Board of the Benzie Area Habitat for Humanity.

John’s fascination with history began at an early age.  As a young boy he many times paged through his father’s copy of the “American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War” – narrative by Bruce Catton – engrossed in the moving photographs, battle maps and accounts. He read Catton’s Army of the Potomac Trilogy several times and the same is true for Catton’s “Waiting for the Morning Train.”

John holds a bachelor’s degree from Kalamazoo College and a J.D. with honors from Wayne State University Law School. He received his LL.M. in Taxation from the University of Florida Law School where he graduated first in his class. John is a member of the New York and Michigan Bar Associations

Phyllis Kladder

Asst Treasurer

Phyllis was born and raised in Midland, Michigan.  She earned a bachelor of science with a major in Marketing from Ferris State University and went on to earn another bachelor of science degree with a major in Accounting. 

Phyllis and her husband, Scott, moved to Thompsonville in 2017 and live there full time with the exception of two months during the winter when they reside in California.

Phyllis retired as an accountant in March 2020

Since the couple’s move to Thompsonville, Phyllis has immersed herself in supporting the work of several nonprofits.  She has served as a board member for the Benzie Sunrise Rotary, Benzie Sunrise Rotary Foundation, Crystal Scholarship Foundation, and most recently, the Thompsonville Revitalization Project.  Phyllis has also contributed her talents as a committee member of the Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation Advancement Committee. 

Most recently, she joined the Benzie Area Historical Society finance committee. 

Phyllis is married to Scott, a controller with Blarney Castle Oil Company, and the two have a dog, Hogan, and a Cat, FASB.  Her hobbies include golf and card making. 


Lead Volunteers

  • Jane Purkis, Curator
  • Dave Reid, Exhibits and Editor of The Benzie Heritage
  • Cheri Dundon, Lead Archivist/Records Manager
  • Mary Link, Genealogy & Research
  • Andy Bolander, Historian
  • Pat Campbell, Junior Historians

Board of Directors

  • Larry White, President
  • Steven Veatch, Vice President
  • Trudi Hook, Treasurer
  • John Collins, Secretary
  • Phyllis Kladder, Asst. Treasurer
  • Jerry Heiman, Past President
  • Dave Reid, Past President
  • Stacy Leroy Daniels
  • Timothy Foster
  • Jane Freeland-Gerschick
  • Charles Kraus
  • Steve Veatch
  • Linda Wood