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.


Jerry Heiman


Jerry Heiman was first elected to BAHS BOD in 2007; he has served as Secretary since 2014, and is currently Chair of the Buildings and Grounds Committee. He is a member of the Programs, Exhibits and Public Events Committee and a tour director for Museum and historical walking, bicycle and bus tours. He also pens “One Hundred Years Ago,” a column in our local newspaper, and writes articles for our newsletter.

Jerry is a graduate of Albion College, University of Michigan Dental School, and University of Michigan Hospital Residency program. He served in the US Army Dental Corps 1966-1969 and practiced Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery in Midland, Michigan from 1972-1998. He has been a Big Platte Lake property owner since 1977 and became a full-time Benzie County resident in 1998.

Besides his work with the BAHS, Jerry serves on the Platte Lake Improvement Association Board of Directors, on the advisory committees for Benzie EMS and Benzie Bus, and River Care Committee of Conservation Resource Alliance. He also delivers meals for Benzie Senior Resources

Larry White

Vice President

Larry is a retired computer professional who graduated from Michigan State University in 1978.  His professional life was focused on Information Technology and Cyber Security, including leadership positions with a number of Fortune 500 companies.  Besides technology expertise, Larry has skills in business development, strategic planning, financial management, marketing and human resources. 

Larry has a lifelong passion for nature, including extensive travel and
wilderness experience. He also has a deep interest in Benzie history, including family research, genealogy, oral history interviews and digital archiving.  As a descendant of an early “summer” family on Crystal Lake, Larry’s extended family has owned property on the north shore since 1903.

In retirement, Larry and his wife Carole enjoy time at Crystal Lake with their family, including children and grandchildren in Michigan, Illinois, Florida and Montreal, Canada. 

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
  • Mary Link, Genealogy & Research
  • Andy Bolander, Historian
  • Pat Campbell, Junior Historians

Board of Directors

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