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Corey Spencer Descendants Visit National Home for the First Time

“Overwhelming,” said Leslie Peters, great nephew of Corey Spencer, on visiting the beautiful VFW National Home with his family in the crisp of autumn for the first time in his life.

Up until a few months ago, Leslie was unaware that his great uncle, cattleman, and VFW member, Corey Spencer, donated a farm on 472 acres of beautiful rolling land alongside the Grand River outside of Eaton Rapids back in 1923 for the purpose of creating a national home to take care of the wives and children of veterans who were killed or disabled.

At the same time, Leslie’s father, Don, who was Corey Spencer’s nephew, knew about the home but had never seen it.

“When I first looked at it, I thought, ‘My God, look at what my Uncle Corey has done!’” said Don, 93, who came all the way from Florida to see the place for the very first time that his mother had only spoken of a few times.

“We were very impressed and astonished about how big it was, and so neat and clean and everyone so helpful,” he added.

Don’s mother, who was Corey Spencer’s sister, moved away from their hometown of Jackson, Michigan, and married and raised her family in Illinois. Although she visited Jackson when her children were young, Don remembered that his Uncle Corey was never there when they came. Therefore, Don never met the man who helped make the VFW National Home a reality.

Almost a century later, the VFW National Home, with its 42 single-family homes and expansive supports has been in continuous operation offering a safe haven to veterans near and far who have suffered the ravages of war or been in crisis after their service.

“My eyes welled up just seeing the home. I felt such pride,” expressed Leslie, whose brother is also Corey Spencer, named after their great uncle.

“It’s unreal what’s been done for veterans and their families,” added Don, a veteran himself and member of the VFW.

Coincidence Leads Family Back to Their Legacy

The discovery of their connection to the Home came through an unexpected coincidence. Leslie and his wife recently moved from Illinois to the Lansing area to be near their son and his family.  After the move, Don mentioned something about a place where his uncle had donated land.  Leslie then told his son about it and discovered that it sounded a whole lot like a place where his son’s friend worked.

As it turned out, the friend was National Home Facilities Director Rick Stiver.

From there, they put the pieces together and eagerly gathered the family for a visit to see their ancestor’s generous donation.

Relatives From Near and Far

While Spencer had no children of his own, a crew of his great nieces and great nephews, as well as Don and his wife Peggy, came from as far as Florida and California to lay eyes on the family legacy in mid-October.

“I am so very proud to be a part of a bloodline of a man who has left such a mark in touching so many lives for so many years,” said Heidi Shonka, a great-niece from Port Huron.

Executive Director Mike Wilson and staff welcomed the family for a two-day visit that included meeting the staff, a tour, and learning about the history of the Home.

“It’s a new beginning for our family. We’ve been reconnected, and we’ll be back,” said Leslie.

“It’s very comforting to know the home is in good hands with Mike Wilson and his staff, who are doing a good job of helping veterans and their families,” he added. “I just want to tell everyone about the VFW National Home,” expressed Heidi.

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