The Forrest Arthur Pletcher Memorial Scholarship




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Job Corps award commemorates life of a carpenter

Forrest Arthur “Art” Pletcher grew up during The Depression in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. The child of a broken home, he had to quit school in the eighth grade to take care of his mother, brother and sister. A promising job with Great Lakes Steel brought him to Michigan in 1941.

Nearly 50 years later, Art Pletcher’s son Charles established a unique scholarship fund in his honor at Grand Rapids Community Foundation.

“I wanted the scholarship to be awarded based on character, because it was my father’s character that provided such a great role model,” said Charles. “I wanted kids from broken homes to hear about a person from a different time who was able to overcome those obstacles with enthusiasm, integrity, and pride.”

One of the most important lessons Art, a skilled carpenter, passed down to his son: do everything as if you’re going to sign your name to it. “He took great pride in the craftsmanship of his work,” Charles said. “And he worked very hard. He would work double shifts, seven days a week sometimes. Then he’d come home and mow the lawn.”

Despite the demands of his work, Art was still the go-to man for anything his five children might need. “Dad was the one everyone went to when they had a problem,” Charles said. “He just had boundless energy.”

Art Pletcher, born in 1916, died in 1989. He is survived by his wife Betty Jane and their family.

The Forrest Arthur Pletcher Memorial Fund, established in 1990, provides annual awards to carpentry students in the local Job Corps program. Job Corps is the nation’s largest and most comprehensive residential, education and job training program for at-risk youth, ages 16 through 24. Established in 1964 under the Economic Opportunity Act, Job Corps has provided more than 2 million disadvantaged young people with the integrated academic, vocational, and social skills training they need to gain independence and get quality, long-term jobs or further their education.

To determine the winners of the Pletcher awards, Job Corps students nominate the classmates that they think best embody the characteristics of enthusiasm, integrity and pride in craftsmanship. A volunteer committee makes final recommendations based on the same criteria. “Many people who are relegated to low positions in society have useful, transferable skills,” Charles, a retired career development advisor, said. “Gang leaders, for example, have great leadership skills, they’re just in the wrong environment.”

The Pletcher award is designed to encourage young people to keep working, learning, and striving for success. “When you give these young people socially acceptable recognition, they start to live up to it,” Charles said. “It changes the way they see themselves. It’s really a meaningful way of commemorating my father’s life.”