The family of the late John C. Magnus has donated 18 acres of land to the Clare-Gladwin Regional Education Service District (RESD) to expand and improve the learning opportunities available to local kids through the RESD’s student programs. In addition to the donation, the RESD has purchased an adjacent four acres, which was sold by the Magnus family in 2000.
Located at 3200 S. Clare Ave., John’s father, Edward Magnus, purchased the land in 1923 where he housed a saw mill and began selling Model T Fords. In the 1940s, John and his brother, Edward Jr., joined the family business, which eventually became Magnus Tractor Sales.
Known for selling and repairing Ford tractors, Magnus Tractor Sales also offered snowmobiles, campers, lawnmowers, and all-terrain vehicles through the course of its existence. At one time, John even raised potatoes on the property for Central Michigan University’s food service.
“I enjoyed going down there to work,” said John’s wife, Verna Magnus Green. “Our customers weren’t just customers, they were like close friends.”
By 1975, following the retirement of Edward Magnus Jr. and third business partner Lee Foster, John became sole owner of the company. Verna said John, whom she called an honest businessman and a hard worker, continued to run the business until his passing.
Verna and her family consider it a “privilege” and a “blessing” to be able to contribute the property for the benefit of Clare and Gladwin Counties’ kids. “I know John would be so pleased,” she said. “We are all so excited for its future!”
Both the 18-acre donation and the prospect of purchasing the adjacent four acres came about in early 2013. “The RESD is always searching for effective yet affordable ways to develop our programs to improve the educational experiences for students,” said Clare-Gladwin RESD Superintendent Sheryl Presler. “When these opportunities came to us, we could not pass them up. The price of the additional property was right and we were able to negotiate a 15-year installment purchase plan with the bank,” she said. “Ultimately, the purchase combined with the Magnus family’s tremendous generosity creates the perfect foundation for us to pursue many of our long-term goals.”
The land contains multiple outbuildings, a barn, and a house; many of which will be used to further the skills of the students in many of the RESD’s programs. For example, the construction trades students from the Clare-Gladwin Career Center, a program of the RESD, will begin by repairing the house and making it handicap accessible for students from the Clare-Gladwin Area School. The Area School students will use the space to work on life skills, such as cooking, cleaning, money management, lawn care, and more.
Although they are still in the early planning stages of the project, Presler said the property has enormous potential. “The magnitude of the possibilities and opportunities this incredibly unselfish donation creates for kids is overwhelming,” she said. “When speaking with the Magnus family, you can feel their love for John and for the family business. To be given a treasured piece of their family history is something we truly appreciate and will honor as we move forward.”