Auction at the Sadony Labs

Auction Featuring Sadony Lab’s Old Equipment Drawing Interest
Friday, August 05, 2005
By Dave LeMieux
Muskegon Chronicle Staff Writer

A Challenger Chris Craft Dyneto outboard motor by Owner Corp. The caller insisted that the ultra-rare item listed on a handbill announcing the auction of the contents of Valley Research Corp. didn’t exist. “But there it is, big as life,” said auctioneer Roger Schultz. The vintage outboard motor stood amid a dusty array of obscure and obsolete machinery and laboratory equipment in what was once one of the company’s airy lakefront workshops.

Schultz will be selling the contents of the building at 7139 Old Channel Trail at a public auction beginning at 10 a.m. on Saturday. Built as the Sadony Bros. Boat Works on the shore of White Lake’s Indian Bay in the early 1930s by Joseph A. Sadony Sr.’s two sons, the rambling 10,000-square-foot building was later converted into a state-of-the-art research facility. The elder Sadony was renowned for his lifelong study of the mind’s powers of intuition and his ability to foretell events.

After service in World War II, Sadony’s sons Joseph Jr. and Arthur turned their own talents to invention. With their father as a consultant, the Sadony brothers organized Valley Research during the closing days of the war, working to develop waterproof packaging for military material.

Sixty years later, sunlight streamed through mammoth plate glass windows as Schultz and two others sifted gingerly through the contents of musty cement-block building on a recent afternoon. Outside, a meticulously restored wooden speedboat bobbed at anchor in Indian Bay. Schultz says he has already received numerous calls from people across the state interested the in the partial list of contents he’s circulated. Valley Research Corp.’s labs and workshops were once equipped with such esoteric devices as an Elmendorf tearing tester, an International clinical centrifuge and a precision penetrometer.

In the post-war years, the company worked on a variety of products including a sonic device for Continental Motors Corp. that detected flaws in metal parts. The lab also patented a home humidifier and a machine that wrapped, folded and sealed food packages in moisture-proof material. But by the late 1950s, business at the lab had tapered off, said Arthur Sadony’s daughter Jennifer Sadony Westrate. Both brothers walked away from the lab and got jobs as supervisors at Howmet Corp.’s forerunner, Misco. The labs and workshops were left largely untouched for the next 45 years.

“It’s pretty much like they walked away in the late 1950s, closed the door and that was it,” said Sadony Westrate. Sadony Westrate recently filled four dumpsters with water- and rodent-damaged contents in preparation for Saturday’s auction. Out of respect for their recently deceased mothers, Sadony Westrate and her cousins, Joseph Sadony III and Arthur C. Sadony, have waited until now to sell the property. The trio have hired Schultz, a local auctioneer, to sell the contents to the highest bidder.

The granddaughter of one of Joseph Sr.’s foremen has purchased the building and plans to convert it into a summer home. Saturday’s auction will include laboratory equipment and furniture, office furniture and boating equipment. Among the items on auction are a double mahogany Herman Miller office desk, a large band saw and Graus 2 kilo lab scale.

Schultz has been working as a auctioneer since a fall in 1985. Over the years since then, Schultz and his partner, Joe Cook of Lowell, have auctioned off the contents of countless farms. But family farms are fading away and Schultz is doing fewer and fewer farm auctions. Saturday’s auction at Valley Research is unusual for the variety of vintage laboratory equipment being offered for sale.

A Mind Of His Own
Friday, August 05, 2005
By Dave LeMieux
Muskegon Chronicle Staff Writer

Forty-five years after his death, the name Joseph A. Sadony Sr. can still raise eyebrows around Montague. Sadony was renowned for his lifelong study of the mind’s powers of intuition and his ability to foretell events “When some people saw grandpa coming, they would cross the street,” says Sadony’s granddaughter Jennifer Sadony Westrate. “Grandpa said things that would scare them. They were afraid he could read their minds,” says Sadony Westrate.

But Joseph Sadony’s life is more fascinating than scary. The German immigrant worked for President Roosevelt (the first one), performed feats of athleticism and endurance, competed with and was consulted by great minds around the world, built an estate and laboratory on the corner of White Lake, wrote books and a newspaper column, and conducted extensive research on the power of the mind. And he scares some people with the abilities of his mind.

By cultivating his intuition, Sadony made 38,000 accurate predictions during his lifetime, says Sadony Westrate. “He felt it was a gift from God. Others felt it came from the other side and were scared,” Sadony Westrate said. Stories of Sadony’s prognostications are the stuff of local folklore.

Although Sadony died a year and a day before she was born, Sadony Westrate, 43, grew up listening to her father’s stories about her grandfather’s abilities. Mere months before he died, one of her grandfather’s last predictions made certain she’d be born, Sadony Westrate says. Sadony Westrate’s father, Arthur J. Sadony, the youngest of Sadony’s two sons, married late in life. Arthur Sadony was in his 50s and Sadony Westrate’s mother, Beatrice, was in her early 40s when the couple married. Beatrice was 42 when her first pregnancy ended in a stillbirth which led to the discovery of numerous tumors in her uterus. The doctor recommended an immediate hysterectomy. “Dad said, ‘Can you wait? I’d like to call my father,’ ” Sadony Westrate said. “He called grandpa and grandpa said, ‘You tell ’em to put her back together. She’s going to have another daughter in a year and a half.’ ” Beatrice gave birth to Sadony Westrate on Sept. 3, 1961.

In his later years, Sadony became a reclusive figure at his estate and the stuff of local legends. “My grandmother (Freida Meinert) used to deliver eggs and produce down to him in the early 1950s,” said local auctioneer Roger Schultz. “I remember he’d come out to the car with that silky white beard and that black suit.” Sadony’s grandchildren have hired Schultz to sell the contents of Valley Research Corp, where Sadony worked as a consultant for his sons Joseph Sr. and Arthur in the late 1940s and 1950s. “You never heard anything bad about old Joe,” Schultz said. “He was kind of mysterious because of that white beard and of course we always saw a lot of big fancy cars going in and out of there.”

A self-educated turn-of-the-20th-century philosopher-scientist, Sadony’s biography reads like a story written by popular science fiction author Ray Bradbury. He was born February 22, 1877, in Germany’s Rhine River valley, not far from Frankfurt. The family moved to Kalamazoo in 1884 when Sadony was 7 and later moved to Chicago. According to the 1936 edition of “Who’s Who in Michigan,” Sadony hiked 1,800 miles through the Arizona desert as a young man, checking conditions on Indian reservations for Theodore Roosevelt. He performed on the flying trapeze for P.T. Barnum and bicycled from Chicago to the Gulf of Mexico via Denver. Sadony could hold his breath underwater for 3 minutes, 45 seconds and saved 28 people from drowning.

In 1906, Sadony moved to White River Township and bought the 81-acre estate he named Valley of the Pines near the current site of the Old Channel Inn. Sadony built a power plant, stables, laboratory, library and machine shop. Over the years, he held a number of public offices including constable, justice of the peace, deputy sheriff and director of the district school board. For nearly 30 years, beginning in the late 1920s, Sadony wrote a daily advice column for The Muskegon Chronicle. He also self-published a variety of newsletters and journals over the years.

He was a prodigious letter-writer and his personal files were said to contain letters from over 300,000 people from around the world. When British Royal Astronomer Sir Harold Spencer Jones announced he had calculated a more accurate distance from the earth to sun in December of 1941, Sadony claimed his own “as yet incomplete conclusions” had preceded Jones’. The flap erupted two days before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and it appears Sadony did not pursue his claim to the discovery.

His mental abilities remain his main claim to fame. According to Sadony Westrate, the Chicago and Detroit Police Departments both kept her grandfather on retainer, calling on his peculiar talents for help in solving difficult cases. Throughout his life Sadony insisted he never accepted payment from individuals for his predictions. Sadony’s chief pursuits were cultivating his intuition and formulating what he termed “Prevenient Education.” Sadony established the Educational Research Laboratories to further his work on both ideas.

In 1949, Sadony described his work to reporter John A. Chisholm in a eight-part series published in The Muskegon Chronicle. Explaining some his ideas on intuition from his unpublished book “The Human Radio,” Sadony told Chisholm, “Everything radiates. Everything broadcasts its own nature. People sense each others’ thoughts and feelings without knowing it.” Chisholm offered a brief explanation of “Prevenient Education” — “The basic contention of Mr. Sadony’s book ‘Gates of the Mind,’ is that thinking in words can confuse and mislead as readily as clarify; that the most reliable form of thought is that which might be termed ‘sensing.’ In explaining something, Mr. Sadony shows instead of tells.” Despite his notoriety, Sadony always remained something of a mystery.

In his 1949 series, Chisholm wrote, “Even those who have met the man, who have visited his home, seem at a loss for words when faced with specific questions. His capacity for friendship seems enormous, but even friends of many years who express their high opinion in unqualified terms bog down when it comes to details and specific questions.”

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