I’ve been reading some posts lately about Michigan’s Bottle Bill, which, for better or worse, was passed by a state-wide ballot proposal in 1978.
To this day, some praise our collective bottle deposit requirements, yet some still oppose them.
One proponent was the late Congressman Paul Henry of Grand Rapids, a good example of how far the Republican Party has deteriorated since he died in 1993. Henry was part of a tradition of Grand Rapids representatives that included Gerald Ford, Harold Sawyer, Vern Ehlers, Justin Amash and most recently Peter Meijer. Republicans who didn’t always march in lock step with GOP leadership. In fact, he once introduced a bill proposing Michigan’s bottle bill be adopted nationwide. Of course, it failed.
Ranger Rick probably would refer to such classic “moderates” as RINOs (Republicans in Name Only) or “Remocrats.”
But Paul B. Henry was popular enough to win elections with more than 60 percent approval and after he died, they named the M-6 freeway after him. He was so popular that he still garnered more than 60% support from voters after being diagnosed as having less than a year to live.
I remember the night I learned of Henry’s problem. It was just before the 1992 election when he and Democratic challenger Carol Kooistra were scheduled to appear at a candidate forum. Henry was a no-show that night and I asked Kooistra what was going on. She told me the Congressman had been rushed to Butterworth Hospital with severe headaches and she suspected he had a serious illness.
The Grand Rapids Press had a front-page headline the next day that read, “Henry upbeat despite grim prognosis.”
Interestingly, Kooistra refused to do any politicking that forum night and afterward. Henry, through his office spokespeople, called her “A class act.”
That certainly wouldn’t happen these days, particularly in the GOP.
Then in January, a very sickly Henry was flown to Washington D.C. to take part in the swearing in. I later learned he had to have that done so his family could continue to collect his paychecks until his death.
Henry did another thing in my presence that I swear would never occur in these troubled times. In a candidate forum in 1990, he was asked why he was caught in a check bouncing snafu for congressional members. He acknowledged he had been fingered 25 times, but defended himself by saying fellow Congressman Howard Wolpe was caught eight times.
Henry said he didn’t agree with Wolpe’s politics, but he would never question his integrity.
It was July 31, 1993, that NPR reported Henry’s death. I was told he rarely awakened from sleep during his last month.
I personally had contact with Henry several times, the most memorable standing in line at McDonald’s in Wayland, where he was getting a bite to eat before delivering the commencement address at Hopkins High School.
Once again, this was something you wouldn’t see from a congressman these days.