Politics & Prejudices
The People vs. the Monster
Even though the 'people have decided,' expect Moroun's meddling to continue
Published: November 21, 2012
Imagine the fits that would give the Neanderthals! Well, Michigan once really had a first lady like that: Helen Milliken, who lost a yearlong battle to cancer Friday. Once a shy homemaker, she found her voice when her husband, Bill, became governor in 1969.
She deserves a book of her own. She fought for women, justice and especially, the environment, and was encouraged to be herself by her husband, who, as Coleman Young said, was the greatest governor Michigan ever had. Once, when one of the odious Amway czars told the governor he ought to get his wife under control, Milliken told him to take a hike. After the Millikens left the governor's mansion, Helen continued fighting quietly to make the world a better place.
She had a marvelous sense of humor, not much ego, and whenever I saw her, would suggest some excellent book she had just read. I wish young women today had such a role model.
Sonny Eliot died the same day she did. Though anybody younger than 40 knew him only as a zany guy giving the weather on the radio (and occasionally referring to me as a "well-known street fighter"), every baby boomer in Michigan grew up watching Sonny Eliot do his cornball, slapstick weather reports on local television.
He was cheerfully apolitical, except when it came to veterans' issues. But he deserves to be remembered, too, as the last guy who was present at the creation of the television industry. He was a quintessential Detroiter, who grew up on the tough east side.
As a bomber pilot in World War II, he survived 15 months in a Nazi prison camp after his plane was shot down over Germany. He came back, invented — and re-invented — the concept of the TV weatherman, and kept at his career, surviving many technological and corporate twists and turns, and always learning, till old age forced him to finally retire, just before he turned 90.
There's a lesson there for all of us. "I've had a wonderful life. Well, maybe I should have had more sex. But really, no complaints," he told me two years ago, even as his memory was slipping away.
We should all be so lucky.
Jack Lessenberry opines weekly for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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