2018-12-06 / Views

Shining stars dimmed


JOANIE LOEHER served as White House photographer during a blizzard that grounded then-Vice President George H.W. Bush in Benton Harbor. Also shown is Ron Loeher, whose opinion on a recent debate was sought by Mr. Bush. JOANIE LOEHER served as White House photographer during a blizzard that grounded then-Vice President George H.W. Bush in Benton Harbor. Also shown is Ron Loeher, whose opinion on a recent debate was sought by Mr. Bush. Leelanau County — and America — will need to dig deep to replace points of light that are moving to their final resting places.

Gone are Dean Robb, Bernie Rink, George Weeks, Don Schwendemann and Fred Petroskey, all contributors of the highest sort to the places they lived and loved.

We’re recapping the lives of Messrs. Rob, Rink, Schwendemann and Weeks in this edition of the Leelanau Enterprise. We wrote of Mr. Petroskey in our Nov. 22 issue.

We admired them all.

Their deaths represent significant steps in a symbolic passing of the baton by America’s greatest generation. Page Two of the Enterprise this week is again full of obituaries with Leelanau ties, which is also part of the process.

Also gone this week is the person known for the “thousand points of light” phrase, which became an inspiration for volunteers and their organizations across the county. Dead is former President George H.W. Bush, a World War II hero whose story is being retold in glowing terms by the national media.

In describing the life of Mr. Bush, though, it’s appropriate to start in simpler places than the world stage.

Suttons Bay residents Ron and Joanie Loeher met Mr. Bush shortly after the Iowa debate during his run toward the Republican presidential nomination. An acquaintance of the Loehers organized a campaign stop in Benton Harbor in January 1988. The vice president’s plane touched down at the local airport, but a second plane with his handlers and the press corps could not land because of a blizzard.

The Bushes were snowed in.

The Loehers met George and Barbara Bush, who spent the night in their neighbor’s home, during a meeting in a local hall with townsfolk. “George Bush noted that my wife had a dinky camera, and he said, ‘Will you please take some photos?’” Ron recalled.

Of course she would. The negatives were developed by the White House staff.

So for about two hours, Joanie Loeher became the official White House photographer, also capturing images of Barbara and a young Jeb, who became the governor of Florida and a presidential candidate himself. George W. Bush was not there.

“I think it was significant how warm and personal this man is,” Ron said. “He was an outstanding individual, no matter what party you are in. He treated Joanie like a queen. He wrote her a real nice, personal note, and sent a photograph with him that was autographed.”

Mr. Bush was especially inquisitive as to what Ron thought of his performance in the Iowa debate. Never mind the political pundits.

Later that year in his speech accepting the GOP presidential nomination, Mr. Bush likened the volunteer spirit of America to a “brilliant diversity spread like stars, like a thousand points of light in a broad and peaceful sky.”

He expanded the concept in his Presidential inauguration speech: “The old ideas are new again because they are not old, they are timeless: duty, sacrifice, commitment, and a patriotism that finds its expression in taking part and pitching in.”

Mr. Bush’s words explain much about the soul of America and a generation passing.

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