Thursday, June 16, 2011

Goodbye, Old Friend

I know that we all have people who come into our lives and bring us much pleasure.  This blog is about one such person.

Back in 1988 I was gathering petition signatures for a run as West Bloomfield Treasurer.  I was at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon and a friend introduced me to Elaine Treadwell Calder.  She said she lived in West Bloomfield and was active in politics.  I, of course, asked her to sign my nominating petition.

Characteristic of Elaine, she said she didn't know if she 'liked me'.  I told her she didn't have to 'like me', she just had to think I could do the best job for the Township.  Frankly, I do not remember if she signed or not.

A couple of weeks later, we were all gathered at Fire Station 1 on Orchard Lake Road.  The Township Board was going to choose a new Treasurer to replace Dorothy McIntosh, who had been named Supervisor after the resignation of John Doherty, who was quite ill (and would pass away the following November.)

Elaine was there.  She had a piece of paper on which she had written the initials of who she thought would be the next Treasurer.  I did not ask to see it.  I felt I had zero chance at the appointment.  I figured the Board would make a political decision from among fourteen candidates who applied.  I was going to run anyway and would take my chances in August.

So, the Board members were wandering around the room talking amongst themselves and the candidates and public were all milling around.  At one point, one of the Trustees came up to me and told me I was still in the running.  Surprise!  I figured there must not be a consensus among the members.

More milling around.  More waiting.  Finally, they were ready to nominate.  I was pretty sure who the new Treasurer would be.  I sat and waited for the nomination.  It is a good thing I was sitting down when my name was announced or I might have fallen.  As it was, I was frozen in place.  To say I was shocked would be putting it mildly.

Later that morning, after the press questioned me and took a god-awful picture, I went up to Elaine and asked her if she was right.  She laughed.  She had written down the initials 'DH', but she had meant another candidate!  It was the same person I thought would be chosen.  I discovered later they they could not get everyone to agree and I was 'Plan B'. 

Elaine looked like a genius!  In some ways she was.  She knew all of the history of West Bloomfield.  For years, she came to our meetings and kept on eye on what we were doing.  One Board member referred to her as our 'eighth board member'.  She was like part of the Town Hall family and even was invited to our yearly gathering in December.

She was the kind of citizen we all should strive to be.  Watchful of what our elected leaders do.  Not afraid to crticize our Board decisions when she thought we were wrong.  In my case, she even criticized my make-up at one meeting.

I never took anything she said as a personal affront.  She was such a wealth of knowledge.  And though we did not always agree on matters, I always respected her opinion.

I had not talked to her since I left office.  Shortly before I left we had a conversation about sidewalks in her area.  Driving past her house on Monday, I noticed that the garage door was open and thought it odd and wondered how she was.  When I checked my email at home, I had a notice of her death and her memorial service.

Going through my rolodex (yes, I still have one), I found her business card with 'etc' all along the border.  On the back it is dated Mon 8-18-88.  There is a message that reads:  Do you want your yard signs back?

All I can say is thanks to this wonderful woman who was so supportive of me during my years in office.  People like Elaine are treasures to any community.  She will be missed.

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