Peoria legend still has zest for life and politics

By Tom McIntyre

April 27, 2013 Updated Apr 27, 2013 at 11:00 PM CDT

PEORIA, Ill -- Former Congressman Robert Michel of Peoria was honored Friday by his two successors, Aaron Schock and Ray LaHood. 

At ninety years old, Robert Michel still shows he has lost little of his zest for life.
 
In a time when politicians are not held in the highest esteem, it's telling that these people turned out to honor a man who hasn't been in Congress since 1995.
 
Bob Michel is one of those now popularly called "the greatest generation".  In his case, especially true.
 
Michel dropped out of Bradley University when World War Two broke out--serving as a private
infantryman invaded Normandy, fought in the battle of the bulge, was wounded by machine gun fire and awarded two Bronze Stars , the Purple Heart  and four battle stars.
 
With the war over, he returned to Bradley, got a degree and found a job with Judge Harold Velde..who was running for Congress.
 
"I didn't have journalism or political science," said Michel. "I was a business administration major.  But I tried it, and that's where it all began."
 
Seven years later, Michel ran for Congress himself.  He stayed there 38 years, rising the leadership ranks of his Republican party...serving with nine presidents...Eisenhower to Clinton.  
 
His assistants included Dick Chaney, and Newt Gingrich, who chided Michel for being too cooperative with Democrats.
 
"A couple of times, I had to tell Newt, 'They're not our enemies, they're our political adversaries, and we treat them with respect'." 
 
At his 90th birthday celebration, Bob Michel saluted his staff for their help...his late wife, Corrine for raising their four children so well, and all the people who voted for him.
 
And then, Bob Michel, a Bradley music minor, proved there was still a song in his heart, leading the crowd in "God Bless America."