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Vern Ehlers

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Former Congressman Vern Ehlers died the way he lived Tuesday night, with quiet dignity. If you are relatively new to Michigan or not from the Grand Rapids area, you may not have known of him, which is too bad. He was one of the most underappreciated members of Congress.

He was full of integrity, and as little a self-promoter as anyone elected to national office can be. He was also something else very rare in Congress – a research scientist with a PhD in physics. I first met him 15 years ago in Detroit, when the Fisher Theater was showing Copenhagen, a play about science, morality, and the decision to build the atom bomb.

Former Michigan Congressman Vernon Ehlers has died.

Melissa Morrison, funeral director at Zaagman Memorial Chapel, said Wednesday that Ehlers died late Tuesday at a Grand Rapids nursing facility. He was 83. 

Ehlers represented Michigan's Third Congressional District for 17 years from December 1993 until he retired in 2011.

The Third District covers Kent, Barry, and Ionia counties.

Ehlers was a nuclear physicist and college professor before he ran for Congress. 

He also served in the Michigan Legislature. 

Congressman Dan Kildee (MI-05) said in a statement, “I am saddened to learn of Congressman Ehlers’ passing. Vern was a passionate public servant that loved his constituents, our state and the Great Lakes. While we did not serve together in Congress, his reputation preceded him. Vern was a leader who valued country over party and always strived for bipartisan consensus."

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Amtrak riders in Grand Rapids will notice a huge difference the next time they board a train. A new $6 million station opened today.

Grand Rapids' old Amtrak station was tiny, dingy and outdated.

Tim Hefner, director of Michigan Department of Transportation’s office of rail, says the old station was supposed to be a temporary one when it was built almost 30 years ago.

At the ribbon cutting ceremony Monday, state and local officials cracked jokes about the old “Am-shack."

3rd congressional candidates Pat Miles Justin Amash
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Congressional candidates in Michigan's third district debated health care, education, and government spending in West Michigan Wednesday night.

Democrat Pat Miles is a Grand Rapids attorney who touts his moderate views in the generally conservative district. He's endorsed by a number of local republicans who claim their party's candidate, Justin Amash, is too extreme.