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Posted on Mon, Oct 1, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

Peter B. Fletcher, longtime Ypsilanti Republican activist and philanthropist, dies at 80

By Sven Gustafson

Peter B. Fletcher, a lifelong Ypsilanti resident, business owner, Republican activist and rabid Michigan Wolverines fan infamous for inserting the fictional Ohio towns of "goblu" and "beatosu" in an official map of Michigan, has died. He was 80.

Fletcher died early Saturday at the Gilbert Residence, an assisted living and nursing care facility, following health complications, said Dr. Richard Robb, his longtime friend.


Fletcher was owner of the Credit Bureau of Ypsilanti, a credit reporting agency that he took over in 1969 from his father, a naval veteran of World War I.

He was well known locally for his philanthropy and radio appearances and for conducting weekly "Fletcher Forum" events where Republicans, Democrats and independents gathered to discuss political current events each Saturday morning at the Ypsilanti VFW.

Though he never sought elected office, Fletcher was active in GOP circles, helping with fundraising and recruiting candidates for office. He served as a Republican National Committee member from Michigan in the late 1970s and was elected to the Ypsilanti Charter Commission in 2010.

Yet he also forged connections and friendships with his political opponents. He delivered the eulogy for former U.S. Rep. William D. Ford, a Democrat and fellow Ypsilanti resident who died in 2004.

Former Michigan Gov. William Milliken, a Republican, appointed Fletcher to chair the Michigan State Highway Commission, and later to a seat on the Michigan State University Board of Trustees, despite the fact that Fletcher was a University of Michigan alumnus.

Fletcher declined to draw compensation from either appointment, the former governor said Sunday from his home in Traverse City.

"Peter Fletcher was very close to me and someone I highly respected in many ways," Milliken said.

"His ethics were impeccable. He stood for the highest principles of politics and the Republican Party. He was in many ways the conscience of the Republican Party. He tried to keep it honest and above board and ethical in every sense of the word.

"I considered him to be a warm friend, highly intelligent," Milliken continued. "And he was respected within the Republican Party. He was very progressive in his political instincts, which I respected."

Tom Wieder, a retired attorney who is active in local Democratic politics, appeared frequently with Fletcher on the Lynn Rivers Show on WEMU-FM, where the two engaged in a point-counterpoint-style discussion of elections or to talk issues.

"The first word that comes to mind is gentleman," Wieder said. "He was kind of an old-school guy that was respectful and polite even to staunch political enemies, and he was a strong partisan, but he never was disagreeable when he was disagreeing, at least in my experience. He did it with a smile.

"Politics would be better if more people had his approach to it."

Fletcher also bore a sly sense of humor. During his time on the State Highway Commission, he succeeded in inserting the fictional northern Ohio towns "goblu" and "beatosu" into a 1978 Michigan Department of Transportation map as a way to show his loyalty to his alma mater. The maps reportedly saw a limited print run and quickly became a collector's item before the state printed a revised version.

Fletcher also gained notoriety as a "leapling," since he was born Feb. 29 during a Leap Year on a date that occurs just once every four years.

"Now this will be my 20th birthday which means, of course, that I’ve been on Earth 80 years, but have had only 20 birthdays to celebrate and of course, it’s way too much fun to try to explain this to the kids because they just can’t understand," Fletcher told WLBY-AM radio host Lucy Ann Lance earlier this year.

Fletcher was born Feb. 29, 1932 at Beyer Hospital in Ypsilanti. He graduated with honors and earned a bachelor's degree in political science from U-M, then began his career working for appliance maker Frigidaire when it was owned by General Motors.

Though private about his philanthropic activities, Fletcher founded the Ypsilanti Automotive Heritage Museum, and he was active with the Ypsilanti Historical Society and in the First United Methodist Church in the city, Robb said. Most recently, he was involved in helping raise funds for a new addition to the Gilbert Residence.

He also took dozens of young people under his wing to teach them and get them to think critically, said Jim Fink, an Ypsilanti attorney running for circuit judge whose family was close to Fletcher.

"Peter was a wonderful man who took interest in young people and their development into adults, and he was very generous with his time and talents and money," Fink said.

Fletcher launched the "Fletcher Forum" events at a restaurant on East Michigan Avenue in Ypsi but later moved the event to the VFW. The group, which meets each Saturday from 8:30-9:30 a.m., draws county commissioners and other officials, attorneys, activists and other people interested in politics.

"We got along good," said Fred Veigel, a member of the Washtenaw County Road Commission and a Democrat who first met Fletcher in the 1960s and now chairs the discussions. "We had a lot of spirited discussions and still do, but it's a very friendly group. We walk out of there smiling and happy. Sometimes we go to get breakfast."

An avid reader and history buff, Fletcher impressed those who knew him with his expansive vocabulary and gift with language.

"He spent time reading the Oxford dictionary and he used words very, very well," Robb said.

Fletcher, who never married, is survived by his brother Steve, of Sierra Vista, Ariz.

Funeral arrangements are pending.


Larry Kestenbaum

Tue, Oct 2, 2012 : 8:58 a.m.

Peter was one of my favorite people. I am privileged to have known him. To use one of his own words, he was a perspicacious individual. He left instructions that there be no funeral or memorial service, which is a shame. The Saturday morning forum he founded is continuing.

Wystan Stevens

Mon, Oct 1, 2012 : 11:22 p.m.

Peter was a regular -- and entertaining -- guest on the late Ted Heusel's interview program, on WAAM radio. He spoke often of his pride in restoration projects undertaken at Ypsilanti's historic Methodist Church, of which he had been a lifelong member. Many of us in "Radioland" (Heusel's term) enjoyed listening in, to catch specimens of Mr. Fletcher's mock-pompous oratory, couched in orotund phrases and delivered in oracular style. His humor was delightful, his wit was sly, his vocabulary a dazzlement!

Debbie Beffrey

Mon, Oct 1, 2012 : 10:34 p.m.

I was blessed to have known Peter, in more ways than I could ever share. My children were inspired by him. He was my go to source for sound advise and direction. A lovely person, kind, considerate, compassionate and passionate about many things and never shy to share it with you. You will be truly missed, my friend. I am glad God had our paths crossed. I thank my God everytime I remember you. Phillipians 1:3


Mon, Oct 1, 2012 : 5:40 p.m.

Did not know the man, but imagine today if a member of the State Highway Commission put out a map (or did something that ended up costing the state money) by sneaking in fake cities. It sounds cute the way this was reported, but if you think about it, it is irresponsible to the state and to travelers who might rely on those maps.


Tue, Oct 2, 2012 : 11:22 p.m.

So apparently you are ok with spending your "hard earned tax dollars" to justify the whim of this guys favorite sports team? I will remember that when a CURRENT day politico or state employee does the same thing. I expect you will be just fine with costing the state money for HIS idea of a joke.

Michigan Reader

Mon, Oct 1, 2012 : 9:57 p.m.

@BillyBobSchwartz--Can't work to get back to that civilized public life, it's only forward (and down) from here.

Billy Bob Schwartz

Mon, Oct 1, 2012 : 9:52 p.m.

The map was a map of Michigan, with tangential parts of Ohio and Indiana along the bottom so a traveler could see the connection with Toledo, etc. to get them to their Ohio map. This part of the map was in pale color (fitting, I think) and the words were very small. If you want accurate maps of Ohio, geet an Ohio map. I always admired the man who had the guts and sense of humor to do that. Sorry he's gone. He sounds like a man in the style of the Old Republican Party, which accepted liberals and moderates and conservatives (as did the Old Democratic Party) as valued parts of the Party, and people treated others with courtesy and a smile, regardless of differences in political view. Perhaps we can work to return to that level of civilized public life, and maybe things would get done.


Mon, Oct 1, 2012 : 6:55 p.m.

Actually, most maps and atlases have intentional "mistakes" in them. It's a way to prevent other mapmakers from copying.


Mon, Oct 1, 2012 : 6:52 p.m.

Sometimes when you don't have anything to say it's better to just not say anything.

Bob Rorke

Mon, Oct 1, 2012 : 4:39 p.m.

What a great guy! I had the privilege of knowing Peter Fletcher as a most honest and decent business leader. More importantly, he was a family friend and a mentor to my son, Mike, who shared his interest in the American Presidency. It is difficult to realize that we won't be able to see him anymore. Peter was a giver to so many. He was special in so many ways. Peter Fletcher's life was a life well lived.


Mon, Oct 1, 2012 : 4:14 p.m.

One of the last of an essentially extinct and lamented specie, a truly LIBERAL Republican. A gentleman, a scholar, a committed member of Ypsilanti First United Methodist Church! Peter, we miss you already. Morris Taber

E. Daniel Ayres

Mon, Oct 1, 2012 : 4:10 p.m.

R.I.P. Ypsilanti has lost a good citizen!

The Secret Team

Mon, Oct 1, 2012 : 3:09 p.m.

The article should also mentioned that he served honorably with the Judicial Tenure Commission, the state agency that prosecutes ethics violations against members of the state judiciary. This man was a true leader and an asset to Washtenaw County and the State of Michigan. God bless Peter Fletcher.


Mon, Oct 1, 2012 : 2:02 p.m.

This is a huge loss to the community, and to me, personally. He will be missed more than he ever thought possible.

John Tucker

Mon, Oct 1, 2012 : 1:31 p.m.

I was so lucky to have known Peter Fletcher. I met him through Paul "Skip" Ungrodt and was constantly amazed at his quick wit and even temper in any situation. Peter was a very wise and unique individual and left the world a better place.


Mon, Oct 1, 2012 : 1:11 p.m.

Sounds like a "Typical Repubilcan" "His ethics were impeccable. He stood for the highest principles of politics and the Republican Party. He was in many ways the conscience of the Republican Party. He tried to keep it honest and above board and ethical in every sense of the word." We will all miss him!


Mon, Oct 1, 2012 : 12:31 p.m.

Peter, thanks for everything you have done for our community. We will never be the same again.

Peter Eckstein

Mon, Oct 1, 2012 : 12:28 p.m.

A warm and witty man. We certainly had some political differences, but he was always a pleasure to be with. We shared a deep concern over the overwhelming weight of money in politics, which grows worse every year.


Mon, Oct 1, 2012 : 11:04 a.m.

Peter was a gentleman through and through. His intelligence and wit will be missed. Thank you, Peter, for your many years of service to the residents of this great state of Michigan. You have earned your rest.

Katie Anne

Mon, Oct 1, 2012 : 10:29 a.m.

RIP, Peter! We will miss you immensely!! Thanks for the article,