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