Christopher Couch, a man filled with humor and reason and love, died unexpectedly Sunday, Aug. 6, at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing. He was 68.
Chris was a lot to a lot of people, beginning with his wife of 39 years, Susan Henderson, whom he met as a sophomore at Albion College. He loved Susan dearly. Or as she would say over the last few days, “Keep it present tense.” So, he loves Susan dearly. They were perfect companions.
Chris did companionship so well. He changed the conversation when he entered a room. He was just as wonderful to sit with on the porch while reading a newspaper. An old friend described him as “the funniest and most reasonable man” he knew.
He thought if you were complaining, you ought to volunteer. And that saying “make me proud” to a child was an awful approach. He was already proud of his two children, Graham and Hannah.
Chris was born in Torquay, Devon, England, on Feb. 11, 1949, the son of Cyril and Ella Couch. The family emigrated to Westbrook, Maine, in 1961, just before Chris’s 12th birthday. Ella and Chris’s sister, Christine Lashua, still live in Westbrook.
Chris attended Westbrook High School, where he excelled as a debater and was voted as Class Funny Bone in 1967. He then attended Albion College in Michigan, he said, because when he was applying for colleges he never got past the A’s in the catalog. We never knew if he was serious, but the story never wavered. He met lifelong friends at Albion that would eventually be integral in bringing him to Lansing.
He returned to Maine with Susan, where he worked at the St. John Valley Times in Madawaska, the northern-most town in Maine, until he was fired for refusing to kill a story about a friend of the publisher. He then covered city government for The Biddeford-Saco Journal. In 1977, he moved to Lansing, taking a position as a bill analyst with the Michigan House of Representatives, which ended up being the start of a 40-year career. First in journalism, then as an analyst, he spent his entire professional life essentially explaining complex matters to other people. And his personal life explaining them to his children.
He didn’t plan to spend the last 40 years in Lansing. But his family wouldn’t leave. So he stayed. And loved the community and everybody in his world — his colleagues in the House Fiscal Agency, his fellow parishioners at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, his neighbors on Lansing’s West Side, and the children of Westmoreland Avenue, who used the family’s backyard as a play land and front porch as home base.
He was immersed in the life of St. Paul’s. And similarly devoted to his work at the legislature.
And to his family. Chris and Susan loved to travel — to Maine, to England, to China, by boat, by plane, by train and, for many years, station wagon.
He enjoyed sports, from watching Michigan State to teaching his children tennis. He joked he wasted his best tennis years hitting right to his kids’ forehands. He was always surrounded by books, with at least several in progress. He was a catalog of information about a wealth of topics. No matter what you were interested in, he could be interested in it, too.
He will be missed by many.
Chris is survived by his wife Susan, children Graham and Hannah, mother Ella, sister Christine, daughter-in-law Elizabeth, mother-in-law Irene Henderson, and beloved extended family and friends.
He is preceded in death by his father Cyril, and Susan’s parents Tess and Jim Henderson.
A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 19, at Central United Methodist Church, 215 N. Capitol Ave., Lansing, with a reception to follow at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church next door.
Donations can be made in Chris’s name to Amnesty International, Doctors Without Borders, and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.
Arrangements are by the Estes-Leadley Greater Lansing Chapel. Online condolences may be left for his family at www.EstesLeadley.com.