Christopher J. Couch

Couch, Christopher photoLansing, Michigan

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.

 

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42 Messages to “Christopher J. Couch

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Emily and Sean Stead
August 10, 2017 at 7:50 am

Graham, Elizabeth and family,

We are so incredibly sorry for the loss of your father. We are thinking of you and sending hugs, prayers and positivity during this difficult time.

-Emily and Sean Stead

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Edgar Beem
August 10, 2017 at 8:54 am

Chris was the funniest, smartest, most reasonable and all-around decent man I ever knew, a friend for more than 50 years. Bless his soul.

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Alice Mansfield
August 10, 2017 at 9:14 am

Chris will be missed by me and many people. A bright soul who brought much joy in life. My thoughts and prayers to his family that he loved so deeply. I am blessed to have known Chris.

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Mary Towers
August 10, 2017 at 9:18 am

Wry, wise and gruffly sweet…
I will miss my cousin Christopher.

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Carol Ingells
August 10, 2017 at 11:03 am

I am so saddened by the loss of Chris. He and I had a good friendship in part because we were both searching spiritually. Now maybe you know the answers, Chris! My deep sympathy to you Susan, and to Graham and Hannah.. Chris was one of the finest people I ever knew.
I know he will be always deeply missed. May God’s Comfort be with you all!

Love,
Carol

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Lynn Piper
August 10, 2017 at 12:40 pm

To my cousin, Christopher
Peace and comfort to your loving family at this difficult time.

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Steve Miller
August 10, 2017 at 1:12 pm

It is near impossible to think that Chris no longer lightens the world – or maybe he still does as we remember this droll, eccentric, unpretentiously noble and uplifting man!

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Edgar Beem
August 10, 2017 at 4:18 pm

Droll, that’s perfect, Steve. We just lost a funny, reasonable man at a time when we need funny, reasonable people more than ever before.

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Quentin Sullivan
August 10, 2017 at 4:19 pm

I am deeply saddened to learn of Chris’s death. It had been a comfort to think that his wit and kindness were brightening some lucky corner of the world. I will treasure the memories.

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Katie Eitniear
August 10, 2017 at 8:59 pm

I worked with Chris for four years at HFA. Everyday he walked in and made me smile. Such a wonderful man. He will be missed by everyone. My prayers are with his family.

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Beverly Holaday
August 11, 2017 at 11:50 am

Chris was one of the finest people I’ve ever known. Smart, unassuming, kind, thoughtful–and wickedly, wickedly funny. I can’t imagine a world without Chris offering droll insights on anything and everything that came to his attention.

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Darlene Moore, House Clerks Office
August 11, 2017 at 12:02 pm

I did not get to know him, although I remember him well . He will be missed. My condolences to the staff and his family.

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Jenny McInerney
August 11, 2017 at 2:15 pm

I’m grateful for the years I knew Chris, the patience and encouragement he showed me, and the love of learning and love of life he displayed to all who knew him.

I’ll miss walking out of his office smarter, happier, and a half hour behind schedule—and looking to find out more about Slings and Arrows (I’d like it; I should watch it), the drain code, Brexit, Lou Whitaker (he should be in the baseball HOF), the BWL plant (the murals were a WPA project), Moliere, the books of Thomas Mallon, the 1966 10-10 tie between MSU and ND (historic and potentially unforgivable that I hadn’t heard of it, I gathered) or one of the million other things about which he was inexplicably an expert.

He’d send emails like these all the time: “Heraclitus said you can’t step into the same stream twice, so you could also argue that the ‘same school’ can’t even exist for three years. (This is a very old precedent, 5thC BC.)”

I’ll miss those little things more than I can say. My condolences to Susan, Graham, and Hannah.

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Helen Patzer
August 11, 2017 at 3:04 pm

Susan, Graham, and Hannah – I am so profoundly sorry for your loss.
Helen Patzer

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Bill Knox
August 11, 2017 at 3:55 pm

I saw him at a Lugnuts game several weeks ago. It was a dreary evening doomed to end in a rainout. Chris took delight in pointing out that it was perfect English weather.

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Joi Luckadoo-Villa
August 11, 2017 at 4:36 pm

I am in shock to learn of this tragic loss to our world. I could always count on Chris to be smiling, have a story, and most importantly, treat me as a equal. My time at St. Paul’s was better because of the likes of Chris Couch. I know Carlos joins me in wishing you all strength, peace and love.

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Melisa
August 11, 2017 at 5:15 pm

What a beautiful testimony of love! Hannah, you and your family continue to be in my thoughts and prayers! Hugs!!

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Susie Serafin
August 11, 2017 at 6:51 pm

I first met Chris in Harbin, China, where he was a spouse of Susan Henderson, a member of a group of LCC instructors who traveled there to teach at HIT. I remember a farewell party where he sang, ” I left my Heart in Harbin, China” to the tune of the Tony Bennett classic. The group remained friends and gathered about three times a year afterwards for Christmas, for the Midwinter Community Sing at the Hannah Center, and a Lansing Lugnuts game. I often sat next to Chris at these events stateside and he kept me laughing with his quips and puns. But he could turn on a dime and talk seriously and deeply about a book or a New Yorker article. I will miss him; I am thankful to have known him.

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Peggy Linard
August 11, 2017 at 8:35 pm

Hannah and family,
I am so sorry for your loss. Your dad had a really sweet and wonderful daughter. I am so glad he taught you tennis, which brought you to me and the rest of our team. I will pray for your family tomorrow.

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Lesley Campbell Piper
August 12, 2017 at 12:28 pm

You will be missed Chris. Our family goes back to our days growing up in Torquay. We were all very close to the point of following you all to America. Now my dear sister Helen who passed earlier this year, will be blessed with your company. She loved you dearly. Good bye Chris. Until we meet again.

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Gordon and Linda Weller
August 12, 2017 at 3:42 pm

Linda and are are so sorry for your loss. Chris was so bright and supportive of everything associated with St. Paul’s. He will be missed! We offer our prayers of love and concern to the entire community and especially to Susan, Graham and Hannah. May he Rest In Peace.

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Al Valenzio
August 12, 2017 at 8:52 pm

I’m retired from the HFA & worked with Chris for quite a few years. They will have a very difficult time finding a more capable & compassionate Mgr not to mention a better person. He is one of the best persons I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. My sincere condolences.
Al Valenzio

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Christine Hammond
August 13, 2017 at 12:58 am

I knew Chris for many years as a colleague, friend, and fellow book lover. He and I had many wonderful discussions at the House Biggby’s about so many topics – sports, politics, books, art, English history. I will always remember his thoughtfulness, his intelligence, and his quiet humor. I wish his family and friends peace. He will be deeply missed by so many people whose lives he touched.

Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.

by Mary Elizabeth Frye

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Ross Wilkinson
August 13, 2017 at 9:34 am

I was sorry to hear of his death. He was a wonderful man that I had occasion to meet over the years. He was a good father and that is evident in Graham, who was a student of mine. I send my condolences to the family.

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Jeanne and Turney Gratz
August 13, 2017 at 10:35 am

Our thoughts and prayers are with your family.
Our memory of Chris is of a quiet, gentle, humble man with an easy-going manner.
A man of good humor, a friendly smile, welcoming and accepting.
Interesting and interested.
He’s a blessing and gift to all whose lives he’s touched.

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Tumai Burris
August 13, 2017 at 7:43 pm

So sorry for your loss. I worked with Chris for 12 years at HFA. I will always remember Chris for being a kind and helpful person.

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Deb Martens
August 13, 2017 at 8:16 pm

Chris was one of the finest friends ever: gentle, honest, insightful, always kind, absolutely trustworthy, and a model of ethical behavior. A font of information on multiple topics and one of my favorite writers ever! I loved his stories. I am so fortunate to have counted myself among his longtime colleagues and friends at the House of Representatives. He made us laugh; he made all of us better by being our friend.

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Linda Luna
August 13, 2017 at 8:50 pm

Susan and family, I am so saddened to hear about Chris. We are praying for all of you.

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Edith A. Best
August 14, 2017 at 8:42 am

Susan, Graham and Hannah. I wanted to offer my deepest sympathy to all of you. I worked with Chris for 17 years. During that span of time I learned. I learned that he loved his family, I learned that he really enjoyed his working relationship with all of us at House Fiscal. He was an excellent listener who genuinely cared about you and your well being. I can’t tell you how much I’ll miss him. Thanks to each of you for sharing your Dad and Husband with us. Rest well Chris and thank you for everything.

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Marilyn Peterson
August 14, 2017 at 12:18 pm

Chris was one of the smartest, funniest, kindest, and wisest people on the planet, and the best colleague imaginable: witty, insightful, calm, sensible, good-natured, and knowledgeable. Like so many others, I will miss him terribly, but it will always be a great blessing to have had him as a friend, neighbor, and colleague.

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Bethany (Wicksall) Gielczyk
August 14, 2017 at 12:21 pm

What a lovely tribute to Chris; it captures him so well. He was a great friend, neighbor and colleague. Chris could find a common thread with which to relate to and was genuinely interested in everyone he met. He had a truly renaissance mind. He was kind, witty, and wise. He is impossible to replace both personally and professionally. We will miss him greatly at HFA.

Thinking of you his family who loved him most.

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Glenn and Robyn Stevens
August 14, 2017 at 3:34 pm

We are saddened to hear of Chris’ passing Susan, I miss the times we spent together working on classes at LCC. We are thinking of you.

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Michael Green
August 14, 2017 at 5:08 pm

A kind gentleman and active spirit. Always a pleasure to work with during my days working as a Legal Counsel or Policy Analyst in the House of Representatives.

Michael Green

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Louise Rabidoux
August 15, 2017 at 11:03 am

Susan ~

I am thinking of you and your family during this extremely difficult time. Sending light and comfort. May his soul be free to travel further.

Peace be with you ~ Louise Rabidoux

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Myron Levin
August 15, 2017 at 12:38 pm

Like so many others, I was shocked and saddened by the news of Chris’ death. Susan, Graham and Hannah—I wish I could say or do something to ease your loss. I hope there is some comfort in knowing that Chris was so widely loved and admired for his kindness, intellect, sense of humor and all-around goodness.

I met Chris in 1972 after arriving in Maine for my first newspaper job. Chris and I both covered the small city of Biddeford—Chris for the Biddeford-Saco Journal and me for the York County Coast Star. We quickly became great friends.

Among my best memories of Maine were the times spent with Chris and Susan. We went canoeing, camping, played racquetball and spent many an evening having dinner at a favorite greasy spoon, or just sitting around Chris’ and Sue’s apartment in Saco talking politics, books, movies, sports.

Chris was interested in everything and an insatiable reader. One time we paddled across Mooselookmeguntic Lake in Western Maine and pitched tents on Students Island. At our camp there in the middle of a glorious wilderness, Chris could hardly tear himself away from his paperback copy of ‘’The Power Broker,’’ the 1,336 page biography of Robert Moses.

Maine got colder for me in 1977, when Chris and Sue left for Lansing for the start of Chris’ long career as a legislative analyst. I really missed them and, not long after, also left Maine for a string of newspaper jobs in Denver, Kansas City, Los Angeles. There were long periods when we did not see each other. But twice in recent years, Chris and Sue came to Oregon to join in an annual minor league baseball weekend. It was so great to see them then.

I am so grateful to have known Chris, and will treasure my memories of this wonderful friend.

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Tom and Joan Weber
August 15, 2017 at 2:27 pm

Dear Susan, Graham, Hannah, and Family,

We are deeply sorry for the loss of Christopher. What an amazing and caring person!

We have been keeping all of you in our daily prayers, Rosaries, Chaplets, Masses, and Eucharistic Adoration.

May God continue to bless and comfort all of you!

Sincerely,
Tom and Joan Weber

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Janice Hegedus
August 15, 2017 at 3:06 pm

Dear Susan and Family, We offer our deepest sympathies. Love lives on forever. Mike and Jan Hegedus

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Sharon Risko
August 15, 2017 at 10:58 pm

To Chris’ Family: This is one of the most beautiful tributes I have ever read. I only wish it was about someone I didn’t know. After the shock of learning about Chris’s passing, my heart just broke. I too worked with Chris for 25 years at the HFA. Even though I retired 8 years ago, Chris could never be forgotten. He was the ultimate human being! Every single character trait mentioned above is so so true about Chris. He was truly one of the most wonderful, wonderful men I have ever had the pleasure of knowing and I know he will be greatly missed by us all! I pray you, his family, may find comfort in all of the beautiful memories you have made with your husband and father. Rest in heaven Chris! My thoughts and prayers are with all of you at this difficult time, I am so so sorry for your loss.

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Ron St. Germain
August 17, 2017 at 9:49 am

This is such a shock. As a professional writer, I’m seldom at a loss for words, but this just happens to be one of those times where my fingers lie motionless on the keyboard. I feel very fortunate and grateful to have known Chris for so many years. One of the many things I admired about him was something we all should learn. It didn’t matter to Chris if you were a janitor or the Governor, he treated everyone with the same respect. Unless… you wanted to jaw with him about Michigan State basketball or football, then, and only then, might you possibly get a little more respect from him. But, that is only if you were rooting for the Green and White. Chris truly was one of the good hearted authentic people on this earth. He was both intelligent and witty and always a good conversation. To Chris’s family and his staff, I send my deepest sympathy. I’ve always said that if we can leave an impression that inspires others, we will live forever in people’s hearts. I truly believe Chris is going to live forever.

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Paula Murchison
August 18, 2017 at 11:30 am

To the Couch family I extend sincere condolences. I worked with Chris for over 30years in the House. He was our go to for bill analysis. Always on point with needed info to pass leg without hassles. Hadnt seen him since my retirement but often thought of his kindness. May your great memories outway the pain of his demise. Another 1 of Lansing’s best will be missed. Prayers from “Murch” as he called me…

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Jim Cavanagh
August 18, 2017 at 3:15 pm

My sincere condolences. A real gentleman. Never too busy to great you. A very kind man. A very knowledgeable man. Not only did people like him, but they also respected him and relied upon his work. I was and am one of them. Chris and the Couch family are in my thoughts and prrayers.

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Kyle Jen
August 19, 2017 at 12:12 pm

Chris is the rare soul whose glowing obituary tells the whole truth about him. I first met Chris when I was a 23-year-old legislative intern. He treated me with the same level of warmth, good humor, and respect that first day that he did the last day I saw him. I learned so much about the legislative world, among many other things, from him over the nearly two decades that followed that first meeting. My condolences to his family. He will be deeply missed.

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