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Former House Republican leader Bob Michel has died

PEORIA, Illinois — Former House Republican leader Bob Michel has died at age 93. Michel, a recipient of the Medal and Freedom and a Purple Heart Award, died on Friday, Feb. 17.

Michel was an affable Illinois congressman who served as leader of the GOP House minority for 14 years. His skill at seeking compromise with the Democrats was critical in helping Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush pursue their agendas during their presidential terms.

Michel served 19 terms in the minority and retired one election too soon to be part of the Republican House majority that swept to power in 1994.

He stood on the sidelines as an ebullient Newt Gingrich of Georgia took the role of House speaker. Gingrich praised Michel that day, but had considered him too pliable and conciliatory with the Democrats.

Leaders at Bradley University in Peoria said in a news release that Michel was vital in getting the money to build the Caterpillar Global Communications Center on its Peoria campus. Michel and his wife also held a fundraiser at the school when he retired in 1994, raising $1.3 million to endow a scholarship. The university also appointed Michel a distinguished adjunct American Government professor. Bradley's student center also is named for Michel.

Congressman Darin LaHood released the following statement:

"Born and raised in Peoria, as a young man he stormed the beaches of Normandy as an infantryman in WW II, fought in the battle of the Bulge and received a Purple Heart Award. He came home and graduated from Bradley University and got elected to Congress and went on to honorably serve for 38 years representing Peoria and much of Central Illinois... Bob is remembered for his uncommon decency and his common sense Midwestern values. He was a true statesman and an example for all of us in public service. My thoughts and prayers are with him and his entire family. May God bless him.”

Visitation will be be held 5-8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 24, at the Wilton Mortuary in Peoria. Memorial services will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 25, in Dingledine Auditorium at Bradley University in Peoria.