Harvey Stower was 'the worst campaigner in the world,' and we mean that in a good way.
All the good he could
A few of Harvey Stower’s friends showed up for this funeral service here in Amery on Saturday, October 10.
For those who are counting, about 600 people filled St. Joseph Catholic Church on a sun-drenched but brisk autumn day to share laughter and tears for the life of one remarkable man. A bit of snow frosted the ground outside, and many agreed it was Harvey’s way of dressing things up a bit.
Harvey wasn’t Catholic; he was an ordained Methodist minister, but in ecumenical spirit matching the way he lived his life, the service was moved to the biggest church in town.
Harvey was the city’s mayor and a former state representative. Earlier in life, he was a teacher and coach. He combined the best of each of those professions to leave a legacy few people ever achieve. Most of all, Harvey gave love to those around him. It was obvious Saturday that a lot of people loved him and his wife Marilyn, who preceded him in death.
He served eight years in the Legislature, beginning in 1982, championing causes that addressed the needs for “the least among us.” As poet and director of Amery’s art center, LaMoine MacLaughlin noted that Harvey earned the title “conscience of the Legislature” during his years there.
But he was “the worst campaigner in the world,” Congressman David Obey told the crowd in his tribute. That’s because Harvey not only shook people’s hands, but asked them about their health, how their children were doing (knowing each by name), how business was going, what repairs the pickup truck needed and on and on. Of course, that’s because Harvey actually cared about the people whose votes he sought.
Methodist minister Amanda Stein, who worked for Harvey in his unsuccessful 1994 run for Congress and was encouraged by him to seek the ministry, said Harvey used the breaking of the bread to underscore his philosophy of social justice. “He said, ‘As ministers, it’s not only our job to take bread, bless it and break it, but to see how it is distributed.’"
Harvey’s passion for social justice brought Obey to tears as he recounted their last conversation. Harvey asked him twice about the progress of health care reform in Congress. The second time, Obey recalled, Harvey said this, “I’ve seen so many people go through so much pain in my life, I’m happy to see it will pass in my lifetime.” It didn’t, but not because Harvey didn’t keep his end of the deal.
After Harvey died a few weeks ago, the Minneapolis Tribune carried a story about him. “In the small town of Amery, Wis., an old church is now a bustling cultural center where local artists display their works and musicians take lessons and give concerts. Nearby, a manufacturing firm has received federal funding to develop cheaper and cleaner electroplating. The town's hospital is new, and its former digs now house the Police Department, library and a food pantry. An expansion project is underway at the municipal airport.”
Of course, Harvey had a major role in making each of those things happen, the newspaper said.
But beyond those successes and many others, Harvey would be most pleased to know that the 600 people gathered in church on a Saturday morning in autumn agreed that he lived by the words of John Wesley, who founded the Methodist movement:
Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.
That was Harvey Stower.
October 15, 2009
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Bill Berry is a FightingBob.com contributing editor who lives in Stevens Point and writes columns for the Capital Times and other publications.