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Longtime Michigan U.S. Representative Vern Ehlers dies at 83

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Vern Ehlers, a research physicist who served 17 years representing a western Michigan congressional district, has died. He was 83.

Melissa Morrison, funeral director at Zaagman Memorial Chapel, said Wednesday that Ehlers died late Tuesday at a Grand Rapids nursing facility.

Ehlers, a Republican, decided against seeking re-election in 2010. He previously was a state lawmaker and taught physics at Calvin College.

In Congress, he sought protections for the Great Lakes and funding for math and science education.

Republican Rep. Fred Upton, who served with Ehlers, said he was "so well-respected on both sides of the aisle, hard-working and always a teacher at heart." He says his "common-sense voice ... is all too rare in today's political climate."