Henry Burt Passenger, a proud newspaperman, died Friday, February 11, at his home in Monroe as he wished. He was 86. He was surrounded by loved ones and cared for by Elara Caring (hospice) and Angel’s Helpful Hands. Henry was the husband of Retired Elder Rev. Margaret A. Passenger and brother of Retired Elder Rev. Edward L. Passenger.
Born on May 22, 1935, in Alma, MI, Henry was the son of Fred and Ruth (Richardson) Passenger. He grew up in Ithaca, MI. He graduated from Ithaca High School in 1952 and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Albion College in 1957. Soon after, he joined the staff of The Monroe Evening News.
Over the next 15 years, Henry left Monroe for stints on the copy desks at the Battle Creek Enquirer and The Grand Rapids Press, as well as a time as news department director at Albion College. But he was always lured back to the MEN where he worked as a reporter, copy editor, city editor, assistant to the managing editor, news editor and columnist. He retired from The Monroe News in 1997 after 40 years in the news business.
In 1962, Henry was featured in a column by Evening News writer Gertrude Gustafson about Monroe’s most eligible bachelors. She mentioned his hobbies of photography, playing the organ and playing tennis and bridge; the column even included his own recipe for oatmeal cookies. He wasn’t a bachelor for long.
Henry married Nancy Farrell on February 16, 1963, at First Baptist Church in Monroe. They had two children, Penny and Peter. Nancy died in September 1993. Henry then married Margaret Pettit on May 31, 1997, in a ceremony at the Sawyer Homestead. They had met on the copy desk at The Monroe Evening News.
Henry was an intelligent well-read man of wide-ranging interests. He became an advocate for home computers in the early 1980s. He enjoyed the technical challenges and encouraged others to explore the new technology. He helped people buy their first computers and taught computer classes for the Jefferson Adult Education and High School Completion programs.
Henry was a past member of the Monroe Community Players, appearing in 14 consecutive productions and earning an MCP Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. Along with Nancy, he owned and operated the Monroe Conservatory of Music for many years. He was a lifelong member of the Sawyer Homestead and a former member of Heritage United Methodist Church, Monroe.
Henry had a rascally sense of humor, playing elaborate tricks on co-workers in the newsroom. He often added green food coloring to the office coffee on St. Patrick’s Day and his portrayal of a lanky Santa Claus in a too-short Santa suit at company Christmas parties is part of legend.
Henry never lost his love of newspapers and continued to write columns for several papers after his official retirement, among them The Tuscola County Advertiser. He continued to call in news tips and often showed up at The Monroe News with the latest papers’ errors clearly circled. He also enjoyed Sudoku puzzles and was an environmentalist/recycler.
Henry is survived by his wife, Margaret; his children, Penny of Monroe, MI, and Peter (Michelle) of Largo, FL; a step-daughter Marcia Pettit of Westland, MI; two grandsons Patrick and Thomas Passenger of Flint, MI; two step-grandchildren Jackson and Alexandra Pettit; a granddaughter on the way; a brother Ed (Sally) of Spring Lake, MI; two nieces and a nephew; ten great nieces and nephews and several great-great nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents.
A Celebration of Henry’s Life will take place Friday, February 18 at Rupp Funeral Home, 2345 S. Custer Rd., Monroe. Visitation is planned from 10am-12pm followed by the service at 12pm. Rev. Mike Clemmer will officiate.
In lieu of flowers, memorials are suggested to the Shaw-Passenger Scholarship Fund at Ithaca United Methodist Church, a scholarship Henry and Ed established in memory of their parents. (327 E. Center St., Ithaca, MI 48847, www.ithacaumc.org)
To leave words of inspiration and comfort or share memories, online guests may visit www.ruppfuneralhomeinc.com.