We would be remiss if we did not pause to pay tribute to a regular contributor to these pages on his passing. Jeff Erlanger, whom readers of the letters to the editor will know as a serial opinionator, has died at age 36.
That is dramatically too young. But Erlanger achieved more in his third of a century than some do in a whole one.
A quadriplegic, Erlanger was one of Madison's most important and successful activists on issues of concern to our city's physically challenged citizens.
A member of the Governor's Committee for People With Disabilities and the city's Commission on People With Disabilities, Erlanger was an essential player in organizing the city's first summit on housing for the disabled.
Erlanger's broad, optimistic vision made him much more than a disability rights activist. He integrated so many values into a whole that made him an ideal activist.
Erlanger also impressed voters, many of whom cast their ballots for him in a spirited City Council race. Running in a campus-area district, the man who had spent a lifetime in a wheelchair promised that, if elected, he would be 'Standing Up for Students.'
That was Jeff Erlanger: witty, self-deprecating, creative and engaged.
He will not be replaced on these pages or in the civic life of the community. If we are lucky, however, he will be emulated.
One anonymous contributor to the Sound Off column suggests renaming Madison's new West Side School in Jeff's honor and memory. What a wonderful and fitting suggestion!
The Capital Times
Monday, June 18, 2007
"Our Readers Sound Off" (Call-in comments from readers)
"Regarding the naming of the new school, I propose a new name for consideration: Jeff Erlanger. I've been captivated by the words written in praise of this young man, a lifetime Madisonian. As a quadriplegic, he had every reason to feel he was a victim of Mother Nature. He said he would not be defined by his condition. He lived his life being all that he could be. 'I shall overcome' was his attitude. What a role model for schoolchildren."