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Carl Levin remembered

Family, friends and numerous officials remembered the life of Michigan’s longest-serving U.S. senator at a ceremony Sunday.

Michigan Sen. Carl Levin retired in 2015 after almost 40 years in Congress. He died last summer from cancer at the age of 87, but the pandemic delayed the memorial.

Levin’s rumpled everyman exterior belied the intellect behind the half glasses perched on his nose as he demanded answers from credit card executives or about the use of torture on Sept. 11 military detainees.

His memorial at the Levin Center at Wayne State University drew numerous officials, including taped remarks from President Biden. He says Levin’s work on issues like gun laws continues but Levin’s ability to reach beyond partisan divisions is sorely missed.

“He always told you how he saw it with honesty and respect,” Biden said. “That’s how Carl earned the trust of the people of Michigan. And that’s how he earned the respect of his colleagues on both sides of the aisle to be able to get so much done.”

Levin chaired the powerful Armed Services Committee, and one of Congress’ toughest investigative bodies.

Biden said no matter what Levin accomplished nationally, his thoughts never strayed far from home.

“You knew that Detroit was written on his heart. He talked all the time about the beauty of the Detroit Riverwalk and the Great Lakes. When the Great Recession struck and our defining American industry — the auto industry — was on the brink of collapse, Carl and I worked together to help Detroit get back on its feet. And it did, because of Carl.”

Levin’s efforts to fight for fairness in the corporate world or the military remain fresh in the minds of those celebrating him.

That includes Michigan resident and native Kurd Ibrahim Parlak.

The owner of Cafe Gulistan restaurant in Harbert on the west side of the state was granted asylum in the U.S. in 1992 after being convicted in Turkey of supporting the Kurdish separatist movement.

But immigration officials began efforts to deport him in 2004, saying he failed to disclose movement ties. Levin passed a private bill each year to keep Parlak in Michigan until he could make his case in Immigration Court.

Parlak said that work is also a vital part of Levin’s legacy.

“If it wouldn’t have been for Carl Levin, I would not be here probably,” Parlak said. “If it wouldn’t have been for Carl Levin, I would have been somewhere in a Turkish jail rotting, if not killed.”

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