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Longest-serving Michigan first lady

FILE - Helen Milliken wife former Gov. William G. Milliken relaxes duirng an interview their Traverse City Mich. home this

FILE - Helen Milliken, wife of former Gov. William G. Milliken, relaxes duirng an interview at their Traverse City, Mich., home in this April 18, 2006 file photo taken in Traverse City, Mich. Milliken, who was Michigan's longest-serving first lady and a staunch supporter of women's rights and environmental protection, died Friday morning Nov. 16, 2012. She was 89. (AP Photo/John L. Russell, File)

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Updated: December 19, 2012 4:05PM

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — Helen Wallbank Milliken, Michigan’s longest-serving first lady and a staunch supporter of women’s rights and environment issues, has died. She was 89.

Son William Milliken Jr. says she died Friday morning at the family’s Traverse City, Mich., home.

Early in her husband’s political career, Mrs. Milliken dutifully played the role of unassuming, supportive spouse. But she evolved into an outspoken advocate of issues close to her heart during a record 14 years as first lady.

She vigorously campaigned for abortion rights and the ill-fated Equal Rights Amendment. She also drew the wrath of the outdoor advertising industry when she criticized highway billboards shortly after her husband, Republican William Milliken, became governor in 1969.

At her urging, her husband hiked the Pigeon River State Forest, where he later limited development.


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