TIFFIN -- Two years ago, Manuel Bartsch almost got thrown out of the country because of an immigration problem. Despite still being considered an illegal alien, he's grateful Congressman Paul Gillmor took up his cause, and gave him a chance to stay in the country.
Congressman Gillmor was found dead in his Washington DC-area apartment on Wednesday. Two of his aides went there after Gillmor didn't show up for work that day. Police say there's no indication of foul play, and it appears the death was from natural causes.
Gillmor will be buried in Tiffin next week after a memorial service at the Ohio Statehouse. According to his official House web site, Mr. Gillmor represented Ohio's 5th District since he was first elected to Congress in 1988. Ohio's 5th District includes all of Crawford, Defiance, Fulton, Henry, Huron, Paulding, Putnam, Sandusky, Seneca, Van Wert, Williams and Wood counties, and parts of Ashland, Lucas, Mercer and Wyandot counties.
Two years ago, Manuel Bartsch was a student at Pandora-Gilboa High School threatened with deportation back to his native Germany. He arrived in America with his step-grandfather, who did not do the paperwork needed to keep Manuel in the US legally.
Manuel is now a freshman at Heidelburg College where Gillmor and his father both served on the board of trustees. "Well, I'm deeply saddened," said Bartsch. "Great guy. Very devoted to the district. Made his rounds. Made sure he saw everyone."
Gillmor introduced a bill that, if approved, would grant Manuel an exemption to immigration laws. That legislation delays any threat of deportation until March of 2009. "He was behind me 100%. He always talked about my situation," said Bartsch. "Kept pushing the issue all the time."
Manuel is a business major at Heidelburg on a full-tuition scholarship with help from an anonymous donor. He'll always wonder if that donor was Gillmor himself.
"It kind of gives me a special feeling," said Bartsch. "I want to give back to somebody down the road to be just as caring as he was."