Catherine F Ellsaesser
May 3, 2021 11:02 AM
Mike was one of those people who light up the room, and like a magnet attracted people to him. When he met people, they were “strangers” for only a second. The next thing you knew, it’s as if he knew them and they knew him for years. He was charismatic.
Mike became the expert on any endeavor he undertook. I’ll never forget, when he bought Jeannie the Bernina embroidery machine, how he shared all his “know how” with Linda and me, who had been doing machine embroidery for years. Mike was “all in” in any new venture he was engaged in.
Mike had a great sense of humor, was a good sport, and took a ribbing as well as he gave. He wore tiger slippers, a Mardi Gras long coat and a purple and yellow tall hat that he made his profile picture on Facebook. I don’t think he ever lived down commenting that “There sure are a lot of dead cypress growing around here.”
Mike liked his toys. He was always about the latest and the greatest. And even though that was, in part because he was a big kid, I think it was even more so that he wanted to share those toys with others and got most of his pleasure in the toys by seeing other people’s fun with them.
So, he was unbelievably generous. And not just with toys. I’m pretty sure he’d give you the shirt off his back. He certainly wanted to pick up the check whenever you went out to breakfast, lunch or dinner with him.
As the first born of this large family, he thought he was the boss. Of course, with 7 sisters, we usually disabused him of that notion, but sometimes we’d let him think he was because we’re nice people, too.
I know that Mom loved all her children equally, but she just seemed to have a special twinkle in her eye when Mike came around.
At the times that Mom was so sick and we’d stay with her, Mike would always bring us McDonald’s breakfast or Cush’s chicken salad. He bought all of his sisters Crocs. I don’t recall the whole story, but he got some for one of us, and, of course, we all “pouted” that he didn’t get the rest of us a pair. Next thing we knew, we all had Crocs, each one of us getting a different color. Pat memorialized this event in the video “Boogie Shoes” she made for Mike’s 65th birthday.
Once, right after we got Mom moved into Montclair, I was staying with her, and Mike brought me an iPad. They were pretty new gadgets at the time and I was dumbfounded and thrilled to get it. It was so thoughtful and generous of him, and I don’t know if he ever knew how much I appreciated it. I hope so. Then, after Mom passed way he bought the rest of the girls an iPad as well, and sent us the most loving and beautiful text about how much he appreciated all we did for Mom.
But there is one example of Mike not being generous, if you can imagine. So he had this 45ft luxurious motor home and when people would ask him how many people it slept he would say, “two”. Of course, in reality, if you really needed a place to say, he’d make room for you.
One of the greatest examples of Mike’s generosity and love of family is when he drove from Florida to Utah last October to help Ronnie fulfill his wish to go to Moab one more time I can only imagine how hard that trip was for Mike, most likely. His back and knees bothered him so. But he always had a smile on his face and a hug for everyone and complaints that even though he was the boss, we weren’t acting like it.
Mike loved adventure and Charlie and I were so incredibly lucky to be able to join him and Jeannie on some of those – our trips to Florida which included a must go trip to see the Eagles in Jacksonville and a trip to Apalachicola for oysters. We joined Mike and Jeannie on a trip to Yellowstone, a trip to Jasper in Canada and three trips to Moab, Utah. It was ALWAYS an adventure with Mike. Of course once he found a place he liked he had such a good time, he just wanted to go back over and over again. Sometimes it was hard to get him to try a new place. But then that became his favorite place, and he’d want to go back there again. Hence, three trips to Moab!
As I said, Mike loved his family and exemplified what that looks like. Wow, aren’t we lucky? I know that sometimes we feel like God isn’t listening to us. That our prayers go unanswered. I know that we can’t know His plan in this life. But I do know that His mercy and love can be found in family and the friends we make in our life who are there for us and help us through hard times like these. God has truly blessed us in that regard, and Mike was such a big part of our family. It’s hard to imagine life without him.
In Mike’s obituary it says, “Big Mike lived big, loved big, and will be missed bigger.” No truer words were ever written. It breaks my heart to know that he’s not here for any more adventures. I will miss him so much. But, as Merritt Malloy wrote in his poem called Epitaph,
“People die. Love does not. When all that is left of me is love, give me away.”
So I will strive to “be like Mike” and be faithful, kind, generous, happy, loving and live big.