Thursday, October 7, 2010

23 years ago in Carrizozo, New Mexico

When I first heard that Mike had died, I wanted to go to the site of his accident. Don't really know why. Probably just part of trying to believe and be at peace with what had happened.

While on spring break this year, we were traveling in New Mexico. Joe's sister and family traveled on Highway 54 through Carrizozo to meet up with us, and Ellen was kind enough to stop and take pictures where Mike had his car accident. Joe and I had driven on this road through Carrizozo before, but at that time I hadn't seen Mike's accident report to know exactly where his accident took place.

Per his commander: "He was traveling south on highway 54 approximately 4 miles north of Carrizozo, New Mexico, when he lost control of his car and skidded off the road."

This is the place.

Ellen and Reinhard were thoughtful enough to put together this quick roadside cross and sign for him.

I had always remembered the area to be quite desolate.

Now looking at the area, I think it's quite peaceful and beautiful, actually. I hadn't remembered the nice snow-capped mountains in the background.

There is peace in knowing where a loved one spent his final moments.

Monday, August 16, 2010

From Maria Seppi Atanasio

Hi Laura,

I went to school with your brother Mike. Just visited his memorial page and cried my eyes out to the song "Come to Jesus!" I really wasn't that close to Mike, but always liked him and remembered his thick and very curly beautiful head of hair and a smile with dimples that could light up a room! He was a handsome boy. It gives me peace to see his journals, and for him speak of the Lord and his faith. It gives me a hope that I will see him again one day in Heaven. I am so sorry for the loss of your brother but when someone young dies I often think of a verse in the bible:

ISAIAH 57:1 (New International Version)
The righteous perish, and no one ponders it in his heart; devout men are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil.

I pray the Lord continues to comfort you and give you peace and strength!

Blessings always,

I remember Maria being a stand-out singer in high school, and she has continued her gift of singing through her church. You can listen to her in this beautiful worship song she wrote, "Lord, You Deserve My All," and another inspiring song, "Made Me Glad."

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

unwanted anniversary

++++++++++ ++++++++++ ++


it's been 22 years now

you were just 22 years old then

much too young to go.

you left us in a hurry--

just how you always were.

no goodbyes

from you


from us.

life is short

much too short for some

but you are not forgotten.





people you never met


your story,

my stories of you,

others' memories.


we all wish

we could know your story

through you


live your story

with you still...


Sunday, May 3, 2009

44 years ago today, Mike was born...almost in the doorway of the E.R.!

Thank goodness Grandma Hardie didn't take another wrong turn, or he may have been born in her car!

Birthdays past

A classic:
On his first birthday in Dubuque, with a big bump and bruise on his forehead...

...he sits on my cousin Shelly's lap to blow out his candle.

I believe this is Mike's 10th birthday. Not only did he have tear drop shaped ear lobes, he also had a pointy little chin!

Oh, I remember that Central Mustangs T-shirt. I even remember picking out that wild mascot for our elementary school.

Our birthdays are only 6 days apart, so I'm not sure whose cake this was since we're both blowing out the candles. Maybe we were making it easy on Mom that year and shared a cake?

Mom, did we both always ask for chocolate with chocolate? I know I did!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

A Reunion

Last night was very sweet.

After 21-1/2 years, my mom and I were reunited with my brother's Army escort.

This kind man, Greg Ulibarri...

...brought his soldier home.

A difficult job that he did extremely well.

In his entire Army career, it was the only time he served as an escort.

Until last year, we had lost touch with Greg after he returned to Fort Bliss from Mike's funeral. Not that I hadn't tried finding him. Making the search more challenging was that my information had his name misspelled (leaving out an "r" in his last name), and he doesn't live in this country anymore!

Coincidentally, we unknowingly lived only a short distance from each other--not even an hour's drive--for a number of years here in Texas before he moved to Germany.

So, we met his lovely wife, Ann, and hugged and visited.

After the kids found out that Mr. Ulibarri had been a wrestler, they begged some tips on holds (e.g. half nelson) and learned some rules. Then, of course, they had to display their new-found moves.

Then the kids presented some pictures they drew for our friends to have.

My Mikey (named after my brother Mike) showing Mike's escort the pictures of Army vehicles he drew for him. *Sniff*

After a wonderfully warm visit and lots of laughing (and eating), we had come to realize what we had already guessed. Greg is an amazingly compassionate, thoughtful, and selfless family man...and always seems to have a fun story and comforting word.

Then we had to say 'goodbye' since they had an early flight back to Germany this morning--but not after some more big hugs...and our kids chasing them in their car down to the end of the block! (Who needs dogs when you have kids like ours?)

You know how some people are so warm, you think you've known them all your life and could consider them extended family? That's Greg and Ann.

Thank you again, Greg, for bringing your soldier--our brother, son, and uncle--back home for his final rest.

Monday, December 22, 2008

I made your favorite Christmas treat today!

My Grandma Hardie knew the way to Mike's heart...through his sweet tooth! She made sure to make these Caramel Morsel Bars every year at Christmastime because she knew they were Mike's favorites.

They're now our favorites.

I just made these bars today and, of course, I thought of Mike.

Here's the recipe.


14-oz. bag KRAFT Caramels
3 TBSP water
5 cups crisp rice cereal or toasted oat cereal (I use crisp rice)
1 cup peanuts, optional
One 6-oz. pkg. (1 cup) semi-sweet chocolate chips
One 6-oz. pkg. (1 cup) butterscotch chips


Melt caramels with water in saucepan (or double boiler) over low heat. Stir frequently until sauce is smooth. Pour over cereal and nuts; toss until well coated. With greased fingers, press mixture into greased 9” x 13” pan. Sprinkle morsels on top; place in 200 degree oven for 7 minutes, or until morsels softened. Spread softened morsels until blended to form a frosting. Cool, cut into bars.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 19, 2008

A Christmas Memory from Mom

As I sit here listening to Christmas music, I am reminded of a phone conversation I had with Mike years ago (He called me in September 1987 for my birthday). I had been asking him for quite a while if he would be able to join us in California for Christmas since most of the family would be here. When I asked him again during that phone call, his reply was "I'll be home for Christmas." So, whenever I hear the song "I'll Be Home For Christmas", I think of Mike and wish that he had been able to join us that year and all of the years since then.

The picture collage on the right are all of the pictures included in our family Christmas cards.

Below are more photos taken on Christmas Days gone by...

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Halloween Memory...from Dad

When I was visiting Dad last month, he reminded me of a story about Mike that seems appropriate to post now--around Halloween.

Dad recalled when we all went to a haunted house. All of us kids were pretty young--Mike was probably about 7 years old. (Hey, aren't haunted houses meant for teenagers and adults?)

Dad said that all of us kids were pretty quiet through the whole thing. (Just to let you know, Dad, it was because we were all terrified!) Then, as we were all quietly walking through the parking lot to leave, Dad asked what our favorite part of the haunted house was. Apparently, only one of us kids offered anything positive. It was Mike.

Mike said, "I liked the lady who let me out the best."

Well said, my brother!

My personal recollection of the haunted house:
I was terrified--especially since my parents were seemingly unaware of some of the happenings to me. For instance, I remember walking up a set of open stairs and having someone reach through and grab my leg...and hang on to it. The only comfort I had while having gouls and zombies jump out at me at every turn was that I was holding onto my mom's hand. But when my ankle was grabbed and I couldn't walk anymore, my mom said something like, "Come on, Laura, you've gotta keep up." I thought to myself, "Easy for you to say." and "Some comfort YOU are, Mom!" Then I was hushed when I tried to explain what happened. I figured I wouldn't get out of there with my family anyway.

Anyone notice that in the picture of all of us kids, Mike dressed up as a soldier?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A gift from Mike

Today, my children found a bag filled with foreign money. It was Mike's bag of money from all (most?) of the countries he visited. What fun our kids had examining it, discovering what countries the coins and bills were from, sorting it all out, and trying to figure its worth, and even weighing the coins. I remember going through this bag a couple of times, but getting it with all of Mike's other belongings, I really hadn't taken a close look at what he had. Here's most of what was in the bag.

There's money from England, Germany, Switzerland, Greece, Netherlands, France, Italy, Mexico, and Canada. There's even a U.S.A. penny from 1916. Cool! (It's also the time period we're currently studying!)

I can't say enough about how much our kids enjoyed Mike's foreign money.

Here are some of their comments as they went through the money:

"He has a very interesting collection of money. The only other coins that I've seen with printing on the edges, like his coins from Greece, France and Germany, are my U.S.A. Presidential $1 coins that I've gotten from the tooth fairy!"

"I wonder if he ever knew how much all this money was worth."

"I've never seen anything like this!"
--Mary Kate

"How did he even get all of this money going to all the different places?"

Dear Mike,

Thank you for your gift to your nieces and nephews! The bag of coins has been very interesting for them to examine, sort through, play with, weigh, and imagine all your interesting travels!

It was a wonderful gift for them at this age--when they're all very interested in money, counting, and learning about all the countries. Now they're interested in figuring out how much it's worth, so we'll have to do some investigating and converting today. I'll let you know what we come up with!

Thanks again for such a timely gift to the kids. How did you know it would be such a perfect gift for them?

Much love,

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

21st Anniversary of Mike's Death

Boot Camp Journal Entry from 25 years ago

Today, October 7, is the 21st anniversary of Mike's death. It's difficult to believe it has been that long. In fact, the first birthday I had after Mike's death was my 21st birthday. Then again, there has been so much that has happened since that date, October 7, 1987, that it really shouldn't surprise me that it has indeed been as long.

I'm posting an entry from Mike's boot camp journal that he wrote almost exactly 25 years ago. It's another example of what he was doing, thinking, and going through at this point in his life--when he was just 18 years old.

I've read this entry numerous times, and it always gets to me when I read the part when he mentions his Judgment Day and the Pearly Gates.

11 OCT 83 (Tuesday)

Today was alright I guess. We started out testing ourselves on different things to prepare ourselves for soldier's stakes. I was one of the testers because I am an assistant squad leader. That was alright. I gave 4 NO GO's and I didn't want to. It was funny watching their expression on their face change when I said, "NO GO."

Then we ate chow and pretty much (messed around) the rest of the day.

I started an allotment (donation) to Catholic Relief Services (ISA). I'm donating $5/month, $60/year. I feel good about it. Maybe it'll help me on judgment day!? It also helped when I heard we get it back in tax returns. I had my mind made up before he said that though. So it makes me feel better. Like I didn't do it just for the BIG DAY at the PEARLY GATES. I hope the Lord knows that.

Tonight I've got phone guard at 2200 until 2300. Wake up is at 0330. We start Tactical BIOVAC tomorrow with a 22-mile march to range 59. I heard it was the shits. I guess I have to wait and find out, huh?....

Monday, September 1, 2008

From Joan Skelly (Neisen)

Sorry it has taken me a while to write. When I first received an email from Ronda and saw in the subject, Mike's name my heart just fell. Mike and I had an off on relationship I remember in the earlier years playing touch football (ended up being more like tackle football).

I also remember Mike always being there for me. One time a classmate and I got into a fight. She sent a dog bone in the mail. So Mike and I decided we had to equally return the present and sent her a clipping from the newspaper for "dog grooming", Mike hand delivered it. Oh thoughts cat fights or should I say dog fights.

Another time Mike was there for me when I was babysitting some kids that had just moved into the neighborhood. There was a pretty ring on the kitchen counter and I thought I would try it on. The Father came home as I had the ring on my finger, I got scared and slipped it into my pocket in intension of returning it the next day. Well that ring happen to be a very special ring and the wife came over to my house to talk to my Mom. I was on the top of the steps listening to my sister defending me, I for sure didn't have the guts to admit to any one except Mike what had happened. Mike came up with a plan. He pretended to play football in their yard and put a little dirt on the ring, he went up to their door and said he had found it in their yard. He came over right after that and said "I think they bought the story". Needless to say I never got to babysit there again.

I was reading Neal Anderson's story about the tomatoes, I too was involved in that, we sat under the evergreen tree at your house on 6th and Atwood. By the way I think those tomatoes were from my Dad's garden.

Mike and I would watch the twilight zone at my house in the patio. I remember soon as I turned it on Mike was at my door. He even tried to kiss me, Mike was a good friend I didn't see him as a boyfriend and I think that hurt him. He stopped coming over to watch the Twilight Zone.

Once again we rekindled our friendship Mike hung out at my house again. It was Christmas time and my sister had just got home from work. She left her purse in the car which had a gift certificate she received from her job. After changing her clothes and was ready to go spend the certificate. She returned to her car and it was gone. She remember seeing Mike walking down the street when she first got home and thought maybe he took it. I kept on saying "Mike wouldn't do that". My Mom called over to Mike's house and he wasn't at home, he was out Christmas shopping.

Another "saving me" story, Mike was on Leave from the army and I was in a date. After going out for dinner we decided to go to Richards or Cheers (I can't remember what the name was at that time). Well the date wasn't going so well, Mike asked me how it was going and I told him the guy was a jerk, Mike didn’t like that and approached the guy, they ended up getting into an argument which ended up into a fist fight. Mike was a great fighter but this guy got one sucker punch and Mike went down. They got kicked out of the bar I didn't want to leave I wasn't sure what that guy would have done to me. The next day Mike came over I felt so bad, what a guy. That was the last time I saw him.

Mike had sent me a long letter when he was in the army, with a bunch of pictures. He had just returned from a outdoor concert. He said he had a blast, I'm sure he did Mike always made everything fun for everyone. He was a kind and adventurous guy, I miss him and every once in a while I think about the guy who always saved me.

I also remember after Mike's funeral I was down at Cheers I bumped into Scott Scheerhorn he said after people die they are forgotten. I assured him this wouldn’t be the case with me. Mike made a footprint on my heart, I think of him and the memories every time I pass your old house on 6th & Atwood.

Joan Skelly (Neisen)

Sunday, August 31, 2008

From Sheri (Cronin) Lewis

I do have fond memories of Mike from our days at Central Elementary - such fun and carefree years! Mike and I were in the same class three years in a row! I remember a photo I had taken of Mike and Neal Anderson at Memorial Park during a class outing. If I come across it, I'll have to pass it on.

Most of my memories of Mike are of a competitive nature - trying to beat each other at one thing or another. We picked on each other a lot, and I remember he and I getting scolded by our teacher for calling each other names on the playground one day. There was also a time when our religion class was together and we were all gathered around the altar at St Mark's reciting some prayers as a group and I started saying the wrong words to the prayer. Mike made sure I knew he had heard what I had done and he gave me a hard time about it (in a fun way!).

When I heard the news of Mike's accident, it was very shocking and upsetting. I couldn't believe it! I wanted to attend the wake, but didn't want to go alone. My sister-in-law arranged for her sister to go with me so I didn't miss it.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

From Ron Carlson

Ron was Mike's boxing coach and a Shakopee police officer when we were growing up. Ron started the local Golden Gloves boxing club.

What I still remember about Mike's boxing is that in one of his matches he stopped his opponent by throwing one jab only which is almost unheard of.


Friday, August 22, 2008

From Scott Scheerhoorn

What can I say, Mike was my best friend.

Mike lived with me and my family for about a year—his last year of high school. I loved him and my parents did too. They treated him just like a member of our family, and Mike was very respectful. We were like brothers and shared everything. We’d even share a tooth brush if we had to!

Mike was such a solid and real friend—very loyal. He wasn’t full of crap like a lot of other guys. We were both talkers and free spirits just wanting to have some fun. We let it all out, so we got along great from the beginning. Even as friends we’d get into some fights just for fun. It usually started out with one of us saying something like, “Who’s tougher here?” Then we’d all out and fight—punch, wrestle. No hurt feelings--just a couple of crazy guys. He was tough too! I was in boxing with him for a little while. He really looked up to Ron Carlson. Mike thought he was a great guy.

Some of our favorite things to do together were going to my parents’ cabin, water skiing, hanging out by the river, talking all night under the stars, just hanging out and having fun. We talked about everything, and we loved listening to music. Some of Mike’s favorite bands were Def Leppard, Tesla, and Led Zeppelin. Still to this day, I’ll hear music on the radio and think yeah, Mike would love this song. It’s crazy.

We’d have so much fun just hanging out together. One summer we lived out at my parents’ cabin near Annandale. Man was that fun!

Mike would write me 5-page letters when he was in the Army. He’d call me before he came home for a visit, and I’d pick him up from the airport. I’d let him take my brand new Thunderbird and my Ninja wherever he wanted. If it was mine, it was his to use.

Here is Scott's car that he let Mike use on his visits home, and the car in which Scott brought us (Chris, Mike and myself) to Dubuque one summer.

We had so much fun on our trip down to Hardie’s in Dubuque and on the Mississippi on his uncle’s boat. That trip stuck with me and is why I have a boat today!

I was totally blown away when I heard about Mike’s accident. I didn’t believe it until I saw him for myself. He was doing so well in the Army. He really had something to be proud of. I sat by his casket and cried for about 15 minutes, and I’m not the crying kind of guy. It was one of the biggest traumas in my life. I miss the guy.

Scott's kids

Thursday, August 21, 2008

From Jeff Darby

Mike and I were in religion class and I had broken my arm several weeks before this, so I was sitting there with a cast up to my forearm. I had this horrible itch inside the cast and couldn’t get to it and if you’ve had cast on you know how irritating this can be. I took my pencil and started to reach inside and scratch when all of sudden I lost control of the pencil and it fell inside the cast. I looked around to see if anyone had noticed and of course Mike did, he was sitting there staring at me and laughing hysterically. After class, it took us two hours to remove the pencil from my cast using a pair of scissors Mike took from the classroom.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Another time a bunch of us decided to go horseback riding at Hanson’s Ranch, I cannot remember who all went along. But Mike didn’t have a very good ride. When the rest of the group would start to gallop, Mike’s horse would just take off in a full run, needless to say Mike was getting a little upset with his horse. When we finally arrived back at the stables, Mike got off the horse and started to complain to all of us about the ride he had just been taken on, when all of sudden the horse whipped his head back and bit Mike square in the ass. We all laughed hysterically, So I guess the horse didn’t care for Mike either.

Jeff is in the blue shirt on the right in this picture.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

From Greg Ulibarri, Mike's Army Escort

Greg was the representative from the Army who escorted Mike's body back from Texas to Minnesota and stayed with us until the funeral was over. I can only imagine what a difficult job it would be to deliver a lifeless soldier to his family, but Greg certainly fit the bill--he was such a class act, he was professional yet personable, and we loved him for what he did for us. We never heard from Greg again...until last month when I finally tracked him down in Germany! Here's one of his messages...

I know already that you, Chris, your Mom and Dad were all wonderful to me during what I could only imagine was a difficult time. I was part of the Vulcan section where Mike worked. When the accident happened, I was selected to identify and escort him home. This was one of the most painful and memorable points in my career. I can truly say that I have often thought about Mike, his family and that trip to Minnesota. I spoke of him often to other troops and friends about how quickly life can be cut short.

I cannot recall specifics but I can tell you this, one thing I could do fairly well was read people. Mike was a very dynamic individual, he was personable, energetic and not afraid to learn and excel. All excellent traits for the Army. I could tell in a very short time that he would go very far in the Army. He was a natural leader and his enthusiasum was infectious. It was because of all these qualities he was in New Mexico. At the time the Army was testing the new modifications to the Vulcan. The Vulcan was being modified into the PIVADS system. In preparation for the modification we chose Mike to go to New Mexico and get training on the new system. The Army believes in a train the trainer environment so you see Mike was selected to be trained and then come back and train us. He was a Great Soldier. A Great American.

Take Care and God Bless,

Here's a picture of Greg and his family including his parents, his wife, children and two grand children! Greg is the 4th one from the left.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

From Neal Anderson

When Mike and I ran around together we were pretty young. We didn't get into to much trouble together. Normal kid stuff. We learned how to smoke together (Thanks to Chris). Guess I liked it cuz I still smoke today. We did jump a lot of trains but it was easier than walking accross town. Stole alot of tomatoes so we could throw them at cars. Let's just say we may have played around with other things at that time also. Early teen age, we then kind of went our own way. Still talked in school and stuff but that's when I started to really not want to follow the rules, and Mike was smart enough to stay away at the time. Then I moved over here to South Dakota and got my life back on track, and I didn't get to see him again.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

From Tom Bjornberg

What a great memory you are creating of Mike. I read Randy's note and I
too share a lot of the same memories. Sleeping out in the tent, biking to
the pool, yes and even jumping trains downtown. We would jump them and
ride them out to my parents house. I also remember spending a lot of
time in the secret room above the garage, it seemed to be our little
hangout. It was usually Randy Johnson, Jeff Darby, Dave Helland and
myself. I remember climbing under the old river bridge, the rock fights
and how we used to harass certain kids on Halloween. Those memories will
be with me forever.

Take care.

Monday, August 11, 2008

From Erin O'Brien Denton

The reunion was a blast...good to see old friends - I had a great conversation with Sheri Cronin about how she, Mike and I used to love racing each other - the three of us were very competitive, even in 3rd grade...(See photo below.)

I'm so sorry for your loss. I have very fond memories of Mike, and
it's such a shame to lose such a vibrant, dedicated man. Just know he
was sorely missed last weekend.

Erin is now a Hollywood fitness instructor who has made a number of fitness DVDs. Here's a link to her website. She's also married to James Denton who is on Desperate Housewives. The picture (above) is from a gig they had with their band called Band from TV.

Erin was also kind enough to find their third grade class picture and send it to me. Mike is in the middle of the front row behind the class sign. Sheri and Erin are in the middle row--Sheri is the 1st on on the left, and Erin is standing right next to her. This is the age they all raced each other!
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Sunday, August 10, 2008

A recent picture of Mike's classmates

This picture was taken at their 25th high school reunion last weekend.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Reunion Weekend

This weekend Mike's class is celebrating their 25th high school reunion. I checked out our high school website under "alumni" and looked at all of their festive plans here. I wonder if Mike would have gone to his 25th reunion. Where would he be living right now? Would he have lived too far away to attend? Would he have wanted to attend? Who knows?

Out of about 265 classmates, there are four who have died. Here's what is said on the site about Mike.

I looked at the name list of his classmates, and as little as I knew most of them I just recalled the times in which we lived and grew up in that small town in Minnesota. Much simpler times...

I've heard from a few of our old neighborhood friends, so I hope to have more stories to post soon. Wow, I realize I knew so little of what he did with his friends. It's fascinating for me to hear stories about all of the things he did growing up with them.

When I look at this picture of Mike on his banana seat bike(!), I think of the care-free Mike who so vibrantly and enthusiastically lived life. He was always ready for an adventure!