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!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

From Randy Johnson

Hello everyone, Randy Johnson here. I grew up with Mike, knew him since grade school and lived right across the street. I recently spoke with Jeff Darby and we talked about all the memories we had of Mike. We played baseball and football non-stop in the summer, we lived at the community pool in Shakopee, we would swim all day go home for dinner and go back to the pool! We camped out in a tent in my back yard so many times in the summer I can't count, we would stay up all night and run around all over town! We had it good! Those are some vivid memories for me as a kid. Mike, Jeff and myself lived very close to each other and spent our childhoods together. Jeff and I were talking of how we wish that we could have known Mike as closely in our adult lives, from what I’ve seen and read on his web site he was on the right path. Jeff and I have been to Mike's grave many times since his death to keep it clean and to sit and remember Mike, we will go visit him this summer again. Of course the cemetery where he is buried is just a few hundred yards from the Shakopee pool where we spent half of our childhood together! The last time I saw Mike alive is when us three were at Jeff's house when I was home on leave from the marine corps, I think Mike was on leave from the army as well. When I first heard of his death I thought for sure it was just rumor or some sort of army snafu. I wish it would have been. It will be good to sit and share all the memories of growing up with Mike and lots of other friends this weekend [25th high school reunion], all the snowball fights, fistfights, ballgames and a lot of things I’ve forgotten that others remember! God bless! Randy.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Another Entry: Mike's boot camp journal

3 OCT 83 (Monday)

Today was an exciting day. We got up at 0300. Everything was "Hurry up and wait" until the troop carriers came. Then we went to range 35. We went to qualify. I was really depressed after I shot my 40 rounds. I looked at my score card and had 19 misses. You are only allowed 17 or you don't qualify! What a trip! I get up to get my medal and find out I did qualify, but with 23 hits instead of 21. They must've given me a 2 hit break. I hesitantly thanked the Lord. I didn't feel as though I earned it.

When we got back to the barracks we cleaned our rifles then went to get my 4th hair cut. In the meantime after getting my hair cut I went to the PX and snack bar and found a letter, one my favorite letters, had been overlooked. I picked it up and read it. It was from my Aunt Kay Hardie. Never have I been complimented so much in a letter before. I also feel as though I know a whole different Kay Hardie.

I'm keeping it in the back of my jounal for use when I feel depressed. I know it will help. Read it. My tear jerker...
Click on the letter for a larger view.

This 3-page letter is still in the back of his Army boot camp journal. Thanks, Kay! It sure meant a lot to Mike. In the letter, it talked about some difficult times she had been going through, and it states:

I remember you for being such a loving--open and demonstrative--person. What an asset you have! ...and I continue to remember you and your loving ability, Mike. You serve as an example, an inspiration, to me.

Here's the hand-written letter as it was found in the back on his journal.