Wednesday, July 30, 2008

From Dad...about boxing

Here's what Dad had to say about the Golden Gloves boxing group Mike was involved with, and about Ron Carlson, the boxing organizer and local police officer. Dad was the assistant Golden Gloves boxing coach.

Ron Carlson had the concept that kids could do something productive if given a chance or just wander aimlessly into all sorts of things with few coping skills and lots of energy; and, for adolescent boys, lots of testosterone. He'd met lots of the kids (not all) that joined the boxing program from being "a cop" in the town. Instead of being a problem to them as a cop he decided to be a mentor for them as a person who happens to be a cop. He was just that sort of guy: when given lemons, make lemonade. Anyway, he saw the need and did the leg work for initiating the Golden Gloves program in the area through the association with the police department. He took the time, made all the connections and put it together largely on his own time. He had boxed in the Marine Corps. I had boxed at the Boy's Club in Dubuque. It was something we'd both done as an activity, mostly, not as Golden Gloves boxers.

I met Ron through several channels. He was, as most cops were, in the ER at the hospital frequently. He had an association with Bob Christensen [a local M.D. and Dad's friend] and we eventually got together having conversations about things in general, at all hours of the day and night. He asked me if I'd be interested in helping out. I said yes and there we were. He found a couple of other guys to help, one of which had actual Golden Gloves experience, and Ron was all set.

The Boundary Waters trip was sort of a retreat for the kids, or a treat for all their hard work. It helped build team unity. Also, it happened to be one of Ron's favorite things to do. It was an event for the kids to look forward to at the end of the year. Ron needed a helper for that as well, and I reluctantly helped because Mike became interested.

I'm not sure of the years Mike boxed. That trophy though was for that match, for that event, for that weight class, but among a number of GG Clubs participating and I think there were 5 clubs Dubuque included.

Mike did very well mostly because he kept his focus and kept his cool in adverse situations in general. It's very easy to lose both when some one is intent on punching you. I takes a bit of getting used to.


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

About Mike's boxing

Like I've said, I never liked to watch Mike fight in the boxing ring--especially after one of his boxing matches he had in our high school gymnasium. Something went wrong with his head gear (Is that what boxers call it?!), and it was twisting and moving all over the place on him while he was boxing. He could barely see at times, and I was getting upset because the ref didn't stop the fight to let him readjust it, or tighten it...or WHATEVER it needed. It's not like he could have fixed it on the fly...with his gloves on! Ugh, I can still see myself in the bleachers--looking up at Mike in the ring for a fraction of a second, "Oooh!" then looking down and having my friends give me a play-by-play. "Isn't the ref stopping them to let him FIX IT?!" Oh, I couldn't stand it (so I crouched down in the bleachers instead)!

Mike is the one in the red jersey.

I still don't like to watch ANYONE box. Boxing was, however, something Mike took up for a while, and he did fairly well at it. So, I'm sure he had a sense of accomplishment when he won matches and this trophy.

Here's a newspaper clipping that we still have.
A bit closer to read...

This is the group of Golden Gloves boxers on a Boundary Waters canoeing and camping trip. (Most of these boxers are named in the larger news clipping above.) Mike kept this picture in the back of his Army boot camp journal.

Mike is on the far right in back.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Tear Drops

I never want to forget Mike's most unique physical feature. In fact, I can't believe I hadn't scoured every picture I have of Mike to look for his signature "teardrop earlobes" until now.

I was going through some of Mike's papers and found a letter written by his aunt and godmother, Mary (a.k.a. Aunt Mayno), and in the letter it reminded me of his special lobes everyone made such a big fuss about all his life! It said...
There's a young fellow I know, an extremely earnest individual, blessed with handsome features, good humor, a sense of adventure, an emotional streak, a loving heart and a soul of gold. It's as plain to see as the tear-dropped shaped earlobes he was born with...

I'm convinced that my godson is my godsend.

The best picture I have of his earlobes is his high school graduation photo. Here it is before I zoom in...
Here is a closer look.

Check it out.
Since this picture doesn't show it fully, you really would have had to see them in person...and then you would be left with the real memory of his tear drops.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

From Mom-- Memories of Mike: Early Years in Minnesota

Mike was always coming up with some great (???) ideas. When we lived by Lake Calhoun in the Twin Cities, I babysat two other children. One day I heard a lot of laughing in the basement where the kids played during the winter. I went downstairs and found a cloud of dust coming from a corner. In the middle of the cloud were two barely visible faces. Mike and Kimmy (one of the kids I babysat) decided that it would be great fun throwing cement around and playing in it. Honestly, it took FOREVER to get the cement out of their hair and everyplace else it decided to settle. Cleaning up the basement was no picnic either.

Our first Halloween in the Twin Cities was a memorable one. Mike was so excited. When the doorbell rang the very first time, he went running to the door to see who was there. Oh my goodness. He screamed bloody murder. There was a young boy (in his teens, I think) wearing a gorilla like mask. He had a furry winter jacket on. I think the combination was too much for Mike. I had to carry him the whole time we were trick or treating. He was afraid of everything that night.

When we lived on Fremont Ave. in Bloomington, MN, we belonged to St Richards Parish. They were having a parish festival and Kay thought we should take the kids to it. Mike tried this one game – throwing a ball to knock down something or other – and kept missing. After each attempt, with his right hand in a fist and his left hand open, he’d ram his right fist into his left hand, no sound other than that. He was determined to win. And he did, eventually. Couldn’t tell you how many tries, but it was a lot.

The event that produced the two black eyes and huge knob on his forehead happened in usual Mike fashion. It was in November and we were going to the park and Mike was very excited to get there. Once there, he had his sights set on the swings and slide. He took off and ran down the hill straight for the play area. He never saw the rock that tripped him because he was focused further ahead. Oh, that big black knob was ugly. No Christmas card that year.

Friday, July 25, 2008

From Cousin Dianne

I do think of Mike all of the time and remember him in my prayers each day. Sometimes we might feel like our loved ones have been forgotten but I' m sure they are not. Not much of a story but I do remember when Mike was in that treatment facility and I called him just to say hello. I said this is your aunt Dianne and he said aren't we cousins? I felt like an idiot but I guess I felt old enough to be his aunt. We had a laugh about that.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

From Mom: a daily reminder of Mike

This I look at EVERY day and think of Mike. It stands on the counter in my kitchen holding some kitchen utensils. He obviously got it in Germany.
Close up of the German stein.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

From Mom: Memories of Mike in Dubuque

Mom has come out of hiding and has some stories to tell!

Before we moved to the Twin Cities, we lived in an apartment on Asbury in Dubuque. I remember one morning, when Mike was a little over a year old. We got up on Saturday morning and Mike was nowhere to be found. We searched everywhere in the apartment (didn’t take too long since we only had 4 rooms). We even went to other apartments and outside looking for him. Chris (who was 3 years old) woke up when Mike did, but didn’t know where he was. We were on the verge of calling the police when I decided to search everywhere within the apartment again. You won’t believe where I found Mike. He was sound asleep on top of his dad’s guitar case which was under our bed.

Another time on Asbury, I was in the living room and realized it was pretty quiet in the boys’ room. Went to check and found them in our bedroom. Mike was standing in front of our dresser staring into the mirror and admiring his handiwork - all over his face. Yes, you guessed it – lipstick all over. The look on his face was priceless.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Pieces of Mike

Even after more than 20 years of Mike's passing, I'm reminded of him daily--sometimes in thoughts and other times just in the handful of his belongings I now have and still use today. Besides many of his photos, military awards, personal journal, wallet (that he had on him in the last moments of his life), and other writings and letters that I keep in a box, I have a few other things of his that catch my eye every day as I pass by them.

Mike made this mug in Great Uncle Bill's basement in 1971 during our annual Thanksgiving visit to Dubuque. Great Uncle Bill had his own pottery wheel and kiln, and he had us sit in front of him as he helped us shape our various creations at the wheel. Then we decorated them by making impressions with various items (nails, etc.) I'm not sure where this mug was in our house in Shakopee, but it must've been in a more honorable place than where Mom put my silly vase with a neck that was too narrow to fit anything but a few skimpy dried flowers. She put my vase on the back of our downstairs toilet! I now see this mug every day as it sits on my bedroom bookshelf holding back a few books.

This step stool Mike made in junior high wood shop has come in pretty handy--especially over the past 9 years since we've had kids. Jimmer still likes a bit of a boost at the sink, so it's been put to good use! It'll probably go in my closet next!

Would you believe the T.V. Mike bought in Germany ('84-'86) is still working well? Granted we're not big T.V. watchers, but all the better since I can still use it today! I used it as my main T.V. until I got married in 1996! A good buy, Mike!

As I mentioned at the end of the "Some pictures..." post, I also still have Mike's jacket he had made in Germany and wore frequently. I used to wear it occasionally, but some of the material is getting thin, so I have it in my closet on a hanger under a sweater I wear to church.

I'm sure Mom, Chris and Dad also have similar reminders of Mike in their homes.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

An Entry from Mike's Boot Camp Journal

Mike was 18 years old while he was at Ft. Dix, New Jersey for boot camp. Below is an entry from his personal journal. I believe this was his first pay day at the Army.

30 SEPT 83

Today was pay day!!! I collected $561. It feels great to have all that in my pocket.

After we got our checks cashed we went to range 34 to practice firing. Range 34 is just like Range 35, the range we qualify on. We got 40 rounds to fire. We had to make at least 23, I shot 40 rounds & 30 targets went down. I qualified today as a sharpshooter. I hope to get at least Expert, that's 36 out of 40 or more.

While we were there it rained. It really sucked. I hope on Monday that the sun is shining. I got soaked today and sand all over.

Had C-rations again: pork slices, apricot halves, p-butter & cocoa. It was just as gross as it sounds, & it sounds bad!

We got back & cleaned our rifles. I think mine is the cleanest it's ever been. Now I'm ready for a shower & hit the sack...

Below is his actual written journal entry. If you click on the image, you should be able to view it in a larger format.

Friday, July 18, 2008

From Aunt Mary ("Mayno")

Memories of Mike

Back in the ‘60s and ‘70s when the world was less foreboding, kids could walk to and from school alone with little worry.

Walking to school in winter, however -- in the snow, snow, snow and cold, cold, cold of Minnesota -- could be challenging, as Mike learned one frosty afternoon on his way home from kindergarten.

I was visiting my sisters, Kay and Carolyn, Mike’s mom, in Bloomington -- on my way from college in California to home in Iowa to spend the holidays. That day I was at the Cox apartment eagerly waiting for Chris and Mike to get home from school. When Mike didn’t show at the expected time, Carolyn sent out the troops to look for him. I can’t recall who found him – Chris perhaps – stuck in a snow bank a few blocks away. Apparently the snow plow had piled the snow high along the curb and when Mike walked across the top of the snow bank, he sunk in – so far that he couldn’t get out! While in the snow bank trying to dig himself out, he discovered a treasure that he immediately gifted to me upon his safe return home.

I wore the pin every day that I was there. If I forgot to put it on, Mike reminded me. I still have it. While it cost the person who lost it in the snow bank pennies at most, it is priceless to me for the sweetest memories it brings.

Of course, we hugged and fawned over Mike (which he loved!) the rest of that afternoon. Talking about “being lost” and then “being found” seemed to energize him, in fact! Later I asked him if he was scared while trapped in the snow. His eyes lit up. “Why would I be scared?” he said in his high-pitched little boy voice. For Mike, life was an adventure!

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

When Chris and Mike were toddlers they still lived in Dubuque. For whatever reason, there were some Sunday mornings they were at the Hardie house . . . and I would take them to church with me.

I LOVED taking them to church because I thought everyone there would think they were mine! (I was 16 or 17 at the time.) They were pretty cute with their curly heads and sweet smiles. What’s more, they were fairly well-behaved. (Hard to believe, I know, because later they so enjoyed getting on each other’s nerves!) Instead of picture books, crayons and treats that nowadays keep kids entertained while in church, Chris and Mike had none. It never dawned on me, I guess, to bring such things along. They seemed content perusing the songbooks and prayer books they found in the pew (pretty boring with only words and no pictures to look at). When that lost favor, they’d whisper to each other or just sit back and look around, captivating those nearby. I know this because more than once after church someone or other – usually older ladies – would stop and tell me, “What lovely little boys!”

Some of my happiest moments in life were being with my two nephews when they were young!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

From Mikey--the nephew you never met

Dear Uncle Mike,

I've heard a lot of stories about you and that I was named after you. I think it's cool that you were a soldier. I love to draw military vehicles and dress up like a soldier.

I bet we'd have fun playing together--especially if you were here with Uncle Chris. He has fun with us too. Once he put all us kids in a big box and rolled it all around the living room. We called it the "tornado box." It was fun!

Mom says you liked to build and fix things. I like to do those things too. I have lots of things to build with, and we could've built lots of neat structures together.

Mikey (9)

From Kathleen--the niece you never met

Dear Uncle Mike,

I wish I could have met you. I think I'd like wrestling with you because I have fun wrestling with my brothers.

I love the picture of you on Santa's lap with your two black eyes and knob on your head!

You remind me of Jimmer, my little brother, because he looks like you and it seems like he acts like you did when you were little--mischievous and got into some accidents. Jimmer has also been to the E.R. a few times! Great Grandpa Hardie told Mom he'd send his guardian angel down to our house after he died because all little boys could use an extra guardian angel. I hope it helps!

Thank you for defending our country even though you didn't have to go to war.

Kathleen (9)

From Mary Kate--the niece you never met

Dear Uncle Mike,

It seems like you and my little brother, Jimmer, are a lot alike. He likes to have a lot of fun and roughhouse like you did!

My brothers like to wrestle and they really like Army stuff, so I think they'd love to wrestle with you and learn about soldiers. Last year both of them dressed up as Army guys for Halloween.

I hope you like it in Heaven!

Mary Kate (7)

From Jimmer--the nephew you never met

Dear Uncle Mike,

I like wrestling with my brother and sister, but Mary Kate had a tumor so we couldn't wrestle with her after her surgery for a little while.

I like my daddy and mommy because we snuggle, and I have a pet Chimpanzee [stuffed].

I just made a monkey book this week.

I bet you'd be a fun uncle to play with. You look pretty fun in the pictures!

Jimmer (5)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Growing up with Mike...

I've often thought about what it was like growing up with Mike. I've told people some of my stories about what my brothers did and what they put me through! Not knowing otherwise at the time, I figured everyone else had a similar fate...if they had two older brothers. I'm now certain that I had it pretty rough as a little sister! Right, Chris?!

First of all, Chris was the mastermind behind many of the shenanigans. Somehow, he was able to talk us into doing things that he wondered about, but would never do himself.

Chris was the one who talked Mike into climbing into Grandma and Grandpa Hardie's laundry shoot on the second floor of their home in Dubuque. A little commotion among the adults was raised when Mike got stuck in the shoot between their 1st and 2nd floors. He couldn't get out! And there was Chris standing at the top of the shoot.

Chris also talked Mike into climbing (fully) into our dryer. I think he said something like, "I bet you could never fit into the dryer, but it would be cool if you could." After Mike was up to the challenge and climbed in, I heard the door slam and the dryer turn on. Thump, thump went least a couple of times!

And Chris, how did Mike ever get locked into our deep freezer chest in the basement?

I didn't escape their torment...
Both Chris and Mike talked me into thinking it would be LOTS of fun to slide down the stairs in a sleeping bag. After they conned me into getting zipped in my bag, they picked me up and THREW me down. Does anyone recall that there was a wall at the end of our stairway?

They also thought it would be fun to teach me to box. They, of course, said none of it would hurt since we had those really padded boxing gloves. What was I thinking? Hadn't I learned?

Of course, around every corner in our house lurked a potential ambush or terror just waiting to happen. Unfortunately once, when Mike figured I'D be coming around the corner to our stairway, it was instead MY DAD! After sufficiently "surprising" my dad, Mike got to see what it was like to fly up the stairs!

I guess I don't need to go on and on with more stories. You get the point!

What I will say is that Mike also had a very tender, loyal, and generous side to him. I know this because I caught him bragging about me a few times. I remember when he was in 6th grade (I was in 4th), he told our school music teacher about how well I played the piano. He mentioned that I could play the whole song (Colour My World, by: Chicago) their class was learning for their recital...and offered my services to accompany their class in singing as well! He gave compliments freely and made people feel good.

Mike was very excitable and loved to socialize. He was energized by people...his friends. He must've had lots of Grandpa Hardie genes in him!

That's the Mike I grew up with.

Monday, July 14, 2008

From Aunt Connie


What a wonderful gesture to remember Mike in such a special way! You have put together some beautiful memories of a terrific young man.

Although Mike was only with us for just under a year, he became part of our family. At least that's how we felt about him...I'm not sure he allowed himself to feel fully a part of any "community" at that point in his life. I do believe, however, that that's exactly what happened when he joined the service. He was indeed part of his military family. He accomplished mastery of all his assignments, and received positive feedback about his accomplishments, and - most importantly - he believed he was competent, and that he was contributing to a greater good.

As Courtney mentioned, I was pregnant with her when Mike lived with us. Kelly was 4-1/2, and enjoyed every speck of attention Mike gave her. And Mike, who had a natural affinity for kids, never seemed "bored" or "too old" to "bother" with Kelly. Kelly missed him dearly when he moved back to Shakopee. (She would have rather had Mike around than that new "interloper" baby, Courtney! Just kidding, girls...sort of!)

While Mike was with us, Steve had an OAAA meeting at the Grand Hotel in Mackinaw Island, MI. This is a beautiful island off the upper pennisula of Michigan where the movie "Somewhere in Time" with Jane Seymour and Christopher Reeve was filmed. The island does not allow any motorized transportation, so once you arrive by ferry it's bicycle or horse drawn carriage. I think it was a great vacation for Mike, because we could really let him explore the island on his own...the fudge factories downtown, the "beaches" all around the island, and the pretty, green bike trails and walking paths throughout. He could also check out the girls at the pool! (He was able to get a break from us that week, as long as he showed up for meals and bedtime.)

One day at Mackinaw, Steve was in meetings all day, and I decided to take Kelly on a bike ride around the island. (Keep in mind I'm showingly pregnant with Courtney.) The bikes were the old fashioned, wide-tire, "no speed", heavy bikes. The hotel gave me a box lunch and blanket to take with us which went into the basket on the front of the bike. (Get the picture? Full basket, heavy bike with no gears, pregnant "belly", big momma, Kelly in a bike seat on the back, many steep Mackinaw hills, hot and humid late summer.) I was doing fine at first, but "we" decided to stop for lunch (read rest) a little earlier than planned. We found a nice spot and enjoyed a nice lunch. As I was reloading Kelly on the bike to continue, Mike drove by on his bike. I was so glad to see him (an excuse to rest longer!). He sensed that the bike ride was a little easier for him than for me and OFFERED to switch bikes for the remainder of the ride. So, he drove Kelly and the lunch basket back, and I rode the unencumbered bike back. It was a much easier ride for me, and Kelly enjoyed having Mike drive her, and it may have saved some premature labor! The point is, I didn't have to ask. Mike sensed what I needed, offered the perfect solution, and his generous spirit intervened.

Mike had Sophomore year classes to make up that summer in order to enter Wahlert in the Fall as a Junior. He worked hard in summer school with a full load, completed everything, and did very well. He had all the credits he needed to begin as a Junior, and he took a full load at Wahlert. Again he did well in school. Parent-Teacher Conferences were uneventful. The teachers said his work was in, up-to-date, and that he was a pleasure to have in class. Some classes were definitely more difficult for him than others, but he did well. He made a really nice three level stand (curio stand or bookshelf) in wood shop that we still have and use. Mr. Sheston, his shop teacher, was a big fan of Mike and his abilities in the shop. He also got kudos for his creative writing in his English class, and he did well in (tough) Mr. Delaney's history class, and he enjoyed religion class. I think he ended up in a class or two that were a stretch for him because of his "lost" Sophomore year. Summer classes, though full credit, aren't quite the same in content. So I think the Advanced Algebra and Physics were a burden. (He actually was very good at mastering the physics concepts, but didn't have enough math to do well in tests and build on the base learnings.) I can't recall if we were able to switch him out of physics to another elective, or if he stuck it out. What I know for sure is that he did well.

As Courtney said, one of my pregnancy "glitches" was an aversion to the smell of bread. I could not open the bread bag without gagging. At first, I would make Mike's lunches by holding my breath, leaving the room to breathe, then holding it again to continue. Then Mike and I collaborated...he would make his sandwich and wrap it in a baggie, and I would pull the rest together. (Usual lunch: PBJ sandwich, Twinkie or SuzyQ, Doritos or Fritos or Chips, apple or banana.) If Grandma Hardie had baked - and she did often for Mike - there were Scotcheroos(instead of the Twinkie). Scotcheroos were hands down Mike's favorite snack, and they became a favorite of my kids, too. I have made hundreds of pans of Scotcheroos for soccer, football, volleyball, and basketball games thru the kids' HS years.

A favorite meal of Mike's was Pork Chops baked in Golden Mushroom soup, with a baked potato (with the GM soup as "gravy"), corn, and baked applesauce with cinnamon. We had this meal at least once a week. I would occasionally substitute chicken for the pork, but Mike preferred the pork. Of course, Grandma Hardie would invite us over for dinner once a week - usually Sunday - for a truly good meal. Mike always enjoyed her cooking, and she varied her menu more than I did.

It was pretty exciting for all of us, of course, when Courtney was born. (January 15, 1982). Mike came up to the hospital with Steve and Kelly to visit Courtney and me, and was a really big help with Kelly during that time. She needed the extra attention he could give her when I couldn't. He would often hold and rock Courtney when I was fixing dinner or doing laundry in the evening. He really enjoyed that, and so did she! I would say that the only negative about Mike being with us during that particular time, was that I felt a little less comfortable about nursing. I felt that I couldn't nurse Courtney in the LR, family room, or at the table. I felt I needed to seek the privacy of her bedroom or our bedroom. After all, nursing then was not as accepted or universal as it is now, and Mike was a teenage boy, not our son, who did not grow up with us.

When Mike was stationed in Germany, he called on Courtney's birthday to talk to all of us, and wish her Happy B'day. She would have been two or three. (He didn't forget her birthday!) He sounded so happy. He was proud of himself. He was being promoted and being given greater responsibilities. He was successful, and able to acknowledge that to others, but most importantly, to himself.

Mike had a favorite white t-shirt...just a plain white undershirt. It must have been 10 years was perspiration stained, and threadbare, and had holes in it. But it was SOFT! I asked him if I could replace it..I'd get him a pack of new ones. That was a definite "NO!" If he worked in the yard he wore it. He wore it to bed. He wore it under shirts and sweaters. I washed it about once a week, and I was getting worried because it was beginning to shred. I was preparing him for the worst as I held up a shapeless mesh one day to show him. He wore it until it was literally a web of strings. Then he kept it in a ball under his pillow...a security blanket of sorts.

Mike was tough but vulnerable; he was as docile as a bunny and as firey as a momma bear; he was smart and quick-witted but could play dumb like a pro ("Who? Me?!"). One of the qualities I loved the most about Mike was his generous spirit. He was unselfish and giving. He was eager to jump in and help. He was quick to console with tender words or humor (whatever was called for!). He was easy to love.

Good work, little sis.

Love, Connie

Here's a photo of Mike when he lived with Connie, Steve, Kelly, and Courtney (still on the inside).

The Accident

In a letter from Mike's commander of the 118th Ordnance Detachment stationed in Ft. Bliss, Texas sent in October, 1987:

"...Mike was a member of the Maintenance Platoon, and had been working temporarily for the Air Defense Board on a Special Project. 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. He was killed almost instantly. I sincerely hope that the knowledge that he was not subjected to any prolonged suffering will be of some comfort to you..."

From what Mike's Army escort, Greg Ulibarri, told us, Mike was driving with a friend in his car on Highway 54 and hit a pot hole in the road, lost control and flipped over in the ditch. Both Mike and his passenger were unrestrained, ejected through the windshield, and landed in the ditch where they both instantly lost their lives. They were found by a passing truck driver. The additional misfortune was that the passenger's wife (who was not in the car) was expecting a child.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

From Cousin Courtney (Hardie) Johnson

Unfortunately, I really don't remember Mike. My mom was pregnant with me and had me while he was living with us. I do know that Mike ended up having to make his own lunches after awhile (funny, I never remember my mom making my lunches, and yet she was so eager to do so for him!) because my mom felt sick from the smell of Wonder Bread when she was pregnant with me! My mom always told me that he was pretty smitten with both Kelly and I, and that he really enjoyed playing with Kelly and holding me.

Friday, July 11, 2008

From Ronda (Darby) Dessin

Ronda was one of our neighborhood friends as well as one of Mike's classmates. She and her brother, Jeff, were probably the first friends Mike brought home for us to meet when we first moved to Shakopee. Like I've mentioned in his story, Mike made friends for us. Ronda and Jeff were always called into play for our neighborhood games of kick-the-can, football, Annie Annie over...!

I would like to add a comment about the prankster, Michael

My Memory

It was Halloween, I can't even remember the year. I was home watching a spooky movie and passing out candy to the youngsters knocking at the door. Everytime I had to go out into the porch to the door, I had a nervous feeling about what I might find when looked through the window. It was always an adorable young kid in a cute costume UNTIL that one knock came and I went to the door and looked out the window too see a scary mask looking back at me. I totally freaked, screamed and ran back inside and hid under the covers. I could hear someone laughing outside and knocking on the door but couldn't find the courage to go back out there. The next day Mike came to the door with this huge smile on his face explaining that it was him pulling one of his numerous pranks on me.

We wish you had been there with us...

There have been so many events throughout the years that we wished you could have celebrated with us. These are only a small handful.

My college graduation...just a couple of years after you passed away. (Chris never went through his ceremony.)

Even before this, Mom took us to Mazatlan...and we all went parasailing. I know you would've jumped at the chance to do that! Then maybe Chris wouldn't have made me go first!

You were noticeably gone from this family photo...along with Grandma Hardie. She passed away just two years after you did. She said many, MANY rosaries for you, my brother!
A couple of years after Chris and I were out of college, Grandpa Hardie took the whole family on a cruise. (I'll have to dig up a picture from that trip.) You would have had fun watching Grandpa play black jack. He still played two hands going at once at 85+ years old!

My wedding. You would really like Joe. Everybody does! He treats me like a queen, and he (like you) talks more than Chris and Dad! I met him a month after your funeral.

Here are all of your nieces and nephews! I've told them lots of stories about you! Knowing how much you loved playing with little kids and holding babies, I know you would've liked to have a bunch of kids also.

Here they are now. You know I named my Mikey after you? (Don't mention this to Uncle Michael though.) My Mikey even looks like you, doesn't he? I think Jimmer has more of your personality though. He likes mischief!

Chris has a lot of fun playing with my kiddos, but he could have used a little uncle help from you...more than once!

Remember when you lived with Connie and Steve--when Connie was expecting a baby? Well, here's the baby you had fun holding that year--Courtney (& Ben) on her wedding day in 2004. I know you would have loved witnessing that celebration!

Your Godmother, Aunt "Mayno", even got married a couple of years ago. See her in the black top? John, her husband, has on the green tie. They first dated in high school...probably around the time you were born.

Chris, Joe, Tony and Uncle Gary sure could have used your help on the bocce ball court at our family reunion last year at Steve and Connie's. Tony probably would've appreciated your help with teaching our kids how to play pool, ping pong, and Wii. He had his hands full!

We miss you, Mike!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Mike, my son's namesake...and more?

What do you think?

All these years everyone keeps saying that my oldest son, Mikey, looks just like my husband, Joe. Hmmm. Look at Mikey's namesake, my brother Mike. Both of these pictures were taken on their 1st Communion day. Imagine a bit more hair on my boy. There are some Mike genes in my Mikey, no?

From Aunt Kathleen

These are excerpts from letters that I wrote to Mom and Dad (Mike's Grandma & Grandpa Hardie) when I lived in the Twin Cities in the late 1960’s. Mike would have been around 4 years old.

January 7, 1969: “I had some extra yarn sitting around, so I made the boys some slippers and Mike a pair of mittens. Well, I took them over New Year’s Eve – we got there a little bit late so the kids were asleep. Mike woke up during the night because of the noise we were making so I gave him his slippers and the mittens. The crazy nut wore both of them to bed and ran around all the next day with them on.”

March 18, 1969: “For Mike’s birthday I think the bathing suit is a good idea or else some bermudas with the matching shirt. He goes through clothes so fast. I have to laugh every time I see him along side Chris. Chris is so neat about his clothes and everything has to be so-so and then there’s Mike. He could care less if his shirt isn’t tucked in or if his cowboy boots are on the wrong feet. Guess that’s what makes him so doggone loveable!”

April 8, 1969: “I had to laugh when we were going to the park today. I was walking with Laura and Chris & Michael were up ahead. Here was Chris so neat in his jeans and a sweatshirt and looking like a boy on his way to pose for an ad and then there was Mike. He reminded me of the Boys’ Town movie with his cowboy boots on, one pant leg in – one out, a torn winter jacket on and his stocking cap pulled way down to cover almost his whole face. Such a contrast that I just had to stand there and laugh.”

May 15, 1969: Saturday we had quite an experience with number two son of the Cox family. They had all been over to see me at my apartment complex. Well, the manager’s two kids were in the hall right outside our door so I figured it must be all right if the three of them played there also. Huh! The two (Chris and Laura) stayed right by the door, but not Mike. He was running all around and getting into everything and we didn’t know about it until we heard glass breaking. Right above the stairs to the front are three hanging lamps. Well, the kid had reached one by hanging on the railing and then swung it so that it hit the other lamp and broke it.

Mike Cox -- a bit about his life

Mike is the one on the upper right corner of this picture.

My brother, Mike, was born in Dubuque, Iowa in 1965. When Mike was about a year old, our family moved to Minneapolis and eventually (in 1970ish) settled in Shakopee, Minnesota where he is now buried at St. Mark's Catholic Cemetery.

As a child, Mike was a sensitive and very expressive boy who made friends for his siblings. Our older brother, Chris, is a man of few words--always has been, always will be. I (his kid sister) was a bit shy growing up. So, I'm sure my parents were relieved to have Mike bring home a bunch of neighborhood friends for us when we first moved to Shakopee! That was Mike's style--social, curious, loyal, and kindhearted. I'm sure he was at the center of many of our nightly neighborhood games: kick the can, football, Annie Annie Over... Whatever there was to be played with a group of kids, he'd gather them all and the games would begin.

As a teenager, Mike's curiosity turned into a bit of mischief (must be the Irish in us!) and with a turn in our family situation, he was a less-supervised son of a divorced working mother and father. Whoa! Seemingly limitless freedom in any curious young boy can be a dangerous thing!

Have I already mentioned that Mike was the curious sort? Just checkin'! He'd take apart our phones and rig them to his fancy. He disassembled many other household electronics during an era when we really didn't have a bunch of unused electronics lying around. So I'm sure some of our often-used electronic items suddenly disappeared without explanation! I also remember Mike setting up a secret hideaway in the attic of our garage. He even wired a phone in for himself! Nobody knew about his hideout for quite some time, and when I found it, I was sworn to secrecy!

In junior high, between 8th and 9th grades, Mike contracted Guillain-Barre Syndrome that suddenly rendered him paralyzed from the waist down. I remember when he first started 9th grade that year. Since he was still in a wheelchair he actually got a much-coveted key to use the school elevator (which I'm sure some of his friends were able to benefit from as well)! Apparently, his illness occurred before the now commonly prescribed rehab therapies, because Mike ended up teaching himself how to walk again. No therapy. Of course, that wasn't before he terrorized the hospital hallways and staff with his wheelchair wheelies!

After he recovered from paralysis, he got involved with Golden Gloves boxing--along with my older brother and my dad (as an assistant coach). What? From a wheelchair to a boxing ring? Yep! Anyway, he had some fun with boxing for a little while.

However, (ahem) I believe his grades began to suffer and his freedom in life was more than he or our family could handle--without additional trips to the police station, where, unfortunately, his Golden Gloves coach worked as a police officer! So, for his junior year in high school (in order to add a bit of supervised stability in his life), he was kindly taken in by my mom's brother and wife, Connie and Steve, in Dubuque. Now, Mike was a bright young man. He got through most of the year doing very well and getting good grades at Walhert High School--the same high school my parents attended. Then, since old habits die hard--even for a youngster--he became restless once again.

He came back to Shakopee (albeit because he missed his kid sister so much!) to finish high school at Shakopee Senior High. During that time, he lived with a friend's family. Hey Scott, are you out there?!?

Did I mention that Mike was quite bright? I can tell you that his grades certainly only reflected his effort in academics--not his true knowledge. I know this because we ended up having 10th grade history together during his senior year. We were both in Mr. Schleper's 10th grade history class...or was it Mr. Vaughan's class. Anyway, Mike was always able to answer all the questions in class. I would just sink in my seat and hope I wasn't called on at all. Yes, I got better grades than Mike (besides maybe that class), but if truth be told, he sure knew a lot more than I did!

Mike also liked to write, and he created some good stories...and even a bit of poetry! I have some of his writings here at my house. Maybe I'll share some of it on this site!

So, what did Mike do after high school graduation? He enlisted in the Army. Shortly after bootcamp, he was stationed in Giebelstadt, Germany and spent two years there. It was during his visits home on leave that I realized, even as his little sister, that he had matured tremendously. He didn't take life so casually...but in a good way. I actually saw that sensitive, loyal, light-hearted, generous side of him I hadn't paid attention to in a long time. I remember that he and Chris would take me out during his leaves from the Army and not let me pay for anything. He would also make sure that nobody bothered me...or else maybe some of his old boxing days skills would have to come out again! Thank goodness none of that was necessary!

After his stint in Germany (where he was able to tour much of Europe), he returned to the States and was stationed at Ft. Bliss, Texas near El Paso. While he was working on the RADAR and armament of the VULCAN weapon system, he was sent to Carrizozo, New Mexico to work on some special project that we couldn't know about. Mike had just reenlisted for another 4 years in the Army when he died in a car accident in Carrizozo on October 7, 1987 at the age of 22.

Mike's death set us all back on our heels, yet brought both sides of our family together again in a very comforting way. It was during this blur of a week surrounding Mike's death (in my still maturing youth) that I learned never to take family--or any person--for granted.

The Army sent a wonderful man back to Shakopee to escort Mike's body. His name is Greg Ulibarri. We've completely lost touch with him, but I'd LOVE to find him again! He told us some great stories about Mike while he was in the service. His stories seemed to give us some proper and much-needed closure to his life since it was ended so suddenly.

It has been more than 20 years since Mike passed away. He has been missed dearly, and we have all wondered, countless times, where he would have been and what he would have been doing throughout the years. Of course, we can't fill in those details, but you can help us if you knew him. Please email me (one sentence or a full story) at about anything that you recall about him. I'd love to add your stories to this site, so it can be a place where everyone can read about him. These stories provide comfort to us, his family, and help fill in the other dimensions of his life story.

Thank you!

Mike's kid sister,

Some pictures...

Mike's baptism with Aunt Mary and Uncle Steve, his Godparents.

Mike's the one in my mom's arms.

Wasn't he a cute kid?

Here he is feeding me a bottle. What, Mom? You just let me teeter on top of that pillow on his two-year-old lap? Geez!

Mike is the one with the cast on his arm. (Have I mentioned he was a curious boy?) This picture doesn't really show his two nice shiners he also got with a broken arm! Wasn't he nice in letting me sleep on the inside of this lovely gold-colored vintage crushed velvet couch? What chivalry at such a young age!

Now this is more like Mike--awake and ready to go. Mom, where's that picture of all us kids on Santa's lap with Mike and his cast...and two black eyes?

Thanks, Mom! Here's it is. I must've been thinking of something else since I don't see a cast in the photo. This one always makes me laugh! A big knob on his forehead and two black eyes. Classic!
I don't remember getting a picture of what Mike looked like after taking our dog (tied to his bike) for a run. Supey went around a telephone pole one way, and Mike went on the other side. What a mess!

A proud First Communicant!

Mike's fourth grade class. There he is in the middle with the dark blue turtleneck. I need a little help naming his classmates in this picture. Anyone?

Boxing days. Ooooh, I really didn't like watching any of it.
Mike is the one in the red jersey. I'm thinking that's Dad (assistant coach) on the right side talking to him outside of the ring.

Mike with Steve, Connie, and Kelly during the year he lived with them in Dubuque.

1983 high school graduation picture. At least his hair fit in the picture frame better than Chris's did. Mike was blessed with lots of curls, but Chris has a natural 'fro. Back in the 70s and early 80s, that meant size J-5 (as in Jackson 5), as in...BIG!

Mom must've made him put on his formal uniform so she could get this picture. Formal really wasn't Mike's thang.

This was more his style. He's the one on the left.

Mike at Alcatraz. I believe this picture was taken while he was on leave from Germany. I still have the jacket he's wearing in this picture. I've kept it because I know he really liked it.

See, here's the back of the jacket that shows when he was in Germany and has Shakopee and Minnesota written down the arms.