Mike was a retired high school English/Speech teacher and business journalist (magazine columnist and editor and newsletter publisher), winning awards from the American Society of Business Press Editors. He led a memoir-writing group for the Douglas County Senior Citizen Center and was a co-leader of a men’s writing group at the Douglas County Jail.
He was the co-author of a play, Worthy of the Name, which was presented at Chicago’s Cultural Affairs Center, and a collaborator of a readers’ theater production, Prose & Cons, Voices From Behind Bars. He was the author of a memoir, And I Cried, Too: Confronting Evil in a Small Town (Meadowlark, 2019).
Mike's easy-going nature, non-judgmental ways and love of writing were a good fit for this class. He felt very comfortable in the classroom and the jail guys soon appreciated him.
Mike had started his career as an English teacher in the 1960s, so it was like his life had come full circle and he really enjoyed himself in the classroom, appreciating the work of the writers in the class and sharing his own work.
He told the class about his own book based on the notorious murder case from his time at Lincoln College in Illinois in the late 1970s. Mike hoped that in retirement he could finally finish the book and the class encouraged him week after week. At last he was able to bring a published copy of the book to class, and we all applauded. It was one of the highlights of my twenty-year teaching at the jail.
Mike would often tell the story about a guy in jail hugging him at the end of class after Mike had told the class about his wife's struggle with cancer. It meant the world to Mike that someone in a bad situation felt moved enough to offer him sympathy this way.
Mike was a good guy, a humble man, beloved by those of us lucky enough to know him.
Through Mike, I met the poet Antonio Sanchez-Day (now deceased), and became better acquainted with Brian Daldorph, both of whom became/will become Meadowlark authors. Mike will forever be considered a cornerstone author of Meadowlark Press. He took a chance on me when I was still relatively small and less experienced. His book solidified Meadowlark as a Midwest press, and much enlarged our audience of readers.
In our most recent email exchange a few weeks ago, I shared my delight at the success his book was achieving in ebook format. He replied immediately that he was "doing ok" and shared future events where we might have an opportunity to visit in person. I am very sorry to miss those visits.
Time is often so much shorter than we imagine it will be.
Tracy Million Simmons
Owner/Publisher, Meadowlark Press