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Michael was never too busy to be there for others

March 20, 2005|by MARLO BARNHART

Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail will run "A Life Remembered." The story will take a look back - through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others - at a member of the community who died recently. Today's "A Life Remembered" is about Wayne Howard Michael, who died March 14 at the age of 57. His obituary appeared in the March 16 editions of The Morning Herald and The Daily Mail.




marlob@herald-mail.com

When Wayne Howard Michael's heart finally gave out March 14, it wasn't for lack of love - given or received.

Virginia Lea Michael, his wife of 38 years, said Wayne, who was 57 when he died, had the first of four heart attacks when he was just 34.

"The doctors said he could have died 10 years ago, but he still had things to do," she said.

Among those things was spending more time with his family, which grew to include two daughters, Julie and Christy, then their spouses and four grandchildren.

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Beyond the bounds of his immediate family was an ever-expanding circle of friends, acquaintances, fellow members of Bethel Assembly of God and countless strangers Wayne reached with his caring nature.

"When he was still able to drive, Wayne would visit people in hospitals, nursing homes and in their homes," Virginia said. When he had to stop driving 21/2 years ago, Wayne started keeping a list of birthdays and anniversaries so he could call or send cards.

"We'd go away on vacation, and still Wayne would call people from there or send cards from there," Virginia said.

Even though heart problems hospitalized him six times since September, Wayne refused to let that get in the way of his personal outreach.

"Wayne had me bring him his datebook to the hospital so he could make calls from there," Virginia said.

Eldest daughter Julie Easterday said her father always was there for her.

"We were first - next to Jesus - in his life," she said.

Although Wayne always went to church when he was growing up in Berkeley Springs, W.Va., it wasn't until he joined Bethel Assembly of God in the late 1980s that he truly accepted the Lord and embarked on his new path in life.

The family moved to Hagerstown in the late 1970s, where Wayne was then working in sales at Radio Shack and a number of other places.

"He earned his living at sales and he worked very hard," younger daughter Christy Lewis said. "Daddy was dedicated to all that he did."

But she was quick to point out that didn't mean the family suffered from his absence or lack of interest.

"He never missed our games when we were young, even as busy as he was," Christy said.

When Wayne was a softball coach, he always would see to it that every child got to play even if that child didn't play well, his daughters both pointed out, even if that practice was unpopular with some parents.

Through such examples, Christy said her father taught her to be caring toward others.

"He inspired me to become a nurse so I could care for others," she said. Christy works at Washington County Hospital as a registered nurse.

As the girls grew and started families of their own, Wayne and Virginia kept in close contact.

"We'd always get together," Julie said.

And Christy said if that didn't happen, "we'd call each other."

Wayne's first heart attack was mild, but got his attention, Virginia said. With a family history of heart problems, he endured three more heart attacks and two bypass surgeries.

For the past 10 years, Wayne had been unable to work. In those years, he was busier than ever.

Wayne bought fruit baskets at Christmas and took them to shut-ins. He delivered church picnic meals to those who were unable to attend. He also contributed to the Salvation Army angel tree and even helped a young girl apply for college, his family said.

And he always was visiting, calling and sending cards.

The number of people who came to the viewing March 16 amazed all of Wayne's family members.

"People just kept saying how much they were going to miss those cards," Julie said.

But that's not all that's going to be missed.

Julie said her daughter, Lakelyn, 7, is adjusting to not calling Pappy every night as was her custom. For a while, or at least until she is old enough to comprehend that he is gone, Julie said she is going to let Lakelyn call the number as usual.

"Now," Julie said, "she will be calling to talk to MeMe," the name Virginia's grandchildren call her.

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