Growing up with two sisters and three brothers made for an interesting childhood, especially with the family of eight sharing a three bedroom, one bathroom fourplex. Mick used to upset his sisters by locking himself in that one bathroom to play his guitar. He always claimed that the bathroom had the best “acoustics”.
Growing up in this close family taught Mick the value of “family.” Every summer his folks loaded up the station wagon with the six kids, themselves, the family dog and Pete the Parakeet and took off for a camping trip. With Mick and his siblings these “vacations” always became an adventure.
Mick was a Boy Scout with his Dad as scoutmaster. From his dad he also gained a fondness for camping, fishing, and hunting. Mick and his siblings grew up living across the street from a canyon where they all spent hours playing army, hiking and catching crawdads. Mick remembered this time in his life with fondness and many chuckles.
In high school he played football and ran track. And, as a teenager he was one of the few people who could dance the "Mashed Potato". He also belonged to a “social club” called “The Sintars.” Mick insisted they were a community-minded club just helping clean up the neighborhood of the less desirables.
In 1962, Mick became a firefighter in the US Forest Service. He worked in the Palomar District of the Cleveland National Forest. He worked his way up to fire truck driver and was in line to make foreman when he was drafted into the Army in 1965. His supervisor told him he could get him a draft deferment but Mick chose to answer his country's call.
Mick went through infantry training and then Airborne training. He planned on being a smokejumper after the Army. In early 1966 Mick was sent to Viet Nam. He was assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade. In his spare time, he drew cartoons of his experiences along the lines of other familiar cartoons drawn during WWII.
On October 2, 1966, while on combat patrol, Mick was hit in the right leg by a recoilless rifle round. He lost his leg and was sent home. He was later awarded the bronze star and purple heart, among other medals.
He spent many months of rehabilitation at Letterman’s General Hospital in San Francisco and continued to be in and out of the V.A. hospitals. There was an infection in his stump that just wouldn’t clear up. He went through 50 years of pain with that, although, to one who didn’t know him, you would never guess there was ever a problem. Mick’s amazing up-beat character and attitude helped to lift others spirits even while he himself was suffering. He was medically discharged from the Army in 1967.
Mick learned to drive a stick shift car with his artificial leg and could even “cut a pretty mean rug”. He could laugh at himself, no matter the circumstance, such as when he was boogying to a lively tune only to have his artificial leg come off.
Even though he had continuous problems with his leg he worked different jobs and tried to deal with his ghosts from Viet Nam. He married his first wife, Ellen in 1968. They had a beautiful daughter, Tami in 1970. Mick and Ellen eventually divorced.
On June 24, 1980 Mick met Lea (Spaulding) and from that day on they were together. They married April 17, 1982. In June of 1982 Mick, Lea and Lea’s 8-year-old son, Rich moved to Helena at the urging of his fellow Sintar and good friend, Don.
Soon after moving to Helena Mick adopted Rich and they developed a strong bond hunting fishing and exploring together. However, his father’s heart truly was torn in leaving his “little babe,” Tami, and his Mom in San Diego. But because the ghosts of Nam still haunted him, he knew he needed to get away from the maddening crowd of the city. In 1983 the family moved to Thompson Falls and never left.
Mick and Lea were a perfect complement to one another…Lea loving the icing between the Oreo cookies, Mick liking the cookie, Mick loving the dark chocolate while Lea loved the light chocolate. Mick was slow and easy going while Lea was hyper and always had some new “idea” brewing. Mick always supported her ideas, no matter how crazy they seemed. He showed so much “unconditional love” throughout their 34 years together.
Mick was instrumental in starting Club SHEC, a youth club where kids could go and “hang out” while still being supervised. He loved the kids and the opportunities to share his testimony of faith with them. Truly, leading worship and praising the Lord where his greatest passions. Mick loved to play his guitar and sing praise and worship to his Heavenly Father. He was never more peaceful than when he could hide away in a room and just strum and pick on his guitar and speak with his Lord about anything that was troubling him.
In 2010 Mick had open-heart surgery. He made an amazing recovery and quickly was back at all his favorite activities. However, in July of 2012 he suffered a massive stroke, which made it impossible to play his guitar. Most thought he would just wither away, but Mick was not a quitter. After spending ten months in intensive rehabilitation at the Retreat in Kalispell, Mick was allowed to come home. He was home for three years before his passing and in those three years he laughed, sang, would flash his million-dollar smile and light up anyone’s disposition, friend or stranger alike. Many were the days that he was the one consoling someone in spite of what he was having to endure. Mick tried sharing Jesus right up to his last breath.
Mick cared about people. He was a great son, brother, dad, husband, father, cousin, uncle and friend. He made friends easily and was always ready to help someone in need. He loved hanging out with his veteran buddies at Minnie’s Café, drinking coffee and just sharing in the camaraderie.
Mick was also very proud of his Little Bear banana split record (eating 62 in one year) and rewarded many of the Sunday school kids who memorized verses or had good attendance with a trip to Little Bear. It was like a challenge to the kids to beat Mick in eating these splits… although many of them had to run outside and purge before finishing. Never did one beat Mick in woofing them down. He loved Deb and Little Bear ice cream parlor, so should you visit there, be sure to let Deb know you are honoring Mickey with your patronage.
Mick was preceded in death by his parents and brothers-in-law, Bob and Terry and his friend and father-in-law, Bill. He is survived by his wife, Lea; his children, Tami (Jimmy) Truijillo and grandchildren Bleu, Raynie and Elijah; Rich (Cara) Herndon with grandchildren Michael, Rachel and Bryson; their adopted son Oscar (Denyse) and grandchildren “Lea” and “Little Mickey”; his five siblings, Pat (Ave); Mary Ambre; John (Maggie); Cathy Harless; Joe (Andrea); his favorite “little buddy”, Josh Chavez and granddaughter, Shay Bengtson and many cousins, nephews, nieces, his mother-in-law, Jeannette and longtime friends Mike and Michelle Bingham, Don and Bev Friend and his two angels Joann Lantz and Denise Black. Mick was a friend to all and a hero to many. “Amazing” is the most appropriate word in describing Mick. Courage, humility and a deep caring for others, is how he lived his life and it is also how he died.
In his final act of caring, Mickey donated his body to medical research. The family will have a “Going Home” party for Mickey August 13 at the Community Congregational church. Details and time will follow.
In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting donations in Mickey’s honor to Compassion International, a program through which he sponsored many children through the years. (Compassion International, 12290 Voyager Parkway, Colorado Springs, CO 80921-3668)