Good-bye and thanks Michele
Good-bye and thanks Michele
Michele Philip died Wednesday, 52-years young. She died after a four-year or so battle against bone cancer, a battle she fought in typical Michele-like fashion, with a stoic elegance. She didn’t complain and if she asked why, she did it privately. She just continued on, fighting on, living life and loving her family like she always did until the end came.
Michele was one of my good friends. The depth of friendship that when the time comes and you try to figure it all out, you can name those friends in life on one hand or so. We didn’t spend a lot of time together, we lived in different towns as adults, we didn’t go to the same schools.
We just seemed to connect and always stayed in touch. It was my pleasure and privilege. I first met Michele when we both worked at an outdoor park in Thomaston. She was about 16 working at the playground there and I was doing maintenance at the park.
We talked every day and some days I knew to make it short and sweet because she wasn’t in the mood for it. Other days, the conversation flowed. It was the beginning of a friendship that lasted a lifetime.
Michele went to hairdressing school later on after graduation from St. Paul High School and cut my hair (when I had more) for more than 20 years). I would make the trek to her house in Bristol and the 10-minute clips turned into a two, two and half hour coffee-consuming catch-up.
We solved world and local problems, caught up on one another’s family and had the world all figured out. It was two and half hours of warmth and friendship.
Sports were often a topic of conversation and when Michele’s son, Mike, graduated from Bristol Eastern High School in 2003 I wrote an article about how Mike had helped turn his mom into a sports fan.
As you will read, at the time I did not use Michele’s last name because quite simply she threatened me with bodily harm. The limelight and headlines were not where Michele wanted to be.
I found the article this week after hearing of Michele’s death. It is kind of special for me, a reminder of who she was, her family and those wonderful haircut days and a better time when life and not death dominated the discussion. More than anything it reminded of a friend.
I have left the article as written but want to add that Michele got see her son Michael married last summer and that she leaves another quality son in Ryan and one good guy in her husband, Philly.
I do have one disclaimer to Philly. I always knew that you shared equally in Mike’s development as an athlete and you also turned Michele into a sports fan. You guys were always one and shared equal billing.
Michele, thanks for letting me be a small part of one quality life. I wish we could have had that last cup of coffee. It is hard now, the world has so many problems for us to solve. You didn’t live as long as we wanted, but you lived as well as we would hope to.
To Philly, Mike, Ryan and the rest of the DuPont and Philipp families – Condolences and a quick journey to the time when Michele’s memory turns the tears of today into the smiles of tomorrow. So much to cherish.
June 16, 2003
Mikey is graduating from high school. There is the familiar, “it doesn’t seem possible and where did the time go” sentiment that goes with it all. And the change. Right off the bat, I guess the `y’ has to be dropped for those who haven’t dropped it already, and Mike or Michael is the preferred title.
Mike is a good kid. He much to look back on from his first 18 years and much for which to be proud. Sports has been a major part of it all. All-State and All-Star maybe not. But he’s been good at everything he has done, a starter and captain on most of his high school teams. He has been a good teammate and a fierce foe, the consummate competitor.
But one of his Mike’s biggest accomplishments is what he did to his mother. Mom had very little to do with his sports before Mike came along. She was never a player and attendance at games during high school days was a social responsibility. She, however, in a very wise move, marry a pretty good athlete.
I have to stop here for a minute to let you that Mike and his mom shall remain nameless. She once threatened to cut my life short if I ever put her name in the paper. So for safety's sake and my own health, I will protect her privacy.
Yet, it’s been a nice story to watch and I suspect one that been experienced in a lot of other households. Sports didn’t bring Mike and mom together it has brought them closer together, one more area of common ground that will cement and an already darn good mother son relationship.
I first met Mike’s mom when she was about 15 she knew the difference between a shot put and shot-gun but didn’t much care. It was high school and the interest was in who was playing not was sport was being played.
Down the road, however, she met and married the love of her life and one of those who had played the game so sports were going to be a part of it all, regardless. Then along came Mikey (he was young then so the `y’ stays).
From the earliest moment, sport was going to be a central part of Mikey’s being. In ice hockey, Mikey showed a real interest and a penchant for the puck. Mom had to learn all about hockey equipment. Pads, helmets, skates and other pieces of protective equipment became part of the weekly routine.
Then there was the travel. Junior hockey leagues don’t exactly thrive in this area. Up and out of the house at 6 a.m. some weekend mornings just to get Mikey to his games, many of them in Milford and other coastal towns.
Mom found out that she actually began to enjoy it all. Not just because Mikey was playing, but because the sport was good. The interest transferred to the Hartford Whalers who were still breathing then. Trips to the Civic Center were common. It wasn’t long before she knew more Whalers than Ahab.
Then there was Little League. Mike played and mom became a Little League mom. Mom did her thing at the snack shack and started taking notice of the major leagues. Mikey began to lose the `y’, growing up. Interests changed but interest in sports did not. Despite solid talent in hockey – travel basketball and other reason led to retirement of the hockey gear.
Still, there was a sport for every season. Soccer, basketball, baseball and most recent years, golf. Mom (and dad) followed and participated. She was there for the injuries, good games, bad games, making sure the physicals were up to date – balancing books and bounces. She was always there.
I would go over to the house and we would talk Whalers, UConn, baseball, high school sports. Often she would tell me of games she had tickets for. Often she knew more than I did.
Mom was there when the UConn women won the NCAA title in Philadelphia in 2000. She knows the GHO. She has met big-timers and been to big-time events. Who would have thought it?
We have sat there and laughed about the thought that if you had told us 25 years ago that she would be a sports fan – we both would laugh.
Mike goes off to college this fall. I think there will be a major void in mom’s schedule. But among the many things Mike and mom will talk about on the phone or when he comes home is sports. Mike many not be playing but now he doesn’t have to be.
Mom is into it. Of all the things Mike has done so far, that is pretty cool. He played a major role in making mom a sports fan. And they are closer than ever.