Editor's note: Each week we share the life stories of residents who have died recently. Maybe you don't know them, but their stories are worth knowing. If you have a suggestion for someone to be featured, email email@example.com or call 651-321-4314.
“Big Mike” Almond will be remembered for his smile, his laugh, his caring nature, his initiatives and his hugs. He left a mark on his Superior, Wis., community, and friends say his loss will be noticed.
“He was bigger than life and the big size of him, he had big arms to reach around everybody,” retired Superior Community Policing Officer Bonnie Beste said.
Almond’s reach included founding an annual child safety event at the Superior Public Library; teaming up Superior police officers with children from all backgrounds for floor hockey games, bowling and trips; spearheading a diversity committee at Northern Lights Elementary School; serving on the city Parks and Recreation Committee and as a statewide representative of the Parent Teacher Association.
“Everybody has got great stories about him and how they’ve been involved with Mike,” Beste said. “He’s touched a lot of people and the community is going to miss him and notice that he’s gone.”
- Mark Ertelt made music his passion, and bartending his vocation
- The week before his 18th birthday, Leo Lenzen saw a nuclear bomb explode
- In her 105 years, Martha Westlund witnessed history, and some amazing sunsets
- Betty Truitt worked to help others, to repay the kindness of those who helped her first
Friendly jokes and a shared background brought Almond and John Staine together roughly nine years ago through the Superior-Douglas County YMCA.
Between his positive attitude, their shared New York background (Almond was from Brooklyn, Staine from the Bronx) and having daughters close to the same age, the two became friends.
“Mike’s been like a brother to me,” Staine said. “We were real with each other; there wasn’t no fakeness. We could be ourselves.”
When Almond saw a problem, he’d search for a solution. He was, say those who know him, a man of action. Not only would he come up with the idea, he would carry it out. Almond had a gift for getting people involved and bridging divides.
And he could be persistent, according to Chris Stenberg, chief executive officer of the Superior-Douglas County YMCA. Stenberg recalled how Almond, a former boxer, asked repeatedly for a heavy bag to be installed in the men’s locker room. Eventually, they compromised with a portable heavy bag in a classroom.
Almond enjoyed barbecues, was a Dallas Cowboys fan and had just finished remodeling his house, Staine said. Above all, Almond was a father of four daughters.
"He loved his kids; he and his kids were close," Staine said. "He was proud of them."
The members at the YMCA, who would see Almond nearly every day, have taken his death hard. Almond really cared about people and took the time to know them, Stenberg said. He encouraged others, and made them feel valued.
"He connected with everyone here," Stenberg said.
In the days since Almond's death, members and staff have shared stories with each other, memories of their friend.
"Talking about Mike always ends with a smile," Stenberg said.
The big New Yorker with a heart for the community will be missed, but his legacy may live on. Stenberg has already heard people talking about stepping up to carry on Almond's projects or help in other ways.
"I think the legacy inspires others, when they see what he's done, when they hear it, they say, 'You know, I would like to carry that on, because I can see that this is important and that there's a gap, and I'd like to step in,'" Stenberg said. "I think generosity inspires others."