Life Story / Obituary
Michael J. Maitner was an energetic and loving man, known for his big heart, his incredible sense of humor and his intoxicating love for life. He was athletically talented and loved the toys of the “big boys”. Most importantly, he was a devoted son, brother, uncle, and friend.
The year 1954 was a year of interesting and varied events. On May 7, construction started on the Mackinac Bridge. On August 16, volume 1, issue 1 of Sports Illustrated was published. And in the NFL Championship game, the Cleveland Browns beat the Detroit Lions, 56 – 10. For James and Lois (Johnson) Maitner, living in Grand Rapids, 1954 was also a year of interesting events. Already the proud parents of a daughter Cheryl, on May 8, 1954 they celebrated the birth of their son, Michael.
Young Michael came into this world at full blast and never stopped. He had two modes of living – running and sleeping. His father recalls saying, “If you hear the screen door slam, you’d better chase after him or he’ll be out of sight!” He attended North Oakview Elementary School and approached each day with energy and excitement. He loved sports and started playing at age 7. He especially loved football and his first experience was on a Rocket Football team. While a student at Northview High School, he excelled in sports, playing baseball, wrestling and his favorite, football. His prowess in football earned him the honor of being named to the All-State team. Not content to just play those sports, he also found time to downhill ski during Michigan’s snowy winters. But giving back was important to Mike, even as a teenager, so he became a member of the National Ski Patrol, guarding the slopes and aiding other skiers. He went on to graduate from Olivet College in 1976 with a BA in business administration, but found time to be on the Olivet football team.
Mike had always been a people person. He got his greatest joy out of life by helping others. He loved kids, but had none of his own, so he lavished his love and attention on his nieces and nephews, and the kids of his friends. He was known as “Uncle Mike” to one and all and they all loved him. It was not unusual for him to take someone’s kids out for a meal, so that their parents could have some time alone. Everyone benefited from this – parents, kids, and especially “Uncle Mike”. A compassionate and loving man, he helped his sister Cheryl raise her 2 children after her husband left. His nephew Ryan said “ He was more of a father to me than an uncle,” and as further honor, became the godfather to Ryan’s son, Riley. His niece, Dawn, remembers Uncle Mike coming to the rescue with much needed funds when her college money ran out.
Mike not only gave to his family, but also to his community. An active member of the Gun Lake Community Church, he served the church and the congregation in several different roles. Friends remember when the church was selling flowers for a fundraiser, Mike bought 20 and then handed them out to people he met – just to see the smiles on their faces.
A salesman by trade, it was the perfect job for this man of boundless energy and enthusiasm. His father often remarked, “He could sell ice to an Eskimo.” Mike used his selling skills as the National Sales Manager for SBC Datacom. But life was not all work and no play. Mike loved to play, especially with the “toys of the big boys”. He had always been interested in cars. His first car was a mustang, which he fixed up and painted his high school colors. Another time, he had entered one of his corvettes in a car show. With his salesman’s finesse, he talked his mother into going and dusting off the car every day of the show. “Toys” were his hobby – jet skis, boats, cars, 4-wheelers, anything with a motor. And he ran them all at the same speed – full throttle. He indulged his hobby by owning M&M Motorsports, racing late model cars at the Kalamazoo Speedway.
Mike liked both country and rock music, and especially liked the music of Jimmy Buffet. The license plate on one of his Firebirds reads “Parrothead”, the name given to Jimmy Buffet fans. Mike liked spending time at his home on Payne Lake, and shared that home with his family of dogs, many of whom had been rescued and given a home – courtesy of Mike. He had enjoyed several skiing trips, to Vail and Big Sky, but would rather stay at home with friends than go on vacation alone.
Michael J. Maitner, aged 49, died Friday, April 9, 2004. He was preceded in death by his mother, Lois Maitner. Michael’s family includes his father, James Maitner; sister, Cheryl (Richard) Casterline; nephew, Ryan (Ginele) Johnson; niece, Dawn Johnson; great nephews, Riley and Conner Johnson; and his many close friends in the Gun Lake Community. The funeral service will be held at 12 PM on Wednesday, April 14, 2004 at Gun Lake Community Church, 12200 West M-179 Hwy., Wayland, MI. Friends and relatives may meet his family at the Van Strien Creston Chapel, 1833 Plainfield NE on Tuesday from 3-5 and 7-9 P.M. and on Wednesday at the church from 11 AM until the time of the service. Interment will be in Fairplains Cemetery. You may read Michael’s life story, leave a memory or make a contribution to Gun Lake Community Church or Paws with a Cause by visiting his personal web page at www.lifestorynet.com.