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Life Story / Obituary
Steven M. Ross (Mike), age 75, of Fremont, MI, surrounded in love by his partner of 35 years, Judith (Judy) Thome, and 3 special friends, Trevor Hengehold, Sue Owens, and Renzo Tormen, passed peacefully into the night on Wednesday, November 30, 2016 after a long and courageous battle with heart disease, diabetes, and kidney failure. Mike’s mother, Maureen “Marley” Ross, his adopted father, Winston Ross, and his birth father, Ervin Christopher Shofner, preceded him in death.
Mike is survived by his partner and the love of his life, Judith (Judy) Thome and her extended family. He also leaves behind his daughters, Margo (Greg) Necaise of Pearl River, Louisiana, Jodie L. (Danny) Hastings of Sammamish, WA; grandchildren, Aimee (Tyler) Kamstra, Emily Hastings and her fiancé Hanspeter Ziegler; great granddaughter, Emerson Kamstra; the mother of his children, Amaryllis “Mellie” Lamey-Shofner; and half brother, Darren J. Reale. Mike’s favorite Uncle Jerry Lyle and the extended Lyle family also survive him.
Mike came roaring into the world in Chattanooga, TN April 21, 1941. He was ready for action! The world became his canvas as he went from adventure to adventure, satisfied his insatiable curiosity, and pursued a purposeful life.
Mike grew up in upstate New York as a young child. He would eventually move to New York City with his mother and settle into a world of endless museums to explore, theatre productions to enjoy, trouble to get into, and become a member of the prestigious Saint Thomas Church Boys’ Choir. During the summers, he attended Lake Delaware Boys Camp in upstate New York where he began to hone his leadership and rifle marksmanship skills.
As a teen, the coast of California beckoned Mike and his mother. They relocated to Santa Ana, CA where Mike swam in the ocean, worked on a buffalo ranch, spent time with his Uncle Jerry, and tried to sit still and pay attention in high school. Since he was smarter than his teachers, was bored with school, and had other more interesting things to do that he had read about in books, Mike decided to see the world that he had read about thru the lens of the United States Air Force.
Mike was inducted into the Air Force in 1958 at the age of 17 and retired after 20 years as a Master Sergeant/E7. During his time in the Air Force, Mike did see the world. Mike saw combat action at Plieku during the Vietnam War. He also flew combat support missions over Laos and Cambodia as on-board Avionics and Radio Operations support on the AC-7 Caribou. He spent time in Africa, Holland, Europe, and everywhere else in between. He loved the service for its discipline, opportunities for achievement, leadership skills he could develop, the chance to further improve upon his rifle marksmanship. He was on the Air Force Rifle Team and the Air Force Archery Team. He participated in rifle matches in Colorado and Mississippi. He also had the opportunity to become involved with new cutting edge military satellite operations
Mike became an expert at top secret satellite guidance systems. Whenever there were problems to solve, Mike was the one the military called upon. He was a US Air Force Master Instructor. (It takes about 9 months of additional training and over 5,000 hours of platform instruction to get to this level of instructor expertise.) His classes were engaging and challenging for all those who attended while he taught his students the lessons to be learned. The military became his new family, a training ground and springboard for future things to come.
In 1963, Mike married Amaryllis “Mellie” Lamey in Biloxi, Mississippi. This marriage spanned 17 years and resulted in the birth of his two daughters. During the years of his marriage, Mike lived with his family in New York, Arizona, Colorado, and lastly on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. During his years on the coast, Mike was a part of the large Lamey extended family; grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Wonderful memories were created there with many adventures to be had with the various members of the Lamey family. His many fond memories of that time included fishing, shrimping, crabbing, soft shelling, and even one late night trip hunting frogs. Mike was known to say of this time in his life, “We didn’t have much, but we sure ate well.”
After retiring from the Air Force on July 31, 1978, Mike’s next stopping-off point took him into the emerging world of Cable Television and Ted Turner. He became Chief Engineer for a cable operation in Mississippi, and then relocated to a larger cable company in Grand Rapids, MI as Manger of Engineering. During that time, Mike taught himself how to write computer software programs in support of warehouse inventory and accounts payable. He eventually designed and wrote software to manage cable advertising sales, a new and exciting revenue stream for cable television franchises. He became a pioneer in the industry with this endeavor.
In 1981, Mike met Judy, who would become his partner for the next 35 years. It was an instant connection when they met. Friendship grew into something deeper, and they were together until Mike took his last breath.
Never one to let the grass grow for too long, Mike left his job at the cable company and struck out on his own with his partner, Judy, in tow. They started up a software development company that would expand upon the software he originally wrote for cable ad sales. CCMS (Cable Computerized Management Systems) was born, officially incorporated in 1983. By the time the business was sold in 1996, with Mike at the helm, CCMS had become the leading supplier of software for the cable ad sales industry, had captured 60% of the market place worldwide, and had grown from a two person start-up business to 25 employees. To this day, a software interface program that Mike designed and wrote continues to be the standard interface protocol used in every cable television advertising sales operation around the globe. Mike made a significant impact in the cable industry. His reputation as an innovator there remains to this day.
After the business was sold, Mike, followed a dream instilled in him as a young person at Camp Delaware and in the Air Force, competition shooting. He formed a new business, Ross Precision Manufacturing. He built an inventors dream of a workshop laboratory, and designed and manufactured the ultimate high power long range competition rifle that was the talk of the shooting community worldwide. Mike’s stock and action design earned the reputation of product excellence and high performance. Davis Love III, professional golfer, has one of Mike’s rifles!
While managing his rifle business, Mike found the time to become involved in competition shooting again with the rifles he built. After all, he had to prove his designs worked! In the State of Michigan, he earned the title of “Top Gun” along with the respect and friendship of his peers. Mike is a humble man and always said, depending upon who shows up at rifle matches, that is the indicator who will take top prize. He always showed up. Mike also competed at NRA sponsored competitions at Camp Perry in Ohio. He earned the titles of Master for NRA High Power Competition, High Master for NRA Long Range Competition, and Master for NRA Small Bore Prone Competition. Mikes crowning achievement was to shoot a perfect 10X clean, ten shots right in the center circle of a target from a very, very long distance away. You could only see the target with high power binoculars!
Mike took many a trip to visit his mother and Winston at their farm outside Montrose, Pennsylvania over the years. The twenty-five acre property was nestled in the rolling hills and valleys of this beautiful mountainous area of the state. It even had its own lake! Winston would catch a bunch of fish and then keep them in the bathtub until he was ready to prepare them to eat! Mike loved this area of the country and especially the company of Winston and his mother. There was never a dull moment during his visits.
The Scottish heritage of his mother and Winston intrigued Mike to the point of traveling to a tailor in Scotland to be outfitted in the traditional Scottish Highland attire of his ancestry, the Ross clan. Mike was very proud to wear the Ross tartan kilt with all of its embellishments at various events. When Winston died, Mike donned his Scottish attire to honor him at a most memorable funeral service. Visitation with family and friends was conducted afterwards, overlooking the lake on the farm with the wail of a single Scottish bagpipe being played on a near-by hill.
Fun was also an important ingredient in his life. Travel satiated his curiosity for far-away places. His travels started out on Marco Island, Fl and expanded from there - Grand Cayman, St Thomas, Bermuda, Mexico, Nova Scotia, Quebec, Kenya, England, Germany, Holland, Scotland, Alaska, and almost every state in the union.
Mike learned to downhill ski and took up golf. He liked to try new things. He was fearless in both endeavors.
Reading was Mike’s way of escaping into other worlds that only one’s imagination could travel. He was a voracious reader of books with an emphasis on science fiction and anything of an historical nature. Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings were some of his favorites. Mike learned to navigate the Internet with the help of his daughter, Jodie, which opened up even more doors to satisfy his curiosity. He even learned how to operate an I Pad!
Going to the movies was one of his favorite Sunday afternoon past-times. Big Bang Theory was his all time fun TV show. After watching endless repeats of this show, he knew the dialogue by heart, and always roared with laughter at his favorite “tiara” episode. He even named a runaway cat that adopted him, Sheldon. He was the king of Trivial Pursuit. Players often accused him of memorizing the answers. He was also a Master Bridge player.
Mike always looked forward to an evening at the symphony, especially when Carmina Burana was presented. Then there were the concerts at Meijer Gardens with the Beach Boys, Garrison Keillor, Yanni, The Eagles, Doobie Brothers, Santana, and others. He loved the comedian, Lewis Black, and was mesmerized with Neil DeGrasse Tyson. Of course, he was beyond thrilled one Christmas when he was given tickets to an Aerosmith concert with Steven Tyler. He actually, literally bumped into him in Birmingham, England while on a business trip. Mike was so befuddled when Steven Tyler suddenly appeared out of nowhere that the only thing he could think of to do was give him a royal salute!
“Cook-outs at the cabin” became an annual Michigan family tradition on Memorial Day Weekends. The grill would be fired up, family brought dishes to pass, and even a friendly family rifle match would ensue with prizes for the best shot. (Mike had his own personal shooting range on his property in Fremont.) A good time was always enjoyed by all.
Mike was a big fan of Australian adventurer Sir Hubert Wilkins, who gained international renown for his pioneering flights in the Arctic and Antarctic. Mike’s father, Winston Ross, was Sir Hubert’s personal secretary. Mike helped Australian historian, Jeff Maynard, fill in the blanks about Sir Hubert’s life from information passed down to him from Winston. It was a book project Mike was proud to be involved with.
No stone was left unturned when it came to discovering new things about the world around him, learning new sports skills, enjoying the arts, having fun with friends and family, and having a good laugh along the way.
Mike was a man of the people. A special friend said that Mike was strong, brilliant, determined, brave, and inspirational. “He found people who wanted to be something and helped them become it.” His passion was to make a difference in the lives of others, to help them move beyond the impossible toward the possible.
A favorite niece remarked that she was “grateful that he is part of our family and that we’ve enjoyed his wisdom, stories of adventure, and enlightening and entertaining conversations over the years. He is one of a kind and we are lucky to know him. We have so many fond memories that will bring smiles to our faces for years to come.” He was loved.
The poem, Invictus, by William Ernest Henly, reflects the strength, bravery, and conviction of decisions Mike made as the light started to fade. It was a favorite of his and sustained him through previous health crises. “It matters not how strait the gate. How charged with punishments the scroll. I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul.” In the end, Mike was indeed captain of his soul.
Mike came into this world with a bang and with a vast curiosity about the world and everything in it. He developed a purpose driven life, hoping to make a difference in the world with a love for the common man. He was a hero to some, a friend and confidant to others, a dad to his children, grandpa Mike to his grandchildren, great grandpa to his new great granddaughter, and to his partner, Judy, his “Best Love”. He was generous, kind, and humble. He accomplished much in his 75 years. He made every day count. Mike was a remarkable man, who lived an extraordinary life, and did it his way. He will be deeply missed by so many. One of the last things he always told his daughter, Jodie, at the end of their weekly phone calls, “Do something good today.” Sounds like a plan.
Mike’s family wishes to thank the doctors and nursing staff at St. Mary’s Hospital and the Lacks Center for their commitment to Mike through their care and support. The family is forever grateful to the staff at Faith Hospice, Trillium Woods, for their dedication to Mike’s comfort during his final hours.
Friends are welcome to meet with Mike’s family, toast his life with a shot of his favorite Scotch, celebrate his life, reminisce, tell stories, laugh, and to say their last good-byes at the Heritage Life Story and Funeral Home, Alt & Shawmut Hills Chapel, 2120 Lake Michigan Dr. NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504 on Friday, December 9, 2016 from 2:00 to 4:00 pm and 6:00 to 8:00 pm.
According to Mike’s wishes, he will be cremated. Inurnment will be at Fort Custer National Cemetery with full military honors at a later date.