I've just learned of Michael's passing. He was such an advocate for his students and I am among the fortunate. He served as senior advisor on my graduate thesis project in 2000-2001. On more than one occasion he nudged (pushed!) me out of my comfort zone. In return I introduced him to my non-linear approach to essay writing -- which fascinated and distressed him in equal measure. His love of ideas made him a good conversationalist. He stood up for unpopular ideas when they held merit. He made me laugh. Santa, he always spoke of you as though he woke up each day to find he had married the woman of his dreams. My condolences to you and your family.
I am sitting here putting the final edits into my Ph D thesis. I just checked my SFU emails where I learned of Michael's passing. Michael was one of my first profs in 1974 at Simon Fraser University. I particularly remember being called to his office where he very kindly sat me down and told me that my 'essay' for History 101 was not an 'essay'... more of a shopping list. It may seem unbelievable to many that I could have entered university not knowing how to write an essay but such was the case back in that day. Michael explained to me what an essay was and indeed was the first person to guide me through the process with sound advice and a respectful and caring manner over the few months that I knew him. Although we did not keep in touch over the years, I have never for one moment forgotten his kindness. More than that... I have never forgotten his faith and belief in my ability to learn to write an essay. I have always remembered his kindness to me at that time and am shocked and saddened to hear of his passing. As a fellow dancer/tap dancer, Santa, I met you a couple of times over the years and I just know that you must be devastated by this loss. I shall never forget Michael. He holds a special place in my heart as an early mentor. I taught school for 35 years and I know that his example in that early History 101 course quite simply made me a better teacher by virtue of his example. My sincerest condolences. The gift of his life was a good one. May you find comfort in his memory. Cheryl Kay
Word of Michael's untimely passing has come, belatedly, to his long-distance friends and colleagues through the history profession's email network. I read it at first with shock and then with gathering sadness tempered by my gratitude for Michael's infectiously vibrant life as a person and a scholar. I first met Michael almost thirty years ago at a history conference in Iowa. Then, as afterward, he was encouraging, funny, and brimming with provocative historical ideas. When my dissertation was plagiarized by another scholar Michael came valiantly to my defense and later helped to get my book published. We met frequently over the years, mainly at history conferences, sharing food, drink, family news, and history shop talk, brought closer by our parallel shift in interest from reform movements to the Civil War, and also by having survived health scares. When my wife and I visited Vancouver Michael walked us through beautiful Stanley Park and he and Santa hosted us graciously at their home. He was a big, generous man with a high-pitched, friendly Midwestern accent who nevertheless delighted in taking contrarian stances and puncturing historical heroes and myths. Michael's books on guerrilla warfare, Sherman, and Lee told important truths and reshaped historians' understanding. And his passionate devotion to family and friends will be remembered and sorely missed. My sincere condolences to Santa and all of Michael's family.
I have many fond memories of Michael that date back to junior high and high school. I especially remember him as being the first boyfriend of my best friend, Susan Nelson Goldsmith. I spent time with Michael and friends Steve Victor, Sharon Lewis, Alana Waisman and others. I wish that I had had the opportunity to know him more in his adult life. His accomplishments were many and it sounds as though he had a wonderful life.
Blessings to Santa and family. You have our deepest sympathy.
Judith (Troia) and John Wettengel
I am so shocked and sorry to hear of Michael's passing. I send you and his whole family sympathy and the acknowledgement of his many talents and his deep compassion and interest in the arts. The Vancouver arts scene is poorer for his loss.