Major Michael Ridge "Juice" Sobyra USMC (Ret) (1954 - 2013)

  • "I've just become aware of Michael's last flight by way of..."
    - Bill Bowers
  • "Mike was my closest friend in this world for 29 years. His..."
    - Brian Todd
  • "I remember Mike in high school as such a kind and..."
    - Therese Dill(Yanes)
  • "Mike was my roommate at Fresno State in 75. He was always..."
    - j. walter
  • "I am so sorry for your loss. May your family find peace and..."
    - Amber Hoover

Michael was born in Tripler Army Hospital on Oahu, Hawaii on March 10, 1954, and passed away on February 10, 2013, following a sudden illness. The son of CWO-2 George and Luella Sobyra, Michael attended Saint Anne's Catholic schools in Porterville and Santa Ana, California, before the family moved to Porterville in 1969.
Michael attended Monache High School, where he excelled in handball, baseball, and football, and was a member of the 1971 Marauder undefeated Eastern Yosemite League Football Championship team, where he was voted Most Inspirational Player. Michael also attended Porterville College, where he again excelled in baseball. He also attended San Diego State University and Fresno State University where he graduated in 1975.
While growing up, Michael began a lawn cutting service in order to pay for a long-range fishing trip. This was the beginning of a life-long love of deep sea fishing, a pastime he would return to again and again throughout his life.
While attending college, Michael began a lifelong career of service to his country when he attended the U.S. Marine Corps' Platoon Leaders Class program for officer training, and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant of Marines upon graduating college. Michael attended The Basic School for Marine lieutenants during the spring of 1976, and graduated in time to witness the Bicentennial of our nation in Washington, D.C. Michael then attended Naval Aviation flight school in Pensacola, Florida and Kingsville, Texas, and earned his Wings of Gold on February 3rd, 1978. His first assignment following graduation from flight school was to Yuma, Arizona where he learned to fly the F-4 Phantom fighter.
Upon qualifying in the Phantom he was assigned to the "Death Rattlers" of Marine Fighter Squadron 323 at El Toro, California where he picked up the call sign "Juice." Within a year of joining the squadron, he was deployed on the USS Coral Sea for a historic deployment to the Persian Gulf during the Iran hostage crisis.
Following his return to the United States, Michael met one of the loves of his life, Christine Pearson. Michael and Chris soon wed, and raised a family of five boys.
During this time, he was hand-picked to attend two prestigious training programs: the "Top Gun" school for fighter pilots and the Marine Corps Aviation Weapons and Tactics Course. In the mid-1980's Michael transferred to Lemoore to train in the newest Marine Corps fighter, the F-18 Hornet. He remained in Lemoore training other fighter pilots where he earned a reputation as a outstanding fighter pilot and instructor. One of the highlights of Michael's career was when he flew an F/A-18 to the Porterville Moonlight Fly-In in 1989, where he was joined by his brother David who flew in a Marine Corps UH-1N helicopter.
Promoted to Major in 1990, he was assigned to the "Death Angels" of Marine Fighter Squadron 235, in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii. As squadron operations officer, he was instrumental in preparing the squadron for deployment to Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Shield, and combat operations during Operation Desert Storm. Michael led a four-ship strike mission into the heart of the Iraqi air defenses on the night of January 16th, earning an Air Medal for Valor during this action. He would go on to fly and lead over 40 combat strikes during Desert Storm. Following his combat service, he returned to Hawaii, and then back to Lemoore and retired from the Marines on September 1, 1993.
Michael then settled in the central valley, living in Visalia and working as a civilian at the Weapons School at Lemoore Naval Air Station. Michael was fortunate to find another love in his life, and married Beth Schriener in 2000. One of Michael's many accomplishments in life was returning to school and graduating from the San Joaquin Valley School of Law in Fresno, with a Juris Doctor degree.
Michael enjoyed life to its fullest. In addition to being a talented athlete, he loved baseball, the Los Angeles Lakers, the manned space program and horse racing, attending races around the country at some of the iconic tracks such as Hollywood Park in Southern California, and Belmont in New York. Michael had a lifelong admiration for the sacrifices of our country's Prisoners of War during the Viet Nam conflict and developed friendships with many of them, respecting and admiring their defense of our country's values under the most difficult conditions imaginable.
Michael's admiration for Law Enforcement was without question, some of his proudest moments were pinning on the California Highway Patrol badge on the chest of his son Jared, and witnessing his son Paul's recognition as Paramedic of the Year in 2012. He often said that many of his heroes were cops. Michael also loved Elvis, and was an avid collector of Elvis memorabilia and trivia. But Michael's most important love was his family.
Michael was preceded in death by his mother, Luella Jane.
He is survived by his dear companion, Diana Martin of Visalia; his father, CWO-2 George R. Sobyra USMC (Ret) of Porterville; son, Jared and wife Krissi and grandsons Kolton and Jakob, of Paso Robles; son Paul of Porterville; daughter Sierra of Woodland; son Bradley Knight and grandson Logan of Edmond, Oklahoma; Stepsons Joshua and wife Lynn of Hanford; Todd Pearson and wife Rebecca of Salinas, and Seth Pearson and wife Erin of San Luis Obispo. He is also survived by sisters, Annie "Blaze" and husband, Ken Green of Porterville, and niece 2LT Ashley Green USAF of Cocoa Beach, Florida; Mary and husband, Eric Bream, and nephew Chandler of Visalia; brother LtCol David Sobyra USMC (Ret) and wife Dana of Fredericksburg, Virginia;. He is also survived by his Uncle Mike, Aunt Pam and cousins Angie, Katy and Robert in Australia; Aunt Barbara of Henderson Nevada, Aunt Jean and cousin Keith Mayberry of Kingman, Arizona; cousins Donnie, Eddie, Karen and Michael of Chicago; Donald, Ginny Lou, and Miles of Oregon; Joanne Fletcher of Porterville; and many family and friends around the world.
Michael's family would like to thank everyone for being his friend. He loves all of you and will be our guardian angel forever.
For friends who wish to do so, Michael's family would be honored for donations made in his name to the Military or Law Enforcement .
A visitation will be at Whitehurst-Peter-Loyd Funeral, 195 N Hockett St., Porterville, CA 93257 (559)784-6485 from 2:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. A graveside service with full Marine Corps honors will be at Hillcrest Cemetery, 1013 E. Olive Ave. Porterville, CA 93257. Time on Target is 1100 hours sharp, plus or minus 30 seconds. For additional information or to sign Michael's register book log on to
Funeral Home
Porterville, CA 93257
(559) 784-6485
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Published in The Porterville Recorder on Feb. 15, 2013
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