OBERLIN — We are saddened to announce the death of Marvin Lawrence Michael Kay on Saturday, May 31, 2014, at the age of 86. Michael was a resident of Kendal at Oberlin for the last 18 years of his life.
Michael was an enormously courageous man, pancreatic cancer survivor, who fought the good fight throughout his life and never stopped believing in a brighter day.
Michael was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Sept. 13, 1927. He was a graduate of Lafayette High School in Brooklyn where he excelled academically and played on the football team, frequently playing his high school games at the famed Ebbets Field.
After graduating from high school in 1945 at the age of 17, Michael enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II. As Michael prepared with the Marines for ongoing war in the Pacific, the atomic bomb was dropped on Japan, ending the war. As a result, Michael completed his proud commitment to the Marine Corps at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
Upon returning to civilian life, Michael attended Maryville College in Tennessee, receiving his BA in 1950.
Michael then attended the University of Minnesota and received his doctorate in American history there in 1959. Throughout his academic career, Michael focused much of his research, writings, and teaching in the area of African American history, specifically slavery during the colonial period.
While attending the University of Minnesota during the spring of 1952, Michael met his beloved wife Betty Ruth. Their first date was at a Quaker Picnic at UM. They became engaged while visiting in New Orleans, Betty Ruth's hometown, on Thanksgiving Day 1952 and they were married in New Orleans on April 5, 1953.
After returning to the University of Minnesota, Michael and Betty Ruth began their 43-year life together and began building their family. The first three of seven children were born as Michael and Betty Ruth attended UM, three more in San Jose, Calif., and and their last child was adopted while living in Kennett Square, Pa.
Michael's work as an American history professor took Betty Ruth and family across the United States and around the world. In chronological order, Michael taught and did research at San Jose State University in California, the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, Alfred University in New York state, and Westchester State College in Pennsylvania before settling in Toledo, Ohio, where Michael taught at the University of Toledo for over 25 years.
Betty Ruth died on Christmas Day 1996 and Michael was her greatest supporter. Betty Ruth distinguished herself in countless ways. A few of her enormous contributions include being the co-founder of an educational children's toy company in 1964, still thriving in Australia K and K Creative Toys, the driving force behind the creation of the Nathan Hale Community Center and After School Program in Toledo, Ohio, as well as the founder of Bittersweet Farms, the foremost community for autistic adults in the United States, which is located in northwestern Ohio. Betty Ruth was posthumously inducted for her commitment to community service into the Ohio Women's Hall of Fame in 1998.
In addition to being a loving father and one of the foremost historians in his chosen field, Michael committed his life to the ongoing struggle for peace and social justice. In recent years, Michael was extremely active on behalf of the Democratic Party, the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, and the American Friends Service Committee, traveling on several occasions to Guatemala and Colombia with Witness for Peace and protesting annually at the School for the Americas.
Michael is survived by his loving children, listed by age: Mandy, Jonny, Danny, and Ceri. Michael was also deeply loved by his eight grandchildren, Jeremiah, Lindsay, Marcus, Jonathan, Taylor, Danny, Evan, and Willa.
Michael will be greatly missed and will continue to inspire us all.
A memorial service will be held to celebrate Michael Kay's life on June 15 at 3 p.m. in the Kendal at Oberlin auditorium. The family welcomes donations to Bittersweet Farms (www.bittersweetfarms.org) or Witness for Peace (www.witnessforpeace.org). Arrangements by Dicken Funeral Home and Cremation Service, Elyria. For online condolences, visit www.dickenfuneralhome.com.