Capitol - Your Illinois News Radar » Uncle Mike
SUBSCRIBE to Capitol Fax      Advertise Here      Mobile Version     Exclusive Subscriber Content     Updated Posts    Contact
To subscribe to Capitol Fax, click here.
Uncle Mike

Tuesday, Aug 30, 2016

* From my syndicated newspaper column in October of 1998…

Drivers license corruption didn’t start under George Ryan, of course. My Uncle Mike tells a great story about when he first moved to Illinois from Indiana almost 30 years ago after marrying my Aunt Jean.

Mike grew up in rural Hoosier Land hearing lots of stories about how terribly corrupt Illinois was.

His worst fears were confirmed when he went to take his driving test at the local license bureau. “Leave a five dollar bill on the seat,” someone whispered to him.

Uncle Mike was finally facing the evil he had heard so much about. And being a reasonably honest individual unaccustomed to the ways of a barbarous land, and not having a lot of extra cash on him, he decided he would refuse to play the game.

Well, Uncle Mike flunked the test, of course. But the next time he took the exam he left some cash on the seat before he got out of the car. Lo and behold, he passed with flying colors.

Mike currently lives a blissful existence back across the state line.

My Uncle Mike died last night, his daughter and his wife were both at his side.

He was such a great guy. Very funny, very gentle, very sweet.

* He was one of those people who had a joke for every occasion. I asked him once if he had volunteered for the Army. “Volunteered? I still have splinters under my fingernails from when they dragged me off!”


When he was a kid, his mom gave him a diary. He read it to me once, speaking in the voice of a child. It went something like, “Today, I played cowboy.” Turn the page. “Today, I played cowboy.” Turn the page. “Today, I played cowboy.” Turn the page, “Today, I played fireman.”

You had to be there.

* Mike learned to fly an airplane when I was young and I flew with him several times and even went through the study guides with him while he worked to get a commercial license. He taught me about clouds, aerodynamics, you name it. It was so easy to learn things from him because he was such a patient, kind man. We were sitting at his kitchen bar table studying together one night and he started telling jokes and I literally fell off my chair laughing. I don’t remember a single one of those jokes, but I’ll never forget that long fall off that high bar stool. No blood, no foul. I got up laughing.

He bought a motorcycle back in the day and would take me for rides. We were pulled over by the cops near my grandma’s house in Ashkum once because I wasn’t wearing sunglasses. He bought me a pair and later that day a bug or something hit my glasses and they cracked. Thank goodness for the cop. I don’t think I ever did tell my mom that story.

* Mike wasn’t somebody who worried too much about his career. He tried numerous occupations, never settling on one. He never really had much money and he never seemed to care all that much. He had a house, a great wife and lived in the town where he was born and raised, always surrounded by good friends and a strong family. He did, indeed, live in bliss.

Remington, Indiana was kind of a paradise to me when I was a kid. I lived on a farm in Iroquois County at the time, so our closest neighbor kids were over a mile away. Mike’s nieces and nephews lived near his house and they and their pals were all around my age, so we became fast friends. I don’t remember any of them ever once causing any trouble. They were such good kids, but so much fun to hang out with, always laughing and smiling. And then I’d go back to Mike and Jean’s house and listen to show tunes. My Aunt Jean, my mom’s sister, was a big fan of show tunes. I think I memorized the entire “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” album at one point. It was a home away from home. An oasis of calm and constant mirth.

* I was nine when my cousin Tracy was born. She was the first girl on my mom’s side of the family, so she was always special. Tracy got her sense of humor and much of her sweetness from her dad and she shared a story yesterday about her childhood…

Remembering riding my pony Brownie for the first time. I was 4. I had lifesavers in my jean pocket. I had dad as my coach. Around the maple tree I went one way. Then around the other way. I was clearly a prodigy at horseback riding. It was going great. I don’t know what got into Brownie but he took off with me fast. I was in the alley by Dotty Bahler’s house when dad told me to jump. I just did that. I trusted my dad to know the right course of action. I lost my lifesavers, and that was crushing, but I landed in soft grass with no injuries. My pony was found by the laundromat. I have never trusted another man more than this man. Generally he has given me good ideas for a long time.

* My mom called from Mike’s hospital room a couple of days ago and put me on speaker so I could talk to him. She warned me that he probably wouldn’t respond. But he perked up when he heard my voice and we managed a conversation. I told him I loved him. It was the last thing I said to him before he passed.

Today, Mom sent me a photo of a framed copy of my 1998 column that was hanging on Uncle Mike’s bedroom wall. That’s when I started writing this post. And that’s when I also decided that I’m going to take the rest of the day off.

* Here’s a photo taken by my brother Devin of Uncle Mike and Aunt Jean…

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - South of Sherman - Tuesday, Aug 30, 16 @ 2:43 pm:

    Sorry for your loss, Rich. Take care of yourself.

  2. - Ron Burgundy - Tuesday, Aug 30, 16 @ 2:50 pm:

    Very touching. Condolences, Rich.

  3. - thunderspirit - Tuesday, Aug 30, 16 @ 2:51 pm:

    Great stories and memories. Peace to you and your family, Rich.

  4. - Barton Lorimor - Tuesday, Aug 30, 16 @ 2:52 pm:

    = Uncle Mike died last night, his daughter and his wife were both at his side. =

    = …we managed a conversation. I told him I loved him. It was the last thing I said to him before he passed. =

    Lucky man. It sounds like he got to reap what he had sown.

    Sympathies, Miller Family. Jenny, Robin, and I love you guys. You have my phone number for whatever whenever.

  5. - Big Joe - Tuesday, Aug 30, 16 @ 2:57 pm:

    So sorry for your loss, Rich. Great stories. Sounds like your uncle was a really great guy.
    RIP, Uncle Mike.

  6. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Aug 30, 16 @ 3:02 pm:

    Thank you for sharing, and my best thoughts to you and your family. He sounds like he was a hell of a great guy.

  7. - Belle - Tuesday, Aug 30, 16 @ 3:03 pm:

    So hard when the icons of our childhood pass-away. They play such a big part in our lives by helping us become who we are and nurture us in a way our parents cannot.
    I am so sorry, Rich.

  8. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Aug 30, 16 @ 3:04 pm:


    My sincere condolences to you and your family.

    What a wonderful post for a very special man.

    My deepest sympathies.

  9. - cgo75 - Tuesday, Aug 30, 16 @ 3:06 pm:

    So sorry for your loss….Uncle Mike sounds like he was a special person.

  10. - Jerry Callo - Tuesday, Aug 30, 16 @ 3:08 pm:

    Rich, Thanks for sharing a few words about a very special man.

  11. - illini - Tuesday, Aug 30, 16 @ 3:09 pm:

    My deepest condolences and sincerest sympathies.

    Very moving tribute.

    Hoping everyone has that special uncle or aunt that will always be important to them.

  12. - JoanP - Tuesday, Aug 30, 16 @ 3:11 pm:

    I’m so sorry for your loss, Rich. He sounds like a wonderful man.

    “He had a house, a great wife and lived in the town where he was born and raised, always surrounded by good friends and a strong family.”

    And there’s the recipe for a happy life, I think.

  13. - Levois - Tuesday, Aug 30, 16 @ 3:14 pm:

    This was a very touching tribute. So very sorry for your loss. You depicted for us how he was as a person.

  14. - Concerned - Tuesday, Aug 30, 16 @ 3:18 pm:

    I am sorry for your loss. Your gift of words is a fitting tribute to your Uncle.

  15. - Huh? - Tuesday, Aug 30, 16 @ 3:20 pm:

    You have written your remarks for his funeral services.

    He sounds like the kind of uncle every kid needs.

  16. - DuPage - Tuesday, Aug 30, 16 @ 3:26 pm:

    Sorry about your loss, Rich.

  17. - West Side The Best Side - Tuesday, Aug 30, 16 @ 3:26 pm:

    Very touching and moving tribute for a common man, backbone of America type guy. Sorry for your loss.

  18. - Kirk Dillard - Tuesday, Aug 30, 16 @ 3:28 pm:

    Super tribute! Very sorry for your loss of a man I’d have loved to know too. We all need family like Uncle Mike. Again, I loved your heartwarming column and the Uncle Mike’s of the world–they are rare– we need to cherish.

  19. - SOIL M - Tuesday, Aug 30, 16 @ 3:28 pm:

    Rich,My sincere condolences to you and your Family.
    Thank you for sharing great memories of a great man. Hope you and your Family find peace thru this time with memories and stories just like what you shared with us.

  20. - Mason born - Tuesday, Aug 30, 16 @ 3:29 pm:

    Sounds like a special soul. You’re a lucky man Mr. Miller.

  21. - Team Sleep - Tuesday, Aug 30, 16 @ 3:31 pm:

    I haven’t posted anything on here in well over 5 months, but this is different. I’m sorry for your loss, Rich, and I’m praying that you find comfort during this time.

  22. - G'Kar - Tuesday, Aug 30, 16 @ 3:32 pm:

    So sorry for your loss.

  23. - walker - Tuesday, Aug 30, 16 @ 3:34 pm:

    Life well-lived.

  24. - City Zen - Tuesday, Aug 30, 16 @ 3:39 pm:

    Great memories. Thanks for sharing!

  25. - @MisterJayEm - Tuesday, Aug 30, 16 @ 3:45 pm:

    Thank you for sharing your Uncle Mike with us, Rich.

    – MrJM

  26. - BBG Watch - Tuesday, Aug 30, 16 @ 3:46 pm:

    My sincere condolences on the loss of your uncle. May his memory be eternal.

  27. - A guy - Tuesday, Aug 30, 16 @ 3:46 pm:

    Those stories are still causing laughter both here and in that “less worldly” place. Guys like him teach you how to live before they stop livin’.
    Condolences and Good thoughts. Really good. AG

  28. - lady - Tuesday, Aug 30, 16 @ 4:04 pm:

    What a great life he had. You were very lucky to have him in your life

  29. - Arthur Andersen - Tuesday, Aug 30, 16 @ 4:10 pm:

    My condolences to you and your family on the loss of Uncle Mike. Your column was a touching tribute. Take care.

  30. - Streator Curmudgeon - Tuesday, Aug 30, 16 @ 4:22 pm:

    Some guys are billionaires in the things that really matter.

    I’m sorry for your loss, Rich.

  31. - Threepwood - Tuesday, Aug 30, 16 @ 4:28 pm:

    These are the things that matter. I’m truly sorry for your loss. But also, to paraphrase a friend: I’m glad you get to miss him.

  32. - Zoe - Tuesday, Aug 30, 16 @ 4:35 pm:

    so sorry for your loss, Rich - condolences to all of Uncle Mike’s family and friends

  33. - Anon221 - Tuesday, Aug 30, 16 @ 4:51 pm:

    Live. Love. Laugh.

    You and he had all three:)

    Thank you for sharing your memories of a life well lived.

  34. - blue dog dem - Tuesday, Aug 30, 16 @ 5:02 pm:

    Take comfort in the thought that you will meet again.

  35. - Amalia - Tuesday, Aug 30, 16 @ 5:17 pm:

    deepest condolences for your loss. And thank you for sharing such wonderful stories, today and always here in this room. This is the way we relate even when we disagree on issues. Family, friends, music, laughter. Remember the chuckles you had with him!

  36. - Decatur gal - Tuesday, Aug 30, 16 @ 5:29 pm:

    Bless your Uncle Mike, he sounds like a wonderful man. Deepest condolences.

  37. - FormerParatrooper - Tuesday, Aug 30, 16 @ 5:46 pm:

    My deepest condolences to you and your family. Thank you for sharing those memories, as they are a testament to a generation that is rapidly leaving us.

  38. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Aug 30, 16 @ 5:53 pm:

    I loved the funny stories about your uncle. Thanks for sharing.

    My deepest sympathies are with you and your family.

  39. - tch02 - Tuesday, Aug 30, 16 @ 6:01 pm:

    My sympathies to you and your family. Thanks for sharing the memories of your uncle!

  40. - Grandson of Man - Tuesday, Aug 30, 16 @ 6:07 pm:

    Great and touching post, Rich. Deepest condolences to you and yours for the loss of your beloved uncle.

  41. - Dan Johnson - Tuesday, Aug 30, 16 @ 6:21 pm:

    Thanks for sharing the story of a great guy. I’m sorry you have to part ways.

  42. - perry noya - Tuesday, Aug 30, 16 @ 6:53 pm:

    Rich, I had an uncle in my life, also a pilot, also from the rural Midwest, who was likewise as important to me as yours. Your elegy was so eloquent, it brought back memories of him. Thank you.

  43. - Slippin' Jimmy - Tuesday, Aug 30, 16 @ 7:14 pm:

    Uncle Mike sounds like he was a great human being. Very sorry you lost him. He was obviously very close to you.
    Very touching and please accept my deepest sympathy.

  44. - Behind the Scenes - Tuesday, Aug 30, 16 @ 9:23 pm:

    Everyone needs an “Uncle Mike” in their lives.

    The lucky ones do.

    The luckiest uncles need someone to remember them as you just did.

  45. - Property of IDOC - Tuesday, Aug 30, 16 @ 9:37 pm:

    Sincere sympathy, sent with love and blessings to you and your family.

  46. - PublicServant - Wednesday, Aug 31, 16 @ 6:17 am:

    Sounds like a great uncle, Rich. My condolences on your loss.

  47. - Silent Majority - Wednesday, Aug 31, 16 @ 6:47 am:

    Godspeed on your journey Mr. Miller….

  48. - New Slang - Wednesday, Aug 31, 16 @ 8:24 am:

    Rich, you’re a great storyteller when you talk about things very personal to you. This short post read like a short story, leaving me wanting to know more. I’m sorry for your loss; what a character your Uncle was…and what a wonderful life he lived.

  49. - Anon - Wednesday, Aug 31, 16 @ 8:39 am:

    When I lost my wife, I was no where near as eloquent as you. Thank you for putting into words some of the same (similar) feelings I have had. Obviously the situations are different, but again, thank you for coherently and beautifully explaining how someone can touch your life in ways that may not always be apparent.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

* Open thread and another LSSI reminder
* In defense of Mary Todd Lincoln on her 200th birthday
* Caption contest!
* Rauner says he'll file end of term report, clear clemency backlog
* Question of the day: Golden Horseshoe Awards
* Pritzker roundup
* Cook County Public Guardian sues DCFS: "Abject moral and human rights failure"
* Mendoza signature clearance rate is high during first round
* Your holiday season moment of Zen
* Pritzker criticized over lack of Active Transportation Alliance members on his transition committee
* Color me skeptical
* Pritzker heading to White House today
* Sen. Schimpf wants Satanic sculpture removed from rotunda as Rep. Bryant introduces condemnation resolution
* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Supplement to today’s edition
* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Today's edition of Capitol Fax (use all CAPS in password)
* Yesterday's stories

Visit our advertisers...






Main Menu
Pundit rankings
Subscriber Content
Blagojevich Trial
Updated Posts

December 2018
November 2018
October 2018
September 2018
August 2018
July 2018
June 2018
May 2018
April 2018
March 2018
February 2018
January 2018
December 2017
November 2017
October 2017
September 2017
August 2017
July 2017
June 2017
May 2017
April 2017
March 2017
February 2017
January 2017
December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005
January 2005
December 2004
November 2004
October 2004

Blog*Spot Archives
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005


RSS Feed 2.0
Comments RSS 2.0

Hosted by MCS SUBSCRIBE to Capitol Fax Advertise Here Mobile Version Contact Rich Miller