To have someone ask you to speak at their memorial service may be one of the most humbling experiences of my life and Mike; I hope that I can do justice to this honor.
I have been blessed to have known the Dawes family for many years starting in 1989 when Mike Jr. enrolled at The Hyde School. The Dawes family was, and is one of those families that becomes one of the burning embers in an educational community and helps teachers remember why they put in the long, often underappreciated hours to prepare a young person for life.
Later, Mike and Lynn joined the Hyde faculty where Mike held many important titles; Chief Financial Officer, Director of Development and Associate Head of School. In his last role, his title was less lofty – as he would say every morning as he came into my office, “Director of Special Projects reporting for duty!” Even in the last months, Mike would don one of his classic blazers, add the iconic bow tie and come into work, even if he could only stay for twenty minutes.
What were some of those special projects? – There were too many to share and some too colorful to discuss in a Church setting, but to give you a sense of the duties:
– Teaching students the importance of making a good first impression through a strong handshake, booming friendly voice and the added touch of spelling your last name. D-A-W-E-S.
– Grammar Guidelines – What is wrong with “Me and Julio down by the School yard?”
– Men’s meeting – Mike helped the Hyde fathers let go of their public image and embrace their spiritual side.
– Resident consultant to everyone – From the Head of the School down to the student hanging on by the skin of his teeth.
I had a special relationship with Mike, but then again all of us here today had a special relationship with Mike. Whether we called him colleague, teacher, student, husband, father, happy, brother, roommate, friend, or another human being, he treated us as if we were a special project with a unique potential and a unique contribution to make in the world. He made us feel as if there was nothing more important than that moment together, talking seriously, sharing irreverent laughter or solving the issues of the world.
He treated everyone with the same enthusiasm and dignity, even the toll booth operator who could do nothing for him. He accepted you as you were and yet had his own unique way of challenging you to be the person you were capable of becoming.
Family was his motivation. Mike Jr., know that you have inspired your father with you dedication and commitment to your passion. Jenn, Mike so admired your gumption. Meg, you inspired your father with your parenting and commitment to your own growth. Dennis, Mike talked about you as a proud father would talk about his son. Cameron and Ellie, whenever “Happy” would share your latest adventures, it was always with a huge smile and shining eyes. And Lynn, as the pillow stated in his office, “Here lives a fisherman with the catch of his life” His love for you was never more apparent than these last few weeks.
Some of our deepest yearnings are to be inspired by our parents, mentors and teachers. Mike inspired us with openly sharing his struggles, risking and changing through each stage in his life and humbly getting up each morning to develop his character through the small every day moments.
Life was a special project to Mike Dawes with all the possibilies and opportunities, even when the obstacles were immense. He taught me how to live this life and he taught me how to pass from this life with humility and gratitude. Mike, we love you, we miss you and we will take your spirit with us.