Michael Dale Thurman

Michael Dale Thurman

Michael Dale Thurman was born on April 19, 1936 in Chanute, Kansas. The third of three brothers and one younger sister, his mother was a homemaker and his father worked in a local cement plant. Life drastically changed for his family when his mother passed away from cancer at the young age of 32, leaving behind children ranging in ages from 5 to 14. In time, Mike’s father relocated the family to Yates Center, Kansas, known then as “The Hay Capitol of the World.” There he purchased an ice and locker plant and subsequently remarried. Mike made it abundantly clear that his step-mother was not well suited to the role of loving mother to a ready made family.

Selling ice and processing beef in the family business was Mike’s first job. With an eye to the future, he began his determined pursuit of higher education, as he could afford it, by attending Chanute Junior College, Pittsburg State College and Emporia State Teacher’s College in Kansas, It was there that he earned his BA in Industrial Technology. He later achieved his Master’s Degree while studying at Colorado State University in Ft. Collins. When questioned about why he’d chosen this particular field of study, Mike revealed that it was a good fit with his years in construction as a Journeyman Carpenter. He eventually went on to share his knowledge in many classrooms throughout the years as a Shop Teacher. As it turned out, his greatest challenge in life was “Educating youth.”

While he was a student in Emporia, Mike met Patricia Metcalf, who was working on her Master’s Degree in Library Science. A friend set them up on a blind date. While they enjoyed an evening of bowling and seemed to get along, they both went their separate ways. Their second encounter, coordinated by yet another well-meaning friend, found them airborne over eastern Kansas in a small plane, with Pat praying she wouldn’t be sick. She was also very concerned Mike might think she was actively chasing him. Sometimes good things do come to those who wait….they married 8-6-1966 in Lyons, Kansas and celebrated their 46th Anniversary this past year. Their family was made complete when they adopted sons Jeff and Jim. Unfortunately, Jeff passed away in 2007 but Jim, who visited here in September 2012, resides in the warmer climes of Key West, Florida.

In 1969, Mike was teaching in Augusta, Kansas and saw an advertisement for an Industrial Arts Instructor in Fairbanks, Alaska that paid $3,000 more a year than he was making as a teacher in the classroom. He made the decision to pursue that goldmine of a position and told Pat that he intended to take this job and if she’d like to accompany him, that would be good. Otherwise, he would just send her his paychecks. Pat agreed to relocate with Mike and they’ve made Alaska their home ever since. In 1972 Mike built their house on Nelson Road. That first Christmas, Mike presented Pat with her best gift ever....a bathroom door! In 1976, Mike accepted a position with Hutchison Career Center and worked as their Industrial Media Specialist until his retirement in 1988.

Mike quietly contributes to this community. He is a Past Worshipful Master of Tanana #3 Free & Accepted Masons and is a member of several other Masonic groups besides belonging to North Pole Moose Lodge #306, New Hope Methodist-Presbyterian Church, Friends of the North Pole Branch Library and the Elks Club in Kansas. When the 17 Mile Homemakers were forced to move from Beaverbrook Mall, Mike offered them a bit of temporary meeting/storage space in the upstairs room of their home. That was over four years ago and the club has since spread out and settled in. This little arrangement is known as “Mike’s Folly.” That said, he could actually be considered an Honorary 17 Mile Homemaker Member as well!

Pat and Mike were honored as the 2005 North Pole Chamber’s King and Queen and recognized as the Fairbanks North Star Borough’s Volunteers of the Year in 2007. Mike has served Santa’s Seniors as a building trustee and all around Mr. Fix-it, table mover, event roadie and lawn mower. Several days of the week you’ll find him drinking coffee around the table with friends at The Breakfast Place.

When asked to describe his “perfect day,” Mike first replied, “To get up and feel good” but modified this to include a fishing trip to the Kenai area, in the summertime.

He still has a shop full of tools, but has set them aside for other interests. As an avid reader, Mike leans toward Louis L’Amour novels, prefers detective shows and old westerns on television, enjoys country music and is currently busy learning to master his new computer.

Although he has traveled extensively to many other countries, he wishes he’d taken more trips. He also regrets never having experienced white water rafting and that he didn’t build their house a tad larger so they’d have a bigger countertop and more room in the kitchen….an idea that the Homemakers would surely second!

I asked Mike for three words he’d use to describe himself. He said, “Hard worker, dependable and honest.” I would also add, “Quiet, humble and a gentleman.”

Catching up with Mike took a bit of effort. When he finally agreed to sit down with me, I had to ask why he’d dodged this interview for so long. He told me he thought he was being primed for his obituary! Fortunately for all of us, Mike doesn’t have immanent plans for a departure from this life anytime soon.

Interview & Story by Francie Cork
Photo by Clarence Schulte

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