Michael Francis Calabrese was born in Priest River, Idaho, to Michael J. and Elaine (Sherriff) Calabrese. Michael grew up on both the east and west coasts. His family lived in Washington and California during World War II. They frequently returned to New York City, living in the Bronx, surrounded by his large Italian family. He was doted on by his aunts and was lovingly referred to as "Mick" or "Mickey," a nickname his cousins still know him by. As a teenager in New York, he explored the city by subway, danced at the Copacabana, ice...
Michael Francis Calabrese was born in Priest River, Idaho, to Michael J. and Elaine (Sherriff) Calabrese. Michael grew up on both the east and west coasts. His family lived in Washington and California during World War II. They frequently returned to New York City, living in the Bronx, surrounded by his large Italian family. He was doted on by his aunts and was lovingly referred to as "Mick" or "Mickey," a nickname his cousins still know him by. As a teenager in New York, he explored the city by subway, danced at the Copacabana, ice skated at Rockefeller Center, attended Broadway shows, frequented jazz clubs and became a lifelong fan of "da Bronx Bombers."
He attended Jesuit high school at the De La Salle Institute in Manhattan's Upper West Side. He had an afterschool job at Stella D'oro bakery, loading trucks with the aroma of anise cookies in the air. After graduation Michael returned to Washington State and enrolled at Seattle University to study engineering. Throughout his life, he appreciated and valued the quality education his parents provided to him and he never stopped learning.
He joined the United States Air Force and was assigned to the 5050th Communications Squadron at Elmendorf AFB, and later as part of the 1995th AACS Squadron at Eielson AFB was stationed at remote radio stations on the Distant Early Warning Line in Alaska, prior to statehood. A transfer to a Strategic Air Command base and the 310th Squadron in 1959 gave him an opportunity to drive the Alcan Highway through Alaska, the Yukon and Canada - an adventure he never forgot.
Michael found his wife Barbara Jean Palmer while at Schilling AFB in Salina, Kansas. As newlyweds they resided in Lindsborg, and welcomed their first daughter, Ann. Upon his discharge in 1961, Michael and Barbara embarked on their life's adventure and followed the setting sun to Washington State. They made their home in Auburn and had their second daughter, Lisa. Together, they enjoyed a lifelong appreciation of the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest. In 1967 they bought a Volkswagen bus and camping gear and for the next seven years camped and planned vacations around the state.
He played a variety of sports, including baseball, golf, hand ball, cycling, sailing and skiing and coached Auburn Little League teams. Michael's hobbies were as interesting as he was! In his youth, he was a Duncan yo-yo champ and taught his kids the classic "sleeper" trick and "walk the dog." He was an amateur photographer, a talented cartoonist, and shared a love of music with his father, both of whom were self-taught musicians who enjoyed playing guitar together. Late in life he discovered rocketry and looked forward to launch parties with other enthusiasts.
Michael earned a degree in Business Administration and had a rewarding career as a design engineer in aerospace, military defense systems, and the composites industries and later in sales and marketing. His work assignments took him to various military installations, the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., Israel, and to the Paris Air Show. Research, development and field testing of a tactical pontoon bridge, armored combat vehicles, gun and turret systems were among his more memorable work projects.
Michael retired early and established a consulting business, so he could spend more time with his wife Barbara and as a full-time grandfather. For 14 years, they spent every day together and helped raise their five grandchildren Amy, Andy, Alexa, Harrison and Marissa and their grand dog, Lucy. He also created the role of family Chief Operations Officer, and coordinated celebrations, family gatherings, holidays and events. He never missed any of his grandchildren's many activities. Grandpa Mickey was their #1 Fan and attended every concert, sporting event, recital, performance and school activity. And like his father, he served as the official family photographer.
Every year Michael tended an abundant garden of vegetables, flowers and fruits. His family and neighbors eagerly awaited the beautiful baskets of organic produce he delivered. Best of all, was fall harvest. He taught his grandchildren how to make gravy (marinara sauce) from garden-fresh tomatoes, basil, onions and garlic. Lovingly served with pasta, this was the main entrée for every family birthday party and celebration.
Michael lived happily with a joyful attitude, a childlike curiosity and a playful approach to life. He never stopped exploring and adventuring. Above all, he took great joy in helping others in every way possible. Michael was a true gentleman, one who gave more to the world than he took.
The family requests remembrances to:
Auburn Fire Medic Fund, PO Box 1237, Auburn, WA 98071; or
Auburn Sons of Italy Lodge #1955, Scholarship Fund, PO Box 1224, Auburn, WA 98071.
Michael passed away on March 24, 2015, at Auburn Regional Medical Center surrounded by his loving family. He will lay in rest at the Tahoma National Cemetery with a beautiful view of Mount Rainier, a cherished symbol of his home.