Volunteering gives new purpose: By Jennie Berkson
“It gives me a reason to get up in the morning,” said Mike Shiley when asked why he became a volunteer for ShareCare this past February.
Before that time, Mike’s focus was on his wife, Ruby, who died in January after living with Alzheimer’s for 23 years.
“I was her sole caregiver,” Mike said. “We were married almost 40 years.”
Mike’s step-mother Helen Shiley was involved with ShareCare for a long time and he needed help from the organization himself on occasion, which is why he chose to help out.
“I drive people where ever they have to go and wait until they’re done. I do two or three rides a week for a range of people to doctors, physical therapy. Since I’m in Northport, I can go South easily,” he said.
“I’ve been meeting some interesting people and hearing some good stories,” he continued. “Sometimes I get a cranky person! But I’ve made some friends out of it that’s a plus.”
Before retiring, Mike worked for At&T for over 30 years. He was a customer service specialist in the area they called “non-dial tone services.”
“You know that music you hear when you get on the elevator? I probably put the line in for that to work. Most any big building you see, there’s something other than a phone that comes from AT&T,” he explained.
Mike started coming to Leelanau County every other weekend in 1971. He built a home in the Cherry Homes Association and moved there full-time with Ruby in 2000. His son lives in Florida and his daughter in Auburn Hills with many grandchildren and great grandchildren between them.
Mike enjoys outdoor activities such as snowmobiling, cross country skiing, fishing and hunting. In addition, his backyard is a gathering place for a lot of different wildlife.
“Most winters I get thirty to forty deer in my backyard,” he said. “Also, cedar waxwings, orioles and hummingbirds. I’ve had a hummingbird land on my hat.”
One not so desirable visitor was a black bear which got within 10 feet of him.
“At that point, I figured this was not a good place for me to be. This one actually scared me by licking his lips the whole time. He was eyeball to eyeball with me!”
“Somehow we came to an understanding, though. More recently, I’ve watched him go around my property to get over to the bay. At least he’s not destroying my bird feeders.”
Mike likes to patronize local businesses like Tom’s Supermarket in Northport and a favorite restaurant is Boone’s.
“It’s kind of like ‘Cheers’ to me,” he said. “They always have a nice glass of Pepsi waiting and they treated Ruby great. That’s why we kept going back.”
Mike’s proud of his independence and ability to be self-sufficient. “There’s not much I can’t do or figure out how to do. But if somebody needs a fourth for Euchre, just give me a call.”