Michael Allen Szymanski, age 67, of South Milwaukee, died peacefully at home on March 21st, 2020 surrounded by his family with polka music playing at his bedside after a courageous 16-month battle with cancer.
Preceded in death by his parents Eugene and Virginia (Skowronski), his father-in-law, Kenneth Verhein and many dear friends. Loving husband of 47 years to Linda (nee Verhein), father to Jason (Jessica) and Keri (Sergio), grandpa to Henry & George, brother, brother-in-law, uncle, cousin, nephew, and dear friend to countless others. Mike had the ability to make friends no matter what the situation. He was a kind and selfless man whose impact will forever be felt by all who loved him.
Mike was a graduate of St. Adalbert’s Catholic School and South Milwaukee High School (Class of ‘71). Upon graduating, he began working at Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company.
Mike retired from there 37 years later, without ever calling in sick, despite bowling 3 nights a week for many of those years. Upon retiring he spent most days putzing around at Badger campground or cutting grass at Woodland Golf Course. It’s his work ethic and pride in his job that he so honorably passed down to his family...traits he will be most remembered for and appreciated.
Mike was a proud father. Rarely did he miss an opportunity to brag about his son and daughter being teachers, working for the Brewers & Bucks, or living abroad in Spain & Dubai. He loved his grandkids, too. He cherished every opportunity to make memories with them showing them how to fish, ride a lawnmower, drink a shot of root beer, or race matchbox cars.
While not officially an educator, Mike was a teacher. He often said, “Be a leader, not a follower.” Whether it was how to cook one of his favorite meals, fillet a fish, tie a knot on a fish line, change a tire (or all four and rotate them), mix a drink, shave, or open and close the trailers, he was always willing to show you something so you could do it better or on your own...in case he wasn’t there. Even in his last days, when told, “Let me know if you need anything,” he responded, “You tell me if you need to know something. I’d rather educate you while I’m still around.”
Like many of the Szymanskis, Mike was a fixer, a tinkerer. Working on numerous cars in his younger days (until engines got too small to fit his hands into or he didn’t have the right tools), watering a garden of tomato, cucumber, and pepper plants, sliding heavy storm windows up a two-story ladder, cutting a baseball diamond into an adjacent field, snowblowing what seemed like the world’s longest driveway, painting or gluing something in the garage or basement, or bringing Busia groceries, he was always giving of his time, talents, and ingenuity (“MacGyvering” it) to help his family and friends with whatever they needed, seldom thinking of himself, putting others' needs before his own.
Mike was the consummate entertainer. Whether he was hosting a game day party in his Packer basement (Ring the bell,“Bang the Drum”, and “Shots”), keeping extended family together at holiday gatherings, or welcoming friends up to the trailer on the island, he was happiest serving others. Mike’s love for cooking was obvious through the time and care he took sharing recipes, pickling northern pike, smoking fish, drying jerky, boiling his famous Polish sausage, grilling ears of corn & dozens of brats for the guys, or masterfully preparing steak and lobster for tailgating guests at annual Packers games, he put his heart and soul into every meal, not to mention his bloody Marys. He never let you leave hungry or empty handed.
He loved to golf, playing every Monday night during the summer for nearly 40 years. In his younger days, he proudly played in the Greater Milwaukee Open as a semi-professional. In addition to golf, hunting and fishing were a big part of his life. He accompanied friends to the cabin near Shawano for years to deer hunt. He always drank, played cards, and shot the bull, and some years he even shot a deer. Whether it was his or not, there was always a deer carcass or two hanging in the garage for him to fillet and process into sausage or sticks.
Mike, Uncle Mike, Dad and Grandpa always knew where the fish were biting. His numerous trips with friends up north to Hayward, annual outings to Big St. Germain or the Chippewa Flowage with the NML Fishing Club, and casting off the pier or in the paddle boat at his trailer near Random Lake, taught many of us to love the art of fishing and to make memories with the company we kept in the boat or on the pier while we waited for that bobber to slip under the surface of the water.
Known to some as TNT Mike, “The Commissioner” played dartball at Oak Manor for over 30 years. He kept the books, collected the money, ordered the boards and darts, planned the tournaments and banquets, and threw “thumpers” off the board for many of them. He frequented many of the southside’s “finer establishments”, warming barstools, placing bets, drinking taps, collecting chips, telling stories, and most of all, making friends.
Mike loved watching movies and classic tv shows, especially James Bond films, westerns and war series. He knew them all. Ask him about a character, show him a scene, and he’d tell you which movie or show it was from. Nobody does (or did) it better!
Mike conducted his life as a loving person who was loved back by those who knew him. He was fortunate to live his life with a loving family and accepted the end of his life here on earth with faith, grace, and dignity, and the knowledge that he would be reunited with everyone. He was loved by everyone and will be forever missed by his family and friends. Although he seemed so strong, God & Busia needed him.
A gathering to celebrate his life will take place at a later date. He requested it be on a Saturday, so everyone can come. There will be plenty of food, drink...and polka music. For additional information, please contact: email@example.com.
Friends who wish may sign the online guest book, leave condolences, or share a picture or story here.
If you wish to make a donation in Mike’s memory, the family suggests donating to: the Vince Lombardi Cancer Foundation.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Michael A. Szymanski, please visit our floral store.