Mike was a very intelligent, humble, and down to earth extraordinary person. He also was the love of my life. We had a very special relationship built on love and respect. He was the most romantic man that I ever knew. Two hours after we met in 1997, we were dancing and we both felt something very special. The first present Mike gave me was a pin of the Renoir dancers from Dance at Bougivals.
Although Mike was an avid bird lover, after one trip together in a Mexican jungle, we realized that this was a hobby he should do himself! His lifetime identification list contained 1229 world-wide species and he identified 152 species on our Riverhaven property. I could relate many stories about his birding adventures, but I was glad to hear about them from him rather than experience them with him. His return from these adventures was always a joyful time for us both.
Mike loved classical music. His favorite composer was Mozart. He had a musical ear and could usually recognize the title of the piece after 30 seconds. He collected classical music records, tapes, and CD’s. This was just one of his many collections which he could not bear to part with!
He also loved the theater. We were kept very busy enjoying the good, the bad and the best. The first summer we met, we went into the City to see the Broadway play, “Les Miserables”. We were walking to the theater when we passed a flower market. Mike wanted to buy me a dozen roses. It was 104 degrees outside and we had the play and dinner on our schedule. I said to him that if he bought me a single rose, he could then buy one 11 more times. He agreed, and in our 10 ½ year relationship, I don’t think there were 11 days that I didn’t have a fresh rose.
Having moved from California in 1988 to take a tenured position at Rutgers University, Mike never wanted to lose touch with friends. Hence, every year he wrote a x-mas letter and sent them to his friends and family as a way of remaining in contact. After we met, he always started his letter with, “Laura and I remain joyously in love.” Pomona College, where he received his undergraduate degree, was very close to his heart. We attended his reunions for the 40th and 45th year.
Politics was an important interest of Mike’s ever since he was in college. At a democratic rally he had his picture taken with Senator Albert Gore, Sr. Every time I listen to news about the coming election, I feel sad because I know how much he would have enjoyed participating in this election process, especially this year! He loved to discuss politics in a very open and non-judgmental way.
The New York Yankees was my husband’s favorite sports team. He also enjoyed going to watch our grandson’s little league team play. He loved hearing from his son, Alan, about his cricket matches. He did make it to one PSU football game, and we enjoyed watching the game with friends or neighbors at our clubhouse. We had season tickets for the Lady Lions basketball team. We sat right behind the team in the second row. Mike knew all the players names and even went to a game when I was unable to attend. He had been the photographer for the Jamaica High School basketball team.
Mike was a very generous person. We soon realized that we would both enjoy “white envelope” gifts at gift giving times. His favorite charities from our gift fund were Pomona College, the Nature Conservancy, and Elijah’s Promise. However, during the holidays he would write checks to at least 25 organizations. We get so much junk mail from these organizations that I’m now trying to save some trees and stop the solicitations!
Mike believed in helping young students get a good education by gifting monies for scholarships. One Christmas he gave a nursing student at Rutgers a scholarship for her senior year in my honor. He was only at PSU for less than 8 months, but he had already given money for scholarships. Mike’s generosity extended past his death as he became an organ donor.
Mike was my best friend. We shared some tears, many laughs, and more joy together than I could have ever imagined. We cherished each other and we never left without saying, “I love you”. These were his last words he said to me before he left on Feb. 18, 2008 to go for his daily morning swim. Three weeks later I received a delayed voicemail from him from the morning of February 18. He was telling me it was icy out and that I should be careful walking. He also said, “I love you and I’ll see you later.” That was never to be…. I now have a CD copy of this voicemail which I will forever treasure.
Together we were happy visiting universities around the world, or just staying home and enjoying the sunset. He loved our Riverhaven property on the Raritan River, but he also was so happy and honored to be offered the endowed chair at the Smeal Business School. We were so happy in our new home. I miss Mike more than words can ever express, but from the beginning, we cherished our days together. We took the time to smell the roses.
Laura L. Rothkopf