Mike's Life Savers

Several tragic incidents in Mike's life nearly resulted in his death.   One, in early life, almost proved fatal; another likely would have been fatal if not for a bystander's actions:

Vinnie Hicks:

In 1948, Mike was attending a summer day camp along the Winnetka beachfront.   He was apparently "horsing around" with one of the camp's counselors, out on the end of a long pier extending from the beach out into Lake Michigan.   The man, whose name isn't known, got annoyed with Mike's actions, picked him up, and dropped him off the side of the pier.

Mike couldn't swim, he started flailing and sinking in the water, which was well over his head.   The Life Guard on duty, a woman named Vinnie Hicks, dove in as he was sinking for the 3rd time and pulled him out, clearly saving his life.   No doubt she gave Mike first aid (he doesn't recall this), too.

To this day, Mike remembers most of this incident, especially Vinnie's name.

The next day, Mike's father took him back to that beach and took him into the water ("get back on the horse") - a smart act designed to assure Mike didn't acquire a fear of water.   Later that summer, his parents enrolled Mike in a formal swimming instruction program at the famed New Trier High School in Winnetka (which he would later attend for a year and a half).

Still unknown is why this summer day camp didn't know that Mike couldn't swim, as well as why no legal action was taken against the camp or the counselor...

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Nancy Smirbach:

A woman named Nancy Smirbach almost certainly saved Mike's life: by finding a pay phone and calling 911.   The story doesn't end there: she worked at Barrows Furniture, with Libby...and knew her fairly well.   She, too, was a designer, but worked in the commercial division.   When Libby returned to work some days later, talk around the store caused Nancy to realize that she was the "Good Samaritan" who acted in time to get help.   She had never met Mike.

Months later, when Mike was sufficiently recovered to go out in public with Libby, they were at a party with a number of Libby's associates; she introduced him to Nancy.   She explained that Nancy was the one who called 911; Mike broke down, overwhelmed with gratitude.   One of the manifestations of his head injury was amplified emotions, and this was becoming normal for Mike, as he tried to deal with what happened...and how close to death he had come.   It took some years for Mike to handle situations unemotionally.

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Last Updated: February 20, 2019