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John Michael Armstrong

Died: August 4, 2001

Mike was born in Bedford, IN, on March 14, 1944 to Stuart and Bettie Pace Armstrong. The family moved to Arizona, where Mike’s father was an executive in the banking industry and where Mike prepared for Yale at Rincon High School in Tucson, about which Mike remained very proud. Mike quarterbacked the Rincon football team; and when he entered Yale in the fall of 1962, he assumed he would lead the freshman football team in a similar manner. Finding 150 players vying for positions, many of them all-state players in their own right, Mike had to settle for a supporting roll, though he earned his freshman numerals and was invited to try out for the Varsity as a defensive end, an opportunity he declined. Mike was a history major in Stiles College, where he was an enthusiastic participant in football, basketball (captain), baseball and softball, leading several of the teams to intramural championships over three years. On graduation, Mike received the award for outstanding athlete in the Yale Intramural Program. He roomed with Sven Huseby, Larry Jones, and his best friend at Yale, Tone Grant. Mike was in Delta Kappa Epsilon.

As might have been predicted by all who knew him, Mike enlisted in the Marine Corps on graduation (“Might as well play with the best”), hoping to become a Marine Aviator and fly jets in Vietnam. Although he clearly possessed the leadership and athletic skills, he had a form of color-blindness which precluded flying jet aircraft; and he was assigned to become a helicopter pilot. He was sent immediately to Vietnam, where he flew Bell UH-1 (Huey) gunships on fire support, deployment, and rescue missions. Mike was shot down three times, the last costing him a foot and the life of his good friend and copilot. “Cochise” was undaunted and within three months was up on skis in Aspen with his old buddy Tone Grant, who cut him no slack for any putative disability. Mike’s business career was in marketing for financial institutions in Memphis, Arizona, and Nevada. He retired in 1998 and spent his time with devoted wife Nancy and his hobbies: spectator sports and fishing. At Yale Mike had been an occasional smoker, but in Vietnam it became a compulsive habit. He was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1999 and, as his friends might have expected, fought it valiantly for two years through chemo-radiation and two major operations before succumbing. Mike’s ashes were buried at Arlington National Cemetery. The eulogies written by his wife Nancy and his good friend Tom Mitchell are elegant, eloquent and touching. Mike was survived by his wife Nancy, daughters Leigh and Katherine, and three grandchildren.