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Michael Walter Waddell

Died: November 26, 2007

An NROTC scholarship student at Yale, Mike was commissioned in the Navy after graduation. Shortly after completing his training as a pilot, Mike suffered a psychotic break and had to be hospitalized. Eventually, he received a medical discharge from the Navy, but suffered from severe bipolar disorder for the rest of his life. Mike and Kay Ransburgh were married in 1967. Their son, Brett, was born in 1968, and their daughter, Amy, was born in 1970. Following his discharge from the Navy, Mike and his family moved to Memphis, Tennessee. Mike did some teaching for a while and held other jobs from time-to-time. His mental illness, however, prevented him from doing steady work, and he lived primarily on his veteran’s disability pension. He and Kay divorced after seven years of marriage. A second marriage also ended in divorce. Mike eventually returned to his hometown of Marion, Indiana. Toward the end of his life, he lived in an assisted living home in Marion, where he was well cared for by an outstanding caregiver. Mike died peacefully in his sleep of natural causes on November 26, 2007.

Although they lived apart for many years, Mike maintained a good relationship with his children, of whom he was justly very proud. Brett graduated from the University of Memphis with a degree in biology and was awarded a master’s degree in marine biology from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. He is now a research scientist at St. Jude Children’s Hospital in Memphis. Amy graduated from Georgetown University with a degree in biology and obtained a Ph.D. in biology and biomedical science from Emory University. Amy is a professor of natural science at Southwestern Tennessee Community College, where she teaches biology and also coordinates the biotechnology technician training program. On this most important of measures, Mike was as successful as any of us.

Thomas Opladen remembers:

Mike lived across the hall freshman year in Durfee and was my roommate in Silliman College for the next three years. We were both in NROTC and Mike played the bugle in the Drum and Bugle Corps. He was always an enthusiastic participant in the activities around him including the annual Tang Cup.
Paul Anderson remembers:
Dear friends and family of my dear friend, Mike Waddell — especially his son and his daughter:

Get ready to smile — for three years at Yale, Mike was The Man, in my eyes. We had such fine times together, and so many of them! And he was so huge — like a big Teddy Bear (I’m 5’ 6” and weighed 145 at the time).

I think we met as sophomores, in September of 1962, both “heeling” for a little known scholarship job opportunity called the Yale Food Agency. Only four guys competed for three slots — and Mike and I got two of them. Bruce Jaffee got the third.

So what did we do? On Friday afternoons, every football home game weekend, we went out to the Yale Bowl and counted…counted every hot dog, hot dog bun, candy bar, and carton of cigarettes in each of the 5-6 hot dog stands that ringed the stadium. On Saturdays, we scrubbed those concrete floors and prayed the health inspector would okay them — and if not, we’d scrub them again. Then we supplied the little “basket boys” their quota of hot dogs, and they disappeared into the stadium to hawk them. They’d come back, hand over the money, and we’d reload them for another foray. Never time to change the water to boil the dogs, so that by the fourth quarter we were cooking them in ten gallons of hot dog fat. On Monday after classes we’d go out and take inventory again — double checking the adults who worked the other concessions stands to make sure they weren’t stealing any product.

It was a blast: six home games times three plus the Giants’ preseason games equaled 21 games in three years. Some of our friends would tease us about being in the Yale Food Agency — and it’s true, we never got to see a single home game, but OMG, we made $200 a pop a piece — that at a time when cigarettes were 32 cents a pack! So we bought our Chevas Regal by the half gallon and our Camel straights by the carton, and still hit the parties at around 8:00 p.m. game night, more sober than most everybody else. And the money? We made $1400 per season at a time when tuition, board, and room was $2560/year….

We were both English majors, but never bothered to talk shop. And as to class rank, we’d always have this to defend ourselves: in medical school, what do they call the student who graduates last in his class? They call him DOCTOR.

We got in the same Spook together senior year. Rented a huge house on Long Island Sound — I remember when it was Mike’s night, he wore a tuxedo, and looked as classy as it gets. I remember flying up the New England Thruway after a Sunday outing at “the house,” me hugging him oh so tightly from behind as he hit 100 mph on his beloved motorcycle, a Triumph, huge one — 1200 cc’s maybe. I’ve honestly never been more scared — and Mike, so totally in control, almost serene, as he shifted lanes and banked perfectly through the curves.

And this especially to you kids, his children: when we talked on the phone after, and when he came to stay with me in Minnesota for a time, he was always lauding your accomplishments…the guy couldn’t go very long in a chat without telling me something or other about you two. Maybe that was about when he knew he was having trouble — and he kept his mental equilibrium by thinking and talking about you two a lot. But I’m ahead of myself.

And then, suddenly, it was Graduation Day. How he did this I don’t know, but Mike got us and Bob Frank and Paul Devries in the front of the crush the morning of our graduation, and we were the first to march right down Elm Street and onto the Old Campus. We were just as quiet and proper as we’d ever been, honest to God, I don’t know who spoke or what he said, but I can still see me and my best friends, four in a row, feeling as triumphant as the winner of anything always feels.

Front row seats capping off the shortest, gladdest years for sure.

Mike, I’ve got you under my skin — always have, since 1962…always will.

Eee ah!

Small Paul