Michael James Britten (1945-2021). Well, that’s a wrap, folks. Before brain cancer hit in March 2020, it was a great life. Born at home in Montcalm county, Michigan in 1945, I was the baby brother to two sisters, Nancy (LaClair) and Dianne (Wilson), son of Ruth (Dyer) and Willard, (known as Wink). I spent my childhood making lifelong friends, taking care of pet birds and random strays, enjoying the farm life, and teaching myself to play guitar.
I hitch hiked to my jobs when I couldn’t get a ride and was determined to do great things by working hard and always learning. I got great at playing basketball and running track. To this day I still hold track records at Vestaburg High School.
I met my beautiful bride, love of my life, best friend, and wife of 52 years, Gloria Jean (Neher) at Davenport College. She still has the energy of a 14-year-old and we have had so much fun. I love her dearly and she has been my rock, cheerleader, and confident since I was a crazy college kid. Education has always been a priority (my mama Ruth taught me that, and my father-in-law John kept encouraging me to reach my goals). I received undergraduate degrees from Central Michigan (even though the draft kept me away for 2 years). While in the Army I played on the Army volleyball and basketball teams and learned quite a bit while being the driver for an Army General or two. I have had an appreciation for fancy cars, from my first Jaguar to my last Mercedes-Benz.
As soon as I could I started taking classes at Western Michigan towards my Master’s degree. I took care of my little daughters Molly and then Jody while Gloria was a night nurse. I took the girls with me when I coached track and basketball in Dowagiac. My players and runners joined myself and the girls often for spaghetti night at our house. I was the original daddy day care, even when I was coaching my high school teams towards a few state championships. I am proud to hold a Ph.D. from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where I also taught a number of management, education, and business law courses.
I was kind to others, always helped kids who needed a hand, was an amazing uncle to my many nieces and nephews, and helped to create opportunities for others who just needed someone else to believe in them and their dreams. This has been a life full of fun; even on the hardest of days I always knew I was loved by my family and friends.
Later in life, I enjoyed a career in Training and Development, was a passionate advocate for adult literacy, and mentored interns from around the country. While all my interns were wonderful, a few drove me a little crazy but eventually became like family as I took on the role of resident dad/uncle to many of them. I enjoyed working in the yard and hunting with friends in Nebraska, Alaska, and Michigan. I most loved writing music, grilling, dreaming a little, playing with my spunky grandkids and sitting by our pool, a.k.a. Lake Gloria. My wife and I fulfilled my lifelong dream of owning my own business, Service Research Corporation, which was a successful venture for many years. I even authored a book about customer service, after having a monthly column in a local business magazine for years on end.
Thanks to Gloria’s dreaming and scheming, we travelled to see many new places and visit friends all over the map; Europe and Alaska adventures were my favorites. We went to too many concerts to count, attended enough Nebraska sporting events to last a lifetime, were long time Farm Aid supporters, and hosted parties that were infamous for kegs, cookouts, and a lot of great stories. I celebrated a lot of birthdays in grand style; with good friends, Gloria, and the girls helped to make that happen. Up until the very end (Mardi Gras 2020), we were having fun, listening to music, playing, and most importantly laughing and loving.
I was kind enough to allow some nice young men to marry my daughters. The ladies chose very well: Molly chose Anthony, and Jody picked John. We are one of those families lucky enough to spend many good times together making memories, going on adventures, going to concerts, traveling, and celebrating and loving our beautiful, amazing grandkids: Hannah, Jaxson, Drew, and Jayden. We retired in Guttenberg, Iowa, and we have had so much fun living on the Mississippi River, enjoying burger nights, music at the vineyard, and laughing with friends around the firepit. Gloria and I had a few good runs of “cousin camp” that included many adventures for us and the grandkids having fun without their parents.
I was lucky to have this tremendous lifetime. They say my dry sense of Dad-Humor remained intact until the very end; I have to say that I am proud of that. We aren’t always here for a long time, but friends, I have most definitely been here for a good time.
Now, I plan to keep on keeping on with my friends and family who have passed before me. In my next life, I plan to backpack through Europe, write more of my music, and play guitar to very large crowds. I will watch out for my family from heaven, and my friends and family can rest assured that I will cheer them on from above. Be well, dream big, laugh often, love your family, stand up – smile – and sing loud, and have a beer for me every once in a while.
Thanks to my family for taking such good care of me this year, I have had so many laughs and special moments with my wife, kids, and grandkids in the middle of this awful fight with cancer.
Beyond holding up a beer, you can help celebrate my life by contributing to the Mike Britten Memorial Fund (rest assured Gloria will do something great with it) through the Community Savings Bank, 502 South Highway 52, Guttenberg, Iowa 52052.
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