In Memory

Mike Healer


         When we gather for our 50th Reunion, it will be just a few weeks before the 41th anniversary of Mike Healer's death on June 17, 1971. It says something important about Mike that, since he died, he has been written about or fictionalized about in at least three different books since then. Mike made a strong impact on people. He was one of our most talented classmates -- a brilliant student, witty conversationalist and gifted poet whose personal charisma blossomed at Yale, only to be extinguished in the miasma of mental problems that led to his death.

         Mike was a scholarship kid at Country Day. He knew that he was relatively less well-off but probably smarter than most of us, which gave him enough of a chip on his shoulder that we kiddingly called him "Frenly." Looking back, I think much of his wit and sarcasm was a kind of armor that protected him in a world he had not chosen and was not entirely certain he could master. He was both tough and vulnerable, a quality that many of us -- especially women -- loved in him.

         Mike was a lover of literature and, influenced by Russell Durgin, began writing poetry in high school. After graduation, he entered Yale and, at Pierson College and Fence Club, his friends ranged from John Kerry, the future Presidential candidate, to Dick Pershing, the grandson of the famous General "Black Jack" Pershing of World War I. He studied with Robert Penn Warren and John Hersey and was heavily influenced during the Vietnam protest era by Yale's chaplain, William Sloane Coffin, Jr. While at Yale, Mike met Carol Resor of Cincinnati, a beautiful Vassar student. They fell in love and married in July 1967.

         As one of the most promising writers of his generation, Mike was hired into the creative writing program at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. My wife and I visited Michael and Carol in their home in Shutesbury, outside of Amherst, in the fall of 1968. He was still writing, and as I now know, he was developing competing interests in photography and musical composition.

         He was also doing a lot of drugs. This habit, plus the beginnings of what may have been adult-onset schizophrenia (no one knows for sure) began to hurt him. He and Carol had separated by early 1969, and he left for San Francisco to visit with his divorced parents and his sister, who lived near there. We saw Mike that summer of 1969 in the peak of what we now think of as the hippie period, and Mike was in his element -- alive, vital, funny, though with some shadows increasingly present.

         In 1971, Mike began what was to be his final trip East. He came through St. Louis, made an awkward visit with my parents, and then traveled to Chicago and New York to stay with some of his friends from Yale. He may have been headed to New Haven for his fifth Yale reunion. At this time he was in a woeful situation and unable to take care of himself. In the evening of June 16, 1971, he found himself in Providence, R.I. and went to sleep in the back seat of a semi-abandoned Cadillac parked on a street there. In the early hours of the next day, a young woman decided to take revenge on her boyfriend and, unaware Mike was sleeping in the back seat, set fire to this same car. Mike died of smoke inhalation. She was later convicted of manslaughter.

         Mike lives in warm affection in our memories and on the printed page in his poems. Here is one he dedicated to Carol.


A Day When

do you remember a day when

the wind ran the waves

high onto the beach

and the sand whirled

like parts of the glaring

sun and the air was

cool and salty

and your hair blew

 across your shoulders

like a gull's wing

and we leaned into

the wind

close enough

to touch

and how we laughed

at nothing

except the joy

of a day when

the wind ran the waves high?



         -- Submitted by Lanny Jones




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11/27/11 12:30 AM #1    

John Primm

Wow! Thanks Lanny. I have good and fond memories of. "frenly.". Even I recognized that he was incredibly bright and talented. He could be very funny or cutting with his words. I can't help but feel sadness for the pain he must have been in, a tragedy.

10/27/12 04:17 AM #2    

Steve Lord

Well said, John, and  isnt Lanny's tribute wonderfully and interestingly written and perfectly capturing Mike?  And yes he could capture the hearts of those women.

One of my most vivid memories  about Mike is when John Mike I and someone else snuck onto the St. Louis Country Club course and on the first hole we played,  Mike was standing   off to the side but a little bit  ahead of the tee and John somehow  hit a screaming line drive, and I mean screaming, that hit MIke right in the balls. Mike went down like he had been shot , LOL, ,moaning in pain. Nice shot John.

Another was when a bunch of us went to a party at some house where we knew no one in Kirkwood and the famous Ladue HIgh football tackle Carl Meyer hit Mike with a crushing right hand to the jaw. Someone please back me up on this, I may be getting two stories mixed up, but I think this is the one in which Carl asked Mike if he wanted to fight and Mike shrieked "No but Im plenty mad." Ha ha.

Steve Lord

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