I don’t know if many of you will appreciate this scrapbook item. It’s my eulogy for Mike Kammerer. He was a man who stood singular in most crowds; a self-made man of rare bark who built a $15,000,000 home. When he died he left another $75,000,000 in a checking account in Jackson, Wyoming. He had three wives and his two divorces happened because he didn’t know how to say he was sorry. He loved Peggy’s hot muffins and often called her to ask if he could come to dinner. She always said yes.
This story was presented before about 300 close friends outside his home by his pool. It reveals what I thought of the man. It has been edited only slightly to fit this occasion.
Final words for MK
I wondered what I could say at a time like this about a man like Mike. And then I thought about the time he and Susan closed the Indian school at Santo Domingo Pueblo and took all of the children to the Natural History Museum in Albuquerque – and then sat with them on the grass and ate pizza.
And I thought about his support of the under appraised teenagers from Wyoming who come annually to camp at San Lazaro Pueblo to excavate and learn the disciplines of life. The hundred thousand dollars Mike invested in those young men and women paid dividends that continue to grow as they emerge from children at risk – to productive citizens. And when their transportation broke down Mike gave them a new seventeen passenger van.
Nothing about Mike Kammerer was common – rather he was a man of extremes – and his personality touched the spectrum at both ends. He was always full of new ideas and no challenge was large enough to retard his charge. I remember his chase to find Amelia Earhart – his desire to produce nitrogen fuel cars – and of his plasma destruction process to destroy solid waste. I look back now with beautiful memories of a hundred lunches and dinners – and can still hear the melancholy echo of a thousand forgotten laughs.
His mind was like a bee in a meadow of spring flowers as he darted from one challenge to another – this beautiful home – his huge four engine airplane that could land in the middle of any ocean.
Each of his projects was the best one – since the last one – or until the next one. Even so, his knowledge of the subjects he faced each day was conspicuously exceeded by his enthusiasm for what he was doing. His aspirations were huge – and his relentlessness – his impatience with conditions which impeded or slowed his progress was matched only by his over flowing reservoir of vitality.
Mike was happiest when he was under his cowboy hat. During the last ten days of his life I lunched with him twice and each time he wore his hat and roping boots and spurs. When I asked about wearing spurs in the restaurant – he just spread a wide grin at me. That was Mike all over.
On the 9th of May, he and Susan (his wife) went into their bedroom to watch a movie. He said that he would be content to spend the rest of his life with her between those four walls. And when he was slumped at her feet he was still wearing his roping boots and spurs. He never opened his eyes again but he was where he wanted to be – at home, with the one he loved. I know he still has a smile in his heart, and I hope his hat and boots and spurs are with him now, as he strikes his final trail.
There was a high octane quality about Mike – an overt, manly charm. But what his good friend Sally Denton remembered most were his “incredible blue eyes that could alternate from an impenetrable glacial lake to the most inviting Caribbean lagoon.” Those are her words, not mine!
During these last two years Susan was a moderating force in Mike’s life and he told me just a few days ago that he wanted to be a better person, – a better husband – a better father – a better friend.
He said that when he was a young man his father was displeased with him – and thought he was worthless – and asked what he had done in the last year that was worthwhile. Mike just said, “Well, I made a million dollars for one thing.”
Mike was at his best when he was quiet and reflective and we often spoke of ways to simplify our lives. But fickle is the finger that points at winners – so we find ourselves here today to celebrate the life of Mike Kammerer. And although he has passed from our view he will never fade from our memory. His childish, giddy laugh was volcanic and could erupt and spread across his face like a tidal wave – making you laugh and want to be with him.
So now, I sense Mike’s agreeing presence and remember him as being a man of great vision that was taken from us in the moment of his greatest blossom – and left us with a grove of evaporated hopes and demolished dreams. But from Mike’s seeds have grown a beautiful symphony of creative combinations in the form of his children – Rudy and Kristen, and their life partners, Yvonne and Tina. And while the world is poorer with the passing of Mike Kammerer we are still blessed to have his wife Susan and her children – David, Corinne, Perry and the wonderful Eric. We are thankful to have wallowed in Mike’s brilliance for a time that was way too short. But all things that belong to man change, and we must be part of that change, however painful it is.
For life is a game of poker,
And happiness is the pot.
Fate deals you four cards and a joker,
And you play whether you like it or not.
In closing let me say that I hope your memories of that indelible man are as vivid as mine. If you look into the full moon you may see him sitting beside the great council fires of history – arguing with Rasputin – or Shakespeare – or Sitting Bull. All of that is within him. Mike is not resting – he has too many ideas and too many things to do.