If you were lucky enough to meet Michael Cummings, chances are you liked him. Chances are probably even greater you had a story about him (the chicken wing incident of Super Bowl 2005, for example). The stories have been coming non-stop since Mike passed away unexpectedly Monday, July 8, way, way too early at age 54 from a cardiac incident while driving to work.
Mike, who lived in Clay County for 22 years, the past 16 on Fleming Island, would have told you that his greatest accomplishment in life wasn’t that he made a lot of money. As a journalist for 27 years before an unplanned career change, he didn’t. No, his greatest accomplishment was his family – his wife, Melissa, but especially his two kids, Alex and Sara. On one of his first dates with Melissa back in 1993, he talked about how much he wanted children (and she didn’t go running, which was a good start) and Alex and Sara became his pride and joy. He loved to read to them, talk with them, and brag about them. Every one of their successes – from walking to driving, good grades to passionate hobbies – filled him with pride. The fact that his kids not only got, but actually enjoyed his “dad jokes” (no trip to Orlando was complete without him noting that “Deland is next to ‘D’-sea”) was the icing on the cake.
Whatever Mike’s kids were into, he was into. He attended numerous Clay County Soccer Club and Fleming Island Little League games and served as Cubmaster of Pack 309 for a time. He was a frequent volunteer at Thunderbolt Elementary School for more than 10 years, so much that one little boy exclaimed upon seeing him at Aldi, “Mom, that’s Mr. Thunderbolt!” He went on to volunteer with the Green Cove Junior High and Fleming Island High School bands. Concessions was his favorite place because he could socialize. (Pretty much any time his family couldn’t find him, it was because he’d wandered off to talk to someone. For an introvert, he made a lot of friends – probably because they knew with that big smile of his he truly cared about what they had to say.)
Mike was known among his friends and co-workers as “Big Kansan.” He grew up in what he always said was an ideal place, St. Marys, KS, with best friends Joe and Pete after having been born in Topeka on Oct. 12, 1964. He graduated from St. Marys High School and then Kansas State University, despite coming from a family of Kansas Jayhawk fans, and was known to do elaborate Wildcat victory dances when the KState football team did well. (He worshipped Coach Bill Snyder, even though his wife always called the coach “Tom” just to annoy him.) He loved pretty much everything about Kansas except “The Wizard of Oz,” a movie banned in his house.
After working for a year at a newspaper in Atchison, Kansas, Mike moved to Savannah, Ga., where he spent 7 years as a sports reporter and copy editor at the Savannah Morning News and met Melissa, a reporter and then copy editor there. They were married on April 1, 1995 (yes, April Fools’ Day) and moved to the Jacksonville area in 1997 to be near her family when they started their own. He worked for 20 years at The Florida Times-Union as a copy editor in Sports, News and Specialty Publications. Recently, he had started a new job as a quality assurance reviewer at Systems Service Enterprises Inc.
Mike was happiest when he was helping someone. As the romantic half of his marriage, he showed his love by such acts as making Melissa’s lunches every day and doing all of the shopping, whether for groceries or clothes. He was affectionately known as Mikipedia for his seemingly endless wealth of trivial knowledge. He knew the lyrics to just about any song (particularly classic rock) and could rattle off sports facts. He was a big fan of the Leicester City Football Club, the Tampa Rays, and minor league baseball (he and Alex had been going to Florida State League games whenever possible). He also loved lunches with his friend Michael DiRocco, afternoon naps, theme parks and weekend and day trips with his family and his kids’ friends, whom he “adopted” like they were his own. He collected watches, t-shirts and hats, read science fiction like his favorite “Starship Troopers” by Robert Heinlein, and liked to quote the cartoon Foxtrot (“I didn’t know they had apple AND cherry pie!”). He was close to his brother-in-law, Dean Alexander of Fleming Island, and he was a frequent co-conspirator with his mother-in-law, Dot Anderson.
Mike attended Sacred Heart Catholic Church on Fleming Island.
He was predeceased by his parents, Leonard and Joanne Cummings, his brother Bill Cummings, and his in-laws, Andy and Dot Anderson. In addition to Melissa, Alex, Sara, and Dean, he is survived by brothers Bob (Kathy) Cummings of St. Marys, KS, and Tim Cummings of Wamego, KS, sisters Lorye (Charlie) Armstrong of Wamego, KS, and Lisa (Aaron) Lyman of Topeka, KS, “adopted” brother John (Wendy) Aldhous-Evans of Keystone Heights, several nieces and nephews, and many friends.
A Celebration of Life will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday, July 20, at Fleming Island Town Hall Event Center. Arrangements by HARDAGE-GIDDENS HOLLY HILL FUNERAL HOME, 3601 Old Jennings Rd, Middleburg, FL. Please post words of comfort at www.hollyhillfunerals.com.
Gilbert Lee Long
Gilbert Lee Long, 63, of Fleming Island, FL, passed away July 13, 2019.
Broadus Raines Funeral Home, 501 Spring St., Green Cove Springs, FL (904) 284-4000. www.broadusraines.com