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David Pressgrove: Total vida

David Pressgrove

The first time I met Michael “Mick” Havrilla I was a frazzled, tired and green reporter.

It was my second week on the job at the Craig Daily Press, and I felt like I was in over my head learning the job.

It was also the summer of the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and I invited myself over to Jeff Hammond’s place to hang out with locals watching the U.S. play Germany. Mick, Jeff, Bill Sawer and Rich Thompson welcomed me as they watched at 5 a.m.

Mick had just been named the boys soccer coach for Moffat County High School.

“You’ll have some wins to cover this year, I promise,” he told me, referring to the soccer team’s three-year winless streak. “And if not, we’ll at least have some fun doing it.”

Then he smiled big.

It was a smile that made me smile.

It was what I needed after a two-week whirlwind learning my new job.

Mick’s smile was contagious and so was his energy.

The last three years Mick used his energy to fight numerous attacks on his body. He had multiple myeloma, a cancer that causes abnormal cell buildup in the marrow and creates tumors in the bones. He also suffered from amyloidosis, which is a rare affliction that produces protein deposits in organs and break down the organs’ functions.

Mick passed away July 19 in Denver. His funeral service was held seven days later in Craig.

In the eulogy, Father Ernest Bayer said Mick never met a stranger and that he loved talking to everybody he came in contact with.

I was fortunate to be one of those people.

The first soccer story I wrote about Mick and high school soccer was titled “Total fðtbol.” Mick strived to get his teams to be well balanced and to work well as a collective unit. He also liked to throw out words in Spanish every so often during practice.

I just happened to be at the first practice where he believed that it was starting to come together. He told me, “Listen to that talk, it’s the beautiful sound of focus on the field:it’s total fðtbol.”

The Bulldogs went on to win five games that year, which equaled their total wins in the previous five years. They beat rival Steamboat Springs for the first time in 11 years and Mick was named Coach of the Year for the Western Slope League (an honor that the athletic director had to tell everybody about because Mick was too humble to say anything).

My favorite interviews the first two years at the Daily Press were with Mick. He always had me walk away from the field to sit down and talk about the game, or life, or fishing, or how he liked my last story.

Twenty minutes later, we’d be the only ones left on the field, I’d have four pages of notes and I had heard another of Mick’s stories about the Yampa River or about cross country skiing. Whatever it was I’d always feel better about my day.

I get the feeling a lot of people had similar experiences with Mick. The people who came to celebrate his life Thursday were from every aspect of life that Mick explored.

There were former athletes, co-workers, church friends, fellow nature lovers, friends of his children, soccer supporters, military veterans and probably some people he met on the street, trail or river.

It made me think of the balance Mick had in his life. To steal from him, he lived a total life or total vida. There has to be some Spanish in there somewhere.

So here’s to Mick and his “total vida.”

The Mick I knew lived the way he strived for his teams to play – balanced, passionate and focused.

His smile and love of life will be missed.

Thanks Mick, for making that love contagious to all those you were around.


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