Michael “Mike” Dee Carl was born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma on November 4, 1954; however, he grew up in Modesto, California. “South Mo”, he called his neighborhood, where his family resided as one of the lowest income households in town.
Over the course of his entire life, he LOVED looking at the stars and studying everything about them, whether he was sitting outside and staring at the brilliant night sky, getting up close and personal through the multitude of lenses for his vast array of telescopes or reading every single book he possibly could find regarding “Life, the Universe and Everything.” He would later learn that the answer to all of his questions was actually quite simple…”42”; which, to me, when said aloud, the number “forty-two” sounds eerily similar to “fortitude”. (I think Douglas Adams was onto something, yet I digress…)
Astronomy was not just some silly little hobby of his—it was his PASSION. He had his sights set on studying Astrophysics at Harvard University (the best of the best in America) and, eventually, working at NASA. He also excelled just as well in sports—predominantly baseball and football—as he did in academics. Having grown up in the poorest of poor neighborhoods in “South Mo”, he understood from a very early age that his only ticket out of the ghetto was to immerse himself into—and sublimely MASTER—every last bit of academics, sports, special clubs in school, as well as any and all extracurricular endeavors and activities he could make time for.
By the time he graduated high school, he had been accepted into every Ivy League school in the nation, all 3 military academies, along with a smattering of other higher education institutions. However, in order to be able to attend Harvard, or any school for that matter, he fundamentally required financial aid, grants, or a 100% scholarship. Initially, Harvard offered him 75%. They would not budge with that extra 25%, so he opted for his “second choice”—the Air Force Academy—instead. It goes without saying, my father was a truly gifted, talented, highly intelligent man with the entire world (and the magnificent unknown beyond the earth’s stratosphere) at his disposal. But with one minor—nay, MAJOR—setback. Money.
As it turned out, my dad’s particular field of study was a bit of a rarity for the Air Force Academy at the time, and therefore they were not appropriately equipped or prepared to provide the education he needed (and desired) without a hefty chunk of change. Such a program required financial aid, grants and a large bulk of funds in order to engineer and sustain. Unfortunately, and somewhat serendipitously, as the government and every other financial institution were unwilling to “gamble” on a man from the “wrong side of the tracks” in Modesto, California, regardless of his unbridled intelligence and countless—COUNTLESS—academic achievements, he was unable to obtain the necessary funding to continue his education at the Air Force Academy. He had a goal that he had worked so hard toward for his entire life and refused to give up on his #1 dream. After all, it’s not every day that an individual is accepted into every single prestigious U.S. institution, unless he or she possesses a certain “heightened” aptitude in more than just a few vast varieties of fields.
Therefore, he did what Mike Carl did the best: demonstrated persistence and negotiated. He went back to Harvard and managed to haggle a full ride scholarship at the university. My dad always told me that everything in life is negotiable…except for one’s health. (And boy if that isn’t the truth.) Unfortunately, after 2 years having been submerged in the majestic academia he so THRIVED in, his father had a heart attack and was unable to work in order to take care of the rest of the family, financially or otherwise, even with the 3 jobs my grandmother worked just to try and make the bare minimum ends meet. With initial consternation, subsequently followed by clarity toward familial principalities, Michael Dee Carl made the gut-wrenching decision to pack up and leave Harvard, with nary a word to anybody as to why, during winter break after most of his peers, and very close friends, had left to visit their families for the holiday season, in order to help his own family endure the dire financial straits they were facing—regardless of just how incredibly vital (and, not to mention, invigorating) his Harvard education was in order to chart the course for the rest of his life. As he always used to tell me: “C’est la vie…”
Mike Carl wanted to move space exploration forward in such a way that nobody else had ever seen or even conceived of. Harvard was constructing an observatory for his continued studies in Astrophysics, just so he could do exactly what he so desperately desired; yet alas, he moved home, which at that point was then Oklahoma (as his family had relocated from California), and instantly began baling and hauling hay, along with various scrap metal and performing other forms of hard, manual labor just to make some coin here and there for his family. That was the moment in his life that he went from advancing all of his Cosmological dreams to upholding the entire family atop his shoulders as if he were Atlas. I still call him Atlas because, let’s face it, he NEVER stopped taking care of everybody else, all the while neglecting his own wellbeing, until the day he died.
Michael Dee Carl unexpectedly passed on the morning of Sunday, January 13, 2019 at the age of 64. His birthday was yesterday, November 4th.
It has always been the greatest honor to call Mike Carl my dad.
He was that strong, wildly handsome, extremely witty, highly intelligent and compassionate man that every girl wanted to be with, and every guy wanted to be. His presence alone commanded attention without him even realizing it. But I have to say, amidst the aforementioned…his most admirable quality was integrity. Understanding that there was a time and a place for which to open your mouth; and a time and a place to set aside your passions, regardless of how difficult it may be, in order to be with and help those you love the most.
He always said that when he passed away, he wanted to be cremated and have his ashes sent into space so he could be amongst the stars he was so fascinated by and adored. Demonstrating the very same persistence my dad preached to me on a daily basis, no less than two days after receiving the dreaded phone call no daughter ever wants to get, hearing the heartbreaking news that her dad suddenly, out of nowhere, just collapsed in the driveway and died on an otherwise idle Sunday morning while walking to grab the newspaper…I was bound and determined to bring to fruition his one and only wish that he ever expressed aloud regarding when “the day came.” Which, naturally, I ALWAYS hated hearing. But then again…”C’est la vie”, right?
Thank you, Celestis, for helping me honor my dad’s wish in such a manner that he can, at this point in time, at least hang out in outer space for a few days. (When my [recent] new husband and I have $20,000 to spare, we plan to send a little more of Dad into DEEP, deep space; so he will truly be able to explore the glorious celestial unknown for all of our own perceived eternity 😊)
Such a blessing and phenomenon for my dad; and I, along with the rest of my family, without a doubt, cannot WAIT until the day he gets to feel what it would have been like to be an astronaut for NASA.