December 1958, the number 1 song in the country bore a title
inspired by an inscription on the songwriter's father's gravestone.
It read, "To
know him was to love him." And there is no more fitting epitaph one could choose for our dear
friend, Mike Katz, for he was undoubtedly among the most lovable
human beings any of us has ever met.
You all know that Mike and his brother, Jay, although both unique in
certain ways, were also each half of a matched set, identical twins with
that very special connection that only identical twins have. They were
two of the finest men one could have the good fortune to know, and for
well over fifty years for me, two of the most wonderful friends one
could ever hope for. Now, sadly, one of them is gone.
Michael's accident caused him severe brain damage that nearly took his
life over 35 years ago. After substantial recovery over a period of
years, it left him with impaired short term memory. But his brain damage
never affected his unique magnetic personality or his quick and
disarming wit. When I was trying to arrange what turned out so sadly to
be our last meeting, his devoted wife, Barbara, was not at home, and
Mike could not remember her cell phone number. Facetiously, I suggested
that he should get his memory checked. Michael responded, in all
seriousness (as if I didn't know) that his memory was impaired as a
result of the injury to his brain so many years ago. I replied that, of
course, I knew that and that I was just joking with him. “You know my
sense of humor, Michael,” I said. His retort, without hesitation: “Yeah,
but my brain is not as funny as your sense of humor.” He had me
rolling on the floor with laughter.
know him was to love him"
The foregoing three paragraphs were adapted from remarks I delivered at
Michael's funeral, January 20, 2008. The following thoughts (that
photographs below) were adapted from words spoken that day by Jay,
largely about Mike's all too brief career as a dedicated physician.
article published by his employer, Southern California Edison, a public
utility, in Health Care News," sets forth his philosophy
and the most important aspect to Michael's life in medicine, his role
with respect to the lessons of life
wellness. Quoting Michael, the
article said: "A physician is nothing more than a teacher. ... My job
is to teach the patient how to get well and stay well; the patient's job
is to accomplish those goals."
When he was forced, due to budget cuts, to leave Southern California
Edison, he wrote
this in a letter to a patient, "You
are most important in the achievement of good health. ... The simplicity
of good health is maintaining a proper balance. ...You (don't) need a
specialist, just someone who knows and cares about you, a friend. ...
Please take good care of yourself; I want you to do well." At that
Michael received letters of praise, appreciation and support from other
patients he cared for. Here is a small sampling:
"Doctor, I hate to see you leave, and
I want to thank you for ALL you have done for me. If you
hadn't caught the problem I had with my left coronary
artery, I don't know where I might be now. Thanks to you, I
feel great. Good luck to the best doctor I have ever seen."
"No physician ... worked with me in getting the correct
medication prescribed, you are the only one in six years of
headache pain to provide me with some relief. ... Thank you
for the excellent care you have provided for me while you
loving son with a great sense of humor, Michael called his mother every
morning and started her day by making her laugh. And he was a dutiful
and devoted husband. Despite all the losses Michael suffered, he never
lost his spirit, his hope and his faith.
When we were kids at
Oceanside High, along with twin
brother, Jay, Mike was among the most active and popular members of
our class. Both of them participated,
among other things, in
Spindrift, tennis (Coach Jan called them "Heckle and
Jeckle") and drama (Teahouse
of the August Moon and
Bells Are Ringing).
Prom From left: Jay, Mike and others,
Mike (at right) and Jay (at left) with Marty Fuchs
Teahouse of the August Moon
in a scene from
Bells Are Ringing
is at right
(Jay is with Doreen Silverstein) Our
graduation day – Jay, Sue Schlesinger,
Lupi and Mike (in front)
"Puttin' on the Ritz" for Mike
Brozost's wedding to
The three of us, December 2002
(Mike is on the right)
Margot (sister of Sabin) Danziger, August 20, 1966
(Mike is at left)
Mike loved OHS (sometimes, he wore the
Popeye mascot costume to cheer our
Sailors on), and he loved our class. When asked decades later what were
his favorite memories from high school, Mike's immediate and sole
response was, "My classmates." He was one of the greatest fans of
class reunions and never stopped asking
when the next one would be.
Below are Mike and Jay in some reunion photos. And we will surely miss
him at our 50th
in 2010 because
know him was to love him"
1980 - Can you tell them apart?
(Mike's on the left.)
1990 - This time Mike is on the
right (with Linda Feuerstein)
2005 - On the outside, Mike (Heckle) at right and Jay (Jeckle), and in
the center, the now deceased
(the tall one, of course) and
"If love could have saved him, he would have lived forever."
Below are some
selections from an outpouring of comments received from
classmates and other OHS alumni expressing their love for
Michael and Jay and offering comfort for the Katz family
upon learning of Mike's untimely passing:
It is very hard to
put into words how I feel right now about my dear friend,
Michael. Michael and I have been friends since we were 4
years old. His parents have been a large part of my life,
with his mother and my mother being best friends. We went
all through grade school probably seeing each other every
day, Hebrew school, high school and all the summers at the
beach club together. Michael was a very special person; he
never saw anything bad in anyone and always had a smile on
his face. I remember most his sense of humor and many
practical jokes he and Jay played in school. I was glad to
spend some time with him at the last reunion and wish him
peace now. His life may not have gone the path he would have
chosen, but he had a wonderful and caring wife, Barbara, who
made it over many hurdles together with him. His beautiful
smile is imbedded in my mind. ―
Words come up short in trying to express my feelings
about the passing of Mike. You both
[Jay and Mike]
were like institutions in my mind ... as a comfort and a
part of my history, a part of me. I'll always remember
him as he was, smiling, laughing, adorable, visiting me when
I had the measles, on the set of
Teahouse and just being my
friend, as you were. You two were connected in my mind
as one as I'm sure you were to each other. ... I
cannot imagine being a twin. I cannot presume to say that I
feel your pain. I can only say that I pain for you and love
I was devastated to
learn of Michael's death. ... I can't imagine what you
and your family have been going through. You must feel as
though half of you is missing. You have been an
extraordinary brother to Michael and Barbara, the most
amazing wife. He was so fortunate to have such support and
love. I loved him dearly and will keep the memories of my
youth and that special day in Bermuda with him close to my
Though we haven't
been in close contact over the years, there still are strong
bonds from the past that can never
be broken. ...
Mike's name, it brings smiles to faces of all who knew him
as he was always happy.
Mike Brozost and
Margot Danziger ('63) Brozost
What a shock!!
Mike was so sweet, a wonderful man, and I know how much
he'll be missed.
I don't think I ever
saw either Jay or Mike angry or sad. They were always
so-o-o-o positive. Now my heart goes out to Jay who will be
sad for the rest of his life. Half of him is in
feel his pain, and I wish I could take it from him.
I'm so sorry to hear
of his much too early passing. The Mike that I knew
many years ago, in our youth, was always the fun-loving nut
who loved to switch dates with Jay without the dates knowing
what they were doing. He always made me laugh.
You have lost a
wonderful friend, but the world has lost a wonderful man.
I was so sorry to
hear about Mike. I guess we all thought that since he
was such a good person, he would always be there. ―
I guess the last 35+ years were a "gift."
I am heartbroken at
this terrible news. Though I haven't seen or been in touch
with Michael for years, he lives in my heart. There are so
many memories that come flooding back of all our great times
together as teens. His smiling face is as clear as a bell to
me. He was one of the sweetest persons I have ever known. I
will cherish his memory. I loved him and grieve for his
I am sorry to hear
about Mike Katz. Although I was not close with him after
high school, living down the block from the family, I have
some nice memories. ―
Mike was rescued
by medical treatment
and later by rehabilitationists, but he was saved by love.
And he returned that love with compound interest.
It is with great
sadness that I found out about the passing of Mike Katz; he
will be missed.
One of the tragedies
of growing old is the loss of people who have been part of
our lifelong journey. Mike was part of my journey, and I
will always remember his smile, sense of humor and zest for
life, which he apparently kept through difficult times.
Although he may not be with us, he has left us with an
important inspiration. Live, and love life.
I did see the
beautiful memory page for Michael, and as the song
played and the photos displayed, I cried. Mike was
a sweet and funny person, and being with the group from
3rd grade through high school was a wonderful
experience. Oceanside H.S. gave us the confidence
and self esteem to face life's ups and downs. I am
sure that Michael remembered those days with a smile. I
am so sorry that he had so many challenges and want to
send my sympathy to the whole family. ―
Finding myself with some quiet
time this evening, I thought I would visit our website and
was saddened to learn about Mike. I do remember him as
someone with a ready smile, a good word for all, and a
magnificently positive attitude. What a better place our
world would be if there were more Mikes.
I was moved to tears by the Mike
Katz tribute ... . Although I didn't know him well, he and
Jay were two smiling faces I could never forget.
I am deeply saddened by the news
of yet another classmate's way too early death. I'm sure
the Katz family will grieve forever even as they know that
his life was a gift for such a long time.
I have been out of
touch with the class of 1960 for many years, but I do
remember Mike vividly. He was a wonderful classmate, full of
fun and positive energy. If love could have saved him, he
would have lived forever.
Jay wrote, "I love all the
wonderful messages we are getting from our classmates. ... We have an
amazing class." And
he adds, "Michael
truly believed that we are responsible for our own happiness and that we
must find the goodness in life, embrace it and enjoy every moment. He
did love life, and he was an inspiration. He never became bitter and
never complained about being dealt an unfair hand."
You can shed tears that he is gone.
Or you can smile because he lived.
You can close your eyes and pray that he will come back.
Or you can open your eyes and see all that he has left.
Your heart can be empty because you can't see
Or you can be full of the love that you shared,
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live for yesterday,
Or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.
You can remember him and only that he is gone.
Or you can cherish his memory and let it live on,
You can cry, close your mind, be empty, and turn your back.
Or you can do what he would have wanted,
Smile, open your eyes, love and move on.
On Michael's memorial
gravestone, for all eternity, it now says:
"A man of enduring courage,"
and right below it,
these words appear:
know him was to love him"
following excerpt is from a notice placed by his family in
"His passing will be mourned by his family, relatives,
and friends who loved him for his endearing ways, his wonderful sense of
humor, his generous and positive nature and his indomitable spirit and
courage in the face of adversity. He dedicated his life to medicine. He will
especially be remembered for his expert care and devotion to patients whose
lives were favored by his teaching good health and wellness."
Come back to this special memorial page now and then
when you are thinking of Mike or
to see if anything
has been added. And if you would like to add anything about Michael, please
Classmates and other
visitors are invited to submit material for a special memorial
for any other departed classmate. Just e-mail it to me.