Remembering Michael Katz 
(March 26, 1943, to January 17, 2008) 

  


"
To know him was to love him"

 
By Howie Levy

    

In 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, one of them is gone.

  

      Jr High graduation, 1957 Circa 1958 (Mike on the left)

 

 Throughout his adult life, despite the extreme hardships Michael faced as a direct result of one tragic misfortune that befell him as a young man ― an accident that left him with a serious permanent injury and disability, stripped away his dream to be a surgeon and ultimately took his life prematurely over 35 years later ― Mike Katz appreciated life. Right up to the end, he always remained the happiest, most charming and positive individual one might ever expect to meet.  No matter what your troubles du jour might have been, it was almost impossible to be unhappy around Michael, whose spirit and optimism were unyielding, infectious, uplifting ― and very endearing

  

We were enriched by knowing him, and the world is diminished by his passing.

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.

"To know him was to love him"
 
  

The foregoing paragraphs were adapted from remarks I delivered at Michael's funeral, January 20, 2008. The following thoughts (until the photographs below) were adapted from words spoken that day by Jay, largely about Mike's all too brief career as a dedicated physician.

  

An 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 and 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 time, 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 were here."
 

A 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 Sider Press, Spindrift, tennis (Coach Jan called them "Heckle and Jeckle") and drama (Teahouse of the August Moon and Bells Are Ringing).

  

          

Our Junior Prom                From left: Jay, Mike and others, in costume                                               Mike (at right) and Jay (at left) with Marty Fuchs
                                              for Teahouse of the August Moon                                                                   in a scene from Bells Are Ringing
  

                

        Our Senior Prom:  Mike is at right (Jay is with Doreen Silverstein)                                                 Our graduation day Jay, Sue Schlesinger,
                                                                                                                                                                                Alan 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 our periodic 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

"To 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, Coach Jan (the tall one, of course) and Coach Roy

   

"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. ― Doreen Silverstein
   

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 you. Sue Schlesinger
   

I was devastated to learn of Michael's death. ... I can't imagine what you [Jay] 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 heart. ― Linda Feuerstein
   

Though we haven't been in close contact over the years, there still are strong bonds from the past that can never
be broken. ...
when mentioning 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 Heaven. I feel his pain, and I wish I could take it from him. Nancy Keegan
   

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. ― Penny Wise ('63)
  

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.  Fran Perlman
  

Truly tragic.  I guess the last 35+ years were a "gift." Bill Liebman
   

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 loss. ― Flossie Eidensohn
  

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.  Steve Hersch
  

Mike was rescued [in 1972] by medical treatment and later by rehabilitationists, but he was saved by love. And he returned that love with compound interest. Ed Chilton (now deceased)
   

It is with great sadness that I found out about the passing of Mike Katz; he will be missed. Tom Nasca
  

 

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. Bob Rubin
    

 

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.  Fern Firestone
  

 

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. Rudy Hrubala
   

 

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. Penny White
   

 

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. Marilyn Braunstein
  

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. Sheila Berg
  

I am so sorry to hear about Michael's death. He will always have a special place in my heart!  Joan Fishman ('63)

  

 

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 him.
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.

                                                        Author unknown


 

On Michael's memorial gravestone, for all eternity, it now says:

 

A man of enduring courage,

 

and right below it, these words appear:

 

"To know him was to love him"

 

The following notice was placed by his family in the

where it appeared January 27, 2008:

KATZ Michael. Died January 17, 2008. He is survived by his wife Barbara, his parents, Jerome and Lillian, and his twin brother Jay. 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. Donations in his honor may be made to the Saddleback Memorial Foundation, 24451 Health Centre Drive, Laguna Hills, CA 92653, designating your gift to Critical Care.

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 write me.

Classmates and other visitors are invited to submit material for a special memorial page
like this for any other departed classmate. Just e-mail it to me.

      Howie               
 

 

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