By JANET HEIM
4:24 PM EDT, August 20, 2011
There were two sides to Michael "Mike" Mann — the emergency services side and the artistic one. People usually knew the Hagerstown native for one or the other.
Those who knew him through Washington County Hospital or his volunteer work at Community Rescue Service and Pioneer Hook & Ladder knew of his commitment to others.
"He took care of others at his own expense," said his father, Robert "Bob" Mann of Hagerstown.
Mike long had been fascinated by medical dramas on television, said his mother, Sylvia Mann.
"He watched 'Emergency' as a kid, and in the later years 'ER.' I was a nurse," she said. "I don't know if that combination of things ... but he went into the medical field."
While a student at South Hagerstown High School, Mike joined Community Rescue Service. He worked as an emergency medical technician, climbing the ranks from sergeant to deputy chief, and was on the board of directors.
"He was very dedicated to whatever he did," said James Sprecher, CRS chief.
James added that Mike was a "very, very good artist," noting that he admired Mike's drawing of a new CRS ambulance with medics sitting in front of it that hangs on the wall at CRS.
Mike also volunteered with Pioneer Hook & Ladder in downtown Hagerstown, joining in 1981 as a firefighter, then serving on its board and as a photographer.
"He was a real good guy. We all miss him," said Rodney McCoy, Pioneer president and captain.
Mike earned the rank of Eagle Scout in 1979 while a member of Boy Scouts of America Troop 4 at John Wesley United Methodist Church, the same troop where his father had become an Eagle scout and where Mike was a church member.
Together, they became members of the Order of the Arrow, which recognizes Scouts and adult leaders who best exemplify the Scout oath and law. Mike also was founding president of Explorer Post 75, started at CRS in 1980.
Mike delivered The Daily Mail newspaper for six years during his pre-teen and teen years, with the help of Muffin, the family's elkhound-collie mix.
He graduated from high school in 1979, after serving as chair of the homecoming committee, and in 2005 became a certified medical assistant through Hagerstown Business College.
Despite his medical expertise, Mike had his own health issues that would shorten his life. His father said he suffered from insulin-dependent diabetes, coronary artery disease that resulted in heart bypass surgery in January 2009, and blocked leg arteries.
Mike died in the lounge of Pioneer Hook & Ladder, most likely due to a diabetic episode, his mother said.
"A lot of things that happened to our son happened prematurely," Bob said.
Mike had worked at Washington County Hospital for 15 years as a certified operating room technician, as well as at Meadow Dialysis.
"He was so caring," Sylvia said. "People would tell me how he comforted them in the O.R., or they remember working with him in the O.R. or at CRS."
As his health deteriorated, Mike worked part time, but had to go on disability after the 2009 surgery, his mother said. When he no longer was able to work due to his health, he turned to his artistic side.
Mike had gotten into photography after his parents gave him a Nikon camera as a high school graduation gift. In addition to that, he took to drawing and building wooden lighthouse models from scratch, even though Mike never had taken drawing lessons.
He created pencil drawings of local firefighters, celebrities, familiar landmarks and religious-themed pieces. Mike sold his artwork at a booth at Hagerstown's City Market, hoping to earn enough to supplement his disability income, but the poor economy had been bad for business, Bob said.
"I was surprised at how many people didn't know that he drew," said Linda Colella of Hagerstown, Mike's only sibling. "I think he was very humble about it. He didn't brag or boast about it,"
With some of his artwork recently was posted on a Facebook page, Mike's work was getting positive feedback and interest, Linda added.
"Art came to him naturally," Bob said. "He drew continuously. There were lots of doodles on papers."
Mike was working to illustrate a children's book by an author from Frederick, Md., and had completed the rough drafts before his death.
"In church, he always sketched a picture of Jesus on the bulletin during the sermon," Sylvia said.
Another joy in Mike's life was his 20-year-old son, Michael Mann of Smithsburg.
"He just thought the world of his son. He just held such a huge place in Mike's heart. It's so sad it had to end this way," Sylvia said.
Linda's children, Carlie and Cori, also were special to Mike, and he would text them to stay in touch.
Mike would go to Cori's baseball games and take photographs.
"He did a lot for both of my kids," Linda said.
Carlie Colella recently was crowned Miss Maryland, and Linda said they found news clippings that Mike had cut out, most likely to create a scrapbook for Carlie, with the Miss America Pageant in Las Vegas coming up for her in January 2012.
"It's so hard. He was so interested in her and taking photographs," Sylvia said. "He was going to call the fire department in Las Vegas and have them meet Carlie."
Linda said while growing up, she preferred being outside playing, while Mike, who was two years older, was more of an "inside person."
He did play Little League baseball and ran track for South High, but playing drums and trumpet in the E. Russell Hicks Middle School Band and South High jazz band was a better fit.
The family got together for holidays and Hagerstown Suns games.
"I think we all tried very hard to be family-oriented," Bob said. "Life throws you curves."
Bob said he was going through documents on Mike's computer after his death and found a brief writing from Mike, knowing his heart was acting up.
"He wanted to be remembered for caring for those not only in organizations he worked with, but others as well. He helped the person holding the life of the patient in their hand in the hospital," Bob said. "He went the extra mile and tried to comfort them before surgery, and they remembered that."
Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail runs "A Life Remembered." Each story in this continuing series takes a look back — through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others — at a member of the community who died recently. Today's "A Life Remembered" is about Michael E. Mann who died July 26 at the age of 50. His obituary was published in the July 28 edition of The Herald-Mail.
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