I don’t remember exactly when I met Mike Attwell – the late 1980s or early 1990s – but I certainly know where. My friend, the late Norm Nissen, and I played racquetball at the Albany YMCA on Washington Avenue.
Some combination of Danny, Charlie, Mike, and his co-worker Alan wanted to know if we wanted to play games with partners, two on two; or cutthroat, in groups of three. We did, and from that point until 2010, when the Y closed, we all played about thrice a week with whoever showed up, which eventually included Tyrone and others.
You learn a lot about a person when you play racquetball with them. Mike wasn’t the fastest guy; that’d be Tyrone. Or the best (Danny or Charlie). But he may have been the most tenacious. When we played as partners, he’d almost always play the front, because he anticipated well and could get to a lot of shots.
But, in the earlier days, he was also the hardest on himself, often spouting an invective that included MF, always at himself. Interestingly, I think he played better after he stopped the cursing.
After the Y closed, he occasionally drove me to Siena College so we could play with some of the others, but it fell by the wayside.
In 2000, when I started attending First Presbyterian Church, I got to sing with Mike. I might have participated in a FOCUS service or two with him, but this was the first time on a weekly basis.
You learn a lot about a person when you sing with them. Mike, a tenor, was usually present unless he was traveling. He worked hard to get his part right. When the weather was lousy, he’d sometimes give me a ride home after choir rehearsal.
I got to see him in other aspects of church life, notably on the finances. He explained to the congregation the fiscal responsibility of the use of the endowment. This could be MEGO territory, but Mike, who dealt with numbers for New York State, explained it amazingly well.
In August of 2003, he married Sue, again. They’d been married in a private ceremony six months earlier. But as the pastor noted at the time, they wanted to have a public event so their church family could be witnesses.
At the reception, Mike was discussing a nice resort in Poland Springs, ME that he thought my wife and I should go to. It didn’t allow anyone under 18. (I believed they’ve since changed that rule.) We went that very month and had a lovely time. No one knew yet that my wife was pregnant, so it was a particularly sound suggestion.
After I retired in 2019, I joined the Tuesday morning at 9 a.m. group of Bible Guys. But when COVID hit, my daughter’s school was remote, so she didn’t need to get up as early. The two groups then operated on something called ZOOM(?), so I ALSO joined the Thursday at 7 a.m. gathering.
Mike Attwell was in that Thursday group. He shared a lot of his personal biography, from his roots to certain difficulties in his past. I did not know this: The meaning of Attwell is “lives by the spring”, as in water, which seems apt.
Though the facilitator rotated, it was always Mike, who introduced the group to John van de Laar, offering prayer by the liturgist. I suppose if I were to pick one for Mike, who died last week, it might be this one, which begins:
In the midst of grief, we choose to celebrate,
because it reminds us of hope,
and brings comfort to our broken heart.