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There are two things I will always remember about Mike D'Alfonso.
The first is how he broke my fear of heights. Literally. We were working at the Passavant Center for a performance of The Nutcracker which the Empire State ballet was performing at Thiel in December of 1991. Mike and I were amongst several Thiel Players who signed up to work crew. We were asked to rig some lights on the stage and climbed a very high ladder to reach the lights and make adjustments. Mike could tell I was a bit nervous as I had always had a fear of heights. He asked if I was okay. I said, yes, but that I was a bit leery of being so high up. No kidding, he literally shoved me off the ladder! But he did it in such a way that he caught me in the same motion and held onto me as I nearly fell. He never let go of my shirt as he was pushing me away, to the point that I felt as if I was floating in mid-air for the briefest moment, though my feet were still planted to the rung of the ladder. He then pulled me back to safety just as quickly, and it happened so fast that I had no time to be frightened. I thought he was absolutely insane and probably cussed him out, but after a moment he asked if I felt sacred any longer and I took a look all around, including straight down some thirty feet, and realized I wasn't scared at all. He literally scared the fear of heights right out of me! And to this day I can scale a ladder without hesitation. (WARNING -- Do not attempt this on your own. I still think he was a bit crazy for trying it!)
The second is his smile. Mike always greeted fellow classmates with a bright and electric smile that could lighten anyone's day. And he would say hello with sincerity. In an environment such as college, you pass so many people with "Hey" and "What's up?" or "How ya doing?" that you almost don't really talk to everyone. It always seemed as if Mike really said hello each time you saw him in class or passed him in campus. There was a genuine quality about him in that way that always impressed me.
He was a good man, and I have no doubt he was a wonderful father. He'll be missed. I hope this memory adds to how well he is remembered by those who love him.
Peace and Sincerity,
Daniel J. Kirk
Thiel College Class of 1992 Classmate of Mike D'Alfonso
We West-siders turned out alright, huh Mike? You were an inspiration to us all. God bless and God Speed my friend. Ben Reed
Mike was such a great friend. I remember a lot of fun times we had together - in classes, like in PJ Miller's Phase 4 English, where we sat by each other and talked and laughed all of the class; or during football, where we complained about practices and the weather, but loved being part of such a successful and close-knit group; and basketball seasons, complaining about sitting the bench in basketball, convinced we were better players than we actually were, but when really we had fun goofing around on the sidelines while the others practiced or played; or in the plays we were in and the choir concerts. We had so much fun together - Mike always made me laugh, always challenged me to be a better person.
I remember the time Mike skipped class to come to Pittsburgh with me when I had interviews for West Point. I was so nervous, and asked him to come along to calm my nerves. That's the kind of friend and person Mike was - he would burden or inconvience himself if a friend needed help or just needed someone to come with him to reassure him. Mike was one of my favorite people from high school, and one of my regrets in spending so much time overseas is that I wasn't able to spend more time close to home with friends like Mike.
I'll never forget when Mike met Marty - he was so excited. He told me he met the most wonderful woman he had ever met, and that he was in love. It was only a few weeks after having known her, but he was so head over heels in love, it was great to see. He told me all about her, about her son- and how much he loved her son and was really looking forward to being a father.
Even as I type this, I can't believe Mike is gone. I loved Mike - he was a special person, a rare light who always had a kind word to say, always made other feel good about themselves. He loved his work and his family, and he made a great impact in our community and in the lives he touched, whether friends like me or the kids he worked with at Keystone.
I don't understand how God works, or why things happen. There are no explanations which seem right. But whyever this happened, I know God loved Mike deeply, as Mike had such a Christlike spirit. And I know that Mike is with Him now. But knowing that still doesn't take away the pain we feel here. I will miss Mike, a lot. He was a wonderful friend and a beautiful person.
I have never met you in person but through you mother's "letters" it helped me to get to know you and the others. You left too soon, I guess Someone higher up had other plans for you..God grant you peace and pray for all of us. God bless you.
Madeline Wallace (Your cousin from Philadelphia)
People say that things happen for a reason...but that doesn't make them any easier to understand. I am glad that once again, as he always had, Mike was able to make such an impact on people....to make such a difference in people's lives. He was truely a blessed person and we are all better off at having known him and by his touching our lives.
Please let Marty and the kids know that just how amazing Mike really was and will always be in our memories.
Christy 'Pete' (Johnson) Donovan
Thiel class of 1997
Mike had something special within himself that pulled other people to him. I think it was that he did not hide who he was. He revealed the wonderful person he was on the inside from his smile, how he carried himself, and how he treated people.
I remember a couple specific times when Mike and I crossed paths at Thiel that bring a smile to my face when I picture them in my mind.
One time was when I had the opportunity to work with Mike in a theatre class at Thiel. We only worked together in one scene, but the memory of the experience has remained with me for a long time. I've had the opportunity since our scene years ago to work with a lot of other actors, but unfortunately it has only been on rare occasion that I would say I have encountered another actor who I clicked with as well.
Another thing that I remember about Mike is what a caring person he was. The time I am remembering was when I was in the process of applying for graduate school and was receiving what seemed like an endless stream of rejection letters. One day I had just received yet another rejection letter from another theatre program, and Mike and I had a great conversation in Bill's office that not only comforted me when I was feeling like a complete failure, but also had me feeling hopeful by the end of our talk.
We should all try to live our lives in the way Mike did. By all of his service to his community, I know that Mike wanted to leave the world a better place than he found it - and he did. Even though I will always consider it a tragedy that his life ended far too soon, I will try to focus on how it was a gift to have him in our lives if only for a brief time. I, too, will try to leave the world a better place, and hopefully I will have touched other's lives the way Mike has touched ours.
Kristen Koehler Thiel Class of 1992
Mike was still attending St. Mike's the last time I saw him -- hard to believe how long ago that was! But I remember him as a bright, good-looking boy with a sly, mischievous grin. Not many boys could match his energy and enthusiasm, or his knack for charming his way out of any trouble. Not that he was a troublemaker -- I never saw any sign of unkindness or spite. But he had a quick, active mind that sometimes outpaced the wisdom of his years. Lucky for him he was so darn likeable -- you just couldn't stay mad at him for long.
I'm afraid I don't have nearly enough to say to do him justice. How can mere words sum up a person's life? I wish I'd had the opportunity to get to know him better. There's not a doubt in my mind that he grew to be a fine young man, full of laughter and life.
How do I know that? I know who raised him.
Mike was someone (and these people are few and far between today), who walked a path of light that brought joy and happiness to those who were lucky enough to be part of his life. The world seems a little dimmer in his absence. He'll be fondly remembered with a smile and light heart.
Mike was a wonderful son, husband, father. He was the most unselfish man and loved helping everyone and forgetting about himself. I've know Mike since he was a little squirt and fell in love with him from the day he came home to Charlotte and Tom, his great parents. Marty was a great wife for Mike and was a great father to her Jake, who is a great kid himself, and Mike considered Jake as his own and Julianna who he loved so much.
We all Loved Mike and will miss him very much. You and Tom did a great job at raising and loving Mike.
Mike will missed by everyone who knew him and loved him.
What can anyone say about the best friend that anyone could every have. He is in my life everyday and I know that he is watching. He is with God now and everyone that knew Mike knows that God is really enjoying all of the comments and ideas that he is presenting to him. Mike, we miss you and you have impacted my life in so many ways that I am every indebted to you. We love you always. God Bless.
I sat and thought about what to say, how to talk about someone I had known forever or more accurately as long as I have been alive. What makes this so hard to write is because it seems like goodbye. So after thinking and remembering, this is my addition and I am sad to say that unfortunately it is not nearly enough to convey my feelings. Circumstances led me to know the boy, choices led me to respect the man. Choices he had made in life, his dedication to his family, his commitment to his students and the pride he showed for his community. All of those attributes made him a good man but what I remember most is his laughter, the joy he took in remembering the past and the way he embraced the present while preparing both himself and others for the future. We didn't have him long enough, not nearly long enough but perhaps there is comfort in the knowledge that Michael did more with his time on earth that many do with twice as many years. He touched people, affected lives and left us the living legacy of his children. After the service, Todd expressed that Mike was back on the west-side and that is how I choose to picture him. I can still see all of us laughing walking to school in the snow or sled riding in the cemetery or riding that bus, sitting in the back. Mike will never be forgotten, he will always be one of us and I for one am both proud and grateful for having known him. Roberta Leonard
I don't know where to begin.
He did so much for so many. I have nothing to add that will make you say "Gee, that's a side of Mike D'Alfonso I'd never seen before."
There's a reason for this.
Despite sharing close quarters when we were in high school, despite attending the same college, despite working together year after year on the David E. Michael Creativity Award, and despite our mutual involvement in both of Brother Tommy's weddings ? I feel as though I never truly knew Mike.
It's not like I didn't know him at all. I knew him well enough to think of him as family. Still, I learned more about him during the weekend of his death than I had during the previous 19 years of our acquaintance.
Missing the chance to connect with Mike on a deeper level was both my loss and my shortcoming. Mine was an awful childhood (whose wasn't?), and I became a very aloof young adult so that I could feel okay on the surface even though I was broken on the inside.
My dissociative barriers made it possible for me to hold a respectable job, pay my bills, and even develop a social sphere of sorts. But they kept me from opening myself up to let anyone get close to me.
In the wake of Mike's passing, I wonder if other amazing souls are standing just outside the perimeter of my life, just patiently waiting to get in.
That's enough about me. I set out with the desire to share memories of Michael D'Alfonso ? a beautiful human being if ever there was one.
As kids, we were blessed with moments of reckless abandon. As grownups, we would recall those moments in bright-eyed conversations that usually began with one of us saying "Do you remember the time that ? " or "Where were we going the day that ? "
One memory that I have seldom shared with anyone is the funeral of David Michael in the late summer of 1989. Dave was a good friend to both Mike and myself, and his death was no less foreseeable than Mike's 12 years later.
In the late summer of '89, I was already nearing the ocean floor of chemical addiction. Dave's death negated what little bit of emotional buoyancy I still had, and it was a matter of weeks before my life hit rock bottom.
Still, I can recall Mike's reaction at Tom's wedding. It was the day after Dave died. Mike was clearly grief-stricken, but unlike myself, he somehow found the courage to stay connected to the people and the events all around him. I remember him saying "I think Dave would have wanted us to go on with our lives."
A long time passed before I would begin to fathom the power of that statement. And as I write this today, I regret that I allowed the past 12 years to pass without ever thanking Mike for demonstrating that it is possible to pursue our most meaningful desires, even when faced with a devastating personal loss.
It was all I could do to silently thank him at the viewing. I thanked him for inspiring me to rise above my selfishness and connect with the world I'm living in. I thanked him for inspiring me to dive beneath my fear and ask myself what I really want in life.
Maybe I won't ever discover the exact reason I'm here. Still, Mike showed me that I don't have to hide my heart from the people and the things that mean the most to me ? especially in times of grief.
I am eternally grateful for his example.
5. January, 2002
I just wanted you to know my prayers and thoughts are wth you, When I heard of the accident I was in total shock and disbelief. Then after some time passed I began to think of all the fun Mike and I had as children. I remembered all the basketball games at St Mikes, the fun we had in class and most of all Mikes humor. Mike touched a lot of people in his lifetime and did a lot of good. He will be missed by many includeing his distant friends. Andrew McElhinney
I am so sorry to hear of your loss. Mike was a wonderful role model for the kids at Keystone and a super brother to Angie. My thoughts and prayers are with you. Love Jenny Riley
I have nothing but good memories of Mike. He was one of my best childhood friends and one of the nicest guys I have ever known. I'm glad I had the pleasure of knowing him, and I certainly think that wherever he is now he is happy, because anyone as good as him deserves to be happy. I will miss him as I'm sure anyone that knew him very well would. Sincerly and with love, Joe Sweigard