By now you’ve heard that Mike Shain passed away on October 4. The voice of Heartland News for decades, the man you allowed into your homes every night to tell you the days’ most important events. You trusted him. Mike never took that trust lightly or for granted.
I worked in the Heartland before arriving at channel 12 so I knew who he was. When I walked into the newsroom and saw him in the flesh, I thought “It’s Mike Shain. Do not make eye contact. You are not worthy.” But he was the first to come up with a big smile and say hi. He was willing to not only be a colleague, but to be my friend. By the time I was sitting next to him at the anchor desk a year later, we were best friends.
Mike was an old school journalist--the best kind of journalist. He told fantastic stories from the good ol’ days. He worked seven days a week back then. He loved news and felt a personal duty to you to be here through the good and the bad times. During the blizzard of ’79, Mike walked to the station through waist high snow and lived here for three days so that he could tell you what was going on. His only meals came from a vending machine. Want to know who to call in East Prairie for a story? Ask Mike. Want to know how Pope County voted in an election? Ask Mike. Want to know the history of flooding, earthquakes, and tornadoes in the Heartland? Well, you know where this is going. Mike was the newsroom’s Encyclopedia and he always had time for everyone. I can’t tell you how much that meant to every young reporter who walked through that door.
A proud graduate of the Sikeston High School, Mike never got a college degree, but he was one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. He loved to read, he loved history and he loved to share it with everyone. I would tell young reporters, “Don’t ask him about the Civil War. You’ve got a deadline.”
He traveled to factories for Made in the Heartland. He went to diners too in search of the best food. Mike was the perfect choice for these assignments because he loved to learn and he loved to eat. He could tell a story like no one could. I watched him and I got better because of him. Yet for all his success and talent, Mike was the most humble, down to earth person you’d ever meet. He meant the world to you, to this station, and to me.
Mike and his wife Doris never had children, so they sort of adopted me. We hung out a lot. Over the years they were at every major event in my life--the birth of the boys, birthday parties, even a bash at my apartment many moons ago. They didn’t stay til 2 a.m. and Mike didn’t even have a beer, but he showed up. And that’s all you really want in a friend, for them to show up.
Until the very end, Mike was there for me. He attended basketball and soccer games, graduations and holiday meals. I took him to a Notre Dame soccer game just two weeks ago. I had the oxygen tank between his legs and his wheelchair literally shoved in the back of my car because I couldn’t figure out how to collapse it, and off we went, laughing at my ineptness. I wasn’t the most skilled caregiver. But he saw Griffin score and his eyes lit up and that alone made it all worth it.
When Doris died four years ago, it was my turn to adopt Mike. We had four wonderful years of fun and laughs. And more trips to doctors and ER rooms than I can count. He kept me hopping. Mike and I had many conversations, of course, over the years, the ones over the last few months took on new meaning as we learned what we were facing: stage four lung cancer. He fought the good fight and was doing pretty good until he wasn’t. If you’ve ever seen someone through a battle with cancer you know that it can turn pretty quickly and mercifully for Mike, it did. Mike never wanted to be a burden to anyone. And he never was to me or the wonderful doctors, nurses, therapists and staff that cared for him. Mike was well loved.
In the days before he passed our conversations got fewer and shorter. The last thing he said to me was, “Is Griffin still playing soccer?” I said “Yes.” and then he asked how many goals he had. I answered him. He smiled and laid his head back on his pillow. Selfless until the end. Thinking about others until the end. And loving my boys until the end.
I want you to know these things about Mike Shain; He loved animals and adopted every one that lived in his neighborhood. He was generous. On Easter Sunday he and Doris would fill our front yard with candy for the boys to find when they woke up. He was a sharp dresser. He was Santa Claus at the KFVS children’s party. He was dangerous with fireworks. He was self-deprecating. He loved buffets, barbeque, and a good pizza. He was wickedly funny--sarcasm his strong suit. He was kind. He was forgiving. And he was a friend who always showed up. Even when I put him in this costume for the Cancer Gala I was in charge of years ago. Now if that’s not friendship, I don’t know what is.
God threw away the mold after making John Michael Shain in early 1939. He gave the world a beautiful soul who was loved by all who had the privilege of meeting him. Of everything I took away from my years at KFVS, his friendship was the most precious. I was better for it and so was the Heartland.
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A Better Heartland/KFVS
Cape Girardeau, MO 63701