(May 6, 1946 – April 17, 2020) woke his young children each morning singing, “Lazy bones, sleeping in the sun, how do you expect to get your days work done,” their breakfast ready and their lunches already packed. He was this planet’s most devoted father and husband, and if dictionaries still existed, the photo of the Stone clan camping at Cape San Blas or armadillo hunting would be there beside the phrase “family man.”
And Mike learned about loving when he was lucky enough to be born into Marshall and Elsie Stone’s large family. Carlos, Lorita, Yvonne, Margaret, Carol, Bobbie Jean and Pat came before him, enter Mike, and after, Dottie and Dennis. He claimed he didn’t know the meaning of the word “leftovers” until adulthood — and he never learned to like them.
But Mike’s own family began when he met his wife, Sandy, while working at the Department of Transportation. Early on in his 43-year career at DOT, he and Sandy went on a lunch date one long-ago December. And she didn’t hear back from him again. That was until shortly after New Year’s, when a bouquet of red roses arrived on her 21st birthday, which she wrongly assumed her brother, also named Mike, had sent. A few Decembers later he proposed by wrapping her engagement ring in a huge stand-mixer box — which is what she had asked for as a Christmas gift.
In their 43 years together, Sandy said there was never a more considerate man. He never complained about her cooking and only complimented her and cleaned her kitchen every night. When her cooking became her livelihood, it was Mike Stone “delivery man” she credits with being the sweetest thing about Sandy’s Sweets. Customers and wedding vendors relished his showing up with his always, always, always good nature and her goodies.
But their real joy came when their family grew. When first-born Alan was asked when he first realized how much his dad loved him, he said he was about seven when it occurred to him that his dad never did anything without him. If his dad got a new workbench, he got one too. If Mike got a new grill, Alan got the Little Tykes version. Even as an adult, Mike labored beside him in his landscaping business. Some of his favorite memories were their no-destination drives to any and all places southeast. He remembers being three years old when his dad asked him to hold a five-foot dogwood they were transplanting while Mike ran to get a shovel. So he held it — for a few seconds until the heavy tree fell and pinned him on his back. Mike sprinted back, picked Alan up and wiped his tears. The tree lived twenty years but they laughed about the incident long after the tree had seen its last blossoms.
And while Alan described his dad as steadfastly loyal to his family, second-born Sarah called him completely selfless and her knight in shining armor. He would do anything for them and he loved them unconditionally. There was no place he would rather be than home. And because of him, their home always rang with laughter.
Maybe it was because she was the baby or maybe it was just because it was his nature, but Emily never remembers her dad telling her “No.” Building “drizzle castles” on the beach? Tennis for two? Weekend trips across the state line to buy gasoline — and candy? The answer was always a resounding “Yes!” Her dad was the picture of patience: loving, kind, tender, thoughtful, funny, and sweet. He was “everything a dad should be.”
Mike was everything a grandfather should be, too. ADORED grandson William will never forget all the times Papa picked him from school to go to the park, the Junior Museum or grab a Whataburger. Papa made him a rope to swing on in the backyard because anything William wanted or needed, Papa would make happen. Mike spent every moment he was able with William. Where Papa went, William followed.
And it will be up to William to pass Papa’s legacy of love and memories on to baby brother, Oliver, and cousins Jack, Sam, and the family’s newest namesake, little Michael.
Whenever Mike’s family grew, so did his circle of love. His love also lit up the lives of his beloved children-in-law Melissa, Chris, and Dylan.
Like any human, Mike had his failings. Post-barbecue he might run into the sliding glass door with a plate of chicken wings. NO ONE was to touch his perfectly sprayed hair. Nope, not even his cherished grandchildren. He once forgot his wedding anniversary. And while Sandy was unphased by it, he never forgave himself for that failing.
In his last two years fighting cancer, even when he thought about giving up, he bravely battled on for his family. Sandy says they spent so much time together on those long rides to Moffitt, that they had the chance to say everything they wanted to each other — a gift she knows not everyone gets.
Time is another thing not everyone gets, and the entire family is grateful for the time they were able to spend with the late, great, amazing Mike Stone. Emily says his spending time with her was how she knew she was so loved. It is that time that she will miss most. As the end was nearing, she said, “I just kept thinking to myself, ‘I didn’t have enough time. There just wasn’t enough time.’ And the truth is, there never would be enough time.'”
Mike used his time wisely, and if he were here to share his wisdom, he would ask you to use your time wisely, too, and spend it with those you love. And while his time on earth is done, his family knows his time with them is not. To quote Rumi, “Good-byes are only for those who love with their eyes. Because for those who love with heart and soul, there is no such thing as separation.”
Due to current circumstances, a celebration of life will be held at a later date.