Michael Irvine King, longtime high school teacher and coach, died on Dec. 5 in Longview, Washington, at the age of 88.
His family, friends, students and colleagues lovingly recall his warm personality, lively storytelling and unique approach to life.
Who else but “Mr. King” would start a high school Latin program, then take its newly formed “Latin Club” on ski trips? Who else could identify the high school mascot of every person he met? And who else would write hilarious birthday limericks to his children and grandchildren, decade after decade?
Mike King was born in Los Angeles in 1934, the oldest of three children of John and Katherine King. He grew up in New York City, Baltimore, Cincinnati and Los Angeles. On a blind date at a Halloween party, Mike met a “devil” named Janet Kuhn. (He was dressed as an angel.) They married in 1956, and their first child, Kris, was born the following year.
Mike taught at Bishop Alemany High School (Los Angeles), while earning a Master’s in Education from Loyola University. In 1966, the Kings moved to Sebastopol, California, where the growing family’s home was surrounded by apple orchards. They planted gardens, raised rabbits and pigs, and trained Guide Dogs for the Blind.
At Analy and El Molino high schools, Mike taught a variety of subjects like chemistry and U.S. government, and he coached football and track. Wherever he was, “Coach King” connected easily with students with his big heart, humor and friendliness. The King children grew familiar with people asking, “Your dad is Coach King? He was my favorite teacher!”
In summer, Mike participated in a National Science Foundation scholarship program. The family took cross-country trips in their VW van to states like Montana and Florida, as Mike earned degrees, logged miles and smoked pipeloads of Borkum-Riff.
After decades of molding minds, Mike retired in 1993. His advice to students in the school newspaper included nuggets like, “Under no circumstances should you allow school to interfere with your social life.” In retirement, he continued his lifelong study of topics including history, minor league baseball, and Russian, Hebrew, Finnish and Italian.
As a Roman Catholic, Mike was an active parishioner, including 30 years at St. Mary Parish in Seaview, Washington. He read and sang in church, was on the Parish Council, ran the religious education program for adults and confirmation classes, and joined the St. Vincent de Paul Society. (He also sang with the Bayside Singers in Washington.)
Mike was thoughtful and generous, funny and audacious. We say goodbye to him with heavy hearts and smiles for the wonderful memories. Mike is survived by his beloved wife of 66 years, Janet King; his children Mary, Peter, Sarah, Erik, Melinda, Bartholomew, Kathleen, Gretchen, and Kristopher; his sister-in-law, Marilyn King; his two nephews, Brendan and Cameron King; and 18 grandchildren.
He was preceded in death by his sister, Sheila King-Wallace, and his brother, Malcolm King.
A Catholic funeral Mass will be held for Michael King on Saturday, Jan. 14 at 11:30 a.m. at St. Mary Parish, 4700 Pacific Way, Seaview. There will be a rosary beforehand. The funeral will be followed by an interment, and a reception at the Ocean Park Senior Center.
Donations in Mike King’s memory may be made to Life Pregnancy Services, 7983 Covert Lane, Sebastopol, CA 95472.