Treasured husband, father, grandfather, brother and friend died at his home in The Villages, Florida on Wednesday, March 31, 2021. Mike was married to Karen Lee Donley (Walden). Married on September 30, 1961 in Mount Clemens, Michigan, she was the love of his life, his soul mate and the wind beneath his wings.
Mike was born on November 25, 1937 in Mount Clemens, Michigan to Hugh and Frances (Gavin) Donley. Growing up as the youngest of eight children in unrelenting poverty on a “farm with clay for soil where nothing could grow” shaped Mike in many ways. He had an incredible work ethic, an amazing green thumb, a tremendous respect for education, a crystal clear understanding of the value of a dollar, and a deadly fear of mice. He declared August 25, 1951 as the greatest day of his life. You already know he wasn’t married that day, and you might be surprised to learn that none of his children were born that day either. That auspicious date was the day he left the farm for good, and returned only to reminisce, share memories, tell stories, and shed an occasional tear.
With the help of his brother, Edward, Mike attended NYU. An undiagnosed reading disability made school very difficult, so Mike left NYU after one year and began a career in appliance repair where multiple accidents in company vehicles (“I thought my career and my life were over,”) eventually led him to discover he was an incredibly gifted salesman. Mike sold appliances and furniture for JL Hudson for 29 years where he was often recognized as their top seller nationally. When asked what made him so successful, Mike would say, “You have to be willing to work really hard, and you have to listen to the customer. You would be amazed how many people can’t or won’t do those two simple things.”
Mike loved all sports and especially loved sitting in his backyard and enjoying a Natural Light while listening to Ernie Harwell broadcast a Detroit Tigers game. Golfing, biking, and gardening where a few of his favorite hobbies, and he was famous for his gorgeous geraniums. He was an avid euchre player and was “generous” with his advice and feedback – especially if you were across the table as his partner. He was incredibly proud of his Irish heritage and it only took one look at his full head of red hair, fair skin, twinkling blue eyes and huge smile to know you were in the midst of a true Irishman. And if his appearance wasn’t a clue, his often-carried beer cooler and many Irish flags told the rest of the story.
While there are many things we loved about Mike, perhaps his greatest gift was his unique ability to really listen to people. He made you feel you were the most important person in the room, and always left you with the sense that he genuinely cared about what you had to say. He was a humble, kind and generous man, and we miss him terribly.
Mike was preceded in death by his daughter, Brionna Stout (Donley); infant daughter, Sharon Donley; father, Hugh Donley; mother, Frances Donley (Gavin); and siblings Edward, Frank, Joseph, Hugh, Thomas, and Mary Ann.
He is survived by his wife, Karen Donley (Walden); daughter, Ann (David Vezina); daughter Patricia (Barry Klein); son-in-law Greg Stout; six grandchildren, Matthew, Alivia, Grace, Mary, Kathryn and Kevin; and brother Lawrence Donley.
According to his wishes, cremation has taken place, and upon the death of his wife, their remains will be buried together at the St. Mary Queen of Creation Cemetery in New Baltimore, Michigan. A funeral mass will be held at Saint Joseph Catholic Church in Lake Orion, Michigan on September 4, 2021 at 11:00 am. A luncheon to celebrate Mike’s life will follow immediately after mass at The Indianwood Golf & Country Club in Lake Orion, Michigan.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Autism Society of American or Central Michigan University – Student Emergency Fund.