ESCANABA - Escanaba resident Don Micheau is a man whose vocabulary doesn't include the word "no." At 76, the man with a can-do attitude would do a favor for any friend.
Always on the go, Don possesses a great work ethic. With a smile on his face and a toolbox always nearby, the definitive "Mr. Fix-it" happily serves as an inspiration to many.
"I have to give of my time where I'm needed," said Don. "That's what it's all about."
Don Micheau, 76, pauses for a photo with his wife, Jean, in their Escanaba home. Don lives to help others, to give aid where needed and to perform whatever good deed manual labor can accomplish — all in the name of making others happy. (Daily Press photo by Jillian Jamison)
Don has worked several jobs throughout the years, and has worn many hats, but the recurring theme in his life: Work and more work; giving and more giving.
Following graduation from high school, Don worked on the ore boats for two years and then relocated to Milwaukee in search of regular employment. After years of working at various places and positions, he moved to Marinette, where he worked in ship construction.
Upon moving to the Escanaba area in the mid-1950s, Don commuted to work at Lakeshore in Marquette, then K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base, which he helped to construct. Finally, from 1960-83, he was employed at Harnischfeger Corp., in Escanaba, until it closed. Nowhere near ready for retirement, Don worked at numerous trades, including plumbing, heating, electrical and even shipbuilding.
He was also caretaker/maintenance person for St. Patrick's Parish until it closed. As a long-time volunteer at St. Vincent de Paul in Escanaba, Don performed a great deal of the facility's remodeling and renovations during its expansion. So pleased were the staff members with his pleasant attitude and quality work they offered Don a paying job. He accepted. That was three years ago. Today, he continues to fill the role of caretaker, maintenance worker and custodian.
Through the years, and many different jobs at which he has worked, Don has come to know a vast number of people.
Sometimes, by his own admission, he can't quite put the name to the face, but he can recall where and when he met them and what project he worked on, for or with them.
According to his family members, Don is the type of person who consistently puts the wants and needs of others ahead of his own. To him, life is not worth living if it's not spent doing good things for other people.
"It's one of those things where you kind of work your way into everything because you learn so much about everything," said Don. "When you know how to do so much, how can you not share that with others who are in need of your skills?" he asked.
"He's about the most unselfish man I know," said Don's wife, Jean, whom he married in 1955. "He's always been about his girls and his wife, and he doesn't have 'no' in his vocabulary."
Together, Jean and Don have raised two daughters and now have four grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
Jean admits at times she feels Don overextends himself, timewise.
"I'm the one to intervene now, because if I didn't, he'd never be home, because he can't say no," she said.
However, she understands completely that giving of his time and skills to help others is what makes Don happy. Knowing he has helped another person brings joy into his life.
"He's always been available to help anyone who needs him," Jean said.
In addition to keeping the family home, St. Vincent de Paul and St. Thomas in prime working order, Don also maintains a remarkably close relationship with each of his children - Carrie and Shelly - and his grandchildren.
Said Don, of his life and his love to work, "I guess I'm just a person who always likes to get involved in things. Maybe I do too much, but I believe that whatever you can handle for your age is what you should be doing." He added, "You're only as old as you feel, and you have to make the most of life while you can."