Another Great Man Gone

 Posted by at 12:02 am  Nick's Blog
Mar 162012

We received the terrible news yesterday that our friend Mike Steffen, who was a fellow instructor at Life on Wheels, was killed Monday, in Salt Flat, Texas.

Mike was a volunteer with the county’s volunteer emergency services and his wife Pam said that he was responding to a request for help from the local ambulance service. Driving up the gravel county road to meet the ambulance at the highway, Mike lost control of his car. It rolled once and he was thrown from the vehicle. The ambulance crew was less than a mile away and spotted the dust from the accident. They rushed to the scene and did everything they could, but his injuries were too severe. By the time the medical air evac arrived, he was gone.

Besides his work with Life on Wheels, Mike was a columnist with RV.Net, using the handle The Old Ranger. He was a technical editor for the Thousand Trails Trail Blazer magazine, and his articles appeared frequently in Trailer Life, Motorhome and Highways magazines. Mike also co-authored and assisted in the writing of several books on RV maintenance and repair.

Mike served with the U.S. Army for over 20 years, including with the Special Forces, and served combat tours in Vietnam. After retiring from the Army, he spent ten years with the Department of Defense, working in Europe as a computer systems engineer.

Terry and I first met Mike when we went to Life on Wheels as students in 1999, and a few months later when I was drafted into presenting my first seminar at an RV rally and was terrified to get up in front of a crowd and speak, I called Mike in a panic. He reassured me, saying “Just remember, those people came to hear what you have to say, and they have no idea you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.” Yeah, that was my friend Mike.

We visited Mike a couple of times at his homestead out in the boondocks of west Texas. It was a great place to hide out from the world for a few days, shoot our guns on his private range, and get my puppy fix from the menagerie of canines that live on his acreage.

I just talked to Mike a few weeks ago, and he asked if we were going to stop by on our trip to Arizona. We were eager to get here so I begged off, but promised him that we’d stop on our next trip through his area. How often do all of us put something off, because there is always tomorrow? Unfortunately, tomorrow sometimes never comes around, and the people we love won’t always be here.

Once we were over the shock of the tragic news, both Terry and I said the same thing; Mike died doing what he loved. Flying down the road full speed ahead, rushing to help somebody else in need. That’s the way he lived his life as a soldier, as a teacher, and as a volunteer. Our world is a lonelier place with Mike gone, but today Heaven has a new hero.

Rest in peace, Mike. Your duty here is done.

Thought For The Day – Friends are the family that God forgot to give us.

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Nick Russell

World-Famous, New York Times Best Selling Author, and All-Around Nice Guy!

  13 Responses to “Another Great Man Gone”

  1. Thanks for sharing Nick. I never got a chance to meet Mike but knew his work well. Thank you Mike, you will be missed.

  2. Great loss. It sure brings to the front how I need to make effort to stop and visit family and friends as I start to travel again this summer.

  3. A wonderful tribute to a wonderful man….

  4. Our condolences and prayers are with Mikes wife, family and friends.
    Excellent reminder to take the time from our often busy schedules to visit family and friends before it is too late.

  5. Thanks for the great tribute. Mike was the first staff member to adopt me when I joined Gaylord’s Life on Wheels staff. He will leave a hole in my heart.

  6. We are sorry to learn of the death of your friend, our condolence to you and Terry for the loss and are prayers go out to his family, it just proves life is to short you never know when the big man upstairs is going to call you home.

  7. Thanks for the tribute to Mike. We were Mike and Pam’s “Escapee Adopted Parents” when he and Pam came into the Escapees VCR program many years ago! We always enjoyed seeing them at the various RV functions and will also miss him. Our best to Pam and the other family and friends left behind. Don and Kay Damkaer

  8. I remember meeting Mike…in fact I ended up selling him my unused solar oven at the Tuscon Life on Wheels. So very, very sad…another reminder that life is short and tomorrow is always unknown.

  9. There are too few good people like Mike around and now there is one fewer. Nicely written tribute, Nick. Those who knew Mike as a friend had a great one for sure.

  10. I did not know Mike, but you made me love him in your eulogy, Nick. “No man is an island, entire of itself. Every man is a piece of the contintent, a part of the main. ….Any man’s death diminishes me because I am a part of mankind. And therefore never ask for whom the bells tolls: it tolls for thee” John Donne. I am sorry for your loss, Nick.

  11. I am so sorry for your loss. Mike sounds like he was a wonderful man.

  12. A nice tribute to a good man gone to soon, but, I’ll be the one to say it – in death he can do one more thing to help the community, use this tragedy as a lesson:

    “It rolled once and he was thrown from the vehicle.” Not definitive, but the odds are he was not wearing a seat belt.

    Personally I have not driven a vehicle without using a seat belt since 1965. Why do people continue to ignore the cheapest and most effective safety device available?

  13. Rest in Peace, Mike. Pam, please accept my family and my condolences for the loss of a great guy. Mike and Pam Steffen were my instructors for the German hunting license back in 1993. What an honorable and knowledgeable gentleman. Thank you for your service, Mike.

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