In memoriam: Vanessa McMichael

       Vanessa Jane McMichael, 58, who had taught physical education at Midland Elementary for the past six years and by all accounts was in excellent condition, passed away unexpectedly May 8 while training on the Manitou Incline.

       Private services were held May 14. At Midland that same day, students, staff, family and friends were offered the chance to release balloons in her memory, with notes attached. Principal Jeremy Cramer said participants included former students who came for the event. He estimated that more than 200 balloons in all went up.
       "She was awesome, one of those people who was the heart of the staff," Cramer recalled. "She went out of her way for everyone - parents, staff and kids. Any little thing anybody needed done, she'd do itů She coached sports after school and attended events with present or past students. They'd call and she would go."
       He added that the school's gym, formerly unnamed, will now be given hers.
       According to her obituary, Mrs. McMichael was born May 17, 1953, in Tulsa, Okla. She held a master's degree in organizational management. She was a 2nd Degree Black Belt in American Kenpo and operated her own business, Cheyenne Canyon Fitness and Karate, for 10 years. Her athletic accomplishments over the past 40 years included training for and finishing several triathlons, a marathon and two Pikes Peak Ascents. Mrs. McMichael "even rode her bike across Oklahoma in Freewheel, an annual cross-state bicycle ride" the obituary continued. "She also was an aerobics instructor and involved in landscape and garden design."
       She is survived by her ex-husband, Phil McMichael, and three sons. She was preceded in death by her parents and grandparents.
       The family has requested that in lieu of flowers for McMichael people give donations to Midland Elementary for school programs. Cramer said that a school committee will be formed to decide how to use such contributions to best "honor her memory."

Westside Pioneer/obituary