Today, I received sad news. I learned that Mike Bartnikowski had passed away on Thursday. He will be greatly missed. While I was living in Highland Park, Mike was a great influence in my life during my teenage years.
The first time, I ever saw Mike was while I was a student at Ford Middle School from 1966-69. Mike was a seventh grade teacher, and I would see him walking down the halls with his class. I never had Mike as a teacher; so I really didn’t know him or even speak to him. He did appear to enjoy teaching and seemed to have had a cheerful disposition.
I met Mike when he started to work at Ford Park in the summers. I spent a lot of time at Ford Park even as a young teen because there wasn’t much else to do. I would play shuffleboard with the old men, play some table games, and play a lot of tennis. It was during these summers that I was able to develop a friendship with Mike.
Mike treated me as an adult though I was only a young teen. He would listen to what was going on in my life and he would share things that were happening in his life. I remember that he was quite excited when his daughter, Barb, was born. I didn’t really appreciate Mike’s friendship and kindness until later in my life.
One of the things that Mike greatly enjoyed was playing war games (mostly board games). Mike and I would spend time each summer playing some of these war games at the park. Eventually Mike started a war gamers club that met at Hackett Field House every Saturday morning. He loved the competition. It was a great way for several of us to pass the time on a Saturday morning.
Mike also enjoyed playing practical jokes. One evening at Ford Park, I was playing tennis when I heard this voice over the loudspeaker say: “Mark Booth, your mother is calling you!” Many of those playing were laughing as I ran off the courts to see what was up. Mike then comes up to me laughing because he had pulled off a brilliant prank.
After I graduated from Highland Park High School in 1973, I never did see Mike again until last year. Like many people, we were able to get reconnected through Facebook. I enjoyed spending a couple of hours with Mike and his wife, Barb. He talked about Ford School, the teachers in the school, some of his students, and he also wanted to relive his prank that he played upon me forty years before. I am glad that we had that chance to get acquainted again.
During my last visit, Mike was surprised that I was a pastor of a Baptist Church. I shared how God had used him to greatly influence my life. I reminded him how through his advice, I was able to convince my parents to transfer me back to Highland Park High School after a very miserable ninth grade at U of D High School. This decision enabled me to eventually finish college early. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have met my wife, Sharon. I wouldn’t have gone to South Africa and Portugal. My two sons wouldn’t be in Portugal now. I could just go on and on.
During my high school years I didn’t know how God was working in my life. I thank God for having an adult friend like Mike with whom I could talk. I am thankful that God used Mike to change the direction of my life even when I wasn’t even a believer in Jesus Christ. I am sure Mike didn’t know until my visit last year how important his role was in my life. Yes, Mike will be missed by many, but I will not forget Him. God is still blessing me by having placed Mike in my life.
P.S. Here is an article about the Wargamers Club that Mike started:
15 thoughts on “Goodbye Mike Bartnikowski (Thank you for everything)”
I am deeply saddened to hear of Mr. Bartnikowski’s passing. He was my homeroom teacher in 7th grade (my introduction to middle school). He left an indelible mark and I will always remember him with a smile. He was an imposing figure but quite a gentle man and a great science teacher.
Pamela, thanks for sharing your thoughts! I never had him as a teacher, but I am glad you had the opportunity to be in his class.
Mr. Michael (Big Bart Nikowski) was one of the best,HP4LIFE! RIP…
Mr. Bartnikowski had an impact on my life. At the end of 7th grade at Ford Middle School, he took me aside and said: ” Patsy, you are smart, and a natural leader. I wantt you to straighten. Many of your classmates are following your example. I was stunned that he cared. While it took a little while for me to ‘straighten up’ I do credit him for helping me to get it together
I give Mr. Bartnikowski credit for my attitude to young people today. His belief in me empowered me. I try to do the same with the young people I come in contact with.
I am fortunate to be a child of.The Most High God, and he has afforded me with many natural and spiritual blessing. That of course includes my 3 sons and husband.
With God’s blessing I am in a position to impact the lives of young ladies at my church and many of my 3 son’s friends.
Thank you Mr. Bartnikowski, for beleiving in me! It made me a better person!
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Thanks for you comments! I am glad that Mr. Bartnikowski had a great impact on your life as well!
Interesting story! It seems like everyone has a few people in one’s past that influences (for better or worse) the course of one’s life for the rest of one’s life.
It also shows how one can be a great influence on the life of other people without even being aware of it.
Thanks for sharing that story, Mark
Thanks for your input. I have written several of these articles on people who have influenced my life. It is amazing how one decision made at the age of fourteen could affect one’s whole life. I am grateful for each person God has placed in my life. Thanks for subscribing to my blog! When you have the time, drop me an email and tell me what is happening in your life.
Interesting story, thanks!
It goes to show that we don’t know whose lives we influence for many years ahead, basically for the rest of their lives.
Also the amazing influence that a person that cares can have on one’s life.
Good Morning Mark, Thank you soooo much for sharing your story about Mr. Bartnikowski it brought tears to my eyes. I too was a student of Mr. Bartnikowski he was such a kind hearted, caring, person. as I look back we made up a rhyme about Mr. Bartnikowski to remember when and what year Columbus sailed the ocean blue. Mr. Bartnikowski heard about it and he didn’t care about the rhyme as long as we got the message. Oh y goodness he will be truly missed he made a powerful impact on my life. I sent your story to my e-mail so now my daughters and sons can read about the man that I talked so much about. My prayers are with his family and loved ones. Patricia (Davis) Pitts
I am glad that you enjoyed the article about Mr. Bartnikowski. I was so glad that I was able to see him a year before he died. If you are interested, I have another blog called: “Growing Up in Highland Park, MI” I have only a few articles up to now. I hope to revise my article about Mr. Bartnikowski and place it in this blog as well. Here is the link: http://growingupinhighlandpark.wordpress.com
I remember Mike and the Detroit Metro Gamers (DMG). I was mostly into chess and Avalon Hill board games. Mike introduced me to the game of Diplomacy. Although I never dealt with Mike outside the DMG, he was the best part of my being involved with the DMG. He was a fun guy to be around.
I loved to play chess as well. Like you, Mike introduced me to Diplomacy. He was a master backstabber in the game. He definitely couldn’t be trusted, but he always would sound so sincere. Yes, he was a great guy to be around. I am glad I was able to see him one last time after so many years.
Thank you for this story. Mr. Bartnikowski was my 7th grade science teacher, and my first mentor. He introduced me to wargaming (still my hobby today) and supported my interest in history, which I teach and write about for a living. I remember playing touch football with him at Ford Park as well as the game club meetings in Hackett Field House. Over the decades we used to see each other occasionally at game stores or conventions, and I could never to get used to calling him “Mike”; he was always Mr. Bartnikowski, my teacher.
Gerald, Thank you for reading my article and sharing some comments. If I am not mistaken, we probably played those wargames together with Mike. I remembered how Mike really enjoyed playing Diplomacy. Like you, it was hard for me to call him Mike, but when you are over fifty years old, there are not too many people that I would call Mister.