In Memory

Mike Hartley

Deceased Classmate: Mike Hartley
Date Of Birth: 
Date Deceased: Jan-23-67 or 68
Age at Death: 17
Cause of Death: Self inflicted gunshot wound
Classmate City: Ft wayne
Classmate State: IN
Classmate Country: USA
Was a Veteran: No 
Survived By: A younger brother and sister Scot and Marsha I believe.

Mike and I were friends in jr high (Harrison Hill) then drifted our seperate ways. He was a music lover and was learning Beatle tunes on his guitar. Fun loving but kind of lost as we all were at times. I just thought he needed to be remembered.I would have liked to know him as an adult. He was just one of us.It's sad he had to die so young. 

Jim Oberley

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08/20/14 08:09 AM #1    

John Hume

Yes Jim, Mike died the first day of the second semester when we were juniors so it would have been '67. We used to all go shooting on the river near Hoagland. I remember that Mike was planning to visit England that summer.

08/21/14 11:06 PM #2    

Mark Smith

I remember vividly Mike Hartley's funeral. The grieving family was stunned by his unpredictable, handgun suicide. HIs mother made a terribly emotional scene when she threw herself over the casket as they were trying to roll it back into the wall of the D.O. McComb Funeral Home on Lake Avenue. As officers from Mike's Junior class at South Side High School, we were shocked by the horrible anguish of a mother's refusal to let go of her son.The  sounds of her sobbing must still fill that room.

We were amazed that death had claimed one of our own, someone we had been friends with since Harrison Hill Elementary School. Mike had seemed happy in his home on Indiana Avenue. Suddenly, he was gone. We couldn't imagine why he had taken his own life. Sure, school was a social and academic obstacle course. We were all having trouble fitting in. But life was fun and the summer of love was about to change everything.

His death left each of us a little less invincible.

And then there was another suicide funeral to attend.

08/22/14 10:44 PM #3    

Bruce Johnson

It has been difficult for me as I look back and remember through the comments of other Harrison Hill classmates about Mike Hartley's death.  I came to Harrison Hill in January of 1961 moving from Dallas, Texas to Fort Wayne and I must have seemed like a strange or at least a different sort especially with that Texas drawl I first had which eventually disappeared.  When I first came to Fort Wayne and especially the remainder of that 6th grade year, I did feel isolated and alone at first.  Yet, Mike was an individual who extended his friendship to me and made me feel welcome and I feel a little guilty for not having more vivid memories of the circumstances of his death during a fragile period of our lives in high school.  Those of you who follow me on Facebook know that depression is not an issue that I take lightly but it takes a back seat to 16 and 17 year old who have barely had a chance to experience life.  I thank Mike for the friendship he offered me at a critical point in my life and I also thank other classmates who have helped me to remember Mike after so many years.  It is a hard thing to keep in mind individuals whom we lost at such an early age but as we age I also think that those memories become even more important.  My wish for all of you after so many years of absence is to be safe and well.

09/12/17 09:33 PM #4    

Mark Jared Smith


My second try at seventh grade was when I met Mike Hartley. At first we both had a strong dislike for one another, and this eventually led to a fight just out side the malt shop on the corner across from Harrison Hill. We strated wrestling and then Mike had me by the hair, and he was throwing me all over to the place, in that; I was bouncing off the sidewalks, and bouncing off the asphalt, and bouncing off the curbs. And finally, somehow I got him on the ground, and as soon as I straddled his chest, I started throwing punches, and as soon as I landed the first punch, someone... some adult came up behind me and yanked me up by the scruff of my neck, pulling me off of Mike. 

I looked up in surprise and alarm and yelled, "Why did you pull me off of him? I was just winning".

Two days later, my friend George Schul and I met up with Mike after school to finish the fight, but instead of wanting to fight... Mike said, "I would rather be friends." And with me still losing my hair from the last scrap, I thought that his idea of wanting to be friend's, was a much better idea; especially for my health.


Mike Hartley was tall for his age. Close to six feet and one inch tall. He was big boned like his parents. A good looking kid with brown hair and a Beetle like haircut, with brown eyes and high cheekbones complimented with a fairly strong chin. And like the rest of us guys, he was sporting a little bit of acne with a very faint patch of peach fuzz on his chin. And he was always well dressed. He had a type of laid-back walk, it seemed like he was never in a hurry.


George and I spent a lot of time at Mikes house. Mikes Dad worked at Harvester and I think Mikes mom was at home most of the time. She would give us snacks and treats, and she always treated us as if we were part of her family. 

Scott, his brother was two years younger. He was growing fast and had a stocky frame like his dad. The way things were looking... he was going to be much taller than Mike and maybe a little thicker in muscle.

And Marsha was around eleven or twelve and she looked a lot like her mom. But you knew that she was going to be tall like the rest of the family.  And to be honest, with his brother and sister Mike thought they were nothing but nuisances. Sometimes it seem like we were tripping over them, they seemed to be always under foot, and every time he saw them he would yell, " Ma, can you make Marsha go to her room!" or he would yell, "Ma, will you make Scott leave us alone!" And no matter what, he was always shooing them away.


Most of the time we were in the basement playing pool for hours with Mike. He was the one who taught both George and I how to play pool. I would rack and he would break, always putting putting a ball in the pocket on the break. He would use top right english or top left english, with the ball curving out to the right or to the left with the proper spin and then the ball curving left hitting or to the right, hitting his target ball, and then sinking it in the pocket. And of course we lost nearly every game. And boy he knew how to use the proper english when shooting. 

He was also good at doing trick shots, making that que-ball do what ever he wanted. We would rack, Mike would break and occasionally run the table. We would get a chance to shoot a couple of balls. But to no avail, for us it was a lost cause.


On other days we would occasionally go to the Fort Wayne Bible College and play basketball after school when the court was open. 

And Mike had this term he would use for the Bible college, and this term was, "the angel factory".

And this term did get a laugh, and he used it often, but he did wear it out after awhile.

We played  basketball almost every chance we got when the gym was empty. And this continued off and on untill 1966.


Another one of our past times was to go out shooting. Taking our BB guns we would ride our bikes any where our hearts desired along with our puny weapons slung on to our backs, and looking for big game.

Andy Kooistra, George Schul, and Mike and I, we would take our BB guns looking for cans, bottles, crows, rats, and starlings. Picking them off one by one and always arguing who was a better shot. We would go to my back yard and plink cans and watch them fall.

Mike, Andy and George had air rifles that you had to pump several times before you could shoot. I had a spring loaded BB gun that you fed BB's down a tube. You could fire faster, but not as far.


When Mike got his license mid summer to drive. It was a new age for us all.

He would always used his Grannies Gold Oldsmobile, and off we would go.

We would all go to the Embassy, the Jefferson, or the Holliday Theaters and see the movies. 

One movie we really liked was The Blue Max. A World War One movie of German fighter pilots that stared George Peppard, James Mason, and that beauty Ursula Andress. There were battles on the ground and in the air along with adultery and and betrayal. There was a scene in the movie where they made a toast.

And from then on, any time we got a drink, wheather it be a Pepsi, Coke or coffee, we would then stick our fingers in our drink and then lift our glasses and make a toast, saying prost before we drank it's contents. We thought it was really cool at the time.


Will then Mike got that job at Kentucky Fried Chicken on Clinton. Dick Clouse was the one who had hired Mike, and he really took a liking to him. He spent a lot of time teaching Mike everything about the preparation, breading, and frying the chicken properly in the pressure cookers. He also mentioned that in a few months if he did a good job, he would be an assistant manager. 

He let both George and I into the back while Mike was working frying chicken. We talked and joked, poking fun at one another, and we also ate a lot of chicken, and then we would do our usual thing after he was done working. Most of the time, just barely staying out of trouble.


Another spot we always visited, was Azar's by the old courthouse downtown. We would drink coffee and flirt with the waitresses. And that is where he met Laura This was his first and only girl friend. They saw a lot of each other and Mike would sometimes pick her up from Concordia and take her to work at Azar's. And as usual we would drink coffee. 

Boy did we spend a lot of time at Azar's, drinking gallons and gallons of dime coffee and occasionally tease a waitress we liked. We knew when it was time to leave, it was always when we saw the cop Bickle. He would always chase us out when he thought we were there too long.

Bickle was really a decent guy, but played hard when he had too.


With the Beatles now popular in America since 1964 Mike started taking Guitar lessons from John Mc'Ghee for close to a year, starting in the summer of 64. We would go to town and sit back as Mike would go through the chords. John Mc'Ghee was really a good music teacher. I, myself had known John from Hillcrest Elementary School.

Well... as I was saying, Mike was a quick study. And soon he was getting to the point where he was very proficient. His fingers moving along the strings, picking, plucking and strumming as if they had a mind of their own. He would play Beatles music, then he would occasionally play classical guitar. But he would always go back to the Beatles, because, like I said... they were his favorite group. 

It was about this time that he started talking about going to Britian to see where Beatles lived, and then he started making plans to visit France and Germany. He had been talking about getting passports for a few months now.

Oh I remember... how I remember the many times he kept telling George and I that he was going to takes us. To take us on a journey of our lives, to see the birth place of the Beetles. To travel abroad. 


But then came Vietnam. 


We had other things to worry about now. The Vietnam War was really picking up steam, and everyday the body count grew. It was constantly in the news, the more we heard about Vietnam the more Mike kept on telling me about his fear... that he did want to be blown to peices. 

He kept on saying over and over again, that he didn't want to die over there.

So many times we would talk about Vietnam, because every day we would hear of the bombing and the destruction; of more soldiers being wounded and maimed. 

I think this was Mikes biggest fear, it was not so much as the dieing,  but it was his fear of losing his limbs, his fear of being blown to peices.


Little did I know that I would be in Vietnam two years later. 


Then in December Mike told me he had found this Magizine, where an Indian mystic would run a sword through his side and pull it out again, and that this mystic would be OK. 

No harm done! 

I listened without comment, and thought nothing of it at he time. 

The first day of the new semester Mike and I were going to skip school and celebrate. For the first time we had classes together. It would be for the first time since we met each other back at Harrison Hill.

Well I forgot! I just forgot...

Our plan of skipping school, it completely slipped my mind.

I got home after school and called Mikes house. 

No answer.

I then called George, and he came over to my house on Kinnard. 

We talked a bit; both of us for some reason had an uneasy feeling that something was wrong.

We walked over to Mikes house, it was cold and cloudy that day. And so we walked on up to Indiana Avenue. When we got to his house, we knocked and rang the door bell, we did this for several minutes.

There was no answer so we turned and started to leave, and it was when we saw a car pull up. 

Mikes mom and dad got out of  black unmarked cop car. She looked at us with tears running down her face, and said in a voice breaking from grief. "Mark... George. Mikes dead!"

All the time Mr. Hartley stood  there looking stunned and saying nothing. We both stood there not moving, and not believing what we were hearing. Then both George and I started weaping. A sadness that swept over us like a wave, pulling us down into the depths of despair.


Then there was the funeral...

Mrs. Hartleys grief was like something I have never seen. A grief so great that she did not want to leave Mikes side. If she could have, I think she would have crawled into the coffin to be with him.

Friends from school filed through paying their last respects. Mrs. Hartley sitting in a chair close to the casket, just staring at her sons body. Scott was standing by her side, then Marsha, and Mr. Hartley. His shoulders slumped shaking hands with all who came by.

Just before the service started, Georges dad walked up and looked down at Mike. Tears  appeared and welled up in his eyes, and it was then he gave a little bow; then made the sign of the Cross, and bent down and kissed Mikes forehead: he turned slowly around and went back to his seat. I would say it was a Russian thing he did, or maybe it was the traditional way in paying this respect to Mike. But with that little bow he honored Mikes life in that breif moment.


In the years that I have known George, and being around his father, I had never seen Mr. Schul this emotional.


The sevices started with a message of hope in this time of grief and loss. An emptiness still pulling at our hearts... wringing our souls, squeezing out everything. Tears that didn't, or wouldn't stop flowing.

The funeral director and two pallbearers started to close the casket, and the weeping grew louder with a wailing from Mikes mother raised with a heart rending cry as the lid closed shut.

It is something I will never forget, and to this day; I remember this as if it was yesterday.

All the pallbearers were picked the day before, and if my memory serves me correctly, they were  Dick Clouse, Pat Oberley, Jim Oberley, Jack Salisbury, George Schul and I. We carried Mike to the hearst and then to his grave site. It was a cold and it was a dreary that day. 

So chilly. We seemed colder on the inside then on the outside. It was like a part of us was dead... gone, just numb. And now we were feeling so much older, and yet, not much wiser. The feeling of being completely lost.

That was tough for all of us who knew Mike.

With the cutting cold wind picking up, we were miserable, not only with the chill from the weather, but with that chilling uncertainty, when death is so sudden. The loss of a friend who became like a brother. That vacancy of one no longer present.

All of us were shivering now, wanting this to be over. 

And as the preacher said that Mike was with God, the sky opened up and rays of sunshine broke through, lighting up the whole area. Then it got dark again and a freezing breeze started blowing again with a dusting of light snow swirling through the air as we hurried back to our rides.


After the funeral we came back to the Hartley house. 

Dick Clouse had the Chicken ready for every one. Most of us had settled in and some of us looking for chairs to sit on; with a low murmur of voices droning around us, everyone seemed relieved and yet sad, when suddenly a shriek of fear came from upstairs, with Mikes sister running down the steps crying that Mike was playing his guitar. 

I dashed up into his room and I heard what sounded like the last cords of A Hard Days Night fading away. Mikes guitar was still laying on his bed with the strings still vibrating. 

I looked around to see if a radio was playing, but all was silent in his room. Marsha was still downstairs and still upset and hysterical. It took sometime for her to quiet down. 

As I look back now and I sometimes wishfully think... it could have been his way of saying goodbye.


Mikes Dad died of a heart attack a few years latter, and then Mikes mother and Grandmother died in the preceding years. 

I think in the end, it was the grief that killed them all: and I have not seen Scott or Marsha in over forty years, and I hope they are doing well, with families of their own.


I decided to write this because of what was written earlier in other post on our South Side Class site. 


It was in 1966 when he died, the first day of the second semester. He was sixteen years old, the reason I know this, he just got his regular license near the end of summer before his death. 

He shot himself in the stomach. 

The rumor of suicide spreading already.

Even one of the papers said it was suicide. The Hartleys, with the threat of a lawsuit forced the paper make a retaction a few days later.

I found out later the wound was in, or close to the same spot where he saw this Indian mystic push this imaginary sword through his side. He did show me this Magizine. 

I remember it now for some reason.

It was one of those mens magazines that had all these stories and illustrationsn of men at war and men fighting lions with scantily clad women in danger.

And in the back were advertisements. And in it was drawing of a little middle eastern man, sitting crosslegged with a turban on his head a sword pointed to his abdomin as if he was going to push it through. I think... if I remember correctly, it was about a freak show somewhere. Another advertisement. One of many.


This is why I know It wasn't suicide. 

This, I was sure of then, and in this, I am still sure now.


He told all of his friends that he was going to Europe. But there was no way he could make the trip because he did not have enough money at the time.

I believe shooting himself in the stomach was his way to get out of the trip and maybe it was also his way to avoid Vietnam too. He didn't mean to kill himself and I know he wanted to live. 

And if it was an accident... it achieved the same results.

He made a mistake. A miscalculation; I think he knew this as soon as his weapon fired, and the sharp pain as the 22 caliber bullet passed through his stomach nicking his aortic artery. Mike died one block from the Lutheran Hospital due to massive blood loss. He died, not by suicide, but by misadventure. 

I believe that he is with God and that he is now safe and at peace.


I did not know that he was going to do this, and at the time I did not know why he did it, and with a sadness that lingers to this very day; I wish he was here now.

I have never talked about this until now, and in a way I still blame myself, because I forgot to skip school that day. I made a promise and I forgot to keep it. I broke my promise!


And I still think if only I remembered, he would be alive now.

And these thoughts have crossed my mind many times thoughout all these years.

Some things you just do not forget.


So now you know a little more of Mikes story.


He was my friend... 

and to this day... 

I still miss him.

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