Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Mike Poll, ’03 grad, remembered after battle with ALS

Ruby hangs on to her mom, Kim, as they pose with Mike for a family picture.

In June of 2009, Mike Poll, a 2003 graduate of Hamilton High School and son to Randi and Tami Poll, was diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

Unfortunately, after a long battle with the disease, Mike passed away on October 25 around 1:30 pm, at the young age of 28.  He is survived by his wife Kim and his daughter Ruby, as well as many family in Hamilton.

Mike’s mom, Tami, works in the district, and her sister, HS office secretary Tracy Haverdink is Mike’s aunt.

“Mike always had a smile on his face,” Tami Poll said.

When the family first been got the news that Mike had ALS, one can image that sadness and fear that they may have felt. No one wants to hear that a loved one has a disease that is incurable, but that didn’t stop the Poll family from coming together, staying strong, and keeping hope alive.

Mike’s wife Kim was a contender when it came to fighting against ALS and took every step of Mike’s journey with him up into the end.

Though there were ups and downs, she always tried to focus on the positive aspects of life and share those on the blog she created for friends and family. The love that she shared with Mike was strong and clear and not even ALS could have changed that.

“We have had 5+ amazing years of marriage despite the ALS, brought a beautiful and charming little girl into this world who will forever be a beacon of light, and tackled everything we could head on,” Kim wrote. “Our hearts have been full, and when Dr. Mouser stated his guesstimate for Mike, we both knew in our hearts that it was OK.  We will embrace the time that remains and capture the remaining memories to be had.”

Many have been touched and inspired by Mike’s story, some of those friends had even created a team to help raise money for the fight against ALS called Mike: Mission Possible. The team has raised over $53,000, far more than their original goal of $10,000. This team consists of family members, friends, and colleagues. There were even those who the Poll family didn’t know that wanted to help. There were many fundraisers, including bake sales, silent auctions, hog roasts, and waffle suppers; anything to help raise money.

Mike’s family had this to say.

“When the doctor told us that the average life span is 3 to 5 years, my first thought was that I’m going to lose my son and Kim will not have her husband either,” Tami Poll said. “Mike & Kim also found out they were expecting a baby the next week.  I could only think that this child will be without a daddy before she starts school.  My next reaction was to find as much out as I could about the disease and it’s progression, so I would know what to expect.  As a mom, I wanted to “fix” it and knew that I couldn’t.”

Mike’s aunt, Mrs. Tracy Haverdink remembers him by looking through pictures of him, both recent and from when he was younger.

“[His] most important things were his girls, Kim and Ruby, once he found Kim that was it. Even when he was in hospice and he knew it was about a week away, he had his sister, Missy, bring her laptop so he could order Christmas presents for Kim and Ruby to make sure they had something for Christmas,” Tracy said. “He was so concerned about them having Christmas presents. That was so huge for him.”

His mom, Tami added this.

“I think sometimes our friends/family had a harder time with the news than we did.  You know that God always gives extra strength to those going through something so that’s maybe why it seemed easier for us to handle than those watching.  We as well as Mike had amazing friends who would do anything that was needed,” Tami Poll said. “Hamilton is such a special community to live in, when people are facing something tough, people come out to help.  I hope that I can be as helpful to someone else that is going through a tough time. It’s awesome to feel so much love and concern.”

Staff members here at Hamilton remembered Mike as a kind, hard working kid  who was a joy to be around.

“He was a great kid from a very nice family.  I have many fond memories of him and his brothers.  The most poignant memory of Mike for me was when he was very young and he would sit in bleachers of ball games with my wife,” basketball coach Mr. Colly Carlson said. “I just remember his youthful exuberance and excitement for what was going on.  I recall those moments being very authentic and his love very genuine.  He grew up to be a great young man and a loving and caring husband and father.”

“Mike Poll was a great young man,” Principal Doug Braschler said.  “The first thing you would notice about him was his smile and his eyes.  Both would draw you in and make you believe that you were talking to a young man of honesty and integrity.”

His aunt Tracy echoed this remark.

“I think whatever he did, he was 100% in. He would be like, I’m not just a U of M fan, I’m the biggest U of M fan in the world!” Tracy said. “And I don’t just love my wife and kid, I’m obsessed with them. He was super passionate.”

Despite the difficult time, there was peace for Mike’s family in knowing what would come to pass.

“We had faith in God and knew that whatever we were going to go through, HE would be there to give us strength for it.  We also had great church families and friends that would be praying for us, calling us and just being there when we needed to talk,” Tami Poll said. “ I have kept a journal over the last 4 1/2 years of “God things” that happened.  Sometimes the timing of a friend doing something for us and just the time we needed encouragement to how Mike’s small group would surprise his family with showing up to rake their leaves.  Most of all our faith gave us the strength to know that when Mike passed he would go to heaven.”

For those who knew Mike, they will never forget what an impact that he had on their lives, even if it was just for a modicum of time.

“He was what you would want your son to be, a fine young man, and he will be missed by his family, friends, and community but they are all better off for having had Mike in their lives,” Carlson said.

For Tracy, she can look back on Mike’s life with a smile.

“Look at him when he was a little kid, he was a skinny, twerpy, little, geeky kid,” Tracy Haverdink said. “He was always in a good mood though, he always, always was in a good mood.”

Many Hamilton students know about ALS because of reading the book Tuesdays with Morrie during sophomore English.  The following quote if a fitting epilogue for Mike.

“As long as we can love each other, and remember the feeling of love we had, we can die without ever really going away. All the love you created is still there. All the memories are still there. You live on—in the hearts of everyone you have touched and nurtured while you were here. … Death ends a life, not a relationship.”  – Morrie Schwartz, from Tuesdays with Morrie

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