Christian 08

Michael W White

March 17, 1945 ~ November 25, 2021 (age 76)

Obituary

On Thanksgiving evening, November 25, 2021, Michael W. White, 76, passed away after fighting what his family called ‘an epic battle’ with Renal cancer.

His wife Tami and son Sean were with him at the home in Gig Harbor.

Sean said Mike was not just a father. Mike was a grandfather, a husband, a brother, a friend and many more titles.

Mike was born March 17, 1945, in Auburn, WA, to Alvin and Evelyn (Colvin) White.  He joined his four older siblings Ron, Tom, Nelda and Sandra on the small family farm. Younger siblings Nick, Patricia, and Pam joined in the next six years. They usually kept one or two milk cows, raised beef calves, often had chickens, and always had more than one cat and a faithful dog.

He and his siblings attended Buena Vista elementary school and Auburn Academy.

His older sister Sandra recalls that Mike was the “doodle bug” to their dad, and a blond, chubby-cheeked kid that followed her and their late sister, Nelda, down the lane calling, “wait for me.”

In their early teens, Nick and Mike spent hours building “hotrods.”  Nick said they used two-by-fours, two-by-sixes, wagon axles and wheels, and put the ‘rods’ together to race them down the primitive gravel hill from the farmhouse.    

The younger sisters remember Mike as being a consummate tease. But he was always the first one to protect and defend them. And then he became the one Pam called late at night for encouraging words or big brotherly wisdom. Patricia says that Mike’s sense of humor was apparent right up until he no longer had the strength to giggle.

A childhood friend, Eileen Clark, commented, “Mike was a kick! Always teasing, pranking and most of all, he was the world’s biggest flirt.”

That sentiment is shared by many who have known him over the years, whether school, work, or church.

Mike loved basketball and drove his family crazy bouncing it through the house when he was growing up.

Lifelong friend Ron Donahey reminisced about he and Mike blocking the doors at the old gym when they were at  Auburn Academy in order to sneak in later and play basketball.  Ron said, “When Mike was a young physical therapist, he would get two tickets for the Seattle Sonics free from where he was working and I would supply the transportation. “

In his late teens and early twenties Mike worked summers with his father.  It was hard construction work through Labors Local #242. His paychecks went towards tuition at Walla Walla University and then Loma Linda University in California. He received his BS in Physical Therapy in 1967.

In July of 1965 Mike married his childhood sweetheart, Karen Murray and then divorced in 1974. The birth of daughter Michele in October 1966 and then son Sean in July of 1969 were the most cherished events in his life. That was until May of 1993 when Carly Taylor was born, promoting him to a new title of grandfather. He was both proud and in awe.   

Mike and Tami Cornforth were married in April of 1977. One of the many things they shared was a love of travel. Even after Mike’s diagnoses six years ago, they took a tour of Ireland that Mike had on his bucket list. They also took a tour of Russia. Tami said that Mike had to take more rest time but he still enjoyed the travels.

 “Also,” she added, “teasing the servers at the restaurants, and joking with the tour guides.”

Tami mentioned a shared goal was to visit every national Park in the United States and pose for a picture at each entrance.

“We made it to every park in the western half of the U.S. but didn’t make it to all of the ones on the east coast.”  Tami added, “But, one thing we did do was drive on every highway and byway in the state of Washington. We saw every back road in the state.”

He made it a tradition on each adventure to shout out at some point in the journey, “Hey! Look! Tami …. there’s the old road!” 

Some of those old roads took them to the family’s summer camp out on the Snake River north of Walla Walla. The younger members spent the days in the water swimming or tubing behind the boat while Mike preferred a book and a chair in the shade. But he took the lead when it came to singing around the evening campfire. His niece Jennifer still remembers and sings the round “Let us Sing Together” that Mike taught everyone on one of those evenings.  

Mike worked 46 years as a physical therapist around Tacoma, Gig Harbor, and surrounding communities. When he returned to the community in 1967, he joined a physical therapy practice in Tacoma. He later established his own practice, Parkland Physical Therapy Clinic which evolved into Elma Gateway Partnership, an LLC with two longtime friends.  In the early 2000’s he transitioned into contract work in home health care, visiting various nursing homes, and with another therapy provider. He officially retired in 2013.

Older sibling Tom, also a physical therapist, recalls how dedicated Mike was to his patients. Mike kept himself educated and informed in both healing approaches and in equipment.  The two brothers would often discuss methods and outcomes. Tom was inspired not only by Mike’s enthusiasm, but also by his ability to maintain the passion for each client’s progress on a personal level.

“I was blessed to know Mike as a co-worker,” says Sandra Crossland, “to have him as my physical therapist after a car accident, and to have known him for over 40 years. He was wonderful in all those roles. He was also a God-fearing man who practiced his faith everyday with everyone he met; friends, coworkers, patients, even strangers.”

Mike was a foundational and integral member of Gig Harbor Adventist fellowship. He was an active member of Tacoma Central Adventist Church until 2009, when he and other friends decided to establish the new congregation in Gig Harbor.

A pastor and friend, Ron Halverson remembers Mike as someone who “got the big picture” about church. He “never lost sight about caring for people, about families.”   Halverson said, “I was the young on fire pastor…… and Mike was so important to the church and to me on that journey.”   He remembered the hours of volunteer time that Mike gave when the new church was constructed in the early 90’s.  Mike was not only the church treasurer for years but made time to ensure that the church landscaping was established and maintained.

Debbie and Darryl Tan remember Mike greeting them when they first walked through the church’s doors. Debbie was surprised when Mike, who didn’t even know them, rounded up a group of people to help them move from Fife to Gig Harbor.  The friendship thrived.  Debbie has so many wonderful memories of them golfing, sharing dinners, or just walking for pleasure on a Sabbath afternoon.

She recollected, “We’ve vacationed with Mike and Tami in Sunriver, Singapore, down the Oregon coast, and on a Viking Riverboat Cruise.” 

Another friend, Kathy Palmer, often brought her three granddaughters over to Mike and Tami’s house after church for lunch and fellowship. Mike became an encourager, a helper, and someone on whom the girls could depend. Her granddaughter Maranda eventually lived with Mike and Tami while attending community college.   Maranda shared this message after he passed:

“You taught me how to drive and helped me buy my first car, guided me through taxes every year, shared your far-reaching knowledge through countless college coursework, and always gave me an opportunity to succeed. You showed me what a true God-fearing Christian looks like (and I promise I will not settle for any less!). Most importantly, you gave me a place to call home.”

Mike’s love for people and family was extended when he became interested in Genealogy.  He spent hours researching ancestry information and then found ways to contact those on the distant family tree. There were visits to families who were offspring of grandparent’s siblings or half siblings. He attended family reunions with four times removed cousins.  Some of the family stories were confirmed; some debunked. Old photos were discovered and saved. He cherished the expanded family connections he made.

Mike is survived by his wife, Tami, daughter Michele White of Tacoma, son Sean White of Port Orchard and granddaughter Carly Taylor of Puyallup, brothers Ron (Kay), Tom (Fay), Nick (Laura), sisters Sandra (Larry), Patricia (Rick), and Pam (Wally), seven nephews, four nieces, multiple grand nieces and nephews and cousins. He was preceded in death by a sister, two nieces, and a nephew. Also surviving are wonderful friends that he considered family that are too many to list. They know who they are.

To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Michael W White, please visit our floral store.


Services

Celebration of Life
Saturday
January 8, 2022

4:00 PM
Tacoma Central SDA Church
1301 So. Baltimore St.
Tacoma, WA 98465

Reception Following Service
Saturday
January 8, 2022

Tacoma Central SDA Church
1301 So. Baltimore St.
Tacoma, WA 98465

Please note
Service will be held at Tacoma Central SDA Church on January 8th at 4:00pm. Location- 1301 S Baltimore ST, Tacoma, WA. 98465. Reception to follow.

Donations

Peninsula Gig Harbor Fish Food Bank
Address: 4425 Burnham Dr, Gig Harbor WA 98332
Tel: 1-253-858-6179
Web: http://www.ghpfish.com/Food-Bank-Services.html

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