R.I.P. My Old Friend Mike Urschel
Mike’s obituary read:
Michael W. Urschel, 53, Silver Lake, IN died at 2:28 p.m. Tuesday, May 17, 2016 in Peabody Healthcare Center, North Manchester, IN. He was born January 12, 1963 in Huntington, IN to Glenn & Dorcas (Paul) Urschel. He graduated from Canyon Del Oro High School in 1981 and attended University of Arizona. He served in the Army National Guard and worked in construction in Tucson, AZ. He loved animals and most especially his cat, Neko. He was a history fanatic and was lovingly referred to as “Professor”
It seems sad to me that a person’s, especially a friend’s, life is reduced to a few lines in an obituary, so I’ll add some more that.
I first met Mike in high school. We were both in First Year Woodshop with Mr. Dave Bromley. Mike had just moved to Arizona from Indiana. He seemed like a good guy, but was very quiet. He was great at woodworking, so I decided to get to know him better, as I was not that great at woodworking. As we worked together at the work bench, I learned that he loved History (along with The Lord of the Rings) and played board games, especially Third Reich, which was one of my favorites. So one day I invited him to play a game of Third Reich with my regular wargame opponent and friend Greg. That started a period of gaming and friendship that lasted until I left Arizona for good in 2002.
Mike wasn’t that great at Third Reich, but once we tried our first RPG, Traveller, Mike was hooked. Greg, Mike and I played a variety of games together for about 2 years. Then I formed a bigger gaming group, and Mike was one of the first people I asked to join. Over the years we played boardgames (Mike loved Squad Leader), numerous RPGs, and eventually historical miniature games (usually American Civil War). That game group eventually fell apart when I was in college in the 1980s, but members of it continued to play some sort of game until the late 1990s. I think the last game I played with Mike was one of our American Civil War campaigns in 1995. Mike loved playing games as they allowed him to use his imagination, which was endless. He was a great person to play games with as he was a great player and always a gentlemanly wargamer.
Mike’s life wasn’t always easy. His family life was a bit chaotic after his parents divorced. He attended the University of Arizona for a few semesters, but left for financial reasons. I had the pleasure of taking a couple of History courses with him while he were both in college. He served six years in the Army Reserve as an Armored Cavalry Scout in the scout platoon of an armored battalion, reaching the rank of Sergeant. One of his greatest adventures was going to a REFORGER exercise in Germany, where he was able to visit the town that his family had come from. After college, he worked a variety of jobs, but was always free to play a game. Even when we were not gaming, he always enthusiastically spoke of his endless gaming ideas. He was also more than willing to be one of my groomsman when I got married in 1996, which was a great honor for me. The last time I saw him was in 2002, when he and another of our gaming friends went to dinner one last time before I left Arizona.
Mike was a hard person to keep in contact with. He was the sort of guy you literally had to go to his home to get in touch with. I tried for many years to reconnect with him, but I could never find him via the Internet and he seemed to have lost touch with most of his gaming friends. Yesterday, I tried one of my Google searches for him, only to find that he had died four months ago. I was really shocked and sad that I could not tell him one more time how much I had valued his friendship over the years. I’m not sure that there is an afterlife, but if there is, Mike will be there playing some sort of game as gaming and the friendships he made from gaming were clearly the positive parts of Mike’s life and gave him solace in the many times that life didn’t go his way.
It just seems like yesterday that we were playing games together. Mike loved History, games, shooting, soldering (but he hated the B.S. of the Army, which, after being in the Army, I understand), and most of all cats.
So here’s to Mike “Orc” Urschel, fellow gamer, soldier, craftsman and most important of all, friend. May you Rest In Peace.
Mike (from about 1985 when I was away in the Army)
Mike in his apartment (@January 1988), where many games were played (but the apartment never seemed to get cleaned)
Mike and two of our gaming friends out for a day of shooting (again @January 1988)
Mike after too many hours gaming (again @January 1988)
Mike (in red) and Kyle during one of our many American Civil War campaign games (@1994)