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Michael McCallum Remembered As Loving Father, Friend and Mechanic

People close to the Farmington man who died in a car crash Sunday reflect on his sense of humor, charisma and love of the Grateful Dead, Volkswagen cars and camping.

Michael McCallum was the guy many people in the Farmington Valley would call for an oil change or to work on their cars.

But most importantly, he was the guy who would do anything for his friends and children.

After the 40-year-old Farmington resident , his Facebook wall was soon flooded with messages from family, friends and old acquaintances.

“Good night my sweet prince,” his sister, Amy McCallum Bailey, wrote on his Facebook wall.

An outdoorsman at heart, one of McCallum’s favorite things to do was bring his kids camping. They’d drink hot chocolate in the mornings and he’d sometimes fish.

He was proud of his daughter, Hayley Gustafson, 18, for graduating with honors this year from Avon High School, Lori Gustafson, Hayley’s mother, said.

“He was very involved with Hayley, especially this past summer,” said Gustafson, who now lives in Bristol. “He was taking her driving and helping her get her license. They were spending really good time together.”

McCallum was born in Hartford, according to his obituary. He grew up in Avon and made a lot of friends in the Farmington Valley. People were drawn to his sense of humor, positive nature and ability to talk to anyone. You could count on him for a laugh, a good conversation, or a practical joke, according to his longtime friend, Scotty Servant.

“It was always funny to get a message from him and he’d just crack you up,” said Servant, who graduated from Avon High School with McCallum in 1990. “He always had an interesting take on things. He would just come out with weirdest stuff to make you laugh.”

Gustafson said McCallum always had a good story to share. He recently told Servant a story about going on a walk in the woods and happening upon a homeless man cooking steaks. The stranger invited McCallum to join him for some food, Servant said. McCallum obliged and spent some time talking with him.

“He was just a really happy guy,” Gustafson said. “He was very affable and he got along with everybody.”

McCallum was a mechanic at Crowley RV in Bristol. He liked to drive cars — particular Volkswagens — and motorcycles whether on trails or off-roading. But his real passion was fixing them. He would collect antique vehicles so that he could work on them and got scrap parts from junkyards. The more broken the vintage cars or motorcycles were, the more he liked them.

“He liked to take something broken and decrepit to turn it into something that worked,” said Servant, who shared his hobby of mechanics.

McCallum  was a fan of the Grateful Dead. In fact, the first line in Grateful Dead song “Row Jimmy” — “Julie, catch a rabbit by his hair/Come back step like to walk on air” — inspired him to name his latest Volkswagen Julie.

He wasn’t a musician, but he bonded with friends over their shared love of music, from bluegrass and country to heavy metal. Dan Walker and some of McCallum’s other friends had a band called Uniform Decay during their years at Avon High. Even though McCallum never played a note, Walker considered him a member. McCallum was the first to hear their new songs and give them feedback.

“There was a warmth about him …. I don’t think I’ve ever heard him say a bad word about anybody,” said Walker, who now lives in Georgia. “Mikey was always on my mind just like some of my other friends we knew that were always on my mind.”

According to his obituary, McCallum is survived by his mother, Janet McCallum of Avon, his sister Amy Bailey of Unionville and his five children – Christopher Leavitt of Bowman, ND, Hayley Gustafson, Alicia Lockery of Bristol, and Hannah and Daniel McCallum of Farmington.

The funeral will be just for family, but friends are invited to pay their respects at The Ahern Funeral Home on 111 Main St. in Unionville from 4 to 7 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 19 and stay for the 6 p.m. prayer service.

Sally August 16, 2012 at 11:52 AM
I am shocked at the above comment. The above comment is shocking. A family has just lost a father and had you read the Patch several days ago it did mention the connection. I did not think a mention of a divorce is news worthy. I think you attacking a wonderful source of community news is sad and personally attacking it's editor during a horrible time is sad.
Susan Schoenberger (Editor) August 16, 2012 at 11:55 AM
The survivors listed are the ones in the obituary submitted to the funeral home by the family.
Robert J. Saget August 16, 2012 at 12:21 PM
This is nothing more than a grandstanding moment by a person with a big mouth who feels the need to be "heard". What do you care, J. Sosallter? Mind your own business for once in your life. This has absolutely nothing to do with you. Get over it and just be sorry for the people who are suffering from this tragic loss.
Kaitlin Glanzer (Editor) August 16, 2012 at 02:35 PM
First, dear friends, thank you for all your support, especially on behalf of my children. Second, Mr. Sosallter, you're right. My husband and I had been estranged for a long time. I asked to be omitted from the obituary (and Patch employees respecting my wishes followed, though the connection was mentioned in the article about his death) because I did not want anyone coming to the calling hours for my sake.
Megan McArdle Parsons August 16, 2012 at 03:56 PM
Kaitlin, you are very gracious and kind. Perhaps Patch readers can take a cue from you.
Sas August 16, 2012 at 04:52 PM
J. Sosallter.....you seem hell bent on insulting the Patch Writers as often as possible. What a tragic time you chose to spew even more anger! Kaitlin you and the children are in our thoughts.
Barbara Koontz August 16, 2012 at 06:40 PM
Kaitlin, thank you for putting this into perspective. I believe the first comment made was totally unnecessary and out-of-line. Mike was a wonderful person and those who knew him loved him. It's as simple as that.
arleen kline August 17, 2012 at 04:26 AM
Kaitlin, I'm sorry you felt the need to explain anything to an ignorant nosey reader. You're in my thoughts and it is my hope that people will give you and your children privacy at this difficult time.
Stacielyn Rydingsward August 17, 2012 at 12:11 PM
I'm disgusted that after reading about a young father with a few children died in a tragic accident.... That somebody would actually complain that the reporter didn't mention his enstranged wife.... Why would this matter to you Mr. Sosallter? Well, Kaitlin confirmed it for you so I guess you can go on with your life! Which I think is very sad that she felt that she had to do that....Maybe you should get a subscription to star magazine..... Kaitlin McCallum I'm so very sorry for you and your children's loss. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family!
Dave French August 17, 2012 at 04:49 PM
Very well written. Mike was a great guy. We'll miss ya, buddy.
Kathy Bannon August 17, 2012 at 07:14 PM
Please accept my condolences on Mike's death. Even though you were estranged, I'm sure you feel his loss. He was still an important part of your life and the lives of your children. May your children always have fond memories of him. Kathy Bannon
Al August 19, 2012 at 03:40 AM
Kaitlin, I am sorry to see that you have to deal with this rhetoric at such a sad time. I hope that you and the children are faring O K . Al
Al August 19, 2012 at 04:30 AM
J. SOSALLTER... it is sad that you felt the need to aim you slings and arrows at family during such a tragic time.
Amy August 19, 2012 at 03:18 PM
Kate, you are a class act and we love you. I wish more people would learn from your example.
arleen kline August 19, 2012 at 11:51 PM
Let's try again to explain this to J. Sosallter. A man passes away. This man lived in Farmington and that is why it is news worthy to be reported on the Farmington Patch. After the original article appeared, an update was written on the following day, Monday Aug 12, simply stating "Michael McCallum....was the husband of Kaitlin McCallum." A subsequent article refers to the obituary and does not include his marital status. The reason for this was explained by Kaitlin and it is not necessary to hide behind some journalistic mumbo jumbo or a rant about full disclosure or whether the information was an article or not. Please put this to rest and retire this evening knowing that Farmington Patch and the Farmington community is made up of caring individuals who want to do the right thing.

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