Michael George Rowekamp
June 3, 1958 – May 9, 2020
Age 61, of Bloomington MN, died peacefully the morning of May 9th
When Mike received a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease in 2013, it was formal confirmation of what the family had suspected for a few years. While not an easy diagnosis to get, Mike was determined to make each day the best it could be. As his condition advanced, he wanted others to know he had the disease, and educated many restaurant servers, store clerks and people he just started a conversation with by wearing a pin that said “Please be kind. I have Alzheimer’s” He wanted to contribute to work for a treatment and cure, participating in an Alzheimer’s drug trial for over 3 years and donating his brain to the Alzheimer’s Research Disease Center at the Mayo Clinic.
Mike grew up in Rochester. He enjoyed that part of his life, and when he reminisced you would hear about playing with friends on the hill, meeting the Smiths at “the hole” (a worn spot in the hedge between two neighboring families), biking to play golf at Soldier’s Field, serving mass at and later working at “the Motherhouse” Assisi Heights, a Sisters of St. Francis community a few blocks from his home
After graduating from Lourdes High School and attending Rochester Community College for a year, Mike transferred to St. Thomas University in St. Paul, where he completed simultaneous degrees in Computer Science and Business Administration. A December graduate, he got a student job for the summer before at the Land Management Information Center, Minnesota State Planning Agency. Little did he know how that job would affect his life.
In August of 1980, he attended a staff meeting and was introduced to a recent full-time hire, Terese. She had worked in the same office as a student worker the previous summer. When friends told her right before starting her first real job “maybe you’ll meet someone,” she replied that she had worked there the summer before and no one of interest worked there. But in her first staff meeting, there was a guy sitting across the table who had beautiful eyes and the nicest smile. Two weeks after they met, they started dating. Ten weeks after they met, they were engaged. Ten months after they met, they were married. When you know you’ve met the love of your life, why wait?
After graduating from St. Thomas, Mike worked as a computer programmer and eventually ended up at Pillsbury, where he had a position running interference between IT and a product marketing team. He was someone who could speak both languages. He developed an interest in marketing, earned an MBA from the U of MN at night while working full-time, and moved into a marketing position at Pillsbury, which he loved.
By then he also had three young daughters. He wanted to find a way to be at home more and work for a smaller company where he could make a real difference. Terese had started her own Geographic Information Systems consulting and services company in 1992. Mike joined the company in 1996 and they worked together for 20 years until Mike was no longer able to work due to advancing Alzheimer’s.
Mike collected friends all his life. Friends he made when he was 4 or 5 years old remained good friends his entire life. Each place he worked, he was the one organizing golf outings, mid-day breaks to The Cookie Man, or trips to watch town ball baseball games. At each place, he created another group of friends who continue to stay in touch.
He was an avid softball player, playing 6 or 7 nights a week at the time he met Terese. When the girls were old enough to play, he converted to coaching fastpitch softball. He was instrumental in starting the first 10U fastpitch league in the state. He coached for 25 years, first with Megan’s teams, then later with Georgia’s. Many hours were spent transporting not just his own girls but often a van full of players to tournaments. Many life lessons were learned on those trips. He not only taught his players the fundamentals of playing ball, but also that hard work has reward, that winning is fun but it’s important to win graciously, and that something is learned from losing as well. He showed by example that being a good world citizen is the most important thing of all.
Mike loved to golf and especially shared that love with Kate. Sometimes he would sneak into her room making sure not to wake up the rest of the family. He would tuck her into the van, and she would fall asleep on the way to the golf course he had chosen just for them. She’d wake up to breakfast waiting, golf paid for and Dad putting on his golf shoes. It was special one-on-one time for both of them.
Mike was a wonderful son, brother, husband, brother-in-law, father, father-in-law, grandfather and godfather. Playing with grandkids was a special time for all involved. He loved his family, and they loved him.
Mike appreciated simple things, getting excited when seeing an eagle flying above, a beautiful sunset on the horizon, or hearing a loon call. The next time you see an eagle or the setting sun or hear a loon, think of him and smile. He’d be doing the same.
Mike was preceded in death by his parents, Eugene and Dorothy. He is survived by his wife Terese; daughter Megan Bernard (Nick) and grandchildren Ava and Briar; daughter Kathryn Hale (Jeremy) and grandchildren Bailey and Ben; daughter Georgia Henderson (John) all of Bloomington MN; siblings Greg (Cheri) of Rochester MN, Paul (Kim) of Roseville MN, Dave (Linda) of Eden Prairie MN, Kevin (Julie) of Bloomington MN, Kim Seitz (Jim) of Eagan MN; and numerous nieces and nephews.
A private service will be held for immediate family. A large celebration of Mike will be held at a later date when conditions allow such an event. Memorials are requested in the form of a donation to Team Rowekamp for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s, and can be made online at act.alz.org/goto/… or by sending your donation to the family. (Published in the Star Tribune on May 11, 2020)