Robert Guy Michael, 81, of Highland, IL, died Friday, February 8, 2013 at Faith Countryside Homes, Highland, IL with his family by his side.
He was born on February 4, 1932 at St. Joseph Hospital, Highland, IL, to William and Elvira “Vera” (Nee Bruns) Michael. Soon after his birth and just at the start of the Great Depression, he and his family moved to Chicago, IL, where his father purchased a Standard Oil Gas Station. This was Guy’s first experience with the Michael family’s entrepreneurial spirit. It was also in Chicago that guy’s passion for sports developed, especially when it came to Chicago’s sports teams, as his mother used to take him to afternoon games at Comiskey Park. He even saw a perfect game pitched.
When Guy was nine years old his family returned to Highland and bought the Main Street Bowling Alley. Working as a pin setter there, Guy quickly took up his part in the family business. He, as well as his sister and mother and father, became avid bowlers, a hobby that persisted throughout Guy’s life. He then graduated from Highland High School in 1950 and joined the United States Army Reserves in 1951. Later that year, his family purchased Broadway Recreation.
On July 26, 1951, he married Joann Bircher in Corinth, MS. They spent their first year of married life living above the bowling alley on Main Street.
In November of 1955, after a packed night, Broadway Recreation burned down, and less than a year later Guy and Joann, and Guy’s parents, Bill and Vera, entered the restaurant business. They purchased The Tavern on March 1, 1956 from Nick Oswald and they christened the establishment Michael’s Restaurant and Bar. The restaurant’s first menu included fried chicken, steaks, and, most notably, Vera’s spaghetti. Guy, along with Joann, tended bar and managed the restaurant. As the years went by, the restaurant underwent numerous renovations, with additions and remodeling in the 70s, 80s, and 90s. Guy and Joann also built Michael’s Swiss Inn in 1976.
Over the years, Guy was known for his continuous support of area sports teams, often loading his children and their friends into the family station wagon and heading across the state to sporting events. He, along with Hall of Fame broadcaster Jack Buck, hosted Michael’s Athletic Banquets to benefit Highland and St. Paul schools for twenty years, and he was an integral part of starting the Highland Booster Club. Guy even possessed a “Lifetime Pass” for free entry into Highland’s sporting events, and he recalled seeing his sons’ football team go undefeated as one of the greatest moments of his life.
While he was also an avid fan of Chicago sports teams throughout his life, he was a Cardinals season ticket holder for 32 years. His support of athletics also extended to the University of Illinois, which awarded him an honorary “Varsity I” in 1997. Since then, numerous grandchildren have attended the University, carrying on Guy’s love for the Illini. For over forty years, Guy served as host of the Annual St. Patrick’s Day luncheon at the restaurant, a charity event which raises funds for St. Joseph’s Hospital, as well as various area charities.
A staunch supporter of the Republican Party, Guy also served as precinct committeeman for the party. When Highland observed its sesquicentennial in 1987, he was honored with Guy Michael night at the celebration, and he was awarded Chamber of Commerce Business Person of the Year in 1999. Recently, on November 24, 2012, Guy was inducted into the Highland American Legion Lee Iten Post 439 Baseball Hall of Fame. He also received the Paul Harris Award from the Highland Rotary Club.
Throughout their life together, Guy and Joann enjoyed traveling, and their trips brought them to Scotland, Germany, Switzerland, Alaska, and Hawaii.
A great lover of animals, Guy always had his dog, Rudy, by his side.
Guy has thousands of friends that he and Joann made during their years at the restaurant and motel. He recently became a member of the Highland American Legion. He also became a member of St. Paul Catholic Church in 2012. His legacy lives on in the family he leaves behind and in his beloved restaurant, which has been passed on to the third generation of the Michael family, as it is being run by Guy’s oldest son, Gaye. Guy will be missed by all those who loved him for his quick wit, his passion for sports and life, and for his big heart.
He is survived by his wife, Joann Michael, his five children, Gaye (Susan) Michael, Brad (Vanessa) Michael, Daniel (Angela) Michael, Sue (Doug) Schwartz, and Fred (Lisa) Michael; his twenty-five grandchildren; his sixteen great-grandchildren.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Bill and Vera Michael; his sister, Carol Michael.
Memorials may be made to Highland Quarterback Club, American Legion Baseball, Hospice of Southern Illinois or Small Victories.
Visitation: Sunday, February 10, 2013, from 1:00 to 4:00 pm at Michael’s Restaurant, Highland, IL, and from 3:00 to 4:00 pm, Monday, February 11, 2013, at St. Paul Catholic Church, Highland, IL.
Mass of Christian Burial: Monday, February 11, 2013, at 4:00 pm at St. Paul Catholic Church, Highland, IL
Clergy: Rev. Fr. Charles A. Edwards, Pastor, Rev. Fr. David Peters, Ret’d. Pastor, Rev. Fr. Paul Kala, Catholic Campus Minister, SIU Edwardsville, IL,
Interment: Highland City Cemetery, Highland, IL
Meridith Funeral Home, Highland, IL