I did not know that Mike Shaw had died until I read the posting on Mark Maynard’s blog by Old East Cross. I had noticed his absences from the city’s streets, but failed to wonder why. I just counted myself lucky that he would not stop me on the street, and I would have to listen to him mumble on about his landlord or some other topic. Mike was one of the colorful persons Ypsilanti is known for. He wondered the streets of the city, counting the squirrels, and looking for the Starkweather fountain.
I first came know Mike at the Ypsilanti City Archives, when he came in to do research. He believed he was descended from the Shaw family, who were among the first to settle here. The truth is, he was not, his father came here in the 20th century. His belief, I think, was based on his finding the Shaw family graves at Highland Cemetery. He loved Highland, and often talked of getting a job there as a grounds keeper. It never came to be. The women who worked at the archives were both concerned for him and frighten by him. Mike was like a grandson to them, be it a very troubled one. Mike had gone to Vietnam, and, in a real sense, part of him never left. He suffered an injury to the head that left him disabled.
Mike took an interest in the Starkweather Fountain, missing since the 1930’s. He came to believe it was hidden by his landlord, Kircher, in the basement of the Thompson Block. Once a sharp dealer sold Mike the head of a statue, telling him it was part of the Starkweather Fountain. He spent his pension for a month on the item. He asked me to stop by his apartment to take a look at This was not something I really wanted to do. The head, as it turned out, was made of plaster, and the fountain was made of bronze. I had to tell Mike the head was not part of the fountain, that he had wasted his money. I was nervous as I broke the news to him, not sure how he would react. Mike took the news well, as it did not seem to brother him. I left as quickly as I could.
Now Mike is gone. I pray his soul has found the peace it was denied in life.
Now, those of us who remain, as left with a question: Who will count the squirrels.