Tuesday, October 29, 2013


“Be Like Mike”. The Chicago Superstar? Well sort of…

This Chicago Mike is Mike “Sevi” Severino who was an amazingly remarkable human being. We just lost him recently at only 38 years old. One of the reasons Mike was dear to my heart was because he enjoyed my blog. I used to joke with him that I had tens of followers. We would laugh about the latest set of mishaps in my Keystone Cop like existence in the Planned Pethood foster world.

I first met Mike when he was doing transport and I was fostering Benjamin, a poodle/terrorist (oops terrier). Benny was pulled from the pound where Mike volunteered so he knew what a handful the little dude was. No matter how frustrated I became, Mike stayed staunchly in the little tornado’s corner. He was able to identify a sweet vulnerable spot in Benny that was nonexistent in other people’s eyes. Mike had my back and more importantly, Ben’s back for 13 long months of returns and a laundry list of crazy antics. He retained faith that there was a forever home out there for Benny and he was right.

By this point, I really enjoyed Mike’s company and was seated next to him at the Paw Hoorah (Planned Pethood’s major fundraiser). Somehow the conversation turned to my career as the Quiz Bowl coach at the high school where I worked. Our bond was about to be cemented. I joked with him about how NO ONE calls my home between 7:30 and 8:00 because I am tuned in to Jeopardy! My friend Margaret and I play Final Jeopardy together each and every evening. I tape the program if I am going to be gone, seriously. Now, to most people, this would add up to: wow, this woman is a whack job. Not Mike, no way. He blew my mind when he told me he had PASSED the Jeopardy! test and was eligible to be on the show. Mike was wicked smart. Sadly, he was never called to appear but I have no doubt that not only would he have won, he would have kicked some serious butt far surpassing any Ken Jennings record!

Mike experienced some very serious health problems that culminated in losing his leg. I never once heard him complain of his pain or frustration through months of rehab. And the minute the doc gave him the green light, Mike put his volunteer hat back on at Planned Pethood and the pound. At the same time he was dealing with his amputation, my foster dog Freddie the boxer underwent grueling surgery on both of his back legs. Again, Mike intuitively reached out to Freddie. They were like soul mates. The next revelation is a bit embarrassing on my part but it just demonstrates Sevi’s sense of humor and good nature. Not realizing that he was in the next room at an adoption event, I was having a conversation with Fred in which I was referring to him as “Peg Leg”. The next thing I know I hear this booming voice coming through the door saying, “Judy, who are you calling a peg leg?”.  This little bit of political incorrectness cracked him up.

There were many great Sevi stories related at his funeral service and I would like to repeat a few of my favorites. His Aunt Nancy called him the perfect nephew, partially because he would treat her to a Cubs game once a year. For all those years, she was under the impression that they shared a fervent love of the Cubs but he ultimately burst her bubble and admitted that there was no way but he hadn’t wanted to let her down. She also told us that Mike sent flowers on Mother’s Day because her son could not. He was serving in the military in Afghanistan.

When Mike joined the church he attended, they only knew him as Sevi, kind of like Prince or Madonna, where a one word name was all he needed. One of his friends’ kids called him Mr. Mike, The Pizza Fairy. I have to believe that is the ultimate compliment from a child. He had pride and love for his fraternity, Pi Kappa Phi, and they for him. His brothers paid tribute to him attending the funeral 100 or so strong. Mike and his dog Ruby had unconditional love for one another. Ruby tales (tails?) abounded.

One other thing I learned was that Mike was a freak about proper grammar. So am I. I corrected the grammar of my students for years and mostly bit my tongue with my friends. So forgive me Sevi, if there are any slip ups in this blog. The last time I saw Mike, he was wheeling around the dogs at an adoption event giving them lunch meat . Lunch meat!  He even cooked for the special needs dogs at the pound. He called it K9 Meals on Wheels.That is the picture I have emblazoned on my brain. Mike in the zone making the dogs blissfully happy.

by Judy Szewczak