Traverse City Record-Eagle

Feature Columnists

April 13, 2013

Senior Focus: Tribute to volunteer Mike Sheehan

Populations around the world are aging, but even though there are challenges, there are also opportunities. The senior population is a wonderful resource, giving communities an opportunity to take advantage of their knowledge and experience in the course of their volunteer activities. Volunteering is the cornerstone of a stronger nation as people, working together, help make their communities a better place in which to live.

Furthermore, volunteers are unique people and Mike Sheehan is definitely a unique volunteer. Born and raised in the south side of Chicago, he left home at the age of 15 to become a monk, entering the Order of St. Justin, a high school seminary, in Saugatuck. For his bachelor’s degree, he went to Villanova University in Philadelphia, founded in 1842 by the Order of Saint Augustine. He received his master’s degree from DePaul University with post grad work at the University of Chicago.

After 13 years, Sheehan left the monastery and began teaching English at City Colleges of Chicago. After teaching for 26 years, he retired in 1994. When he and his late wife started looking for a retirement area, they looked all over the country — Amherst, Mass., Madison, Wis., Park City, Utah and Sequim, Wash. Instead, he chose Leelanau County, six hours from their home in Chicago.

Sheehan started his volunteer career the same year he retired. He uses his talents, passions and humor to breathe life into his volunteer tasks

In 1994, the Traverse City free Internet was transferred from Northwestern Michigan College to the Traverse Area District Library. They asked for people from the community to volunteer on the board. Since Sheehan was computer literate, he signed on. Each board member was asked to select a specialty and Sheehan chose seniors.

“I figured OK, the kids are controlling the Internet right now, why not give ‘us’ a place,” Sheehan said. “Looking down the line, I knew the generation of boomers would come already computer literate. So I started in 1995, putting ‘The Senior Corner’ online. It is basically information for seniors — all kinds — medical, social, transportation — anything I can think of that might be of interest to seniors — sort of an online phone book, if you will, with links for senior services.”

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