Michael lit up our lives on the day he was born, and though he died last November, he still lives on in our hearts. Born with a physical disability, he faced many challenges, and doctors told us his future was not at all bright. But his eyes told us otherwise, and his life proved them wrong. He had a true zest for life, and everyone who knew him noted his positive outlook, as well as his quick wit, infectious laugh, and sarcastic sense of humor. When his younger sister, Katie, joined the family, he was initially a bit wary, but they developed a strong friendship and love that lasted until his death.
As a child, Michael embraced life and took advantage of opportunities as they presented themselves. He enjoyed swimming, horseback riding, sit-skiing, and archery. He attended Wheelchair Sports Camp many times and participated in swim meets all over California. Michael was active in Cub and Boy Scouts and Goleta Presbyterian Church youth group. Michael was thrilled when, as a preschooler, he was asked to help light the Christmas tree downtown, and he became a virtual poster boy in the coverage of disability issues.
Michael loved to travel and spent many summers in Germany with his family, where he delighted in the castles, chocolate, and cows. Like his archaeologist father, he truly enjoyed digging in Germany; he would hop out of his wheelchair and sit or lie on the ground to dig, getting filthy, of course, and enjoying every minute. On one dig, Michael used crutches to go watch a student water-screen dirt for small artifacts over a pit full of muddy water. He became so absorbed looking for shards in the screen that he actually fell face-first into the puddle. It didn’t faze him; he just popped up (with help) and carried on.
During a Sabbatical year, Michael attended school in Cambridge, England, where he particularly liked the taxi rides to school and the fun of the minimally supervised playground. Trips through Switzerland, France, England, and Scotland fired his interests in history and family connections to Scotland; he loved following the family tree back to William the Conqueror and Robert the Bruce.
By Courtesy Photo
Michael Jochim and his steadfast friend, his sister Katie
As an adult, Michael developed strong interests in not only history but also politics, astrophysics, archaeology, and paleontology, and he frequently was able to update his parents on new developments in these areas. His political views were libertarian, which encouraged lively debates in the household. He had an eclectic love of music, ranging from Metallica to Phantom of the Opera (which he saw numerous times). He was our go-to guy for all issues with computers and other devices, and he felt free to express his strong opinions about our apps and updates.
Through the Internet, Michael reached out to a host of people, with whom he developed friendships and shared jokes, satire, and an interest in Star Wars and Comic-Con. It wasn’t until after he died that we learned how many lives he had touched through these conversations. His friends wrote, “Your life was spent never regretting, always being supportive, positive, and most of all fun,” and another post, which made us laugh, mentioned “memories of late-night antics during high school.”
In his hand-controlled van, Michael visited Goleta Beach nearly every day, where he usually spotted dolphins and sometimes whales. Karaoke and game nights out with friends were other favored activities. He was amazingly independent and concerned about overtaxing his parents. Michael lived on his own for a while in Chico, and when he returned to Santa Barbara, he took care of the house and dog while we traveled and calmly evacuated himself and our dog during the Gap Fire. He felt he could do anything, including going down stairs in his wheelchair (with mixed results) and was always trying to devise a bigger, better, more powerful wheelchair.
Michael died suddenly but peacefully in his sleep in November 2015, after nearly 40 years of living life to the fullest. He is sorely missed by many local friends and a diverse Internet community. He is survived — and will always be loved and missed — by his parents, Mike and Marcy Jochim; his sister, Katie; and numerous aunts, uncles, and cousins. A memorial bench in his honor now sits on Campus Point on the Marine Science Research Building terrace, overlooking his beloved Goleta Beach.