John A. Michal III

Date of Birth

December 3, 1947

Date of Death

August 31, 2017

Local social justice activist and long-time Santa Barbara resident John Michal passed away on August 31, 2017 at the age of 69 surrounded by his loving family.

John was born on December 3, 1947, in Chicago, Illinois, where he became a lifelong (i.e., long-suffering) Cubs fan. The son of a florist and a nurse, John grew up a competitive diver with an affinity for model trains and classical music. He attended Cornell University in Ithaca, NY and received his M.D. from Cornell Medical School. A graceful and enthusiastic skier, John lived in Salt Lake City for three years before making Santa Barbara his home in 1979. He practiced as a radiologist at Cottage Hospital for his entire 25-year medical career; patients and colleagues remember Dr. Michal as a dedicated physician with a caring bedside manner.

John adored being a father to his two girls, teaching them swing dance steps and Beatles songs on the piano, taking them spring skiing in Steamboat, captaining pleasure cruises on the sailboat Valhalla (pictured), shuttling them around in The Van, collecting deformed pretzels, and allowing them to giggle too loudly at restaurants. Owing to his love for making his daughters happy, John also became an unwilling cat owner many times over.

After John’s retirement from medicine, his life’s true work began. He became a scholar of religion, love, peace, and forgiveness and an advocate for equality and social justice. His work with Trinity Episcopal Church and local groups Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice, Interfaith Initiative, and Showing Up for Racial Justice effected meaningful change for people in the community of Santa Barbara and beyond.

John loved golfing and swimming at his beloved La Cumbre Country Club, where many members and staff became close friends. He enjoyed attending book clubs and concerts at the Santa Barbara symphony with friends. John had a sharp, occasionally dark, but always hilarious sense of humor, and delighted in pranking family and friends.

John was the kind of person who didn’t speak unless it was something worth saying, and his presence brought an energy of peace and serenity to the room. He was a gentle and generous man with the mind of a philosopher and a limitless heart who will be greatly missed by those he left here on earth. John is survived by daughters Natalie and Carey, son-in-law Stephen, step-grandchildren Schorr and Will, sister Elizabeth, brother-in-law Jack, and his extended Midwestern family.

A memorial celebration will be held on Saturday, September 9 at 11:00 a.m. at Trinity Episcopal Church at 1500 State Street in Santa Barbara. All are welcome. In lieu of flowers, donations in John’s memory can be made to Trinity Episcopal Church or the Southern Poverty Law Center.


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