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Avon's Michael McCallum Remembered As Loving Father, Friend and Mechanic

People close to the Avon native who died in a car crash Sunday reflect on his sense of humor, charisma and love of the Grateful Dead, Volkswagen cars and camping.

Michael McCallum was the guy many people in the Farmington Valley would call for an oil change or to work on their cars.

But most importantly, he was the guy who would do anything for his friends and children.

After the 40-year-old Avon native and Farmington resident , his Facebook wall was soon flooded with messages from family, friends and old acquaintances.

“Good night my sweet prince,” his sister, Amy McCallum Bailey, wrote on his Facebook wall.

An outdoorsman at heart, one of McCallum’s favorite things to do was bring his kids camping. They’d drink hot chocolate in the mornings and he’d sometimes fish.

He was proud of his daughter, Hayley Gustafson, 18, for graduating with honors this year from Avon High School, Lori Gustafson, Hayley’s mother, said.

“He was very involved with Hayley, especially this past summer,” said Gustafson, who now lives in Bristol. “He was taking her driving and helping her get her license. They were spending really good time together.”

McCallum was born in Hartford, according to his obituary. He grew up in Avon and made a lot of friends in the Farmington Valley. People were drawn to his sense of humor, positive nature and ability to talk to anyone. You could count on him for a laugh, a good conversation, or a practical joke, according to his longtime friend, Scotty Servant.

“It was always funny to get a message from him and he’d just crack you up,” said Servant, who graduated from Avon High School with McCallum in 1990. “He always had an interesting take on things. He would just come out with weirdest stuff to make you laugh.”

Gustafson said McCallum always had a good story to share. He recently told Servant a story about going on a walk in the woods and happening upon a homeless man cooking steaks. The stranger invited McCallum to join him for some food, Servant said. McCallum obliged and spent some time talking with him.

“He was just a really happy guy,” Gustafson said. “He was very affable and he got along with everybody.”

McCallum was a mechanic at Crowley RV in Bristol. He liked to drive cars — particular Volkswagens — and motorcycles whether on trails or off-roading. But his real passion was fixing them. He would collect antique vehicles so that he could work on them and got scrap parts from junkyards. The more broken the vintage cars or motorcycles were, the more he liked them.

“He liked to take something broken and decrepit to turn it into something that worked,” said Servant, who shared his hobby of mechanics.

McCallum  was a fan of the Grateful Dead. In fact, the first line in Grateful Dead song “Row Jimmy” — “Julie, catch a rabbit by his hair/Come back step like to walk on air” — inspired him to name his latest Volkswagen Julie.

He wasn’t a musician, but he bonded with friends over their shared love of music, from blue grass and country to heavy metal. Dan Walker and some of McCallum’s other friends had a band called Uniform Decay during their years at Avon High. Even though McCallum never played a note, Walker considered him a member. McCallum was the first to hear their new songs and give them feedback.

“There was a warmth about him …. I don’t think I’ve ever heard him say a bad word about anybody,” said Walker, who now lives in Georgia. “Mikey was always on my mind just like some of my other friends we knew that were always on my mind.”

According to his obituary, McCallum is survived by his mother, Janet McCallum of Avon, his sister Amy Bailey of Unionville and his five children – Christopher Leavitt of Bowman, ND, Hayley Gustafson, Alicia Lockery of Bristol, and Hannah and Daniel McCallum of Farmington.

The funeral will be just for family, but friends are invited to pay their respects at The Ahern Funeral Home on 111 Main St. in Unionville from 4 to 7 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 19 and stay for the 6 p.m. prayer service.

J. Sosallter August 16, 2012 at 10:58 AM
This story is, of course, about a very sad event. However, as a matter of journalism, how is it that the author makes no mention of his wife? I realize that the funeral home information did not mention his wife, and I further realize that a divorce proceeding was pending. However, this article purports to be a NEWS item and leaving out a key fact is bad journalism. The deceased's wife is an employee of Patch. There are a lot of right answers about how to deal with key information, but leaving out a key fact is not one of them. The choice to leave out information about the deceased's marital status reflects bad journalistic standards and appears to show favoritism based on personal relationship. This reflects poorly on Patch and every item that is purported to be news. Sad event for the family and friends, sad state of journalism at Patch.
J. Sosallter August 16, 2012 at 11:30 AM
As for the pic - seriously, a picture credit as "Credit Screen Shot of [deceased's] Facebook page" ?? Is the author a Friend as the deceased's who had access as a Friend, or was access through someone else, was the page unrestricted access? Shouldn't that have to be disclosed? Also, a screen shot has to be taken BY someone. What about the others in the photo? Is every Facebook Friend of the author's subject to having their photos captured by screenshot and shared by author for her journalistic convenience? Sorry for the rant, and nothing personal, but this is another example of the Avon editor's bad judgment and, at best, casual treatment of standards for news items, sources etc.
Susan Schoenberger (Editor) August 16, 2012 at 12:00 PM
The survivors listed are the ones in the obituary submitted to the funeral home by the family. The Facebook page was unrestricted.

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