For 20 years, Mel Michiels and his friend Matt Sprangers were neighbors, sharing, among other things, war stories from their experiences in the military. Mel was Air Force and Matt was Navy. Today they are still neighbors, both living at Oak Meadows in Oakdale, Minnesota.
From the very start, planes just seemed to be in Mel’s blood. While in the Air Force, he worked in North Africa as an airplane mechanic preparing bombers. He’s also been a
flight instructor, pilot, painted planes, and did sheet metal work. His work with planes continued once he was back in Minnesota. He worked 2-3 times a week on planes at the Commemorative Air Force Museum in St. Paul, Minnesota. One of his proudest moments was painting the plane for renowned airplane racer Steve Wittman, who was inducted into the Motor Sports Hall of Fame in 1998. Mel was also honored with the Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) after 50 years of service in aviation maintenance.
So as Mel began working with Lifesprk and his 90th birthday approached, his Life Care Manager, Naomi Fluck, was looking for an opportunity to spark his life while recognizing the critical role that planes and aviation had played in his life.
The answer was a field trip to the Commemorative Air Force Museum in St. Paul, Mel’s old stomping grounds. And of course, the adventure had to include his good friend and neighbor, Matt.
According to Fluck, who is a nurse, Lifesprk’s goal with clients like Mel is to use the Lifesprk Experience to help people in the second half of life discover and prioritize what is most important to them, and then work side by side with them to help them build a pathway toward that goal. “With Mel, his work with planes has been a major aspect of his identity and his purpose in life. He made significant contributions during his lifetime, and we want to honor those efforts while also helping him to stay in touch with the spark that aviation ignites in him. So we work to proactively address any issues that may get in the way of Mel’s ability to live life on his terms,” explains Fluck.
Oak Meadows began partnering with Lifesprk last year to bring their innovative Lifesprk Experience to their tenants. “By partnering with Lifesprk, we’ve enriched our continuum of services and created a broader focus on the well-being of our tenants. We feel one of the major benefits of the Lifesprk model is the dedicated Life Care Manager (registered nurse) like Naomi, for our tenants,” explained Connie Dow, Executive Director for Oak Meadows.
“It was just amazing to see Mel’s face when we visited the museum! We learned so much from him, and I had goosebumps the whole time. This is why we do what we do – to change the experience for people like Mel,” Fluck added.
Soar On, Mel!