May 13, 2014 – September 29, 2014
His pleasure was horses. His Grandfather, Webb Pelton, started the love with an old horse that had graduated from pulling Anderson Erickson milk wagons through residential areas of Des Moines. The retired horse soon became Michael’s pet, the first of a long line of horses throughout his life. He was a member and eventually leader of The Flying Hoofs Drill Team of Iowa. This was a group of teenagers mounted on their own horses, who practiced at Owen Crist Arena on SW Park Avenue in Des Moines. The Flying Hoofs performed mounted drills on horseback to music (such as John Phillips Sousa marches) at many events around central Iowa such as the Iowa State Fair, County Fairs, special events and parades.
After high school where he was the senior class president, Mike thought he wanted to join the Coast Guard. Upon hearing this, the family in general said and emphatic “no”. His mother rapidly suggested that his Aunt Helen in Albuquerque would really enjoy seeing him. Soon after, the move to New Mexico was taking shape where he attended the University of New Mexico. He, Aunt Helen and her dog Aggie enjoyed explorations in the Sandia Mountains, cooking a steak over the camp fire and traveling back roads thru remote ranch country. At the U, he met lifetime friends and played college basketball.
However, after about a year in New Mexico, the Korean War came around and Mike was drafted into the Army. After basic training, he graduated at the top of his military class and eventually attained the rank of Master Sergeant. After being relocated to a base in Germany, the base Commander, Colonel Collins, heard of Mike’s accomplishments and requested him as a personal aid and driver. This lasted for the duration of Mike’s term of service. Mike was responsible for assisting with all of the Colonel’s military business and private activities, including care of Colonel’s family members. During these travels to many parts of Germany, he learned the language along the way. Mike took exceptional care of the Colonel and his affairs, who was eventually promoted to General.
After discharge, he was transported back to the States on a ship referred to as “The Bucket” or formally El Tinge. This was a very old ship, full of soldiers going back home to the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor. They all agreed the old ship did its job, but none were as confident at random times en route during storms and the like.
Back on home soil, a resumption of the educational process seemed in order. He enrolled in Drake University for night classes in the Fall session. Accounting classes and the like were chosen. A Creative Writing class gave opportunity to describe military life in Germany, the German people and countryside, personal escapades and life with the Colonel. These stories and accounts were all fascinating to the other students and the professor in particular. These writing skills served him consistently well throughout the rest of his professional life.
During a break in class one evening, he noticed a girl standing on the steps outside in front of him. Hmmm….. She seemed to be wondering what to do with the 20-minute break time, as the only girl among about 20 returning service men in the class. Mike confidently said to her “Hi, would you like to go for a cup of coffee ?” She accepted and they walked to Dog Town, exchanged names over coffee and became acquainted. The friendship of a few years ended in marriage, and four years later an only son arrived in December 1959.
An initial accounting job as an Underwriter with Employers Mutual Insurance in Des Moines found Mike traveling across northern Iowa doing insurance audits for the company. During a conversation at work, a co-worker mentioned a newly formed company who might need just the skills Mike possessed. The new position with Guardsman Life Insurance Company (Ashworth Road in West Des Moines) began a long, successful and rewarding relationship the company and its president. Over the years, he personally managed three corporate expansions and helped oversee the rapidly growing worldwide insurance force for Guardsman Life. Along the way, he and his wife Margaret, traveled with the company to Rio De Jenario, Austria, Switzerland, Greece, and the Bob Hope Golf Classic in Carmel California. Mike was also personally responsible for attaining insurance licensing in all 50 states where Guardsman’s business rapidly grew.
In the mean time, he and the family were involved in Quarter Horses and Cattle as the Rolling “O” Ranch, showing, training and breeding. Gas prices at the time were about $0.50 cents per gallon, Des Moines in general was still about 250,000 people, and you could drive Interstate 35 for a long distance without having to dim your high beam lights for the lack of oncoming traffic in the other lane ( without seatbelts or traffic cameras ! )
Upon retirement in about 1998, he and Margaret lived happily ever after. The End.Information provided by: Peterson Funeral Home 415 School Street Carlisle, IA 50047 http://www.petersonfunerals.com