Mike Hoy poses with his first service dog, Taffy. Now, a black Lab/golden retriever named Cowboy has taken over the position.
Volunteer work is important to Mike and his wife, Tina. Mike said, “I’ve had so many people help me, now I want to help others.”
“Make me brave to face all the changes in my life.” — John Baillie
Michael Hoy was looking forward to graduation from Dow High School and then to attending Northern Michigan University in the fall. But it didn’t work out that way. May 28, 1971 was Senior Skip Day at Dow High, and Mike and his friends spent the day waterskiing at Wixom Lake. Later that day, at five o’clock, Mike was on his new Yamaha motorcycle with Howard Swift seated behind him. Mike stopped at the stop sign on Perrine Road and then pulled out into the path of a car driving down Saginaw Road. Mike and Howard were thrown off of the cycle. Mike was thrown over a car and landed face-down on the pavement of Saginaw Road. Howard was fortunately not injured. Mike spent the next five months of his life in a coma. His story continues.
When Mike came home after five months in hospitals, it meant changes in the John and Polly Hoy family. Special equipment was required to help Mike get his muscles back in shape. A trapeze bar was installed over Mike’s bed to help him get out of bed. Parallel bars made from 2-by-4’s were put in the dining room so Mike could learn to walk again.
A physical therapist came twice each week to do exercises with Mike, and instructions were left with Polly to work with her son in the days the therapist didn’t come. Mike’s first words after the coma were cause for jubilation. But it was a long time before speech came easily again.
Polly couldn’t leave Mike alone, so when she had to go someplace, Mike went with her. Once, she went to a dress shop in the small mall by the Village Green. Leaving the car running with Mike in the passenger seat, Polly went in the dress shop. Mike managed to pull himself over to the driver’s seat and put the car in reverse. Keeping his foot on the brake periodically, he managed to get the car around a corner.
When Polly came out of the dress shop, the car was gone and so was her son. She ran back into the store and said, “My son’s driving a car and he can’t see!”
Mike and the car were found. Fortunately, everything was all right.
In the Hoy home, Mike was now in a wheelchair and there was also a vacant chair kept next to him. Mike learned how to get out of the wheelchair and onto the straight-backed chair. One day, he managed to get out of the wheelchair but didn’t try to sit in the regular chair. He managed to get around the corner of the next room, sitting on the floor, out of sight, to see his mother looking at the empty wheelchair and the empty chair. Where was Mike?
Mike, at last, was able to stand up, and his parents would stand him in a corner for a little support. Mike said, “I stood there like a cigar store Indian.”
Remembering the long months of rehabilitation, Mike said, “I wanted to succeed. If you don’t want to be pushed, you can’t be pushed. Being an athlete in high school helped. I used to play football. I wanted to feel more normal. More like everyone else. My memory was kind of iffy. I went back to college and had readers to read to me. People to type my assignments up. But I graduated with a four-year degree from Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant.”
One day on Mike’s journey to walking and talking again, an acquaintance asked him if his minister was coming to see him. When he said no, she said she would contact her minister, the Reverend Kirk Hudson at Memorial Presbyterian Church. The young woman took Mike to a church service and he met the Reverend Hudson. It was a meeting that changed Mike’s life in many ways.
From that time on, the Reverend Hudson visited the Hoy home, talking with Mike. Eventually, Mike became a member of Memorial Presbyterian Church. Tina, Mike’s wife of 29 years, is also a member of Memorial Presbyterian Church. Remembering the Reverend Hudson and the high praise the Hoy family had for him, Tina said, “He was a godsend.”
On May 19, 1972, Mike was given a standing ovation as he was pushed in a wheelchair down an aisle of cheering Dow High classmates for a belated graduation ceremony, one year after his Class of 1971 classmates had graduated.
Jack Haskins, an English instructor at Herbert Henry Dow High School, addressed the 334 graduating seniors at the ceremony. He began, “School is an artificial institution set up to help prepare you for life. It is not my intention to question the validity of this point. However, it is my intention to make you aware of something infinitely more important than school. People!”
Probably there was no one who listened to those words as intently as Michael Hoy.
By 1988, Mike was participating in Recordings for Recovery and its three-day workshop held at Chateaugay Lake in the state of New York. The three days were packed with speakers, including Mike himself. He was the director of the Michigan chapter of Recordings for Recovery. Discussions took place on music therapy and the reaction of the brain’s hemispheres to music. Mike knew what he was talking about.
Ralph Hoy, a cousin of Mike’s dad, had suggested putting music by Mike’s bedside while he was in a coma. Ralph told John and Polly, “I have seen amazing things happen because of listening to music.” Mike was proof of what music could do.
In 1992, Mike proposed to Tina de Jong on Labor Day at the log cabin that John Elmer Hoy, Mike’s grandfather, had built at the Benmark Club in Roscommon. The day had been cloudy, overcast. Tina and Mike were on the porch. Tina said, “The minute that Mike proposed, the clouds parted and the sun broke through. I said yes.”
Mike and Tina have a busy summer. They left home on June 28 to spend time at the family compound at Lower Chateaugay Lake. Sailing on Lower Chateaugay Lake was one of the pleasures that Mike was able to take up again after the accident.
Mike and Tina are looking forward to the belated 50th reunion of the 1971 class of seniors from Herbert Henry Dow High School in August. A highlight of the reunion will be a locker door with a gold pen for the attendees to sign their names. There’s a history behind the infamous locker door. The first locker door came from Midland High School, courtesy of Dan Shepard. Mike brought it to the 25th anniversary of the opening of Dow High School. This year, Mike will have a locker door from Dow High ready to be signed in gold letters by the Class of 1971 at the reunion.
In 1949, Dr. John Baillie wrote: “Make me wise to see all things as part of eternity and make me brave to face all the changes in my life.” Michael Hoy never knew Dr. John Baillie, but those words could have been written for Mike: “… make me brave to face all the changes in my life.” And God did make Mike brave.