mourning the loss of the truly great Mike Yasick, the head of Shire Specialty Pharma, and a friend

Saturday, March 9, 2013

March 6, 2013, 8:25 AM, the email zings in: "Are you superb?"

It was from Mike Yasick, of course, head of Specialty Pharma at Shire—one of the only people on this planet who regularly addressed me with that kind of jazz. He was like that, Mike Yasick. He was light. He was a serious guy, sure, a well-read guy, a guy who loved his family and a guy who loved his job. But he was also a guy who made us laugh.

"Hey," he said, last time we were talking on the phone. "You want to see how dumb I look in bright red pants?"

"Sure, Yasick," I said.

"Check your in-box," he said.

And that, above, was the picture he sent.

Mike Yasick knew what it was to live a life. He knew that the clock was ticking on his own—that he had inherited a difficult disease, that it could flare at any time, that his own father and brothers had been taken too soon. He wanted to live fully—and he so absolutely did. Taking his wife around the world to celebrate her birthday in style. Sending colorful notes to friends during his Vietnam travels. Watching one daughter dance, another daughter take her first huge job, a son prepare a favorite meal with chef-like precision. Not just watching. Watching is the wrong word. Mike Yasick appreciated every single second of those he loved. He appreciated his life, and when you were with him, when you thought of him, when he showed up at your birthday party and said, "I love your Dad, he reminds me of my own," you appreciated your own life even more.

I talked to Mike because I wrote stories for Mike—that's what I do for Shire. He'd joke that I never gave him enough ink. "Don't you want to use my picture?" he'd say, stopping me in the halls. "Don't you want to quote me on something? Aren't I important? Don't you think I am?" I'd indulge him when I could. But mostly I'd just stop to talk, or he'd email me, or he, on occasion, would call. "You in?" he'd write, and I'd say, "Sure, Yasick, I'm in." And then the phone would ring and he'd make me laugh, but he'd make me think as well.

Not long ago—maybe nine months ago—the conversation grew serious. He was worrying about work things. He was pondering this condition of his. He was saying how much he loved his wife and family, how much he wanted to beat the odds of his genetic inheritance and stick around for a long time. "Don't you go anywhere on us, Yasick," I said. And he said, "I think you're going have to deal with me for at least a while more."

I wanted a lot more while. We all wanted a lot more. I mourn the loss of Mike deeply. I mourn for his wife and children and family and fishing friends and thousands of colleagues at Shire. He left an impression. He made a difference. I'll hear his laugh in my head a long time on, will miss him asking what books I'm reading, will miss him saying, "You've become someone, haven't you?"

Am I superb? Not today, Mike. Not with this news. But I know the sun is shining right now because you're up there in the skies.

42 comments:

Cynthia Pittmann said...

So sorry to read about the loss of your important friend, Beth. It's so difficult to overcome the loss of someone who is connected to the past. Even more difficult because Mike Yasick reminded you of your father.It's a true lost of a comfort space -a bit of what makes the world feel like home.

Sending you ((good thoughts)) and hopes for your fond memories to outweigh the feelings of loss. xx0

Wendy said...

Lovely, poignant tribute, Beth. I am so sorry for the loss of your friend. So sad.

Melissa Sarno said...

Oh no Beth. I am so sorry. Sending hugs and love to you.

Unknown said...

Mike was one of my High School classmates, He was a hell of a guy, such a sad thing. His dad, his brothers and now him. He will be missed.

ktoriley said...

Beth I don't know you, but I knew Mike. He was my first boyfriend back in the 7th grade. I still have the stuffed puppy he gave me. His brothers & sister and mine were all in the same grades throughout grade school and high school. He & I touched base a few months ago via Facebook but I had no idea that he had the same condition that took Steve & Tom too. I'm so sorry to hear that we've all lost such a great man in our lives. Mike was a truly special human being.

Mike Lawson said...

Beth - I'm one of the "Fishing Friends" and I forwarded your piece to all of them. We appreciate your kind words and sharing of your experiences with him at Shire. We are all in a bit of shock but our 30+ years of memories w/ Mike will provide a small measure of comfort in this tough time. We will all be gathering in Michigan this Tues/Wed and wishing it was with him for our annual ice fishing trip that he never missed. The world is a little less today without Mike in it, but it is far better than it would have been had he not been in it at all.

We miss you, man.

Mike Lawson - Elk Grove Village, IL

Dean Miller said...

Beth, thank you for your poignant commentary. Mike was a lifelong friend; my high school buddy and college room mate. He read scripture at my wedding. Whenever we had the opportunity to get together, he was able to make time and distance irrelevant. I'm so glad to hear that his humor and brightness was evident at Shire. It will be missed by all who have know him.

Dean Miller

Gordon Gallagher said...

Beth, I feel compelled to leave a note on your blog. Mike and I went to college together. We were fraternity brothers and joined at the same time (pledge brothers). I remember how excited Mike was to become a big brother to a sweet young sorority girl named Jennifer. From those beginnings an extended family was developed. Mike's zeal for life was always present. In Hoc Mike Yasick RIP.

Gordon Gallagher

Gordon Gallagher said...

Beth, I feel compelled to leave a note on your blog. Mike and I went to college together. We were fraternity brothers and joined at the same time (pledge brothers). I remember how excited Mike was to become a big brother to a sweet young sorority girl named Jennifer. From those beginnings an extended family was developed. Mike's zeal for life was always present. In Hoc Mike Yasick RIP.

Gordon Gallagher

Beth Kephart said...

I am so grateful for the comments of my friends and Mike's friends here. Grateful to learn more about him. Grateful to hear from those who knew him long before I did. Thank you, to all of you.

Lainey Landstra said...

Mike was the best. We should all honor his memory by living our lives as he did... Not taking ourselves too seriously, to laugh, have fun and be superb...

Timbotown said...

Beth

Thanks so much for putting this post down. I'm also one of Mike's fishing buddies and share the sadness of his death.

Mike's professional life was largely unknown to us as I'm sure his ice fishing exploits are a mystery to his professional friends and colleagues. It is great to watch the complete picture of Mike's life come together for us all to really appreciate the depth of his character and kindness and at the same time measure the full magnitude of his passing.

To that end, a while back I put together a couple of montage videos from 2010 and 2011 of our trip and I'll share the link here in case anyone is interested in seeing that part of his life. From an outsider, spending time on a frozen lake drinking beer and trying to catch fish that rarely seem to exist would not make a whole lot of sense and for a long time did not to us but as we all got older, we started valuing the fishing less and the friendships more.

This is our Mike. This is our friendship with him. This is our love for the Man.

2011
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xByVLxeOdbE&list=UUSUz5VF6_WDKbRbemZD8GIQ&index=18

2010
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n3XOsvsV0kQ

Tim

Beth Kephart said...

Oh, those videos are wonderful! Thank you so much for posting them. They'll keep him alive forever, in that way that we need him to stay within reach.

Justin Macchione said...

When I first started with at Shire as an Intern I was so impressed with everyone that I worked with. Mike definitely stood out for a few reasons. First of all, he really was always smiling. And when you think about all the stresses that he faced professionally and personally, he was smiling.

Secondly, he always remembered names. I was an intern, an intern amongst hundreds of people in Chesterbrook, an intern amongst 50+ interns that came and went every summer. But when I saw Mike in the halls, the cafeteria, or in a meeting he always greeted me with my name.

And finally, he always was present with whoever he was speaking to. We can get distracted with all of the things we have going on in our personal and professional lives, and Mike's life certainly was not any easier than anyone else's. in fact, you could say it was more difficult, much more difficult. But whenever you spoke with him, wherever you were, and whatever you were speaking about, Mike had a way of turning everything else off, giving you his undivided attention.

Fast forward to today. I am now a full time employee with Shire and have had numerous opportunities to see and speak to Mike during this time. Each time he remembered me, and spoke to me. But what he did best was inspire me, as he did everyone he came in contact with. And he will continue to do so even after his passing.

Thanks for posting.

Jennifer R. Hubbard said...

I'm sorry to hear of this, and hope that thoughts of his zest and joy, which are obvious in all these comments, are of some consolation right now.

Molly Watson said...

Thank you for this tribute to Mike and the resulting comments that have been posted. I have only had the pleasure of knowing Mike for a few brief years professionally and feel fortunate for having known him. Just two weeks ago we gathered our teams together for dinner and a meeting the next day. That night at dinner he shared photos from the ice fishing trips and spoke of his amazing family and his infectious laugh lit up the room. And although we have only known a brief period of time, he had this incredible gift of making you feel as if you knew him much longer.

Many prayers and thoughts of comfort go out to his family and friends as we all grieve this tremendous loss.

patti.mallett_pp said...

I can only guess at what your heart is feeling right now, Beth. But the amount of heart you put into these words, words that have me weeping and I've never met the man, give us some idea of the depth of your grief.

What an example he was, for us all.

Love u. xo

Clara Klap said...

I am Mike's "step niece". My Mom married Mike's brother Tom, who we all were mourning only a few short years ago. Everyone is right when they say that even if you only met Mike a few times, you would feel as if you'd known him forever. The only time I'd met Mike in person was when he'd immediately flown to be with his little brother who was passing away. He slept all night on the floor of the hospital waiting room in his work clothes. What an amazing person that I too am lucky to have known.

Gratton Family said...

Mike is my mother's cousin. I only got the privilege to see him but once a year at our annual family reunion. He was always an entertainer singing & laughing his unique laugh. He had his crazy outfits not necessarily made for camping & of course his loafers. My husband & I proudly brought a baby girl into this world the day we found out about Mike. They say when one is brought into this world, another is taken. I couldn't have imagined losing someone like Mike, but if there is any connection amongst the two, she is surely bound for amazing things. Our thoughts & prayers are with all his family & in this time of need.

Beth Kephart said...

I am so humbled by these stories, by this love. I know the Yasick family is reading, and I am grateful to all of you who have taken the time to remember out loud.

As I am grateful to my friends who have sent such sweet condolences.

Yasick, I keep wanting to say. Look! Look at how loved you are.

But I think he knew. I think he knew what was most important. And did the most important things.

anadoptedsibling said...

All my kin who love me
All my friends who care
Look beyond the dark clouds
We're gonna meet up there
~Levon Helm

I know Mike was a fan and I can only hope he's already tracked Levon down in heaven. I hope he can introduce me when I see him again. He managed to have tremendous impact with even the briefest of interactions. He will be missed.

Becca said...

How fortunate to know a man like that. It sounds as if he packed a lifetime of living into every day. The world needs men like that. How sad to lose one.

Teresa said...

Saint Irenaus said, "The glory of God is man fully alive". God shone brightly through this great man; this husband, father, friend and colleague named Mike Yasick. May he rest in peace ...until we meet again!

Randy said...

Beth, my name is Randy Goble, I was in the same class and graduated with Tony. I have been away since 1984, the year we graduated. I don't really know how anyone is or what they are up to, but I do remember what a good guy Mike was back then. I am so sad to hear this news and I am glad to see that he has such great friends. Someday we will all join Mike, I hope he puts in a good word for us all.

Judi said...

I was one of Mike's British colleagues at Shire and always found him such a pleasure to work with. A very cheerful guy and interested in everyone he met, committed to his work, and very bright. I remember talking to him in his office in Chesterbrook not long after his brother died and he never mentioned that he had the same health problem. He made me laugh. When he called me on the phone, he would usually begin "Judy... Judy... Judy" like Cary Grant was supposed to have said. He's going to be a great loss to everyone who knew him.

Judi said...

I was one of Mike's British colleagues at Shire and always found him such a pleasure to work with. A very cheerful guy and interested in everyone he met, committed to his work, and very bright. I remember talking to him in his office in Chesterbrook not long after his brother died and he never mentioned that he had the same health problem. He made me laugh. When he called me on the phone, he would usually begin "Judy... Judy... Judy" like Cary Grant was supposed to have said. He's going to be a great loss to everyone who knew him.

Judi said...

I was one of Mike's British colleagues at Shire and always found him such a pleasure to work with. A very cheerful guy and interested in everyone he met, committed to his work, and very bright. I remember talking to him in his office in Chesterbrook not long after his brother died and he never mentioned that he had the same health problem. He made me laugh. When he called me on the phone, he would usually begin "Judy... Judy... Judy" like Cary Grant was supposed to have said. He's going to be a great loss to everyone who knew him.

Judi Sutherland

journeyofcaleb said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
journeyofcaleb said...

I am a sales rep for Shire. Mike was a great leader, he made every single person he ran across feel like he knew who you were and was never too busy to have a little chat. He cared so much about his family, last time I talked to him he was showing me pictures of his kids and him at a baseball game and you could just tell how much he adored them.
Mike lived everyday to the fullest and left behind nothing but positive memories of himself. He is an inspiration and will be greatly missed!

Jessica Rice said...

I left Shire to move back to the northeast last August, and have stayed in touch with Mike ever since. He was the first one to know of my choice to leave and the hardest one to tell. I spent a bit of time working with him at head quarters before moving to the field. He had such an electric energy you couldnt help but feel positive and ready to conquer athe world.It is so hard to explain the loss of Mike as he was such an amazing man. Last June I had the pleasure of getting to know his wife and seeing them together. My heart goes out to his whole family, Mike was an amazing person that will truely be missed.

kate hopper said...

Oh Beth, I'm so sorry. What a beautiful tribute to someone who seems like he was an amazing person. Thank you for letting us get to know him a little through your words. I'll be thinking of all of you who knew and loved him.

kate hopper said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Uncle Scott said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Scott A said...

Beth, this has been such a hard week for all of us who knew and loved Mike. But there has been such a great outpouring of love and support and I guess it's not surprising that even when Mike has left us, he is still finding ways to bring people together. Thank you for giving us this space to connect with one another and to continue to hear that laughter--that one-of-kind cackle--every time we look at the great photo you posted, read your tribute and read all of the comments from Mike's family and friends.

Beth Kephart said...

Dear Uncle Scott, dear Jessica, dear Teresa, Randy, Judi, all of you. Mike lives through you and your words. Thank you so much for sharing them here.

Angus Russell said...

Wonderful words as ever Beth. Mike was a great work colleague and friend, who would always brighten up your day.

Angus

Wendy Vorpahl said...

I am Mike's cousin. I was shocked when I found out Mike had passed away, and felt so angry that EDS had dealt more pain for the family. Your tribute to Mike was absolutely beautiful, and I am not surprised that he made such an impact on his colleagues. I will miss his positive attitude, his humor-everything!! I love you Mike!!

Lilian Nattel said...

I'm so sorry to hear about Mike. I can hear how much his life touched yours and others.

Steve Farina said...

It has been an honor to work with Mike the past 8 years. He was an inspirational leader, mentor, friend and positive role model.
My heart is with Mike's family, who were amazingly strong today in the sea of red pants at his memorial service. As I listen to "Lucky Man" tonight, I realize we are the lucky ones to have known Mike.

Darlene Yasick said...

Beth, I met you at St Elizabeth's but don't think I really got a chance to tell you how much I appreciated what you wrote about Mike. I was so proud to be his mother for the boy and man I knew but I really have learned so much about him these last few weeks that I didn't know about or appreciate. Thank you for your blog and for capturing the Mike I knew and the Mike I didn't know. There is a big hole in my world but I'm hoping that God in his wisdom will use Mike's life to encourage others to help others.Remember to hug those you love and don't wait to tell them what they mean to you

Beth Kephart said...

Dear Darlene,

I am so honored to have your words on this small tribute to your wonderful son. He was full of life and full of good surprises, too. I am so very sorry for your loss. I thank you for taking the time to write here.

Faye Morris said...

I left Shire in 2012, but met up with a friend today who told me of the tragic passing of Mike. Such a shock.

Mike always had a smile, incredibly helpful and generous with his time and advice.
He sent me a lovely message when my husband Andy passed from a cardiac related illness in 2010.

Thank you for this Beth.

Sending love and prayers to Mike's family, friends and colleagues.

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