M-A Community Celebrates the Life of Mike Conley

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Conley’s portrait in 2012 yearbook.

Last week, the M-A community mourned the loss of Mike Conley. Conley worked as a custodian at M-A for over fifteen years before retiring at the beginning of the 2021-22 school year. He passed away on February 21, 2023 at the age of 56 after a courageous battle with cancer.

Conley’s loved ones remember him for his kindness, diligence, integrity, and keen sense of humor. He brought an infectious smile to all endeavors, and cared deeply about his family and friends. 

“Mike was very short—around 5’1”—but he had such a big personality,” said Plant Manager Brien Oliver. “He was always playing music and singing, and he had this great laugh that just filled up the room. When you walked into a room and saw him, you’d think he was the boss.”

Principal Karl Losekoot said, “Mike had a really fun outlook on life. He was always looking to find the good in everything and to bring a smile to someone’s face. He taught me that no matter what’s going on in life, you have to go out and find little things to enjoy every day.”

“Every interaction I ever saw Mike have was kind, bubbly, and joyful,” Librarian Cat Burton-Tillson added.

While cleaning classrooms on campus after school, Conley frequently struck up conversations with teachers and staff.

“There were days when I would intentionally stay after school working in my classroom because I thought, ‘I can’t leave, I haven’t talked to Mike yet!’” said English teacher Lisa Otsuka. “He always asked me how I was, remembering the most mundane of details and asking again the next day.”

“Mike always greeted me with a smile and a, ‘What’s up, Big John?’ He brought a warmth to M-A that will be hard to replace,” said video production teacher John Giambruno. 

English teacher Ana Ventura remembered, “It was always so nice to see Mike when he came by after school. We talked about all kinds of things. When I had a baby, he would always check in with me and ask how my son was doing.”

“Chatting with Mike was always so uplifting and reminded me why I do what I do,”

Burton-Tillson added. “His presence here was very real.”

“Mike really valued taking care of home—taking care of his family,” said Oliver. Otsuka added, “When Mike’s daughter was coming home from school, he beamed and made plans in anticipation. I always thought that he seemed like the most incredible father.”

Conley named his beloved Harley-Davidson motorcycle “Betty,” and rode it to and from school. Oliver remembered, “He had a long commute all the way from Modesto, and rode his bike back and forth fearlessly every day. He loved that motorcycle.”

“Mike did his job with integrity. He worked hard and always made sure things were done well,” Losekoot said. Oliver added, “When Mike would advocate for someone, I would really listen, because I knew that he always told the truth.” 

Otsuka said, “Mike was the soul of M-A and the best that we can be: joyful, kind, honest, diligent, and present.”’

Conley is survived by his partner Keli McManus and daughter Shoshana Conley. 

In lieu of flowers, GoFundMe donations can be made to assist in properly honoring his memory with a service and celebration of life.

Caroline Pecore is a senior in her first year of journalism. Her column, "Bears Doing Big Things," runs every Monday. She enjoys meeting new people through journalism and writing about the M-A community. Outside of school, she spends most of her time rowing for Norcal Crew and also enjoys reading, drawing, and exploring the outdoors.

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