Michael Martin Kreisberg, 78, of Missoula, died a good and natural death on the beautiful morning of April 24, 2018 while hiking with his faithful dog, Misha, on a gorgeous, south-facing slope below University Mountain in Pattee Canyon. He was born in 1940 on St Patrick’s Day in Manhattan, New York where he was welcomed with an enormous parade and great fanfare. This big city kid learned early on at City & Country Elementary School to value urban, rural, and wild landscapes and their inhabitants. More recently, this voracious reader of literature, investigative reporting, and political analysis learned that life under 45 incurred a substantial increase to his list of required readings.
Michael showed unflinching devotion to his mother, visiting her in Manhattan several times per year every year until her death at 97, always more than happy to sleep beneath the grand piano in the event that the beds were already occupied by other visitors. He also showed intense love and compassion for his mother-in-law, personally providing many months of hands-on physical and emotional care as she lay dying in a house purchased just for her here in Missoula.
Michael was always vigorous and adventurous and from an early age paddled, backpacked, and skied some of the most rugged terrain. He spent many weeks at a time exploring one wilderness or another—like hiking the spine of Jasper National Park or paddling and portaging the waterways of Algonquin Provincial Park or backpacking through the Canyonlands or climbing in Yosemite—but he loved just as intensely the beautiful ring of recreation areas around Missoula. His fingerprints are all over Point Six, the North Hills, the Rattlesnake, Hellgate and Pattee Canyons, Mount Dean Stone, Blue Mountain, and the DNRC. In fact, he routinely hiked up to Stuart Peak with his dog just to jump in the lake—and he always made it back before supper, which was right and necessary since he was the cook in the family. Simply put, he was hearty and hardcore.
Michael earned his BA at Portland State, arrived in Missoula in 1964 where he earned his MA at the University of Montana, and left Missoula for only a few short years for graduate school at UC San Diego. Michael possessed a superb intellect, achieved a solid record of teaching excellence, delivered truly fine lectures, could recite from memory some of the most beautiful poems ever written, had perfect pitch, and made the best coffee in the County. For many years he provided regular commentary on MT Public Radio and did considerable writing and speaking on civil liberties and foreign policy issues throughout the state. He also took on leadership roles in both state and local ACLU affiliates, actively pushed back against repressive legislation as the local coordinator for NCARL, and worked long and hard for peace and social justice in Missoula and throughout the Americas on projects too numerous to count. He served long term as a “field humanist” for the Montana Committee for the Humanities to help citizens' groups develop proposals for public humanities projects and taught for 5 years in UM’s Department of English and 18 years in UM’s Humanities Program. He also served faithfully on the Board of UM’s Faculty Union as well as on various graduate, departmental, and university committees.
But none of these accomplishments reflect Michael’s true ambition. He was never interested in enhancing his own power, position, reputation, or financial standing. Instead, he wanted to be part of the future—not as a name inscribed on a building or a plaque or a scholarship but rather as one who made a positive and lasting impact on a world whose inhabitants he would most likely never meet. He worked tirelessly for a future where children receive adequate nutrition and a good public education to grow into thoughtful and caring adults, where all people have access to basic human services like single-payer healthcare, where veterans receive the full complement of benefits promised, where wild creatures and wildlands still exist, and where peace and social justice prevail.
Michael always lived his life with a sense of immediacy, fully confident that we all know enough to do what needs doing—and so he did and so we should. Be kind. Show empathy. Read creative works to enrich the mind and find reliable and trustworthy news sources to track events of the day. Adopt a pet from a shelter. Ask a public librarian how to fact-check consumer and political advertising. Demand clean water and clean air. Vote. Give your time, talent, or treasure to support a worthy cause—like the Missoula Food Bank, Montana Public Radio, and Missoula Search and Rescue. Protect wildlife and wildlands. Appreciate the open space that encompasses this wonderful city of Missoula. Go for a hike. Leave no trace. And for everyone’s sake, pick up after your dogs everywhere.
Michael was a thankful man. Not seeking more than he had. Not wanting more than he had. He was thankful, always, for what he had. Michael lived what was important. And he loved his family, friends, and Missoula with a consistency that few have found.
Please join us in honoring Michael Kreisberg at a potluck celebration June 3, 2018 from noon-5:00 pm at the Pavilion in Silver Park on the Clark Fork Riverfront in Missoula. Bring a dish to share, if you can, and a place setting for yourself. Beverages will be provided. Everyone is welcome, so pass the word.