Friday, January 12, 2007

About Mike

The following story about Becky's brother, Mike, appeared in the Birmingham News 11/11/07

He loved life but questioned convention
News staff writer

Pieces of Mike Prichard's life fill a portion of the wall in a narrow hallway at the Bare Hands Gallery in Birmingham.

The items and photos clutter the "ofrenda," or offering, dedicated to him in a space about the width of a fireplace and sprinkled with marigolds.

At the center, above a wooden mantel mounted to the wall, is a letter written in cursive handwriting and signed with a lipstick kiss: "Dear Christine, I am sooo much in love with you! Won't you please be my Valentine? Love, Michael."

Circling his words are photos of Prichardwith his wife, Chris, and other family. The mantel beneath holds a miniature book, "The Joys of the Garden," and a small vase of wooden cooking utensils that hint at one of his talents. The collage of items from Prichard's life is part of El Dia de Los Muertos (the Day of the Dead) exhibit at the gallery. Prichard in recent years honored his younger sister, who died four years ago, through the exhibit. This year his wife is honoring him. Prichard died in September at age 40 in an accident at their Forest Park home. The ofrenda displays a photo of Prichard hiking with his daughter, license plates from the six states he lived in with Chris before they had children, gardening gloves tinted with earth, House of Blues concert tickets and a Bob Marley bumper sticker: "Emancipate yourself from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our minds."

Prichard, who adorned his car with political bumper stickers, used to call Russ and Dee Fine and argue with the radio talk show hosts. The St. Paul Minn., native challenged others to question convention in his daily conversations, delighting in provocative debate.

He also lived some of the change he professed. Recently he and his wife had begun renovating homes using eco-friendly products, and they planned to start a business that would provide "green" building supplies. He ate organic foods long before it started catching on. The garden in his backyard sprouted peppers, tomatoes, okra, beans, corn, strawberries, herbs - ingredients he used to craft dishes that were rich in flavor, surprising guests who thought vegetarian food couldn't be so tasty.

He sent his 5-year-old daughter, Marley, to school every day with a salad from his garden and taught her how to cook. Prichard would read Mark Twain to her and Avery, his 3-year-old son.

"After Marley was born, he said, `You know, Mom, you were right,'" said Dinny Bomberg, recalling how she once told her son that if he ever had children, he would love them 1,000 times more than he loved dogs and other animals.

Prichard did free-lance TV and film production work for most of his career, including art department, sound mixing, lighting and camera work. He was hard-working and a real "MacGyver" who would show up at a shoot with a toolbox and find a way to make things work, said Allen Rosen, a colleague and friend. Prichard's mom said her son never feared trying new things. When he was 3, he stripped off the training wheels that came with a new bike and learned how to ride without them.

He played the bass, violin, guitar and piano, and was part of several bands in his life. When Chris met him, he was running an art gallery in St. Paul that held concerts in the basement. The first time she saw him, Chris was walking with a boyfriend and dropped his hand. It was Prichard's eyes that caught hers. They were intense, blue eyes with a hint of mischief in them.

As a couple they traveled together and lived in Montana, Utah, Maine and New Hampshire, eventually coming to Birmingham in 1997.

A blueberry and fig orchard is being planted in his memory at Jones Valley Urban Farm. Anyone interested in helping can join volunteers Saturday from 10 until noon.