JOHN MICHAEL SHIRK
1940 – 2016
John Michael “Mike” Shirk died peacefully on Sunday, August 21, 2016 in Poway, CA after a 20-year struggle with the muscle disease inclusion body myositis (IBM). A writer, artist, and an inspiration to others living with disabilities, Mike spent his last days surrounded by family and friends. He was preceded in death by his loving wife, Elizabeth A. (Williams) Shirk.
Mike was born November 3, 1940, in New Castle, IN to John F. and Dorothy (Zerr) Shirk. After graduating from Hagerstown High School, Mike studied mechanical engineering at Purdue University, marketing at Wayne State University, and later earned his Bachelor of Business Administration, Marketing from National University. Mike’s professional career began at Perfect Circle Corporation in Hagerstown and later flourished in Detroit, MI when he launched the advertising campaign for the Pontiac Firebird. Career opportunities brought Mike and his family to San Diego, CA in 1969. He then served as Executive VP and Creative Director at Chapman Warwick Advertising for more than 7 years. In 1993, Mike partnered to start up Michael Talbart Advertising, where he continued to receive numerous awards until his retirement in 1999.
Mike was constantly challenging himself. He began to study watercolor and painting soon after his diagnosis in 1996. One of his paintings, “Point Piños Light,” earned a place in the Permanent Art Collection of the Muscular Dystrophy Association. His paintings have been accepted in numerous juried art competitions, including the San Diego Watercolor Society (“SDWS”) International Exhibition, Watercolor West, the Western Federation of Watercolor Societies and the Northwest Watercolor Society. Mike formerly served as the President of the SDWS, where he made numerous contributions including designing a database system and interactive website.
When Mike was no longer able to paint he turned his focus back to writing, sharing his experiences of living with disability. In 2010, Mike started his blog, “Life! Disabled,” to tell his story and provide “tips, tools, and inspiration for the physically challenged.” In 2014, Mike wrote and self-published his book Rolling Back: Through a Life Disabled completely using voice recognition software. Mike also wrote and performed an original song, “I Won’t Stand for That.”
Mike is survived by daughters, Linda (Howard) Gale, Jennifer (Andrew) Schilling and Karen (Ben) Kelly; sons Steven (Ailyn) Shirk and William (Claudia) Shirk; grandchildren Jarod (Sarah) Reyes, Jason (Katy) Shirk, Sarah (Rich) Payne, Becky (Julian) Davis, Britni Shirk, Kristina Shirk, Cody Shirk, Elijah Shirk, Kaitlyn Kelly, Stephanie Shirk, Nicole Shirk, Jackson Kelly, Lawrence Shirk, Timothy Shirk, and Ashley Schilling; and five great-grandchildren.
A gathering to celebrate Mike’s life will be held at his daughter’s home in Poway on Monday, August 29, at 3PM. For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Myositis Association in Mike’s honor through www.myositis.org or mailed to 1737 King Street, Suite 600, Alexandria, VA 22314.
JOHN MICHAEL SHIRK