Aug 242016


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
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Myositis Association in Mike’s honor through or mailed to 1737 King Street, Suite 600, Alexandria, VA 22314.

  8 Responses to “J. Michael Shirk Obituary”

  1. I never met Mike, yet I feel as though I’ve lost a friend. I began following his blog soon after I learned I had IBM and I purchased his book. His plain, pragmatic descriptions of his journey gave me courage and though I’ve had dark days, I always remembered Mike and his simple explanations of how he handled all adversity. He was my hero and his grace and courage have helped, and will continue to help in the time I have left.
    He will be missed.

  2. I always loved our interesting talks about life. You are an inspiration in many ways. Thank you for your friendship!

  3. I was sad to read that Mike had passed away. I did not know him but in reading his blog I felt like he was a kind and giving person. My husband Art had IBM and passed away January 27th of this year. Art and I would read Mike’s blog and get so much information. I want to offer my deepest sympathy to Mike’s family.

  4. I’m so very sorry for Mike’s family and for Mike’s ever growing community of friends/supporters. His willingness to share his knowledge during this journey will always be treasured. He was an inspiration. Deepest sympathy.

  5. Sorry to hear about Mike condolences to family and friends, i found here a few years ago after looking up myositis / polymyositis / IBM. Conditions i’d never heard of, 4 years on with chronic pain, weakness, muscle twitching, hair loss, chronic fatigue. neuro DOMS etc, I’ve had many tests, nerve tests muscle biopsy. i’m being treated for IBM, What a awful condition the pain i suffer seems to have thrown doctors. my neuro doctors say its mainly a non painful condition. not for me, on lots of meds nerve tablets, pain meds had a long period with steroids nothing has helped doctors are trying IVIG at the minute. nothing is helping me. reading lifedisabled and joining web social groups have learned me a lot about this condition. Thank you Mike and others. Chris

  6. I met Mike when he was still driving, When he left Henry’s store I talked to him when I saw him riding his wheelchair in his van. My sister had just been diagnosed having I.B.M. I was shocked he had the same illness. I didn’t know how many had this muscle
    disease. He gave me his card, and I wrote him a few times. I loved his blog.
    So sorry to hear he’s not with us anymore. My deepest condolences.
    Janice Klerlein

  7. My condolences to family and friends of Mike. It’s been more than a year since I last visited. It saddens me to read of Mike’s passing, but I know that Mike and Beth are together again 🙂

    Mike’s sharing have inspired and helped me greatly to look beyond what I can’t do to what I can still do, and adapting to my relapsing (nearly 6 years still undiagnosed) muscle weakness

    Thank you Mike,
    Yana from Malaysia

  8. Thinking about Mike, his family and his online community during this time. Thank you for keeping this site up. Mike continues to be an inspiration.

    Eileen de Leon

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