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Life Story

picture of Michael

Joseph Michael Roth was born July 16, 1986 in Deer Park, California. His initials, JMR are the same as his sister Julie’s initials – JMR. July 16 is also Grandpa Roth’s birthday. Michael might just be the best birthday present that Grandpa Roth ever got.

When Michael was three his family moved to Centralia, WA. They lived on six acres with forest, stream and field to play in and explore. A mother cat adopted the Roth’s and later had 4 kittens. Michael loved cats and he believed them to be the perfect pets.

After being home schooled for 1st grade Michael attended Lewis County Adventist School. School was always difficult for Michael. He was very bright and understood the concepts almost instantly. But he had a difficult time with the homework. He excelled in any class where the grade was primarily based on tests.

When Michael was 9 years old he had the privilege of going with his family on a 9 month motorhome trip around the country. They hiked in many National Parks, visited historical sites and explored the country. They were able to visit all 48 of the mainland United States as well as Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Later the family visited Hawaii and Alaska to complete the 50 states.

At 13 years of age Michael was co-president of his 8th grade class. This was also the year he chose to be baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist church.

For academy Michael attended Columbia Adventist Academy. He was active in soccer, played handbells, and joined the knowledge bowl team. As usual, it was very difficult for Michael to get the homework done, but he did very well on the tests. During this time he became an expert at riding unicycles and would sometimes ride his unicycle while his friends rode their bikes – but it was a little hard to keep up. And then there were all the unicycle tricks.

Another of Michael’s talents was juggling. He could juggle balls, clubs, fruit, burning torches, rings, and many other things. For some reason the principal was not amused when they were on a music tour and Michael was juggling glow in the dark balls after “lights out”.

Guitar was really interesting to Michael so he took guitar lessons and learned to play the classical guitar and also the electric guitar. He was drawn to write music. He worked on writing numerous songs.

Amateur radio was another interest of Michael’s. He studied hard one summer so he could get his license. There was going to be a test in a few weeks down in Portland, Oregon so Michael studied hard to get ready. On the evening of the exam, Michael arrived on time and requested the morse code test. He took the test and passed it. Then he went back and requested the Technician Class test. Michael passed that test as well. Then he went back and requested the General Class Test. The examiner was just amazed. People usually just take one test in an evening and not 2 or 3. Michael passed the General class test. Then he went back and requested the Extra class test. The examiner was shocked. “Are you sure you want the Extra test?” Michael took the Extra class test and passed it as well – all 4 tests in one sitting. “We’ve never had anyone pass all 4 tests in one evening before” the examiner exclaimed in disbelief.

Because Michael had passed the Extra test he got a 5 character call sign instead of 6. His call sign was AC7OP. A few years later when Michael got a car, he used his call sign for his license plate.

Michael loved math. It was his favorite subject and he understood it very quickly. After 3 years in Academy, he had taken all the math the academy offered so his senior year he signed up for Calculus at Clark College. The teacher was the most difficult one in the department and rarely gave A’s or B’s. Also, he primarily counted the exams toward the grade. So guess what? Michael excelled in this class and had the top grade. School, math and life were going well.

Then Michael became very sick. He developed colitis which almost took his life on several occasions. Over the next 3 years he spent several months in the hospital and had 9 surgeries. The countless procedures, pain and uncertainty all took their toll. In the end he was healthy physically, but quite traumatized.

After regaining his health Michael was able to attend Walla Walla College and majored in Electrical Engineering. He loved the math, engineering, and theoretical classes but it was not possible for him to complete most of the homework.

Michael enjoyed hiking – usually by himself . He would drive out to Southfork and hike for 10 or 20 miles. The Columbia Gorge was another of his favorite hiking spots. He did extreme hikes with large elevation gain and difficult terrain. Sometimes he hiked all night.

Michael’s friends sometimes compared him to Sheldon, from “Big Bang Theory” because he seemed to know a lot about any subject that came up. But unlike Sheldon, Michael was very empathetic and could also connect with people on an emotional level.

A few years ago Michael worked as a software engineer on a laser project. Things went very well the first year. His concern for every detail while keeping the whole project in mind was ideally suited for this project. He cared deeply about the quality and the results, making sure everything was carefully designed and thoroughly tested. There was a lot of stress in this job over the next few years. The added stress made it even more difficult to complete homework and Michael became discouraged and depressed. By now college had taken a lot longer than he planned.

In April of 2011 Michael was in a car accident and suffered a moderate concussion. He never fully recovered from that accident. He found it almost impossible to sleep. Later he began to take prescription drugs for anxiety and his world seemed to be falling apart. At the beginning of 2012 Michael found a counselor he really liked and that understood him. Together they came up with a plan to taper him off the drugs. Michael had hope and courage for the future. He began to make positive changes. He was planning to ride his motorcycle back to Walla Walla to attend Spring Quarter.

Then on March 21, 2012 Michael died from an accidental drug interaction.

Michael always hated goodbyes. He felt such a sense of loss. Michael now rests peacefully. He didn’t have to say goodbye. What he looked forward to most about heaven was that nothing ever ended and no one ever had to say goodbye.

Michael had many gifts. He was very intuitive and had ability to understand other people. Often he knew them better than they knew themselves. He was very kind and didn’t do anything that might hurt someone else.

The mission of Michael’s life was to help other people. Often he could be found explaining a math concept to a friend or helping someone he didn’t even know with their homework.

Michael valued freedom. One summer he expressed his love of adventure by taking a motorcycle ride across the country from Washington state to Georgia to visit his sister, Julie, and then over to Missouri for Brandon’s wedding. Then Michael returned home a different way, hiking, camping, and exploring the country as he went.

Michael was well acquainted with pain, depression, and suffering, yet he was warm, loving, caring, gifted, and wise beyond his years.

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