Schlichtman’s spirit flies on
Friend, mentor, adventurer, Christian leaves mark
From hunting to fishing, motorcycling to biking and skiing to flying, Mike Schlichtman was the outdoorsman’s outdoorsman, and he’s being remembered by his friends as a Christian, mentor, family man and one-of-a-kind friend.
Schlichtman, 57, died on Oct. 6 doing something he loved, flying in an airplane, and his untimely passing has hit the hearts of the Cassville and Steamboat Springs, Colo., communities.
A Cassville native, Schlichtman graduated from Cassville High School and started his family with wife Lisa while working on his parents’ hog farm. He later opened the Baywash Car Wash and was co-publisher of the Cassville Democrat with Lisa.
He and his wife had always dreamed of moving to Colorado, a goal they achieved earlier in their lives than anticipated when Lisa became editor of Steamboat Pilot & Today.
Mike was involved in that community, as well, as a ski instructor at Steamboat Resort, a Rotarian with Rotary Club of Steamboat Springs and a volunteer member of Routt County Search and Rescue.
Lisa Schlichtman, Mike’s wife, said his legacy will live on.
“Mike was my partner in life and work for 35 years,” she said. “He was the most fearless man I’ve ever known, and his heart was huge. He was a true adventurer, a free spirit and someone who knew how to squeeze life out of every moment. And, he also loved deeply.
“I can’t imagine feeling any more cherished, and he adored his sons and was so proud of the men they have become. They will carry on Mike’s legacy.”
A best friend
Lane Shumaker, a long-time friend of Schlichtman’s, said he couldn’t describe enough how much their friendship meant to him.
“We were friends since high school and had a couple of boys the same age,” he said. “He’s a guy you could call up and ask if he wanted to do something, and he was always ready. And, when he moved to Colorado, things didn’t change much. He’d come back to town, and he’d never call, but we’d somehow always bump into each other.”
Shumaker said Schlichtman was someone that could never be replaced.
“When they say you can count your great friends on one hand, he was on that shortlist,” Shumaker said. “He was always ready for an adventure. We had a lot of laughs over the years — a lot of laughs. One time, we dared a waitress to pour the hot coffee from as high as she could. We held the cup and she had it going about three feet. Just little things like that joking with people were always fun.”
Jon Horner, another long-time friend, said they had many good times over more than half a century.
“We grew up in the Methodist Church and have been friends since we were about 4 years old,” said Jon Horner. “We had many birthday parties together and sleepovers, and we played football together, so his death is a tough one.
“When we weren’t playing football or basketball, we were running around in fields or going to church camps, and Mike was always having fun and being adventurous. We grew up and he lived his adult life the same way, always doing new things and taking chances. He was always fun to be around and wanted to do new things, and sometimes we had to say, ‘Let’s not do that.’”
Horner said Schlichtman was a great athlete, recalling one game against McDonald County where the dual-system quarterback set a record.
“In our junior year, Mike was in a dual-quarterback situation and had not played the first half,” Horner said. “After halftime, he came in and set the school rushing record at 357 yards — in one half. That record stood for a long time. And that’s just how he was. He did everything to the fullest.”
Horner said Schlichtman moving to Colorado also never phased their friendship.
“Even though he moved, he would come back every now and then and we would do lunch at Rotary and catch up,” Horner said. “He was always interested in how my family was doing and we would yuk it up telling stories from the past about us getting into trouble or pulling pranks.”
Horner said Schlichtman’s life and friendship will never be forgotten.
“Mike lived life to the fullest, with gusto and vigor,” Horner said.
Schlichtman’s adventurous nature was ingrained from a young age, and the characteristic grew as he did.
“Growing up, I remember when he was about 4 or 5 he fell and broke both of his wrists,” Horner said. “We thought if someone broke their arm and had a cast, that was the coolest thing, and we thought it was the coolest thing in the world that he had two casts.
“We also got the worst sunburns of our lives in eighth grade. We went to the creek and our moms said to put suntan lotion on, and we didn’t. When they picked us up, we were beet red. We had a sleepover that night but we were so miserable because of the sunburns.”
Shumaker and Schlichtman had plenty of adventures, as well, doing just about any outdoor activity imaginable.
“We started riding motorcycles in the early 2000s, and we went on a 1,000-mile day trip together,” Shumaker said. “We met at Fastrip there in Cassville and rode to Wyoming, then we found a church and went to services on Father’s Day and rode out around Mount Rushmore and the Badlands.”
Shumaker said Schlichtman also wasn’t shy about whatever he was doing, especially on one particular fishing trip.
“I wanted to go to Lake Fork in Texas one time and was flying into Dallas-Fort Worth,” Shumaker said. “I told Mike to get my boat and meet me so we could go fishing for three or four days. I got off the plane, and DFW is a pretty busy airport, and there was Mike, pulling my boat in the pick-up lane.”
The pair also did quite a bit of deer hunting, staying in a pop-up camper, and they enjoyed mountain-biking.
“Our last trip like that was about four years ago,” Shumaker said. “I met Mike in Colorado and we biked in the mountains for two or three days, then he flew me back home.”
Chris Lyons, a business partner of Schlichtman’s with Baywash, said at some points, he was a little jealous of his partner.
“I was envious of him and his lifestyle,” Lyons said. “I’m an outdoorsy guy, but to see the things Mike got to experience in life was pretty amazing.
“I’d randomly get text messages from him where he would send a picture from the middle of Wyoming on a bike. He was just a neat individual.”
Along with his adventurous and religious nature, Schlichtman was a successful businessman.
Lyons said Schlichtman was someone he always looked up to.
“He was one-of-a-kind,” Lyons said. “I looked up to him as a mentor, and he taught me a lot about the business world. And, he was a friend, a guy you could call up and talk to about anything.”
Lyons said he’s learned so much from Schlichtman over the years, picking the most important lesson is impossible.
“When you were around Mike, he just brought a different perspective to the table that no one else would,” Lyons said. “With business, we would talk in person and bounce ideas off one another. And, if I ever asked him for advice about my [other] business, he would be more than willing to give his input — and I would apply it and it would work.”
Local photographer Chuck Nickle said he worked with the Schlichtman family numerous times over the years, taking pictures for the Democrat and of the family. Throughout that time, Schlichtman always remained professional and invested.
“They are a great family, and we always got along well and did what needed to be done,” Nickle said. “He was great to work with, always complimentary and just the best. I always enjoyed working with him.”
The nature of Schlichtman’s death came as a shock to his friends, as many recalled their trust when in the air with him, how thorough he was when it came to safety and how calm he was if trouble did arise.
“He was a very safe pilot,” Shumaker said. “We would always pray before takeoff, and he would go through his checklist and explain everything he was doing. We flew once from Steamboat to Kentucky Lake, and we flew from Steamboat to Cassville often. I always trusted being in the air with him.”
Nickle had flown with Schlichtman a handful of times, mostly for aerial photography in the area. One of those times, Nickle said, showed Schlichtman’s resolve as a pilot.
“It was February 2011, on Super Bowl Sunday, and there were a few inches of snow on the ground,” Nickle said. “I met up with Mike and he took me up, and after about 5 minutes, there was a loud pop. I don’t know anything about planes, so I didn’t think much of it, but Mike said, ‘That’s not good.’
A propeller had come off the plane, an issue experienced by other pilots flying with that same engine.
“At that point, we had no thrust and were gliding,” Nickle said. “Mike was circling around and when we got about halfway down, I asked if we were going to crash. He said, ‘No.’ He was calm throughout the experience and had already had his plan of what to do. When we landed, he asked if I was ok, and I asked if he was ok. It kind of bonded us in a way, going through that together, and he did a great job knowing what to do.”
Schlichtman landed the plane near Fasco, and the propeller was lost for about a month, but he eventually found it.
“Mike called me up one day and said he had something for me,” Nickle said. “The propeller had split in half, and he gave me one half of it. I had it hanging in my studio for a while with pictures from that day.”
Schlichtman was a Godly man, growing up in the church and continuing his faith throughout his life.
Shumaker said this was evident at one point during Schlichtman’s cross-country biking tour, where he got himself in a sticky spot.
“He was on his trip and somewhere in Tennessee, and it was pouring down rain and he got cold,” Shumaker said. “He said later he realized he had hypothermia. But he got off his bike and took refuge under a big cedar tree, and he told me he cried out to God, ‘I need help. I’m in trouble.’ Not two minutes later, a guy in a truck came down this obscure logging trail Mike was on, and Mike offered him $100 to take him to the nearest hotel. When they got there, Mike’s hands were locked up and he couldn’t sign his name when they ran his card and couldn’t work the key to open the room’s door. They got him inside and turned on the hot water in the shower so he could thaw out.”
Shumaker said over the years, he and Schlichtman had gone on Men’s retreats together, and Schlichtman’s faith was never in question.
“I know where his spirit is, and I take comfort in that,” he said. “You don’t get many friends like that in a lifetime, and I will miss him for the rest of my life. But, I will see him again, you can be sure of that.”