Obituary: Michael Tarabilda – Portland Press Herald
KENNEBUNKPORT – Michael Tarabilda, 83, of Kennebunkport, left on September 23, 2020. Michael was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer in 2001 and decided not to fight the disease but to live well and the life he left on his own terms , to live . And that’s exactly what it did: for almost two decades it not only survived, but also thrived.
Michael was born on January 12, 1937 in Evanston, Illinois, to Michael Victor Tarabilda and Mary Tarabilda (Mannebach) and lived in the Chicago area until his early 30s. After studying in seminary for some time, he later earned his Masters in English from Loyola University. Michael has taught in high school and in the English department at Elmhurst College.
In 1969 Michael set off: by bus and train, or on foot and hitchhiking, he crossed most of Europe over the next four years. These adventures became the centerpiece of much of the poetry and prose he would write throughout his life.
While in Belgium, Michael met Suzanne Stohlman, a native of New Jersey who studied abroad – it was, as Michael repeatedly said over the decades, love at first sight. After returning to the United States, Michael and Suzanne came to Kennebunkport in the summer of 1974 to help an aging relative and then never left. Though they never married, the couple inspired those around them as models of loving relationships for nearly 50 years.
Michael played many roles in his community. His love of gardening took up most of his summer months and his appreciation for nature led him to join the Kennebunkport Shade Tree Committee. He was not only chairman of the committee, but also a longtime arborist.
Michael was a voracious reader and devoted bookmaker from an early age, and the Louis T. Graves Memorial Public Library served an important social and intellectual center in his life. While he lovingly tended the library gardens over the years, a large part of his often all-consuming commitment went into the library’s ongoing book sales. He spent countless hours carefully sifting through the donated books, evaluating them with a pencil in his distinctive scribble, and carefully arranging them for sale. Well read and blessed with an insatiable curiosity, Michael often sank into long conversations about books with visitors, co-workers and friends. The deep, infectious timbre of his laughter often echoed through the quiet library.
Michael loved giving readings in the library’s nursery, a passion that also took him to the nearby Consolidated School, where he spent time with first graders reading aloud with a dramatic flare that delighted the kids and helped them create their own stories to write.
Writing was at the center of Michael’s life. He wrote and edited The Village Gazette for several summers, sometimes taking on the roles of fictional characters to write columns under various (and deliberately silly) names – despite his seriousness towards literature, Michael also enjoyed disrespect.
But the essence of his life’s work was poetry. Michael lived and breathed verse. His subject ranged from the deeply philosophical to the comical, from short spiritual poems to a comprehensive epic. Not only did he work on a variety of subjects, but wrote in many forms and styles, often of his own invention. Michael could condense a few lines into something hauntingly powerful and do it all with deceptively simple words.
Michael wrote constantly and didn’t let himself be distracted from submitting his work for publication. Friends, however, occasionally insisted on submitting his poems, and his work has appeared in literary magazines in the United States and Britain, and most recently in the Deep Water column of the Maine Sunday Telegram. In recent years, thanks to the encouragement and support of Suzanne and his friend Joshua Bodwell, he has compiled his writing in a number of volumes. Five of these volumes are currently in print and several more are in production.
Michael loved and supported his clerks with a rare enthusiasm, and he often attended their readings and bought their books. After his death, a friend noted that Michael was a role model in how to honestly celebrate friends’ achievements. Another friend quickly replied, “He was a role model for being love. Don’t just practice. ”
Michael had been bushy since the 1960s and stuck to a rebellious phase his entire life. sometimes it meant fiery denunciation of bullies and injustices, and sometimes it meant simply embracing mischievous madness when he felt that the people around him were acting too gloomy. Like the natural world he loved so dearly, Michael was multitudinous: he could speak softly about the Buddha one moment, then put on a top hat, and the next act in a comedy sketch in the library; he would turn off a popular classical score to film a football game; he could be surprisingly disobedient and he could be devastatingly tender. Michael was a bright and complex light – those who called him friend were lucky; Those whom he called friends were blessed.
Michael Tarabilda died of his parents; and two younger brothers, Edward and James.
He is survived by an uncle, many adored cousins and Suzanne Stohlman, the true love of his life and partner in all things.
The arrangements are made by the Bibber Memorial Chapel at http://www.bibbermemorial.com. To share a memory or leave a message of condolences, visit his memory book at the same address.
Posts in Michael’s memory can be sent to
P.O. Box 391
Kennebunkport, ME 04046
South Maine Hospice.