Big Mike was my father-in-law. His formal education was abruptly stopped at the age of twelve while in the seventh grade when his father met with an untimely death at the wheel of a farm tractor. The place was Europe, and the Great Depression was felt as keenly there as anywhere. Mike became the man of the house then, taking over the running of the farm and providing leadership for his two younger siblings.
After the close of World War II, Mike found his way to the Promised Land, the United States of America. He worked a series of unsavory jobs prior to becoming the Chief of Operations Engineering at a prominent hospital near Chicago, jobs such as coal miner and slaughterhouse worker. But he had a knack for all things mechanical, and this is what managed to eventually shine through.
Mike landed that good job because someone believed in him. It was a job usually reserved for those with a bona fide education, a BS or MS after their name, earned from a respectable college. Yet without even so much as a grade school diploma to attest to his intelligence, Big Mike was now in charge of others far more educated than he. It was they who held the BS and MS Degrees in Mechanical Engineering, yet they answered to the ingenuity of Big Mike.
My father-in-law was not an especially large man physically. That’s not how he earned his name. It was his ability to solve problems and innovate that made him Big in his coworkers’ eyes. For no matter the challenge, Big Mike could always find a way to meet it and resolve it.
There was no problem too big for Big Mike.