Michael Laban Malin, a manager for a Kennedy Krieger Institute program for autistic children who was recalled for his outgoing personality, died of brain cancer Tuesday at his mother's North Baltimore home. He was 34 and lived with his family in Canton.
Born in Baltimore, he was the son of David Hirsh Malin, a co-founder of the Jemicy School, and Judith Ann Malin, an administrator at St. Elizabeth's School in Northeast Baltimore. He attended the Baltimore Montessori School and was a 1998 graduate of Friends School, where he played soccer and lacrosse and sang in the school chorus.
"Mike has always been, in my mind, the definition of a people person," said Justine Alger Forrester, a Friends School classmate who lives in Towson. "He stood out as someone who genuinely loved people and loved being around people. He was warm, welcoming and outgoing. He had an ever-present grin, and I can hear his boisterous greeting and feel his huge bear hug. He was that person who was just friendly to everybody in the school."
He went on to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology at the University of Mary Washington in Virginia, where he met his future wife, Catherine "Cathy" Emily Kohler.
"It was at the beginning of our freshman year," she said. "He was just sort of chatting with everyone when I met him. We met in the dorm hallway. We connected and talked."
He joined the Kennedy Krieger Institute in 2002.
Dr. Michael V. Johnston, its chief medical officer and senior vice president, said Mr. Malin was the first clinical associate in the institute's neurology and neurodevelopmental medicine program.
"In this role he assisted physicians and families by staying in touch with parents of children with complex neurological problems who needed frequent medication changes and extra care," Dr. Johnston said. "With his calm, cheerful and compassionate nature, he was very successful in this role, and he was extremely popular with families."
Mr. Malin went on to earn a master's degree in health care administration from Notre Dame of Maryland University. He left Kennedy Krieger in 2008 to work with Overlea Personal Physicians, a family practice in the Mercy Health System.
Mr. Malin returned to Kennedy Krieger in 2011. He told friends he missed being with children. He became manager of medical program operations for the Kennedy Krieger Center for Autism and Related Disorders.
"His expertise and personality made him an extremely successful manager and leader," Dr. Johnston said. "Mike had the potential to lead a hospital or large health care organization in the future, if his life had not been cut short. The entire staff who knew him at Kennedy Krieger are extremely saddened by his death."
Mr. Malin married in 2005. He and his wife moved to Canton, a neighborhood they chose because he liked living near O'Donnell Square. They had a golden retriever, Shelby, and often met neighbors at Dypski Park. He was also a devotee of a neighborhood Starbucks.
Will Gunther, a friend who lives in Sykesville, recalled Mr. Malin: "He danced better than anyone I know and better than any of his other friends know. He was the one person I could go to remind me of the important things in life."
"He was a talker," said Jake Martin, a friend from childhood who lives in Canton. "He would approach anyone. You could walk into a restaurant in Canton and all the waiters knew him."
His brother-in-law, Paul Kohler, recalled Mr. Malin's "energy and uplifting spirit." He said he had an ability to make a good time better just by being there.
"Food always tasted better, beer was always more refreshing, jokes were always funnier, and moments shared were that much greater when Mikey was retelling a story," said Mr. Kohler, who lives in Woodbury, N.Y. "He had indomitable will and extraordinary courage. He reminded me, 'It's not the size of the dog in the fight that counts, it's the size of fight in the dog.'"
Friends said that Mr. Malin danced to rap and rhythm and blues music. Shortly before his death, he asked to hear R. Kelly's "Ignition (Remix)." He also liked Pharcyde and the Beastie Boys.
He and his wife hiked in Gunpowder Falls State Park, at Lake Roland and in Harpers Ferry, W.Va. He was also an accomplisher outdoor griller and liked to turn out a steak dinner accompanied by grilled asparagus and mashed potatoes prepared with butter and sour cream. He made his own marinades composed of several ingredients. He called his blend "the kitchen sink."
He was a member of the Friends School alumni board.
A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Friday at St. Casimir's Roman Catholic Church, 2736 O'Donnell St. in Canton.
In addition to his wife of eight years, who is a Jemicy School teacher, and his mother, survivors include a son, David Kohler Malin, and a daughter, Abigail Molly "Abbie" Malin, both of Baltimore. His father died in 1986.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun