Robert Michel Jr., 58, Schaefer's campaign treasurer, businessman


Robert Emory "Butch" Michel Jr.: A sister of Robert Emory "Butch" Michel Jr., a Guilford resident and a former campaign treasurer for William Donald Schaefer, was omitted from a list of survivors in Sunday's editions of The Sun. The sister is Suzanne M. Twells of Monkton.

Robert Emory "Butch" Michel Jr. -- president of a heating company, community activist and former campaign treasurer for William Donald Schaefer -- died of cancer Friday at his Guilford home, surrounded by his family.

"He loved his family more than anything," said Lainy Lebow-Sachs, Mr. Schaefer's former chief aide. "He was the most wonderful human being I have known. He was a good, kind and quiet man."

But in his low-key way, Mr. Michel, 58, also was a mover and shaker in the Baltimore community, lending a hand to such organizations as Outward Bound, the Baltimore School for the Arts, the Star-Spangled Banner Flag House Association and Project Raise, a program that helps inner-city youths stay in school.

The Baltimore native became involved in Project Raise through his church activities as a congregant at the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer on North Charles Street, where he was senior warden. Through the project, he and his wife of 31 years, Sally James Michel, a community volunteer, were mentors to a woman financially and emotionally since she was in sixth grade. She now is in her first year of college.

"She was determined. They were supporting," said Parker Sutton, one of Mr. Michel's three daughters, all of whom work at R. E. Michel Co. Inc., the business their late grandfather Robert E. Michel Sr. founded in 1935, and where their father was president and chief executive officer.

The Glen Burnie-based company, with branches in 14 states, is the fifth-largest heating, air-conditioning and refrigeration company in the nation and the 13th-largest privately held company in Maryland, in which the younger man said his impetus for succeeding in the business was, "I wanted to make it in the eyes of the people who worked for the company."

Mr. Hillman said it was common practice for Mr. Michel to walk through the warehouse and meet with employees. "Everybody called him Butch. No one was afraid to talk to him."

Mr. Michel joined the company after graduating from the University of Virginia in 1957 with a business degree. While in college, he played lacrosse, as he had at the Gilman School.

While he continued to follow the sport, his passion was sailing, said Jim Smith, a fellow sailor and friend.

"Out on the bay -- there'd be 50 to 75 boats -- a lot of people wanted to be on Butch's boat. That was where the fun was."

Mr. Michel, a racing enthusiast, won important races on the Chesapeake Bay, including the Annapolis Fall Series, High Point Trophy and Governor's Cup.

He recently bought a sailboat he called "Promises." "He had hopes of beating the cancer and being back sailing this spring," Mr. Smith said.

Mr. Smith met the Michels when they were involved in volunteer work for then-Mayor Schaefer. Mr. Michel went on to become his treasurer in mayoral and gubernatorial campaigns from the late 1970s to 1990.

For several years the couple held brainstorming dinners at their home with Mr. Schaefer, inviting people to express views on the city. "The rule of the dinner was no criticism," Ms. Sutton said.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday at the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer, 5603 N. Charles St., Baltimore.

Also surviving are his two other daughters, Mary Page Michel and Carter Michel, both of Baltimore; a brother, John W. H. Michel of Baltimore; and a grandson.

Memorial donations may be made to Butch's Brave Fund, in care of Parks and People, 1901 Eagle Drive, Baltimore 21207.

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