IN LOVING MEMORY
Michael's Celebration of Life
Michael's family looks forward to welcoming you to a celebration of his life. We hope you will join us to laugh, cry, and share memories of Michael. Refreshments and heavy appetizers will be served.
Tuesday, August 8
2:00 PM EDT
Fathom Gallery (14th Street Location)
1333 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20005
Doors Open: 2:00 PM EDT
Michael's Celebration: 2:30 PM EDT
Reception to follow
Parking is available at the Washington Plaza Hotel, 10 Thomas Circle
Power in Numbers
Michael Nibley was born the fourth of eight children in Provo, Utah, to Hugh and Phyllis Nibley. His family life was set to be strange. For a few examples, the Nibleys were a Boomer family, fitting the demographic of children born between the years 1947 to 1964 exactly, but they lived without the generational marker of television. They were a Mormon family during the years that the church moved drastically to the political right, but the Nibleys were all taught to be staunch Democrats. Though most have subsequently left the LDS church, none of them has ever voted for a Republican. Mike learned some of his exquisite debating skills (and some of his knee-jerk snarkiness) as a product of these family and social tensions.
His father was a well-known and much revered scholar and academic in the Mormon Church who taught at BYU, spoke many languages, and was the author of several volumes of books. Mike’s mother was a long-suffering unsung mid-century Mormon woman, struggling to hold the earthly life concerns of the family together. Arts and culture were important parts of the Nibley family – all the children were encouraged to learn musical instruments. Mike played the violin, taking lessons from his Uncle Richard, a concert violinist and music professor. Classical music and opera were part of the background of family life, attending local music concerts (including those of the orchestra in which his mother played first chair cello and where he himself played violin for a brief period) and all the performances of his brothers’ and sisters’ dramatic or dance efforts. Some of his happiest moments were at theater and opera houses listening to the music he loved.
Mike and his siblings were fourth-generations Mormons. In his early years, he was deeply involved in the faith, to the point where he read both the Book of Mormon and the Bible in his teens. He found the Bible full of rich, authentic portrayals of people and events while the Book of Mormon was very stiff and inauthentic. Those stark differences led him to pose many questions to his teachers and to others; what he was consistently told, in many different variations, was the answer religion always has for the critical thinker: Faith will sustain you, and you should believe without questioning. The more he heard, the more he questioned, leading to a break with the church in his late teens. In a community of believers as absolutist and uniform in thought as Utah might be considered now, it was far more so in the 60s and 70s. Mike went through the grief of a lost community as well as a lost faith. Coupled with a car accident when he was only 16, the balance of high school saw Mike in a bleak depression. Unlike almost all his male classmates, he decided against the two-year missionary service expected by most 19-year-olds and instead went straight to college at BYU. His studies at the university level drew him out of his depression, and he made some dear friends while attending some of the most intellectually rigorous and academically free years in that school’s history.
Mike received both a Bachelor’s degree and a Master’s degree in English Language and Literature. After graduation he worked developing screenplays for some Mormon documentaries as well as doing some teaching. He considered going on for a PhD; he applied and was accepted at several universities across the country. Instead of continuing his education and following his father into an academic profession, however, Mike decided that it was time to start earning a living rather than accruing further student debt.
He applied for and was accepted into the Foreign Service. However, at the required physical it was discovered that he had a rare blood abnormality that, although completely benign, disqualified him from service. So instead, he began his career in education, working for a company that was developing learning programs for children. This was the early days of the computer revolution. Companies were developing computer programs for schools to teach reading for younger children as well as history, geography, and science for slightly older children. Mike wrote branching, choose-your-own-adventure type stories that allowed him to use his creativity to develop interesting and inventive journeys for school children – it was probably the happiest time in his work life.
While at college, Mike met and later married Margaret. They were together for seven years starting in his graduate years and through his early professional life. It was when they were about to commit to buying a house that they both realized they were not ready to take that step and maybe weren’t right for each other. They divorced shortly after but remained friends, corresponding thru Christmas cards for many years.
The company Mike worked for opened a branch office in New York City around 1983, right when Mike was entering into single life again. He had been wanting to leave Utah and thought this was a great opportunity. He got a job at their New York office and headed across country. He found he really loved the East Coast and city life. He used to say he was an East Coast boy who got stuck out in the desert. He found a great group of friends and settled into the city – first living in Jersey City but then finding a great rental near Prospect Park in Brooklyn.
After about 5 years, the company decided to close the NYC office. Mike had no desire to move back to Utah, so he called around to everyone he knew in the business to see if he could find a job in the East. One old friend was working in Washington, DC. He was just starting with a company involved in a new business – developing educational content on CDs. Mike jumped at the chance, moving into an apartment in Alexandria and settling into his new position. He was able to work with the Smithsonian and Public Television to develop CDs about the Treasures of the Smithsonian and Sesame Street educational CDs.
Mike had brought his PC with him but soon discovered that everyone in the office used Macs. Unless he wanted to stay late at the office, he needed to buy a Mac so he could do work at home. Because he was a member of a writing group that met in Bethesda, MD, he made the fateful decision to go to the authorized Apple dealer in Bethesda where he got a little more than he bargained for. While he did buy a Mac Plus (the cheapest option), he was enchanted by the perky saleswoman who had helped him. He steeled his nerve and called her at the store a week later, asking to take her out to dinner. After dating over the summer of ’89, going out once a week (always in the rain), they moved in together and got married the following year.
Mike and Sandy lived in Laurel, MD, in the townhouse that Sandy already owned. Mike worked on several long-term CD development projects that required research, writing, and incorporating photos and videos. He immersed himself in projects relating to the First Battle of Bull Run and the life of Winston Churchill. While the first required multiple trips to the battlefield in Manassas, VA, unfortunately there were no trips to England for the second.
Mike continued to work at various companies and Government contractors developing and delivering content for various audiences. He worked for National Geographic on a picture atlas of the world. This happened to occur in the early 90s, when many communist countries were breaking up – USSR, Czechoslovakia, and others – so world maps and European cartography itself were a constantly moving target.
It was during this time that Sandy saw a contestant search advertisement while watching Jeopardy about tryout sessions being held in Atlantic City, NJ. Mike was very intelligent – he read and studied a great deal and retained a large percent of what he read. Because his interests were so varied, he was knowledgeable in many subjects. He used to say he had a “lint brain.” Sandy convinced Mike he needed to try out for Jeopardy. They took a trip to Atlantic City where Mike successfully passed the initial test. He went back later for additional tests, which he passed, and was put on the list for a callback. This happened about 18 months after the last test. Mike appeared on Jeopardy in 1995, winning three games and $36,000. The money was crucial to Mike’s future career success, as it allowed him to buy a better computer and software to improve his skills so that he could continue to get more interesting and lucrative training development positions. One job allowed him to travel to Japan, Spain, Italy, and Hawaii.
In 2001 Mike and Sandy were able to realize their dream – buying a rowhouse in the Glover Park neighborhood of Washington. They had both always wanted to live in the city; this was their home for the next 20 years.
Mike and Sandy joined Pine Tree Associates – a nudist club in Annapolis, MD, in 1994 – one of the best decisions they ever made. Mike loved the philosophical side of nudism, the freedom he felt when the status, competition, and pretentiousness of adornment were out of the way. He said when nobody is hiding anything, it was impossible to be anything other than honest. He and Sandy made many friends there and enjoyed many get togethers, both inside and outside the club, including lots of weekend trips – tours of the Virginia Wine Country, weekends at other clubs, long winter weekends in West Virginia (annual trips referred to as the “no-ski weekend”), and some overseas trips to Greece with a large group and Italy with 2 other couples.
Mike and Sandy both enjoyed traveling and were their own best travel buddies – liking the same type of places and things and putting up with the indignities of travel by depending on each other. Most of their trips were to Europe or the Caribbean; however, with a trip to Argentina in the last year of Mike’s life, he could claim he had traveled to 5 continents (Africa by way of a ferry across the Gibraltar strait to Morocco).
Mike was stunningly creative, and his inventiveness and enthusiasm took many forms – he wrote a screenplay and several stage plays as well as some novellas and poetry. He wrote songs and drew cartoons. But probably his greatest passion was oil painting. He had originally done some painting in high school and college but stopped for a long time. He took it up again in his late 40s/early 50s and spent much of his free time painting. His paintings ran the gamut from nudes, to still lives, to landscapes. He had a show of his work in a Georgetown gallery and sold several paintings and drawings to family, friends, and complete strangers.
Mike retired at 62 and enjoyed the life of leisure. He had always loved to cook and was the chief cook in the family – including the shopping and planning. He found it therapeutic. Mike and Sandy moved from their house to a condo in Logan Circle in 2022 where Mike spent the last year of his life along with Sandy and their two cats – Hildy and Siggy.
He passed away peacefully at the age of 70 due to complications from cancer on May 18, 2023.
Leave your memories, condolences, or well-wishes.