One good person, well-done1/14/2015
It’s the voice that grabs your attention. “Booming” seems too violent of a description. And “piercing” seems too irritating. But “arresting”? Ah, the voice does make you stop and look and check out who is making that noise. Of course, there’s also his size. A big man by any standards. Bright-eyed and broad. An athlete for sure. From another time. Well, it all began 72 years ago and counting. A certain gravitas comes with that. He’s been around. He’s seen a few things. He’s experienced a bit of life.
“The number one thing as a father or as a parent that you must do is set an example for your children,” he said. “My father never talked to me about what it meant to be a good father or a good husband. I saw how he treated my mother. I saw a man who cared about the community, cared about the children.”
Mike Carver is getting warmed up. “Ways to Succeed as a Father” is the topic. His credentials? Four kids and 15 grandkids. And, yes, a willingness to put in the hard work.
“Fall of 1980, I went through a divorce,” Carver said. “We had a split arrangement — we shared responsibility. I remarried in 1984. I had primary responsibility for four kids. It turned out well. All of them succeeded in lots of ways.That led me to write a paper that I used at a parent university where I was asked to speak on parenting. The people in the room were basically men. Just a handful.”
And out of this small beginning, Carver was hooked. In 2001, he was appointed by Gov. Tom Vilsack to a task force on responsible fatherhood. By 2007, he and others had partnered with the YMCA in offering courses and incentives to fathers under the Polk County Fathers and Families Coalition and the YMCA’s Fatherhood Program — a program going strong to this day.
How does this happen?
“Both my mother and father were very involved in the community,” he said. “When someone came to town and didn’t have any money, they’d show up on our door. When there was a need to raise money for something, my parents would chair the committee. I saw so many examples of them getting things done.”
By 1963, Carver was in Iowa City going to college. He was on the basketball team when a fellow teammate persuaded him to get involved in student politics and national issues. Before long, he was the student body president.
“One of the players I played with at Iowa was an African American from Michigan,” Carver said. “He had actually pledged at Delta Chi, and that created a big furor that they had pledged this black student at Iowa. It was kind of a hot issue. Some of us felt that we needed to do something.”
Carver chaired a committee that organized an exchange of fraternity and sorority students from Iowa with students at an all-black college in Mississippi. And out of this, an activist was born. A string of leadership positions soon followed — President of the Iowa Commercial Real Estate Association, President of the Urbandale Development Association, member of the Urbandale City Council, President of the Urbandale Chamber. And then there is that Urbandale Citizen of the Year recognition.
“Years ago I thought I was going to be a Lutheran minister,” he said. “I went from that to a political science major. I got into the whole focus of working in the community. I did banking for 19 years. Because of the nature of banking, you’re involved in the community. Then I left banking and got into commercial real estate, which is also community-focused. Been doing that for 30 years. I just enjoy connecting with people.”
Is that it? Good parents? The right peer group? The correct nudge here and there? Suddenly you’re Urbandale Citizen of the Year?
Mmmmm . . . .
“Every Monday at 5 a.m. I go to a chapel at St. Pius,” he said. “I’ve done that for seven years. It’s a pretty good way to start the week. I’m there by myself. It’s a small chapel.”
Really? Is there more?
“My wife’s a pretty incredible woman,” Carver added. “I have the greatest respect for her. I’ve been married now for 30 years. My wife is very private. She doesn’t like the press. If anything you write could leave her out, that would make her happy. But my wife has been extremely supportive.”
Okay, take all of the above, stir slowly, cook for 72 years. There you go. One good person, well-done.
Joe Weeg spent 31 years bumping around this town as a prosecutor for the Polk County Attorney’s Office. Now retired, he writes about the frequently overlooked people, places and events in Des Moines on his blog: www.joesneighborhood.com.