The Orcas Island community lost a treasured friend last month when Miguel Villareal passed away on Tuesday, July 26 at the home of his sweetheart, Suzie Thomas.
Miguel had come face-to-face with his own mortality way back in 2015 when local EMTs were able to revive him after a serious cardiac event. Back then, he wrote, with deep gratitude, a letter to those who helped him: “First responders give us a chance to come back and see things in a different perspective. However long it may be, you have given me more time. I promise not to squander it.”
Having been something of a recluse prior to this event, he subsequently made the decision to devote his life to service work as a volunteer for the Orcas Senior Center and other organizations. Miguel often took all-day trips, driving those who were unable get themselves to medical appointments on the mainland. He was generally on call (officially or unofficially, but regularly) checking in on and aiding people in need. He delivered food to seniors for the Meals-on-Wheels program, and ‘spread his calm’ wherever he went. Miguel also gave his time volunteering as Secretary and all-round helper for the Keepers of the Patos Light. He was a kind and sensitive soul who believed in using his talents to help other people, and he always managed to elicit a smile.
Miguel Angel Villareal was born May 18, 1954 in Corpus Christi, Texas to Agustin and Maria G. Villareal, and was the younger of two children. ‘Mike’ as he was called in his early years, attended St. Mary’s Parochial School and St. Gerard’s High School after the family moved to San Antonio. He also spent time with relatives in Sinaloa, Mexico along with his older sister Gracie.
His family recalls that since he was a child he loved adventures, the outdoors and a good laugh. As a young adult he lived many years in Steamboat Springs, CO and eventually moved west to Orcas Island in 1992, following in the footsteps of his friend “Big Bob” Powell. They quickly became well-known and well-loved figures at Enzo’s Coffeehouse as well as within the local fishing community.
Miguel moved onto the property of Alana Leeper in 2000 and became a resident of what came to be known as ‘Hobo Camp.’ Alana passed away in 2009 and by this time Miguel had become like an uncle to Alana’s daughter, Mona Rubano. He worked in construction and later took it easy when he came to understand that he had a serious heart condition. Remembered for his infectious and self-effacing humor, and memorable story-telling, Miguel was one who loved life and celebrated the ups and downs of a simple ‘hobo in paradise’ lifestyle. He belonged to a writer’s group where he tried his hand at writing prose and stage plays, and even wrote an e-book on how to happily get by on practically nothing. He was known to quip: “There are two kinds of work: gotta and wanna. I only do wanna.” Miguel kept in touch with his family and was a wonderful son, brother, uncle, cousin and friend to many people from divergent backgrounds.
Miguel leaves behind his immediate family: sister Gracie (John Lozano) of McAllen, Texas; niece Jennifer (Levi Jost) and a great niece, Leah, of Wilmington, NC; and several cousins in Monterrey, Mexico and Texas. He will be missed by his sweetheart of three months, Suzie Thomas (“I helped her out of the car by holding her hand, and we never stopped holding hands”) as well as his extended family on Orcas and many other circles of friends. Cremation arrangements have been made with Evans Funeral Home in Anacortes. A celebration of Miguel’s beautiful life on Earth will take place on Sunday, Sept. 18 beginning at 11 a.m. on the Village Green in Eastsound. A GoFundMe campaign has been initiated to cover end-of-life costs and help with travel expenses for Miguel’s family to attend his memorial: https://gofund.me/f1e27a24. An account has also been set up at Banner Bank.
Miguel often could be seen walking the length of Crescent Beach, to take in the beauty and get his exercise. He was known to be keenly interested in the Hawaiian practice of Huna, which embraces simple expressions of love and gratitude. From his journal: “My intention is to celebrate … life itself. Don’t be sad … and carry on, wherever you go.” ~ Miguel