In Memory

Mike Corpas

Mike Corpas



 
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08/02/09 11:45 PM #1    

Bill Koenig

Who could forget "Camper Mike"? I believe he was in the restaurant business on the West Side.

08/24/09 07:01 PM #2    

Bill Napier

It's just possible that Mike acquired the sobriquet "Camper Corpas" from a little adventure he, his cousin, and I had in the summer of 1961. Finding ourselves to be undirected and unmotivated students at Ohio State Univ, we pounced on the idea of emulating Jack Kerouac and his crazy pal Neil Cassidy by commandeering a large land yacht of the period - his uncle's Buick, as opposed to Kerouac's Caddy - and embarking upon an "On The Road" pilgrimage to Colorado for the express purpose of striking it rich by panning gold in the streams west of Denver. We read up on this tried and true technique and judged our chances of hitting the mother lode to be pretty damned good. . . no, great, if truth be told. What, "naive fools" you say? Obviously you've never felt yourselves in the embrace of adventure and opportunity, never succumbed to the siren song of "go West, young man, go West." We did, in marathon fashion befitting the urgency of the quest. Arriving in Denver in the middle of the night, we pulled into an all night coffee and greasy spoon dive to discuss our progress and prospects. Mike's cousin, by this time, had fallen prey to steadily mounting anxiety about his father's reaction to the "borrowed" car story, and decided then and there to abandon his compadres to fate, hope, and charity. So there we were, two figures out of an Edward Hopper painting, waiting stoically for the the next thing to happen, for the next great idea to make itself known. Which, if fact, it did after about an hour of sludge-like java refills. Her name was Tex, (really!) and she was mighty tall, mighty tough, and knew bewilderment when she saw it. "College kids usually have no trouble finding jobs in the resort town of Estes Park. I work there myself, and will give you boys a lift if you want to throw your gear in my car." We did as we were told and found ourselves traveling into the magic of the mountains by star and moonlight. Mike dozed and I dreamed mountains. I can still see the first moonlit snow on Mummy Mountain as we crested a ridge and dropped into the valley of Estes Park. Amidst well wishes and thanks, we were deposited on the doorstep of The Prospect Inn (a humorous irony not noted until this moment 48 years later) A generous innkeeper said that she'd give us a room until we found work, at which time we could settle up. A few days later we found jobs as general handymen at Steads Ranch, a dude outfit inside of the national park boundaries. Well, that was the summer that changed the course of my life, whatever that course might have been. I stayed the season and after that hitch hiked in a great loop up to The Tetons and Yellowstone before thumbing back to Cleveland via Idaho. Mike left the ranch sooner that I. One unfortunate day while digging a trench for some plumbing or irrigation project, Mike's shovel hit a power line and the jolt sent him flying onto his backside. Much shaken and convinced that the incident was a message from his Greek, Olympian gods, he packed up and took the Greyhound home. We had some good times on that beautiful old ranch, and I'd like to believe that he, as I did, found riches every bit as precious as the gold we fantasized at the beginning of that summer.

I saw Mike a few time over the years. We reconnected because we were both involved in the art business. He had a gallery and frame shop in Westlake, and I had been painting for many years by that time. I have fond memories of the time we spent together, and used to marvel at the strange contentious, loving way that he and his family spoke Greek to one another.

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