Mike Lacey: Cy’s Greatest Friend

Yesterday we said goodbye to one of the greatest men many of us have ever known. 

Here is the obituary from the Des Moines Register:


Michael F. Lacey, Jr.


Michael F. Lacey, Jr., 68, of Elkhart died Friday, January 20, 2012, at Mercy Hospice in Johnston of prostate cancer.

The Mass of Christian Burial will be at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, January 25, at St. Theresa Catholic Church, 1230 Merle Hay Road followed by burial at 11 a.m. Wednesday at the Iowa Veterans Cemetery near Van Meter. Visitation will be from 5 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, January 24, at the church.

Mike was born June 4, 1943, in Boone, Iowa, the son of Michael F. and Mary (Hartman) Lacey.  He graduated from Sacred Heart High School in Boone in 1961 and from Iowa State University in Ames in 1966. While serving in the Air Force, he earned a Master of Business Administration degree.

He was a captain in the Air Force, serving at Mather Air Force Base in Sacramento, California, and Ubon, Thailand. He completed his law degree at Drake University.  He practiced law from 1976 until 2009, as a partner in the Patterson Law Firm in Des Moines.  After retiring, he ran a mediation service for two years.

Mike was active in the community, serving as president of Easter Seals Iowa, the Downtown Kiwanis Club, the North Des Moines Girls’ Softball League, the Greater Des Moines Cyclone Club, and the General Horner Chapter of the Air Force Association.  He was a charter member of the Ankeny Kiwanis Club and was on the steering committee and board of directors of the Downtown Kiwanis Miracle League. He was the first president of the Cyclone Gridiron Club and remained in that post for seven years. He served on the parish council of St. Theresa Church and on three building committees, serving as chairman of one. While at St. Mary-Holy Cross Church in Elkhart, he served on two committees. He was a member of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.

Mike is survived by his wife of 45 years, Karon; his daughter, Dana (Kirk) McGowan of Urbandale; his son, Michael III (Erin) Lacey of Pleasant Hill; and his grandchildren, Braden and Bryson McGowan and Colin and Madelyn Lacey. Other survivors include his brothers, Tom (Karen) Lacey of Williamson, Georgia, James (Connie) of Boone, John of Vinton; his sisters, Joanna (Jerry) Manriquez of Norco, California and Patricia (Loren) Frazier of Council Bluffs; his mother-in-law, Louise Thompson of Slater: his brother-in-law, Kent (Barb) Thompson of Slater; his sister-in-law, Louella (Steve) Larson of Slater; along with many nieces and nephews and grand-nieces and nephews.

Mike was preceded in death by his mother and father; two sisters-in-law, Shirley and Linda Lacey; and his father-in-law, Kenneth Thompson.

Mike cherished time with his grandchildren and loved attending their school and sports activities. He loved to travel, visiting all 50 states and numerous international destinations.

The family wishes to thank the staff at Mercy Hospice (especially Sue), and Dr. Richard Deming and his staff for their wonderful care and compassion.

In lieu of flowers, please consider a memorial to Easter Seals Iowa, the Cyclone Gridiron Club, St. Mary-Holy Cross Church in Elkhart, Mercy Hospice or the Ankeny Kiwanis Miracle League, c/o Ankeny Parks and Recreation, 210 S. Ankeny Blvd., Ankeny, IA 50023.

Go, Cyclones!

Here is an article that ran on the ISU athletic website on April 24th, 2008 that profiled Mike and his role as the president of the Cyclone Gridiron Club:

Meet Cyclone Gridiron Club President Mike Lacey

AMES, Iowa – Mike Lacey, Jr. graduated from Iowa State in 1966 with a bachelor’s degree in distributed studies.  He later went on to attain his masters at Golden Gate University and a Law Degree from Drake University.  His wife Karon also graduated in 1966 at Iowa State in child development.  Most recently, the Laceys have had their two children receive degrees from Iowa State, (Dana in 1989, and Michael III in 1992).  They reside on an acreage northeast of Ankeny in Elkhart.  Mike currently works for Patterson Law Firm in Des Moines, and his wife Karon has retired from teaching special education and from working for EMC Insurance Company.

In 1988 the Lacey family decided to join the Cyclone Club.  Now they own season tickets for football, men’s basketball, and women’s basketball.  Mike is the current Cyclone Gridiron Club President and is the former Greater Des Moines Cyclone Club President.  We sat down with Mr. Lacey for a few questions pertaining to the Gridiron Club and his experiences as president.

“It all started when my friend asked me if I wanted to get involved with the Greater Des Moines Cyclone Club.  I decided to and after a while I worked my way up and became president.  That was around the time (former head coach) Dan McCarney was in his second year at ISU (1996).  Currently this club holds over 400 members and is growing.  As a group we would have members’ nights, where just the members could come and chat over pizza and drinks.  We have taken a trip to the Nebraska football game and many other games throughout the years.  As a group we elect board members and a board of directors that meet together, once a month.

(Athletic Director) “Jamie Pollard decided there were too many clubs around and that the coaches couldn’t travel around to each and every city.  So with the help of the alumni we combined some of the smaller clubs into bigger ones.  We currently have six or seven regional Cyclone Clubs.  Even the Greater DSM Cyclone Club no longer asks for dues.  It used to be we would have speakers each and every week, but now they branch out into the metropolis areas instead of traveling all over Iowa.  My wife and I are still a part of the greater Des Moines Cyclone Club and they have begun to expand greatly in recent years.

“The Cyclone Gridiron Club came about in 2003 from two different diehard Cyclone fans.  They went over the consent with (previous Athletic Director) Bruce Van De Velde and (former Head Football Coach) Dan McCarney.  Everyone at the time was pushing for it to happen.  Our first event took place in the fall of 2003 with a tailgate of about 30 to 40 members.  Everyone that put it together really had no idea who should run it.  So I was asked if I would become a President.  To this day I am very happy that I did.  Our first formal meeting took place in February 2004.

“Currently, the Cyclone Gridiron Club boasts 23 board members, three ex-officio members, and a board of directors.  We all meet once a month to go over our events and the budget.  Meetings are always held in Des Moines, and all those that are on the board are longtime Cyclone fans.  Our club is considered a 501(c)(3) organization, which means we are a charitable and non-profit organization.  Currently we have more than 500 members, and in our first year – 2004, we gave the athletic department $60,000.  In 2005 we donated $125,000, 2006 was $150,000, and just this past year we raised over $175,000.  Our basic goal for the Gridiron Club is to raise money specifically for non-budgeted football items.  These would include sending coaches to a seminar, or having other coaches come up to Ames to teach our staff.  There are so many little expenses or specific equipment that is needed for the football program.  Since Iowa State has one of the lowest budgets, they really appreciate our support.  We have varying levels of contributions – anywhere from $50 to $2500, and allow anyone to join at whatever level they feel comfortable with.  Our website is http://www.cyclonegridironclub.com and anyone can join there.

There are many different events that the Cyclone Gridiron Club takes part in over the calendar year.

“We always have a board meeting on national signing day.  A lot of us attend the press conference and afterwards we have a nice function with the coaching staff, members and all the spouses in the Scheman Building.

“The next event is called the Cyclone Gridiron Club spring game. This year was not typical because of construction at Jack Trice Stadium.  For the Gridiron Club members, we have our own tailgate in the club section (of Jack Trice Stadium).  We house everyone in the club section, and anyone that wants to stop by for free food can. Everybody brings his or her own food and we make plenty extra.  We feed the general public; therefore it is a good recruiting tool for anybody that wants to join.

“Every summer we have a golf outing in Grand Junction, Iowa.  Cecil Reuter owns and operates the Hills golf course over there, and he does a wonderful job putting this event together.  He is a longtime Cyclone fan and has put on many golf events throughout the years for different Iowa State athletic programs.  Starting in 2004 he converted his football coaches meeting, over to the Cyclone Gridiron Club golf outing.  Cecil donates the entire course, and all the proceeds go to the Gridiron Club.  Another big sponsor for this event is Gary Lynch and Lynch BBQ.  We play in teams of four, and sometimes even five or six.  Even though it is only a nine-hole course it usually takes about six hours.  We don’t go to play golf, we go there to meet new people and have fun.  Again this event is open to the general public, and we raise quite a bit of money.  A lot of the coaches and their families come as well.  The big money maker at the event would be the auction.  Just last year we netted around $40,000, and $22,000 came just from the auction.  There are a lot of unique prizes such as a courtesy bus trip to Kinnick Stadium, or road trips to conference football games.

“Every second Friday in June, President Geoffrey and his wife help us sponsor the annual picnic at the Knoll.  This year it will take place on June 13th, and will be in its fourth year.  We are able to bring back a lot of alumni to this event.  Dr. Geoffrey invites the Gridiron Club and all of the football coaches and their spouses.  We set up a big tent in the backyard and have a nice barbecue.  We originally paid for all the members to come and bring their families, but now charge for a very small fee.  Gary Thompson and his wife always attend this event.  Also Jeff Johnson and his wife always come, as well as ISU Foundation President Dan Saftig.  During the event I am able to stand up with (Athletic Director) Jamie Pollard and President Geoffrey and we speak to the audience about the Gridiron Club and Iowa State.

“We have our second golf outing in July.  It will be the fifth year we have had it, and will take place on July 24th.  Last year it took place in Echo Valley, but this year we are honored to have it at Albaugh Links in Des Moines.  My thought is that it will be a sellout immediately.  Mr. Dennis Albaugh will open up the entire course for all members, and he invites everyone and their families to come. While we are there we will have a banquet with all of the coaches. What is a big draw for people to come is that Mr. Albaugh has an amazing collection of Chevrolet convertibles.  He has bought one every year since their existence and has them all in an air-conditioned building for us to see.

“This coming fall we will have our 4th annual closed scrimmage.  The football team closes the stadium down to only the Gridiron Club members.  While we are there we make food and tailgate. (Head Coach) Gene Chizik should be there to come and speak to everyone. This is a big time for us because we are always recruiting.  There is a large opportunity for people to join and get things that they normally wouldn’t get.  Something donors don’t realize is that they can gain points for the Cyclone Club.  For how much money you donate to the Gridiron Club, that money allows you to move up within your own level and increases your priority level.

“Come football season we have tailgates for every home game.  We own our tent, and with our brand new cooker, we always make our own food.  The nice thing is that anybody can stop by and eat, regardless of who they are.  Each game we are tailgating on the south side of stadium.  What this event does is allow everyone to see the benefits that the Gridiron Club has to offer.

“Each year we host a letterwinners banquet.  It is just for those that received letters in football.  We had over 175 people show up for the event last year and invite all Gridiron Club members.  It is a great opportunity for those old guys to come back and speak with the younger athletes.  Former coaches Johnny Majors and Clay Stapleton have both attended in recent years.  Also the majority of players that dressed up during the McCarney era come out for this event.  Former players Ben Bruns, John Quinn, Tom Vaughn, George Amundson, Jack Whitver, Lane Danielsen, and many others have been there.  Current Vice President of Football Operations for the Washington Redskins and former Iowa State star Vinny Cerrato also spoke at this event a couple of years ago.  We have a mix of anybody and everybody; a cross section of players for the past 40-50 years, and it has gotten bigger every single year.

“In the fall we try to pick out some different charter flights for members to travel to road football games.  We have gone to Shreveport, Louisiana twice (Independence Bowl) and Houston, Texas once (Houston Bowl) for bowl games.  The best charter in my opinion was to the Army game back in 2005.  Everyone in our group went on a personal tour to the military academy at West Point.  We were able to watch the army formations on Friday in a beautiful setting at the academy.  Some other games we have traveled to in charter flights are Lawrence, Kansas and Lincoln, Nebraska.

“This year we will have our third bi-annual train trip from Osceola to Colorado.  We end up in an area that is called Lodo.  It stands for lower downtown and is a great place in Denver with bars, nightclubs, and all kinds of restaurants.  All of us stay in a hotel and then get a bus up to Boulder for the football game.  Even though it takes a good 12 hours to get back on Sunday, it is one of the more fun trips I have been a part of.

“A lot of the football programs around the country honor their coaches each and every year with either a cruise or a charter.  Just something for the staff to get away for awhile.  For the first time this year we sponsored a charter for our entire coaching staff to go to Las Vegas.  They were very happy and content, right after national signing day.  Most other schools do something like this, so it was neat to start a new Iowa State tradition for the first time.  It was a good personal benefit for all the hard work our coaches put into the program.”

I have known Mike personally for about 5 years now.  To be honest, I did not know the full scope of all the things he was involved in until I read his obituary.  Mike gave of his time and efforts freely and a lot of people benefitted from that.  He understood that the greatest title that anyone could ever give you is that of a servant and Mike did that as well as anyone I have ever known.

I knew Mike through Cyclone athletics.  We both shared a strong love for ISU and that was our connection.  I can remember seeing him at various ISU related events, but I never really knew who he was.  Then one day he approached me and asked me about getting involved with the Cyclone Gridiron Club.  To be honest, my plate was very full at the time and I did not have a lot of extra time, so I was a little hesitant.  Mike was very persistent and he sold me on the fact that I could really make a difference.  I decided to become a part of the board.

I loved working with Mike and getting to know him on a much more personal level.  Mike had so many traits that made him an unbelievable person.  It would take days to try to list them all here.  I do want to mention a few of the most special traits I saw that made him so special.

Mike always had this unbelievable positive attitude.  When he would step into a room, you could see that the moods of everyone in the room would lift up.  He never said anything bad about anyone that I ever heard.  He would always see the positive side of everything.  Maybe that is what made him such a great ISU fan.  Even if the team was having a bad year record-wise, he had the ability to look to the future and paint a bright picture of things to come.  Mike made you feel like anything was possible.  Nothing was out of the scope of being possible and he was willing to do whatever it took as far as personal sacrifice to get it done.

Mike always showed a great deal of kindness to everyone he ever met.  The only exception was if you were a Hawkeye fan (just kidding!).  Mike never pre-judged anyone and he approached everyone with a sense of kindness that was unusual to see.

Along with the kindness Mike showed, he also was a very caring man.  He simply cared about people.  It didn’t matter if you had a lot of money or not.  It did not matter if you were considered important or not.  He treated everyone the same.  He cared about you.  Mike wanted to hear your story.  He made what was important to you, important to him.  We could all learn a lesson from Mike when it came to how he cared.

Mike had a loyalty that you see in very few people.  If it was a cause that Mike was involved in, you knew that he would always be loyal to that cause.  He would not waver if times were tough.  He was never swayed by public opinion.  You never had to worry about Mike disappointing you.  If he said he was going to do it, he did it.  There was never any question.

Mike showed great leadership.  That is probably why he was the chair and president of so many different organizations.  I talk often in my blogs about some of the different characteristics that great leaders show and to be honest, Mike was probably the person, more than anyone else I know, that showed all those traits.  He believed that as a leader he needed to lead by example and he did just that.  He never asked anyone to do anything that he was not willing to or had not already done himself.  He never put himself on a pedestal.  He came alongside of you, at whatever level you were at, and he would take you by the hand and together the two of you would get there and do it together.  This gave people who lacked confidence the confidence to realize that they could do it because Mike believed in you and he would help you with whatever you needed.  I know, because I have been that person that he helped accomplish things I did not even think were possible.  I will miss that so much.  I know that for the rest of my life, when I am faced with a hard challenge and doubt my ability to do something, I will think of Mike and a smile will come to my face and under my breath, I will say “Why not?” 

One of Mike’s greatest strengths was his relationships with people.  This is where Mike really shined.  Mike had this amazing ability to make you feel like the most important person in the room when he was talking to you.  This my friends is something very special that you rarely ever see.  When you were a friend of Mike’s, you were a friend for life.  He just loved people.  Maybe it was his strong Christian faith, but he understood the importance of loving his brothers and sisters here on earth and he did that everyday of his life.  We all need to step back a minute and appreciate the importance of doing that.  We all need to learn from Mike’s example and bring a little of this to our own lives.  Can you imagine what a better place this world would be?

I heard Mike say at many different Cyclone Gridiron Club functions, “Can you imagine what is possible?”  In that context he was talking about recruiting people to the club and what a difference we could make for the ISU football team.  When I think of that questions in a more broad sense, it really is what Mike was all about.  Having the vision to see what could be done that few could see.  Having the ability to step out of his comfort zone to do something that no one else had done.  Mike challenged us to think of life on a grander scale than what we were used to.  Mike made us realize that what may seem impossible might really be possible after all.

All of these traits made Mike a great man.  I also think that these traits were what made Mike a great Cyclone fan.  I might be biased, but I think that Cyclone fans are some of the greatest fans in the country.  They get disappointed time and time again, but they keep coming back as strong as ever.  Mike lived his life with all of these great traits and he was not only a Cyclone fan, he was the leader of the Cyclone fans.  He was the very best of what being a Cyclone fan is.  He showed what is great about being an Iowan.  He showed us what is great about being an American.

I know that Mike had wanted to travel to New York so badly to support the beloved Cyclone football team one more time in the bowl game before he left this earth, but unfortunately his health would not let him.  Mike knew he was dying, but even that never took away his spark.  He handled his impending death with a grace that very few of us could.  He never felt sorry for himself.  He kept on inspiring everyone who knew him right until the very end.

I thought it was very fitting that in the last ISU men’s basketball game played while Mike was still on this earth, was a win over the OSU Cowboys in Hilton on a buzzer-beating 3 pointer.  Just like Mike would have wanted it.  It was like one last tribute to its greatest fan.

As always, life will go on.  I will continue to go to the ISU games, but I will miss seeing Mike there.  I will miss his smile.  I will miss his spark.  I know that it makes me sad to know I will never get to have another conversation with Mike.  But the day will come when ISU pulls out a win that it seemed like was not possible and I will take a moment to think of my old friend Mike.  I will see him with a big smile on his face and saying from heaven, “See, I told you anything was possible!”

About wmarsau

Most of the people who visit this blog already know me so it is kind of pointless to try to describe my life in this short little blurb. What is the purpose of this blog is the question. Over the course of this last year I have been exposed to some amazing people and have made personal development an important focus of my life. Being successful, not by the world's standards, but by God's has become my main focus. Mainly, I want to work to develop myself as a person who is kinder, reaches out to help those in need, and truly makes a difference in this world. To this end I am constantly reading and am exposed to so many differnet things along the way. These have been amazing and it is helping me grow so much. Then I started to think, "Why am I being so selfish?" You need to share with others these amazing things you are learning and being exposed to. That is where this blog comes into play. As I am reading and experiencing things that are truly amazing and life changing, I will be posting them on this blog. Obviously, I will not be able to post everything in it's entirity, but I will be summarizing them and letting you know the source of the article or book they come from so you can check them out later if you wish. I want this blog to be a place where you can go to often and be inspired and leave here with a smile on your face. I will be covering all kinds of different topics dealing with success and personal development. Topics like taking action, relationships, living to your potential, reinventing yourself, finances, leadership, presenting, goal setting, time management, etc. I will also be occasionally including topics on cooking, music, and gardening because they are special interests of mine. As a little disclaimer, I have given my life to the Lord and he is #1 in my life. I am his servant and everything I do in life is for his glory. With that being said, religion influences all areas of my life. There will be references to God in this blog because I can't seperate God from this or any other area of my life. I want you to know that if you do not believe in God, that is fine. That is your choice. This blog is open to anyone who wants to better their life. I will not be trying to influence or pressure anyone into having a relationship with the Lord from this site. Please don't feel uncomfortable. You can just read the portions of the blog that you wish to. I am inviting you to go on a journey with me. We will learn together to be the kind of people we were designed to be. Anyone can make a difference in this world, but it starts%
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2 Responses to Mike Lacey: Cy’s Greatest Friend

  1. Stephanie says:

    I didn’t really know Mike, but I feel like I did from reading this blog. Sounds like a great guy and this blog is a testament to the impact he had on people’s lives.

  2. TH Clark says:

    Thank you for a lovely tribute to Mike. I only knew him for about 5 years. You described him perfectly when you wrote about his positive attitued and how he changed the mood in the room when he walked in. He always seemed to have a smile on his face, unless the Cyclones lost, but even that was short lived.

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