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A Community Mourns // 2 beloved teachers remembered // A LAID-BACK GUY

It was just another Thursday afternoon for Laura Brazinski. Mike Bristol reminded his sixth-period Algebra II class to study hard, stay out of trouble and enjoy their weekend before he dismissed them.

"It was so normal," the 17-year-old Hernando High School senior said. "He was joking about how long it took me to turn in some late work. I never thought things would be any different."

Normalcy ended and chaos began Thursday evening when Brazinski's best friend called to say that Bristol and Mike Imhoff, Hernando High's former football coach, had been fatally shot.

"It's the last thing you would ever think would happen. It doesn't happen in Brooksville," Brazinski said. "It's something that you'd expect to happen in the city."

Members of Bristol's family did not want to talk about the 41-year-old Michigan native Friday, but students and friends recalled what an impact Bristol made in their lives.

Senior Eric Riggins said Bristol never was his teacher, but that didn't stop Bristol from tutoring him.

"I wasn't even one of his students and he took time out to help me," Riggins said. "That was the kind of person he was _ always trying to help."

Joe Harvey, a math teacher at Hernando High, remembers Bristol as a laid-back, easygoing type of guy who listened to music by The Doors during his planning time, but who also was the consummate professional.

"Mike was very intelligent in mathematics, probably one of the most intelligent people in the math department," Harvey said. "He taught advanced calculus and algebra, the most difficult subjects to teach.

"The students, I know, enjoyed him. He had a very good sense of humor. But when it was time to make a judgment, or to help his kids, he was serious."

Said School Board member John Druzbick, a friend of Bristol's: "He was a happy-go-lucky guy. Just a fun person to be around. I tell you, we just lost two great teachers and two great motivators for our students."

Bristol was born in Battle Creek, Mich., and graduated from Port Huron Catholic High School, where he excelled in football, basketball and track, and was a member of student government and the National Honor Society, according to school records.

After graduation, Bristol enlisted in the U.S. Navy for six years and attended Old Dominion University and Western Michigan University before earning a bachelor's degree in math from the University of South Florida in 1982.

His entire teaching career was spent at Hernando High, where he headed the math department for the past six years.

During his 13 years in the district, Bristol was an active member in the Hernando Classroom Teachers Association, the union that represents county instructors.

"He was very involved, very dedicated to the union," association president Cliff Wagner said. "It will be a deep loss to the association."

Bristol served as the union's president and vice president, and was a member of the negotiating team. This year, he was Hernando High's union representative.

It was at a teachers union social in the summer of 1987 that state Rep. Jeff Stabins met Bristol. Stabins was about to begin teaching at Hernando High.

Their eight-year friendship blossomed from being casual acquaintances at school to becoming buddies who hung out after work, drinking beers and playing golf. Stabins said Bristol and Imhoff both were instrumental in his 1992 and 1994 campaigns for the state House.

"They were two of my very best friends," said Stabins, touching a framed picture of Bristol's 4-year-old son, Joe Jr., on his desk. "Besides losing great friends, what makes it even worse is what they're going to leave behind."

Bristol is survived by his son; daughter, Amelia; and wife, Anne, a graphics art teacher at West Hernando Middle School.

Stabins said the last time he saw both men was at his Christmas party on Dec. 19. He was scheduled to see them again today, at Bristol's annual One Club Duffer's Classic.

For the past eight years, Bristol and Imhoff had co-hosted the event. About 100 friends, family members and teachers played a round of golf with a single club, then ate a roasted pig and drank beers on Bristol's property north of Brooksville.

"They were great guys and great teachers. Just ask any of their students," Stabins said. "(The students) are going to miss (them) very much. I know I am."