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After a hard life, a tragic final twist

What an upbeat column I wrote in July 1990 about Michael Shaver, a 1975 Largo High School graduate who had been one of the student managers for the Band of Gold in 1974 when it traveled to Kerkrade, the Netherlands, to win two gold medals at a world championship competition.

Michael in 1990 was married with a young daughter, had survived a serious bout with Hodgkin's disease in the mid-1980s and was living in tiny Bend, Ore., where he was the pastor of a 50-member Church of Christ congregation.

I wrote about Michael again two years later when his 32-year-old wife, Dana, was killed in an auto crash.

Now I have to write about him one more time. Happily remarried, working on advanced degrees in computer studies and excitedly looking forward to a visit by his dad this week, Michael on Wednesday (March 19, 1997) died of a massive heart attack. He was 39.

"It's so weird; he survived all that cancer" and then died without any warning of a heart attack, Michael's wife, Barbara, said Friday from their home in Tualatin, Ore.

Nancy VanWinkle, a family friend in Largo, said an autopsy revealed that the arteries leading to one side of his heart were totally clogged.

Michael's parents, Danny and Lou Shaver, had moved from Belleair Bluffs to Oregon when his first wife was killed. They moved to Lynchburg, Va., in April and had not seen Michael since then.

Danny flew to Oregon on Wednesday to "do a lot of father-son stuff" with Michael, who has been working on degrees in computer software engineering and computer information systems at Portland Community College. He had a final exam Wednesday morning, so he asked his wife and daughter, Barbara and Amanda, to meet his dad at the Portland Airport.

Upon returning to the Shaver home, they found a card in the door to call the Sheriff's Office, which advised them that Michael had died.

Barbara said he had finished his exam and gone to work out in a weightlifting class. He was trying to get in shape before turning 40 this summer, she said. After the workout, with gym bag in hand, he was entering one of the college buildings when he collapsed.

She said Michael had enrolled in a master's program at the Oregon Graduate Institute of Technology to continue his computer studies. He was still doing some preaching on the side but had decided for financial reasons to go into computer work full-time.

Barbara and Amanda also are students at Portland Community College, but Amanda, 14, plans to enroll this fall at Florida College, a Bible school in Temple Terrace where her father and mother, Dana, met.

Michael and Barbara, both widowed, met at a religious retreat and were married in November 1995.

Michael was born in Lumberton, N.C. His family moved to the Largo area in 1971. Michael's Largo High activities, besides the Band of Gold, included helping teacher Sharon Morten counsel troubled students and going next door to Largo Central Elementary School to tutor children in math.

He then attended St. Petersburg Junior College and Florida College before transferring to Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, where he graduated with majors in Bible and speech.

Michael is survived by his wife, daughter Amanda, two sons from Barbara's first marriage and his parents.

Evergreen Memorial Gardens in Vancouver, Wash., is handling arrangements. After a funeral service at 3 p.m. Tuesday, Michael will be buried next to his first wife, Dana, in Vancouver.