After losing son, granddaughter, Caulk family's faith unshaken with death of patriarch 'Pastor Mike'
Members of the Caulk family of Ann Arbor are mourning a third loss just more than a year and a half after the heartbreak of the unexpected deaths of two of their family members.
Michael Lindsay Caulk, 64, died suddenly Wednesday night of a heart attack at Belleville High School, where he worked as a history teacher.
The husband of local Realtor Missy Caulk and the father to a family of four adult children, Michael’s death hasn’t shaken the family’s faith - even after they were heartbroken after the losses of two of their loved ones in 2011.
Michael and Missy’s son Jamie Caulk died in October 2011 at the age of 27 following a car crash near Nashville.
About a month later, 11-week-old Lillian Caulk died unexpectedly at home. Lillian was the daughter of Michael and Missy’s youngest daughter, Allyssa Caulk.
“What happened last night - it was so surreal,” said Christa Caulk, 33, the couple’s oldest child. “We were saying, this cannot be happening again.”
Christa, her mother Missy and her brother Matthew were at the family’s lake house in Irish Hills Wednesday night when they heard the news from Allyssa.
The phone call was crippling - though Michael had experienced heart problems since he was 42 years old, no one was expecting this.
Wednesday night in the midst of the thunderstorms that pummeled the Ann Arbor area, Missy drove her adult children back home as they were sobbing in the backseat of the car.
“Here’s my mother, who buried her son and found her granddaughter in her crib who later died,” Christa said. “Her husband of 32 years is dead and her hands are right there, at 10 and 2 on the steering wheel.”
Missy's strength -- which shone in that moment -- was what Michael loved the most about her, Christa said.
“(Missy) said ‘In the name of Jesus, death will not defeat this family,’” Christa said. “‘We will not be rattled in our faith.’”
Born March 14, 1949, in Louisville, Ky., Michael graduated high school in 1968 after playing as the quarterback on the football team all four years.
His quarterback career continued when he joined the Marines in 1969, and later with the Navy for a year when he served at the U.S. Naval Base Subic Bay in the Philippines.
After the military, Michael earned a degree from Western Kentucky University and met his wife, Missy, at a religious event.
“He was so in love with her,” Christa said. “He called her ‘Muffy.’”
They married in 1977 and settled in Auburn, Ala., where Christa was born.
Shortly thereafter, when Christa was 2 years old, Michael felt called to open a church in Ann Arbor. The family moved north in 1981 and never returned to their southern roots.
Michael and Missy went on to have four more children after Christa: Matthew, 31; Jamie, who would be 29; Andrew, 27; and Allyssa, 23.
“He moved here from Auburn with nothing - and grew a church to 300 people,” Christa said.
Spending his weekday hours on the Diag on the University of Michigan’s campus preaching to the students from a park bench, he was known by most as “Pastor Mike.”
Michael’s charismatic style of talking drew even the biggest of skeptics to listen to him speak, Christa said.
His religious presence on the Diag from 1981 to 1993 garnered him a mention on the University of Michigan Monopoly board.
Michael stepped down as pastor in 1996 after growing his church into a 300-member organization to turn to another passion: Teaching history.
With a master’s degree in teaching and history from Eastern Michigan University, Michael has taught multiple grades and subjects at Belleville High School.
Michael took the teaching job because he wanted to coach football and he thought it would be less stressful, Christa said with a laugh.
For five years, Michael coached the Junior Wolverines team in Ann Arbor and acted like he was Bill Belichick with the New England Patriots, Christa said.
About two weeks after losing his son and granddaughter in 2011, Michael went back to work. Relentless, he never took a day off.
“It absolutely broke his heart when he lost Jamie,” Christa said. “He worked, almost to our anger. He was so faithful in his work ethic.”
Christa said her father always had an aura of Godliness about him. When he angered, it was only ever about University of Michigan football, she said.
“In all my 33 years of life, I’ve never met a man or seen a man that was like my father,” Christa said. “He really was unbelievable in who he was. He loved life and he loved all of us.”
Michael’s sense of humor lives on in all of his children, Christa said.
“I asked him the other day if he was alive during the Civil War and he couldn’t stop laughing,” she said.
Funeral arrangements have been made at the First United Methodist Church at 1200 N. Ann Arbor St. in Saline. Visitation has been set for 6 to 8:30 p.m. Friday and a memorial service is planned for 1 p.m. Saturday.