Obituary of Michael Elliott
Michael Douglas Elliott, 5/28/50 - 11/18/23
Michael was a man of quick wit and a gentle heart. He was an adventurer, a maker, and a homemaker with his wife of 43 years, Karen Searls. Throughout his life Michael let curiosity and passion dictate his play and work. When asked what he wanted to include in an obituary, he simply said, “Michael Elliott died after 73 years of fun.”
Michael’s adventurer-self began as a toddler, frequently escaping the confines of the family yard and a difficult home environment. Adventuring was exploring places and experiences which often included a certain level of risk. As a young man in Colorado, it was alpine skiing both on the slopes and snowshoeing into remote mountain areas for the joy of an uncharted descent. In summer, it was motocross racing.
When a fellow racer spoke to him of ocean sailing, he soon traveled to Camden, Maine, bought a sailboat and while he learned to sail, he also got a job that would teach him the craft of boatbuilding. When his first marriage ended, Michael flew to England, bought a sailboat there which, of course, needed work, eventually sailing across the Channel to explore the coast of France. Going ashore, he was feted. Having no French, he discovered only later that he’d been mistaken for a solo trans-Atlantic sailor who had been in the news. A few years later, Michael did sail across the Atlantic, from Florida to Portugal, serving as captain for a father and daughter duo.
Michael and Karen met in Colorado after his return from Europe. They arrived in Camden, Maine in the spring of 1981. Michael’s approach had been to work just long enough to fund the next adventure. Deciding to settle for awhile, his work became the adventure. Already an accomplished wood carver, he funded his pursuit of a captain’s license, by carving, then painting or gilding, signage for local businesses. With his captain’s license in hand, his work became sailing. One late autumn, a few days out on a yacht delivery from the Caribbean to Maine, a hurricane suddenly shifted course. They were under bare poles and a passing ship radioed to ask if they wanted to be rescued. Michael’s reply was no but would they call his wife at work to let her know that they were okay.
Michael nurtured a dream in childhood of becoming a pilot. Not good in math, he didn’t think it could happen. He and Karen began attending events at the Owl’s Head Transportation Museum, going up in the Piper Cub available for rides as often as they could. Their wedding gift to each other was flying lessons. Michael went on to gain his commercial pilot’s license, first becoming a flight instructor, then piloting for Penobscot Air and flying privately for local businessmen.
Michael met life with resilience. When flying was no longer possible, he turned to making and explored his creative side. A few years later a mysterious illness kept him confined to the couch for much of a year. When finally diagnosed, he made significant lifestyle changes which turned his health around. It seemed miraculous that he was once again able to physically work and play. In more recent years, when health challenges forced him to stop racing, riding, welding, and traveling to the Southwest, Michael faced the loss of doing everything he loved. Still, he found ways to remain engaged with life. His humor and quick wit were very much present and he continued to love….the gardens, birds, and chipmunks in his view, the friends who stopped by, and, most of all, Karen.
There will be a memorial story-telling gathering early in the new year, 2024. If you would like to attend, please contact Karen Searls, via email, to provide an email address to receive notification.