By Vivian Collings
Whether at home, at work, at sports games, or at the hunt camp, Mike Iles was an outstanding leader, friend, and family member; someone everyone could turn to for a solution to a problem and a for a calming, stable presence.
He loved many, and showed it through his actions.
He was husband to Wendy, father to Chris and Tessa, and grandfather to Joe, “the light of his life.”
“He just loved the community,” Chris said. “He knew everybody. He just loved being there for people, being there for his neighbours, being there for people he knew.”
Mike passed away at age 61 on Saturday, Nov. 26 “after a very courageous battle with lung cancer,” read his obituary. “He fought hard to the end.”
The Haliburton community mourned Mike on Friday, Dec. 1 where countless stopped by the Dysart Fire Hall or at a reception held at the AJ LaRue Arena to pay their respects to his family.
Mike’s most recent job was chief at the Dysart Fire Department. He was was hired as chief in 2016 after working as a volunteer firefighter since 1993.
“He really found his calling as chief,” said Chris.
Before that, he worked as service manager and part-owner at Curry Motors.
Andy Salvatori had been friends with Mike since they were in Grade 1, both attending Victoria Street School in Haliburton and then Haliburton Highlands Secondary School.
They went on to co-own Curry Motors along with Don Popple.
Mike’s desire to help and loyalty to those he loved is what Salvatori will remember most.
“He was a very loyal guy to everybody that was his friend, his family. He was always there to help. If you needed help, he would be there,” Salvatori said.
Both Salvatori and Popple said Mike’s calm demeanor and ability to problem solve was crucial to helping things run smoothly at the dealership.
“I told Mike that being service manager was the hardest job in the place. You know what he said? He said, ‘I can do it.’ And he did. He did an incredible job. You never had to ask him to do anything twice,” Popple said.
The same can be said about how Mike led the fire department.
Chris has been a volunteer firefighter with the Dysart department since 2011, and said that one memory of his father sticks out in particular.
“He had been off, and he was in the process of getting diagnosed and figuring out what was going on. We had an extremely busy day at the firehall. We were dealing with call after call after call. One of them was a house fire.”
Chris called Mike and asked if he could work on dispatch to free up another firefighter.
“Yup, no problem,” said Mike.
At the house fire, Chris said every single person working on the scene approached him at one point that day.
“They would all say, ‘It was so good to hear your Dad’s voice today. As soon as I heard his voice on there, I knew everything was going to be okay.’ That speaks volumes to how respected he was,” Chris said.
Mike was always composed, no matter the situation.
“It’s easy to let adrenaline take over in firefighting. He never seemed to do that. He was always just calm and had a calm voice and calm demeanor,” Chris said.
This allowed Mike to make good decisions.
“He would often think outside of the box, coming up with solutions that nobody else could think of.”
On the outside, Chris said many would have seen Mike as a serious person because of his leadership roles.
“At home, he was just a huge softie,” Chris said.
As a kid, Chris played house league hockey, and he remembers his Dad coming in the changeroom with a slushy for each and every player at the end of practice.
“He was that Dad. He treated them as if they were all his own kids. He was always there and available for any of us. That was him.”
Mike loved spending time outdoors hunting, fishing, ATVing, and snowmobiling with his friends and family.
“He lived for the hunt camp and lived for the fellowship and camaraderie there,” Chris said. Like all other aspects in his life, though, Mike loved those experiences most because of the people he shared them with.
“He valued his family most in his life. He loved us all and would do anything for any of us. His friends, the firehall, Curry Motors, that was all his family, too.”