By Mila Besich-Lira
What makes a grand marshal? Parades throughout the world usually feature a grand marshal to lead the parade. This honor usually goes to someone who has given of their time and service to a cause or issue. They may have fought a heroic battle or maybe they just stood up for what was right in this world. A grand marshal is usually a legendary person. A person most wish they could emulate.
There is no better resident of Superior who has met all of those grand marshal challenges than Mike McKee. McKee is a lifelong resident of Superior and 1963 graduate of Superior High School and will serve as the the grand marshal for the 25th Annual Apache Leap Mining Festival Parade.
After high school he gave four years of his youth to serving the United States Air Force. He was stationed in Florida and Texas where he worked as a heavy equipment operator. Following his service in the Air Force, McKee worked as a mechanic at Magma Motors, where he was well known for working on the cars of Superior residents and businesses. In 1978 Mike took a job as heavy equipment mechanic for Kennecott Copper/ASARCO. He worked there for 25 years until he retired in 2002.
Mike’s retirement was not the easiest time in his life. While most plan on enjoying more leisure time, Mike found himself up against a fight for his life. He spent many of his first years of retirement fighting Multiple Myeloma Cancer. During his treatment of this first battle he endured two stem cell transplants. He remained Cancer free and in remission for 10 years. In late 2012, he was diagnosed once again with Multiple Myeloma Cancer, and he continues his fight today.
During his retirement Mike has enjoyed “running around with my good friend Lorenzo ‘FatMan’ Arroyos,” he said. The two were often seen visiting on the porch of Lorenzo’s home where they kept track of everyone who was out and about on Main St. Mike recently laid his good friend to rest.
Volunteering and working within the community has also been an important part of Mike’s life. He is the Co-Founder of Superior Has Heart and over the last five years they have raised $50,000 for the American Cancer Society. Mike is also a regular volunteer at the Caboose Visitor Center. Every Thursday he greets visitors to Superior and he even has a regular following of visitors who come to hear about the stories of his youth and the early beginnings of Superior when his family first settled in the area.
In addition to his fundraising and volunteer time at the Caboose, he has served multiple terms as a board of director for the Superior Chamber of Commerce and is a member of the Red Bear Outfitters. Mike also served as the president of Superior Saddle Club and was a board member for the Gila Racing Association Board of Directors.
Mike has been a longtime advocate and community stakeholder for the Resolution Copper Project and spent countless hours with his friend Albo Guzman collecting signatures in support of the project and visiting with residents and other elected officials about the importance of the project to the people of Superior.
The Superior Sun asked Mike about his proudest moment of living in Superior and what he sees for the future of Superior. “The proudest moment I remember was celebrating the Centennial of Superior, during that event we were able to bring the rodeo back and celebrate with so many people,” Mike explained. In the future he would like to see Superior grow “maybe have 500 more residents, some new businesses and a Walgreens would be nice,” he said.
His advice to future generation of Superior: “Learn everything you can, go to school and get an education,” he said.
When he isn’t volunteering, fundraising or advocating Mike enjoys spending time with his family. He is married to Deb McKee and he has two daughters, a stepdaughter and two granddaughters. “I enjoy spending time with my family, my sisters, my Aunt Patricia and my favorite nephew Nathan,” he explained. Nathan joined his uncle Mike during the interview and he also agreed that he enjoys spending time with his uncle Mike especially at Porter’s.
NASCAR racing is one of his favorite sports and you will often find Mike helping to organize local car shows. One of his most memorable life moments was getting to drive NASCAR race car at Phoenix International Raceway.
There is no doubt about it that Mike is a legendary resident of Superior. Celebrate this honor with Mike at the 25th Annual Apache Leap Mining Festival Parade at 10 am on Main St. this Saturday, March 9, 2013.
Author’s Note: There is no better person to receive this honor. Mike has been a great friend to many and I personally always cherish the time he spends sharing stories with me especially those about my grandfather and great grandmother who I never got to meet. Congrats, Mike! – Mila