John Michael Arens, Jr. (“Mike”) of Auburn, Washington died peacefully of COPD surrounded by his loving family at home on Wednesday July 18, 2018.
Mike graduated from Banning High in Wilmington, CA in 1959. He joined the young men’s Navy program in 1958, serving as a Navy Seaman from 1959 to 1961, stationed at Long Beach, CA and as a deck hand on the USS Markab (AR-23) near Oakland, CA, serving six years including Navy Reserves. Mike learned to weld in the Navy, and attended Green River Community College in the 1970s, studying Archery, Speech, and becoming a Certified Welder.
Mike was born December 4, 1940 in Newport, RI. During his father’s Navy career, his parents lived in Pearl Harbor in early 1940, transferring to RI, where Mike and his brother Jim were born. Mike spent his early childhood in Taylorsville, MS while his father served in WWII, by Hickam Naval Base near Honolulu, HI after the war, Bremerton, WA; Chicago, IL; San Pedro, CA; Thorson Homes in Wilmington, CA; then to Victoria Park in Los Angeles, CA for junior high and high school. Mike was known for his hot rods: a 1962 Ford Galaxie 500 with a 406 engine; and customizing his family’s 1956 Chevy with a four-on-the-floor, painting it primer black, and racing down Avalon Boulevard. Mike met the love of his life Suzette Marcus (“Susie”) at the Sports Night dance at Victoria Park Recreation Center in April 1962, marrying June 1964 at Candlelight Chapel in Lawndale, CA.
The young couple lived in Gardena, CA before moving to Auburn, WA in 1968 to fish, camp, get away from LA traffic, and raise their children Bob and Diana. Mike loved taking his family fishing and camping at Lake Wenatchee, Lake Lenice, and Spirit Lake; and swimming at the Green River. A gifted mechanic, Mike worked at Bethlehem Steel in Torrance, CA; Waltco in Gardena, CA designing and building liftgates; and 31 years as a Welder/Mechanic designing and fabricating custom liftgates for commercial vehicles at Allied Body Works in Tukwila, WA from 1969 to 2000, retiring at 59 thanks to his pension from the Sheet Metal Workers Union. Driving around, he often would see a truck with his handiwork and say, “I invented that.”
Mike Arens had a legendary work ethic. In the 6th grade he sold the Honolulu Star Bulletin to Navy men coming off the ships. They were so happy to get news, they’d give him a dollar for a nickel newspaper. He saved his money and bought his first car at 14, an old Plymouth. Mike was the salt of the earth, teaching others by example to work hard, be honest, finish what you start, don’t live beyond your means, pay off your house before you retire, plan for vacations and look forward to them, and spend as much time with family as you can.
Mike loved planning trips and travelling with his wife Susie. They went to California every year to see their families. In 1994 they went to Hawaii, taking 11 trips over 15 years, staying at the Koa Lagoon on Maui. Highlights were snorkeling, watching for sea turtles, and the sunset. They reconnected with old friends from Victoria Park and often went to reunions. They also travelled to Cancun and visited family and friends all over the United States.
Mike loved his family, his cat Johnny Cat, reading the newspaper cover to cover, maps and road trips, Red Dirt shirts, his tomato and flower gardens, the Seattle Seahawks, and talking to strangers in public like old friends. Mike gave a lot of advice, and made sure others were squared away. If you weren’t, he’d let you know it. He had a sharp wit, and always said what was on his mind. His family called him Generous John. He would offer to give you anything he had or offer to fix anything you had. He was exceptionally mechanical and could fix anything.
Mike was preceded in death by his father John Michael Arens, Sr., a career Navy Seaman; his mother, Roberta Frances “Robbie” Arens (née Nobles), high school valedictorian and nurse; and his brother, James Francis “Jim” Arens, who played football and baseball at Banning High and for UCLA.
Mike is survived by his loving wife of 54 years Suzette “Susie” Arens (née Marcus) of Auburn, WA, son Robert “Bob” Arens of Olympia, WA; daughter Diana Arens (Claude Coats) of Olympia, WA; sister-in-law Vonnie Acosta (Alan) of Santa Maria, CA; niece Candace Acosta (Mando Bernal) and children BreAnna of Boise, ID and Vincent, Stevie, and Markis of Santa Maria, CA; niece Crissy Acosta (Cisco Ybarra) and children Daniel and Cali of Santa Maria, CA; uncle Freeman Davis of Santa Maria, CA; sister-in-law Estelle Arens of Chula Vista, CA; nephew Jimmy Arens of San Diego, CA; niece Jennifer Arens (Josh Parmenter), great nephew Micah Parmenter and great niece Madelyn Parmenter of San Diego, CA; cousin Gerald “Jerry” Elliott (Nancy) of Oro Valley, AZ; and numerous relatives and friends across the United States.
Mike will be interred at Tahoma National Cemetery in Kent, WA at 9:00 AM Wednesday July 25, 2018 in a salute ceremony with military honors. All are welcome. Mike was very fond of animals. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Auburn Valley Humane Society.