Memories of Mike Popovich
The first time I saw Mike Popovich, I was in high school and at a swim meet in Coos Bay. The next time I encountered him, I was applying for a lifeguard job at the Gresham high school pool. To get the job, I had to “save” him—no small task. And then, of course, where I got to know him was through Master’s swimming and the Sandy pool. One of the things that stands out about Mike is that whenever I saw him there was that great big smile and a “How are you?” He will be greatly missed.
–Chris Clum; former OMS swimmer
My earliest recollection of Mike was when I was a teenager. I swam for Parkrose Swim Club and Mike was coaching in Gresham. Parkrose and Reynolds merged. My father got involved at meets as a starter and when he met Mike there was an instant bond. They were both Serbians and only spoke Serbian to each other. They rarely saw each other but they would pass messages to one another through me – in Serbian. No, I don’t speak or understand a word of the language. Well, one day my dad told me what to say to Mike and then he laughed. When I relayed the message, Mike laughed and relayed one back. I asked Mike what was so funny and he told me. They were calling each other swear names in Serbian (you SOB, etc). Hence, the “passing of notes” ceased. Ever since, when I would see Mike, he would say, “will you give a message to your father”? I’d just smile.
—Ginger Pierson; OMS swimmer
I have known Mike Popovich since the Fall of 1974 both as a friend and professionally. I’ve admired his knowledge and organizational abilities in the field of aquatics. During that time, he was very active in the field of education, coaching and aquatic safety. He was instrumental as a leader, in the planning, organization and building of the MHCC Aquatic Facility. He and others had the foresight to see the need for such a facility. It has become and continues to be an asset to the East County communities. He also organized and served as chairman of the East County Aquatic Council for many years.
After retirement, Mike settled down in Sandy. He joined and was an active member of the “Friends of The Pool,” a non-profit organization. He advised and promoted many of their endeavors focusing on the aquatic center and school swim instruction.
Throughout the state he was a knowledgeable and highly respected educator, aquatic director, Masters swimmer, coach, advisor, and mentor to many. He supported and inspired others to become better aquatic professionals and individuals. He was always willing to listen and give of his time.
Mike Popovich dedicated a major portion of his life to the advancement of aquatics and safety. He was one of the top aquatic leaders in Oregon. A man with a huge desire to help others. Yet, his family was always foremost in his thoughts. He was an incredible and supportive friend and will definitely be missed.
–Mark Smith; Aquatic Director/Swim Coach – Retired
Olin Y Bignall Aquatic Facility – Sandy, Oregon
I first met Mike Popovich at the Mt Hood Aquatic Center when he was the Aquatic Director. He would appear at Masters swim meets and then showed up in Sandy to swim during lap swim. He was always willing to offer tips of better swimming. One day, after observing me swim, he said, “You look like you are going fast but you aren’t.” Then he showed me how to be more efficient instead of working so hard for very little speed. He always made a person feel special with his friendly ways and big smile. Yes, I will miss him.
–Alice Zabudsky; OMS swimmer
The North Bend Swimming pool was built in 1957. Shortly afterwards the fifth and sixth grades from Glasgow Elementary School, where I taught sixth grade and was principal, went one day a week the nearly 4 miles to town on a school bus to the new pool for swimming. Usually the first part of the hour dealt with instruction and then a few minutes of recreational swimming. Both the fifth grade teacher and I could swim but were not familiar with actually teaching swimming. Mike Popovich opened the new pool in North Bend. He met with all of the classroom teachers for in-service training about swimming instruction, rules, safety, etc. He lived near us in North Bend. He was a great friend, neighbor and swimming coach/administrator.
–Lew Holt; retired school teacher and principal
Mike hired me for my first Life Guard/Teaching Job Gresham High, 1966. ( My WSI from Shattuck Hall Pool .. long gone.) To test my rescue, Mike
laid on the bottom of the pool on his back, at the deep end. He always was calm, handled problems with such ease and calm. Never heard him raise his voice. I had had so much respect for Mike, he was great role model and teacher.
Mike as the aquatic director at Mountain Park brought my children to the club to begin a competitive synchronized swimming team. A small group competed for several years. In addition he started a springboard diving team which also competed for several years. My children, three girls and one boy gained a great deal from Mike’s influence. Experiences they might otherwise never have had. He was one in million.
Yes he was one in a million I learn so much respect for the water from Mike and thru the years I was able to pass on all the lessons I learned. Thank you Mike for everything you taught me in and out of the pool.
Mike was a tremendous individual and has already
been mentioned several times – Mike’s great smile and the words “How Are You” – I will miss seeing
him – Earl Ellis
I took swimming lessons at the U of O aquatics pool at 5 years of age. I remember climbing the high ladder at his direction, and upon reaching the top, Mr Popovich would hand up a very long pole for students to grab onto and jump……i was terrified the first time or two…but I was never fearful of the water after that and continue to love to swim….(now 68 yr old). He had a son named Peter, who reached out to my mother, approx 10 years later, wanting to connect with our family on a more personal level…..unfortunately, my mother was very ill at the time and was unable to respond and/or follow through with with forming a relationship between the families.
To this day, I always wondered about the life path he chose, and I think of him and his father every time I hit the pool….
He had a son named Peter