Mike Rhodes

Mike RhodesMike Rhodes, whose 30-year career as a film director and producer earned him many awards, including five Emmys and the Humanitas Prize, passed away in his sleep on December 29th. “He had been in decline with Alzheimer’s for several years, but he never lost his warmth and positive spirit,” says Tony Barclay. “He was among my best friends at Yale, and we stayed in touch over all the years since then.”

“I remember Mike from college days as prepossessing but also genuinely engaged with everyone and warmly authentic,” says Alan London, and Mike Leahy adds, “In freshman year Mike, Peter Sheckman and I were roommates in Wright Hall. We all got along really well and roomed together as sophomores in Branford, adding Alan. One day, Mike decided he wanted to have a pet boa constrictor. So over Peter’s and my protests, he went to a pet store and bought one. He brought it back to campus in a black trash bag on a city bus! Needless to say, neither Peter nor I was able to sleep very well with it slithering around. Finally, Peter put his foot down and told Mike the snake had to go. So Mike reluctantly complied and returned the snake, and Peter and I slept a LOT better. We loved him, but not enough to keep the snake!”

“When you were down, he was there to pick you up.” says Lanny Davis. “When you needed advice, he was there to share wisdom. When you were sad, he was there to make you laugh. And maybe most important, when you were aching and in pain and needed a true friend to open up to, he was there to listen, never to judge, and help you heal.

“I remember when I was running for chairman of the Yale Daily News. I was experiencing great disappointment, and I was ready to give up on myself. I don’t know how he knew this was a moment when his visit would mean most to me, but I heard his knock on the door. All he said was ‘don’t.’

“’Don’t what?’ I asked. ‘Don’t give up,’ he said. ‘On yourself. Or on me. I am your friend. And the sun will come up tomorrow.’

“So the next morning, just as he predicted, despite my serious doubts the sun actually did rise. I was elected, and Mike smiled and hugged me. That was 60 years ago, yet I remember the sensation of that hug as if it was yesterday. May God bless his sweet soul.”

“Mike and I were in English 25 Branford seminar in Freshman year with instructor Al LaValley,” says Barry Bardo. “We were also in English 77 Branford section, again with LaValley in Sophomore Year. Mike liked writing the 10-page stories and daily themes (“DTs”), and I didn’t. We both waited eagerly to hear Bob Greenlee read his stories about his adventures, mainly with women.

“In 1988, when I was visiting California from Connecticut, he gave me a tour of the film-editing labs on the Paramount Studios lot in Hollywood, which I enjoyed while he was working on one of his film projects. He was a Christian film director. My last contact with Mike was a year or two ago, when we both attended a nearby Thousand Oaks, CA performance and book-signing by John Mauceri, on his ‘For the Love of Music.’ John, Mike and I enjoyed the West Coast Branfordites mini-reunion.

“He was a gentle, kind and considerate person. I likened him to the late Dave Storrs, as both always seemed to behave like gentlemen and both treated me with respect, which I tried to reciprocate. He deeply loved his Diane (‘Dee’) and he loved his career in film-making, which I caught a glimpse of in 1988.”

Mike and Dee met in kindergarten and were sweethearts for the rest of their lives. They had two daughters, Sara and Kate, and five grandchildren who gave him great joy. After he died his family wrote, “His loving nature made all those around him feel safe, loved, and included. He was a good man.”