Obituary of Michael Lee
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Michael Jay Lee is remembered as a man willing to give you the shirt off his back. He never met a stranger and often gave people in need the very last dollar in his pocket without any thought. Born in Brooklyn, New York to Howard and Rose Feller Lee, he was the oldest of two children, including a younger brother, Dennis. Mike grew up in a time when children were allowed to roam freely far from home and he often told stories of traveling throughout the five boroughs of New York with his childhood friends, riding the subways and buses without any fear. After graduating high school in 1956, Mike spent one year at the University of Georgia before leaving college to pursue his dream of becoming a photojournalist. Mike worked on both the East and West coasts, including assignments in California, New York, and Philadelphia. He covered iconic events and was one of the very few media photographers who captured images of the Woodstock Music Festival in August, 1969. During the unrest that accompanied the civil rights movement in the 1960’s, he suffered physical injuries for being in the right place at the wrong time. His penchant for wanting to “get the shot” in the heat of the moment led to a broken nose (three times to be exact) and contributed to his unique features. Throughout his travels, Mike spent considerable time in “greasy spoon” diners, often judging the quality of their coffee. In 1980, Mike moved to Sumter, SC and took a position as a staff photographer at the Sumter Daily Item. Working beside his colleagues and friends, he was well-respected for his professional capabilities and equally regarded as a thorn in the side of his editors who found his powerful opinions exceptionally direct and infuriating. While at the Item, Mike began a weekly column in the Sports Section, focusing on outdoor interests, including fresh and saltwater fishing, and hunting a wide array of game native to South Carolina. Shortly after arriving in Sumter, Mike met Patricia Evans and on April 25, 1985, they were married on the steps of the Item by then Mayor Bubba McElveen. This was Mike’s 4th marriage and Patricia’s 5th marriage, and it clearly worked out well because they have been together ever since, celebrating 38 years of marriage this year. In 1987, Mike left the Item and returned to school, completing an Associate of Applied Science degree as an Industrial Maintenance Mechanic at Sumter Area Technical College. Thereafter, he spent the next 16 years working at Santee Print Works as a mechanic, where he picked up his nickname, “Peanut”. Upon retirement from Santee, Mike was still unable to sit still so he began working for John Lee Newman on Lee Newman Farms as a general assistant. For nearly 15 years, Mike did whatever was needed: running errands, coordinating activities, and providing all kinds of unsolicited opinions about topics which he knew little about; a circumstance that never stopped him. In that time, he became a part of the Newman family. Mike loved the outdoors and was well-known for his knowledge about weapons and hand-loading cartridges. He thoroughly enjoyed saltwater fishing, frequently piloting his own boat, the Miss Patricia (which the kids referred to as the SS Minnow), leaving out of Murrell’s Inlet to fish the coastal artificial reefs. He also loved hunting and would often coordinate large group dove hunts. He loved to say that he was an excellent shot and hit the sky every single time he pointed his shotgun upward. He enjoyed deer hunting, spending countless hours all over the state, and for over 40 years never missed the primitive weapons hunt at the Cuddo Unit of the Santee National Wildlife Preserve. This annual event was often the backdrop of stories between him and his son, Matthew, including an instance when he almost got his son arrested by the Federal Wildlife Law Enforcement Officers for unknowingly hunting without the proper license. As previously mentioned, he was never in doubt, even when he might have been mistaken. All of these adventures were known as “quality time”. Mike also loved hosting Friday Night Card Games where everyone played for quarters, and some unique variations of poker were dealt, with extensive “rules”. No one ever got rich, but a lot of fun was had, and many stories were told. On December 19, 2023, Mike’s body finally gave out after 85 years. He died at his residence. Mike will be remembered as a man of uncommon compassion for others, a father, husband, brother, and friend. He will be deeply missed by those who had the honor of knowing him. In addition to his wife Patricia of 38 years, he is survived by a brother Dennis in Woodland Hills, CA (wife, Barbara); a son, Matthew in Harrisonburg, VA (wife, Jeanne); three step-children, Steven in Smoaks SC (Significant other, Barbie), Missy Hill in Wedgefield, SC (husband Willie), and Jeffrey in Ocala, FL (Wife, Sandy), eight grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren. Mike will be cremated, and a Memorial Service will be held on Friday January 26, 2024, at 1 P.M. in the Chapel of the Elmore Hill McCreight Funeral Home at 221 Broad St., Sumter. A Celebration of Life repast will follow. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made in Mike’s name to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation or your favorite animal shelter. Online condolences may be made at www.sumterfunerals.com Elmore Hill McCreight Funeral Home & Crematory, 221 Broad Street, Sumter, is in charge of the arrangements (803) 775-9386.