Remembering Michael Laws
DESOTO – You can often tell by photos if someone would have been a cool person to know.
I never met Michael Laws who was the Fire Marshal in DeSoto from 1985 until his retirement – but I can tell he was a cool person.
My publisher, Marlon Hanson, knew him well. He remembered that any visit from Laws was a happy encounter. While many a visit from a government official might cause apprehension and dread, this was not the case when Michael Laws came by, Hanson stated. “Michael’s wit was always a part of his inspection procedure as finding our fire extinguishers became a game. Aha! Michael would exclaim as he found extinguisher after extinguisher in our pressroom and offices. When one needed to be replaced, he would laughingly pretend to slap my hand and make me promise to get a new one asap, which I always did. I then looked forward to the day Michael would come back, because it would always mean a wonderful visit.”
His face was the face of happy.
Laws died November 17 after his battle with pancreatic cancer and boy do I wish I could have known him.
Those that did were lucky.
Examples of comments on his Facebook page remembering him included “Such a great man! Going to miss his sense of humor! Fly high Michael” from former DeSoto Fire Fighter Todd Pittman or “Michael Laws RIP. A good man, husband, Dad, grandfather, a Christian. Up your game guys, a big void tonight. I knew him thru the fire department inspecting schools and outreach education. Not a single encounter passed without his sense of humor popping up and making me laugh. Good man.”
Many people will be missing him, he made an impression. The sort of impression one wants to make.
DeSoto Fire Chief Fred Hart, who sent me his memories of his long-time friendship and work relationship with Laws said, “It really didn’t seem like work, and Michael played a big part in making each day enjoyable.”
Hart outlined Laws’ career and also offers some memories of a man who will sorely be missed.
A bit about Laws’ career as told by Chief Hart:
“Laws began his career in DeSoto as a police officer in 1984. In 1985 Hart was serving as the Fire Marshal. The city was growing, and the new position of fire inspector/fire investigator was approved in the budget. Michael applied for the position. The interview was the first time that I really got to know him. I offered him the position and he accepted. Thus began a long and fruitful career for Michael with the City of DeSoto Fire Services.
Soon after coming over to the Fire Marshal’s Office, he began his training for state certification as a fire inspector and fire investigator. He was already a certified police officer, so that saved him several months of training and allowed him to get down to business much sooner. Michael found his passion in his responsibilities as a fire inspector. However, he never lost his interest and desire to be a part of the police department.
He was able to pursue his passion of performing and acting while presenting fire prevention and fire safety programs. When he first started, the fire department had a papier-Mache’ fire safety Dalmatian dog costume that was used for fire prevention programs. The costume consisted of a large Dalmatian head that covered anyone wearing it all the way down to their shoulders. To top the costume off, it had a collar and tie attached. It was very impersonal. The one wearing it had limited vision and hearing. And when one spoke, the sound didn’t seem to get out to the audience.
Children reacted to the costume in one of two ways. They were either frightened or overly curious about who was under the costume head. Some of those that were overly curious, would hit the fire dog to check if he was real. Some of the hits were on the head and some came in below the belt. Luckily for Michael, the department was able to acquire a remote controlled fire dog that rode in a fire engine. From there, Michael was able to breakout and begin to be more involved with his audience. Over the years he developed a clown character that he used to present fire safety messages to children of all ages. The clown character and his magic tricks became his favorite form of presentation. And a favorite of the kids as well.
Michael did not like coconut. In fact, the mention of the word coconut would immediately get his attention. Well, his co-workers did not know that. Until one year at his birthday, the unknown secret was revealed. Jimmy Stephens volunteered to go pick up a cake for Michael’s birthday celebration at the office. Jimmy thought that the coconut cake looked best so that was the selection. The candles were lit, Michael called in, Happy Birthday sang, and then Michael realized that the cake was made with coconut topping. He was sure that we knew that he did not like coconut and had bought it as a prank. Well, each year thereafter, Michael would approach his birthday cake with suspicion and caution. He always insisted that that coconut cake was no accident, but a scheme by his fellow department co-workers. It was an accident, I think.
Michael was also a prankster himself. One year during the city’s annual chili cookoff, Jimmy Stephens made a pot of chili that he was sure would take first place in the contest. Jimmy brought his chili to work in a crockpot and plugged it in to keep it warm until lunch, the hour of the contest judging. The chili pot was in Jimmy’s office were for the most part he could keep a watchful eye on his prize chili. However, there were times when the chili was not under his watchful eye. It was during one of these moments when Michael Laws executed his prank. Michael had gone home and got his crockpot that looked just like Jimmy’s. He also found an old worn-out tennis shoe and a piece of cardboard. Michael cut the cardboard out to fit down just in top of the crockpot. He then made a slit in the cardboard and placed the tennis shoe threw the slit and down partway into the crockpot. The top of the shoe was sticking up out of the crockpot. Michael then added a thin layer of chili over the cardboard. Now you have what appears to be Jimmy’s crockpot and chili with an old tennis shoe sticking out of it.
Now all that is needed is for Jimmy to check on his chili. We didn’t have to wait long. Jimmy walks into his office, sees his chili and his heart sinks. In his mind, all chances for the victory he had dreamed of for this day were gone. He was speechless. Encouragement, like the judges will never know you had an old tennis shoe in your chili did not encourage Jimmy. Before Jimmy totally passed out, he was shown his crockpot of chili, safe and untouched. For the rest of the morning, Jimmy faithfully watched his chili. And he was rewarded with that first-place win that he had dreamed of.”
One final memory from a friend on Laws’ Facebook page is from DeSoto resident and a professor at Dallas College Mountain View, Geoffrey Allan Grimes “Oh, Michael! You are loved and cherished! You have given to all of us and so many others all your life! You have helped change the world in your own image—a world driven by love, fun, and respect for all. You have always been the very definition of the servant leader. Rest easy, dear compeer!”
This year, the DeSoto Police Department and DeSoto Fire Rescue have partnered with The National Pancreatic Cancer Foundation for this month’s “#noshavenovember”. The partnership is in honor of Laws, and to bring awareness to pancreatic cancer.