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Former Palm Harbor University football coach Mike June dies of leukemia at age 43.
By Times Staff
Published July 12, 2006
The image of a burly and animated football coach stomping around and pumping his fists is enduring.
But Mike June, who died Tuesday (June 11, 2006) at 43 of leukemia, will be remembered for much more. The former Palm Harbor University coach also was positive and cherished the ideals of sportsmanship.
"Mike wanted to do things in great detail and with class," Gibbs assistant coach Dave Cleppe said of his former college roommate and best friend.
"That's the way he lived life."
Mr. June was the head football coach at St. Petersburg Catholic in 1987-88. Then he was an assistant at Countryside until 1996 when he joined the PHU staff.
In 2000, Mr. June became PHU's second head football coach, replacing Rob Jenkins.
Diagnosed with leukemia in November 2002, Mr. June went through chemotherapy treatments and was coaching again the next season.
But in November 2003, he found out the cancer was no longer in remission. He had more chemo and returned to the sidelines.
Then came another relapse.
Told by doctors he risked death if he continued to coach football ad teach driver's education, Mr. June resigned in February 2005.
Mr. June never thought of his cancer as unlucky and did not indulge in self pity, Cleppe said.
"Nurses would come into his hospital room and ask how he was doing," Cleppe said. "He always said, 'Excellent.' "
Mr. June was buoyed by the support of friends and co-workers. Fundraisers, including a football game known as the Mike June Bowl, were held on his behalf to pay for medical expenses and family vacations.
Last year the coaches agreed to let him be the head coach for the North in the Pinellas County All-Star Game.
"This is golden," June said after the game. "I've been on the verge of tears almost the entire week. It is just very special to be a part of something like this."
Mr. June continued to go through chemotherapy and thought he was cancer-free. But it came back.
On June 26, doctors told him that he had only three months to live.
It ended up being two weeks.
Cleppe took the news hard.
The two were best friends. They played football at William Penn in Iowa. They came to Florida to find jobs after graduation. Each was the best man at the others' wedding.
"Mike was always there for me," Cleppe said. "He was a great guy who loved life."
Survivors include his wife, Paula, four sons, Mike, 13, Max, 10, Matthew, 8, and Mitchell, 3 and a daughter, Mia, 2.
The viewing will be from 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. Friday at Curlew Hills Memory Gardens, 1750 Curlew Road, Palm Harbor, with funeral services at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 3303 Belcher Road, Dunedin.
Fellow coaches planned to meet today to discuss possible ways to remember Mr. June this season.
"Mike fought through this for a long time," Seminole High football coach Sam Roper said. "I think the county should do something to recognize his spirit."