It’s easy to get numb to bad news after 29 years in this business. Even though I work at a small community newspaper, I’ve heard many horror stories and covered my share of tragedy.
The world around us is filled with so much hate and dysfunction that it’s easy to forget that there are a lot of good people out there, they just don’t make as much noise as the bad guys.
Mike Naville was one of those good guys. Thanks to this job, I have had the privilege of meeting and becoming friends with so many good, solid citizens in the last three decades. Mike was one of those people.
We weren’t best friends and never hung out together, but that was the thing about Mike, you didn’t have to be considered part of his inner group to be treated like gold. When he saw me, he always made a point to ask me about the newspaper or how my wife was doing, and would encourage me to keep up the good work.
Mike Naville died Saturday at the age of 63. Way too soon, but life never gives you warning for such things. He was recognized for so many things — for being a long-time attorney, the managing partner of Lorch, Naville & Ward law practice and for being named a U.S. Magistrate judge in 1995. He sat on many boards through the years and earned numerous individual honors, including the Indiana University Southeast Chancellor’s Medallion in 2012.
But what really motivated Mike was his family. He was all about family, even when it came down to giving advice to the young attorneys in his law practice. He told them to never get too busy for family.
Last summer, I interviewed Mike in his office as he prepared for retirement. As a way to honor him, I wanted to share some of his quotes and thoughts from that day. So much can be taken from a few simple words.
“We have some good people down here, quality people,” he told me back in August 2013 of his firm. “We have had very low turnover. I always tell them family should come first. If there is a Little League game, or if your kid is involved in something, I always encourage them to go. They might have to come in on their time and finish a project, but family should always come first.”
It always came first to Mike. He told me about a Saturday morning tradition for years that included glazed doughnuts from Williams Bakery, work a few hours, and then back home to cook breakfast for his wife and four daughters.
He teared up when he recounted the story of how his daughter’s house was destroyed by fire earlier in the year. His daughter and grandchildren were inside at the time, but escaped unharmed. However, the thought of what could have happened was almost overwhelming to Mike as he talked about it.
He told me about his own personal struggles. About how cancer almost took his life 40 years ago and how the radiation treatment which eventually saved his life was so primitive at the time that it left him with only 75 percent lung capacity.
But he wasn’t lobbying for a pity party. Not Mike.
“I have no regrets on anything. I’ve been lucky and fortunate,” he said. “I’ve had some hurdles, but everyone has those to clear from time to time.”
Mike said in 2013 he knew it was time to retire. The stress and workload, and his passion for his clients, were starting to weigh on him. He was also listening to his heart doctor who told him it was time to consider retirement.
“I had a client about a year and a half ago give me some advice,” Mike said. “He said he was a workaholic and worked until he was 69. He said in hindsight that was the dumbest thing he ever did. He said his advice was to retire as soon as you think you can.”
Mike only got to enjoy one year of retirement, but he didn’t have to be retired to enjoy life and make others around him smile or feel like a million bucks.
He didn’t really want to do a story that focused on him, but he did it. He gave me part of his afternoon, but not to brag about his accomplishments or successes, but to praise and talk about others. He ended the interview the way he did most interactions, with a handshake and that famous smile.
He treated everyone, whether a famous person or a lowly local reporter with the same respect. That is what separated him from others, he was real. There was nothing fake about Mike Naville.
He ended our interview by telling me how proud he was to follow in his father Herb’s footsteps. He said it was his dream, but wanted to make sure I knew that he was not, nor ever would be, equal to his father Herb.
“Everyone loved dad,” he said holding back tears. “Everyone.”
Everyone also loved Mike Naville. He will be truly missed.
— Assistant Editor Chris Morris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 812-206-2155. Follow him on Twitter: @NAT_ChrisM