Singer, Songwriter, Husband, Dad, Grandpa, Friend
The O'Roark family would like to share our memories of a man whose kindness touched our days and whose twinkling eyes and fun-loving manner endeared him not only to his family but to his many, many friends. Michael O'Roark was born to Kenneth and Betty O'Roark on May 10, 1948. He was raised in the Northland. During the Vietnam War, he served his country with pride in the Air Force. But his love of his country and its history paled in comparison to his love for his family and his music. At a young age, he taught himself to play the guitar. Music became his mission in life, the love of it and the sharing of that love. For many members of the youngest generation, their earliest memories are of the strumming of a guitar and the picking of a banjo, learning silly songs and being encouraged to sing along. His love was for bluegrass, and it must have loved him back. His contributions to Bluegrass have won him awards for his vocal and guitar skills, culminating in an induction to the Bluegrass Hall of Fame. At the young age of 19 he started a band, Mike O'Roark and the Freeborn Men, featuring his younger brother Mitch, who played the upright bass. Mike's music soared to new heights whenever he was accompanied by the brother he loved. Their talent gained them recognition amongst their peers. He shared the stage with legends Conway Twitty, Bill Monroe, Earl Scruggs, Lester Flatt, Red Skelton, Oak Ridge Boys, Tom T. Hall, Don Williams, Bill Monroe, Johnny Paycheck, Kenny Rogers, and Alabama, just to name a few. Beyond the fame, it was his love for what he did that caused the most magical effects. It inspired love in turn. His fans don't just enjoy his music, they love him, and that is not something that can be claimed by many artists . . in any genre. He loved, and was loved for it. It applied to his music, and it applied even more to his family: his parents, Kenny and Betty; his brother Mitch; his wife and best friend of 25 years, Marsha; his son Shane, his joy; his daughters, Stacey and Carrie, and his seven grandchildren: Brie, Carter, Tyler, Blane, Nicholas, Ava, Laila and Marielle; the huge extensive family of whom he was an integral and beloved part. We are comforted that his courageous struggle is over, ended peacefully, surrounded by all of the love of his family. And his friends know that "Mike is leading a band of angels in the gospel favorites that delight our Lord." He must cut a dashing, goofy figure, with his wings, halo, and banjo. Mike O'Roark lived, and it hurts to put that in the past tense, but it has more truth in it than any platitudes about "passing on". Mike lived with every joke he told and every song he sang and every person he loved. And in that way, he still lives and always will.