In Memory

Michael Nicholas Bakarich III - Class Of 1972

Michael Nicholas Bakarich III died in his senior year in a car accident.

- Submitted by Valerie Jean Cornelison, December 17, 2013


Further information from Dan Alderson, FHHS '72, who was a witness to the car accident.  Submitted December 17, 2013:

"They were coming through the curve on Ft. Hunt Road at Alexandria Ave. and slid off the road into the telephone pole.  They had passed us on Ft. Hunt Road just before the accident.  Mike was in the passenger seat to of the MG.  I didn’t know the guy driving.  He was thrown into the bushes when they hit the pole (the top was down).  He crawled out of the bushes as we were standing there next to the car.  Mike was still alive but died either at the hospital or on the way.  It was only a couple of weeks before graduation.  Bill Coleman and I had just become friends with Mike senior year.  I didn’t know him before then." 

Submission from Mike's brother, John:  

From:  John Bakarich
For Year:  1972

My older brother, Michael Nicholas Bakarich III, passed away just weeks before graduating from FHHS in 1972. Many of the comments shared give me very special insights into him, as I was only 12 when he died.

Given our age differences it seems only natural that such was the case. Nevertheless, I would like to share my memories of Michael, before the car crash, the night he passed away, and those since that time.

I very sincerely thank those of you who took time time to share your memories of my older brother, most of which I did not know.

- John F. Bakarich, who was in Stephen Foster Junior High 7th grade - 1972

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12/26/13 06:38 PM #1    

Lynda Paul (1979)

I was 10 years old when that happened.  I will never forget seeing that car around the telephone pole.  I never knew who it was.  To this day my thoughts have always been with the families who had to endure the loss.

12/27/13 10:39 AM #2    

Denise Troy Curry (1972)

Michael was a good friend to me; I hope that I was as good to him.  He was intelligent, funny, and at times way ahead of the rest of us in the maturity department---and was so easy to be with.  Had some of the most serious conversations with him at all hours and in all places, and admired his perspectives on things as well as his ability to hear others' points of view and respect them.   We sharpened our wits on one another, when we had our wits about us.  ;-)

Just a few days before the accident, we had been talking about what we would do after graduation.  He said he wanted to get his act together and get out of the pattern he was in.  Felt he wasn't going to go anywhere otherwise, which was part of his decision to go to ASU.  I heard him, more clearly than I'd heard my parents saying pretty much the same thing several times before. 

Losing Mike was devastating.  He was the first friend I lost.  There have been several (too many, as we all know) since that time, but he was the first.  Maybe it is why that last real talk we had stuck with me all these years.  I have seen his face many times in the decades between, sitting out by the cannons during lunch break, looking off and away as he contemplated his future and how he planned to get there.  More than once, it's been an inspiration for keeping myself going when things got rough.  So in a way, whatever successes I've had in life, in some part came from that last day with Mike.  I look forward to the day I get to meet him in person again, and can thank him directly. 


10/04/14 12:19 PM #3    

Valerie Jean Cornelison (1973)

I was a close friend of the Bakarich family. I went to visit them at the War College in PA. I went to his grave every year I was in Virginia. I do miss him. I had a portrait painted for his family in the white shirt with blue crochet he used to wear.

08/24/23 01:40 PM #4    

Joe Gililland (1973)

* This very thoughtful write-up was submitted by John Bakarich, Michael Bakarich's younger brother - I copied and pasted his words into this "In Memory" post.

- Joe Gililland, FHHS '73


This is a follow-up to my offering my thanks to those who very kindly shared their thoughts regarding my brother Michael Nicholas Bakarich, III, who passed away just a few weeks from graduating with the Fort Hunt High School Class of 1972.

First, I wish to thank my brother's friend who shared her memories of speaking with my brother about both the present and the future, including his plans to attend Arizona State University and, in general, to turn around his life. Given the times, with drug use and rebellion common to most high school teens, I did not know my brother well even years before his passing away. Our significant age difference at the time, with my being a 7th grade student at Stephen Foster Junior High School and his being a senior at FHHS simply exacerbated our differences and unwillingness or inability to communicate in a civil fashion.

For example, I did not know him to be thoughtful, intelligent, witty and kind, or anxious and concerned about his future. At the time I simply knew him as someone who entertained himself by slapping me around when neither of my parents were around. I appreciate knowing that there was this other side to him and one which his classmates enjoyed. Apparently, he was quite special in a way which not readily visible to me.

I extend my special thanks to the woman who shared her experiences and who was a good friend of my brother and who appreciated her time with him. I wish I had receive more time to truly get to know that side of him. Regarding he who shared his understanding of the vehicle accident in which my brother was the front seat passenger, I also thank you for sharing your memories. They very much complement my own memories and, in so doing, provide me with a more complete picture of how he died.

As far as my memories, I simply recall being awakened in the middle of a particular night by my oldest sister, and her simply saying "Michael has died." I could not believe it, could not comprehend it. That night at some point I fell asleep for at least a few hours. When I awoke I looked outside and saw Michael's pale blue Volkswagen Karmann Ghia convertible, which he had recently purchased. It was his pride and joy, and parked in the front of our house at 1117 Priscilla Lane, in the Waynewood subdivision. In my seeing this I concluded that I simply had experienced a nightmare in being told that he had died in a car crash.

Later, in my going down to the kitchen, I did learn the truth. I was told that he had joined a friend who had only recently received from his father a classic MG convertible, which was his high school graduation present. I imagined that alcohol may have been involved, though I was later told such was not the case. Instead, I was told the driver, a friend of his at FHHS, had been going into a turn at excessive speed and had lost control of his MG sports car. I was also informed that the driver, in being thrown from the MG suffered only minor cuts and bruises. I did not learn that he had been thrown into bushes and was actually walking and speaking with those who were the first to arrive after the accident.

Someone, and I cannot recall whom, mentioned that the MG had hit a telephone pole and that my brother suffered very severe and irreparable brain trauma in being launched out of the vehicle and his head hitting the telephone pole. I doubt that old MG even had seat lap belts. That night the police called my parents, and my father and just one or two of my oldest siblings drove to the hospital to which Michael and been taken. My father was told that my brother was comatose and brain dead, and that he had no chance of recovery. Further, the neurologists and other specialists were advising that he be taken off of life support and be allowed to die.

I still cannot imagine how difficult a decision this must have been for my father and mother. What Michael’s friends and even I didn’t know at that time, though I accidentally found out when I was 21 years old, was that Michael was the first born biological child of my parents. As the first boy, he was named after my father and Michael’s grandfather.

When my parents were married on December 31, 1952, my mother was divorced and had given birth to three girls whom my father adopted as his own children. They are my half-sisters, but Michael was their first born child. My parents subsequently adopted four more children.

At some point many years after Michael’s death, my mother told me my father stayed in their bedroom for three days and cried continuously. She said it was the first and only time she had seen him cry. My mother required psychiatric treatment, including various prescription medications such as valium, to simply be able to survive the lost of just not a child, but the first born child of her marriage to my father. How my father and mother survived such a tragedy remains quite difficult for me to comprehend.

Shortly after Michael’s death, and quite unfortunately, the Army had given my father orders to move to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, which is the home of the 82nd Airborne Division. My father was a Master Parachutist, which is a very unique and special designation for someone who has completed 65 parachute jumps and who has been trained in making sure those other parachutists on a plane properly complete their jumps.

This allowed no time for my parents to keep Michael’s bedroom at it was, as we all had to pack up and leave 1117 Priscilla Lane. We stayed at Fort Bragg for just six months, then moved to the Panama Canal Zone for six months, and then moved to Carlisle, Pennsylvania (the home of the Army War College) for one year. It was that one year in Carlisle, Pennsylvania which one of those who had written a post talked of visiting my family, which was so thoughtful a gesture is defies my being able to properly describe it with mere words.

Regarding another person (a woman) who wrote that she had seen that MG sports car mangled around a tree and that she had prayed for the family and friends of anyone who was injured and killed, I simply offer my sincere thanks. You went out of your way to share your heartfelt sorrow and prayers to those family members who had lost a dear family member, even though you did not know the victim or his family. That means a great deal to me.

As to that which happened subsequently, my family moved to South Korea and stayed for four years, during which my father was promoted to Brigadier General of the U.S. 2nd Infantry Division, then located at the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas.

After that, they moved to any Army base in San Francisco. It was called the Presidio of San Francisco and was the headquarters of the Sixth U.S. Army (it has since been vacated, though many building remain intact). Next, my father retired from the Military became an executive for Entergy Corporation (headquarted in Louisiana, though my parents lived in Vicksburg, MS). He retired in his early 70’s, upon which both he and my mother operated an antique doll and toy Museum in the historic section of Vicksburg. My mother passed away in October 2014, and my father passed away at age 90 in July 2018.

My brother Michael and my mother and my father are buried at Arlington National Cemetery. If you simply google “Arlington National Cemetery Grave Locator” you’ll be directed to a link which you can simply click and then type in our last name. You will then see a picture of their headstone with their names and dates of birth and death. Under my brother’s name you will see a verse from the bible: “This is my son, in whom I am well pleased.”

- Written by John Bakarich, Michael's younger brother in August 2023

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