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MICHAEL O. REAVES
(December 13, 1945 – February 24, 2020)
he world lost a fantastic human being, Michael Otho Reaves (Mike), on Feb 24th, 2020. Truthfully, we just lost his physical body that day, as we had lost Mike’s actual person and personality to Lewy Body Dementia slowly over the past several years.
Mike was a proud native Oklahoman (Boomer Sooner!) who was born to William Otho and Vera (Keller) Reaves on December 13, 1945. He was the kind of person who had lifelong friendships, still in touch regularly with friends he made as far back as the 1st grade. He graduated from Classen High School in 1964 and returned to teach music in the Oklahoma City Public School system after earning double degrees in Violin Performance and Education from Oklahoma City University in 1969. He later received his Master of Music Education Degree from the University of Central Oklahoma. He was a widely respected and accomplished violinist, who began playing with the former Oklahoma Symphony Orchestra in the mid-1970s, and in 1989, was a founding member of the Oklahoma City Philharmonic holding the position of Principal Second Violinist with that organization for 24 seasons. He then served as Principal Emeritus until his retirement in early 2016, as his dementia continued to gradually rob Mike of the ability to connect the notes on the page to the instrument in his hands. He began playing in the Lyric Theatre pit in 1976 and served as its concertmaster starting in 1989. He was also a longtime member of the Lawton Philharmonic Orchestra, serving as Assistant Concertmaster, Acting Concertmaster, and was a featured soloist on the LPO’s 1987 European Tour. Over the course of his career, Mike also performed with orchestras in Fort Worth, Tulsa, Norman, Wichita Falls and Enid. Over 40 years ago, Mike founded the Sooner String Quartet (renamed the Mid-America String Quartet in 1987), providing gorgeous music for countless weddings and events throughout Oklahoma. Perhaps one of his proudest accomplishments was the educational concert program he created for the Quartet, which has been met with great acclaim as part of the Oklahoma City Orchestra League’s “We’ve Got Rhythm” program, since 1996. His humor and engaging personality were the perfect fit to captivate the active elementary school audiences, and he always had hilarious stories to tell about some of these performances. Mike was also much in demand as a musical contractor by many area universities and churches, providing extra work for his colleagues. Many would agree that much of what professional musicians enjoy in the Oklahoma City community is thanks to Mike Reaves, his leadership and the example he set. As a lifetime member of the American Federation of Musicians Local 375-703, he was a staunch defender of musicians’ rights and dignity and was uncompromising in always doing the right thing. For many years, Mike had a very different side job as a fundraising consultant and in 1987, shortly after he and Cathy were married, they started their own business, selling candy and other products to area school groups and other organizations to help them raise money. He was affectionately called the Candyman by his customers.
Mike was equally passionate about his family and friends. He and his wife, Cathy, had a relationship to be envied. They worked literally side by side, sharing a stand in the OKC Philharmonic and playing quartet and other freelance gigs together, took trips together, rarely spending time apart not out of obligation, but because they truly enjoyed each other’s company. Working hard meant playing hard, so family time meant camping trips to one of Oklahoma’s many lakes with campfires by night and fun on the water by day. Over time, the tent was traded in for a place at Lake Eufaula – a trailer straight out of the 70s complete with 8 track player and shag carpet, and then an actual lake house was built, where countless summer days with friends and family were spent. Once the busy holiday music season was over, late December was for ski trips with family and friends – Telluride and Copper Mountain – where the skiing happened on snow instead of water. Mike loved watching his kids conquer difficult trails and laughing at their impressive spills on the slopes. Early family road trips were not complete without Mike’s CB communication with other vehicles around us – “Breaker Breaker 1-9, What’s your 20?”. He never got tired of that. Mike loved to drive fast and enjoyed a cold beer or a good margarita, but not at the same time. He grilled the best steaks. He was an incredible friend to many, had nicknames for almost everyone and was always someone you wanted to have around.
Mike is survived by the love of his life, Cathy, his children, daughter, Jennifer Norman (Trace); son, Zack (Parisa); stepdaughters Liz Buno (Brett), and Jessica Wilkinson (Jay); grandchildren: Brysen, Kaylee, Wesley, T.J., Anthony and Lincoln, Lyra and sister, Jean Cantwell (Chuck).
Due to the 2020-21 COVID-19 restrictions, the memorial service has been rescheduled for Friday, September 3, 2021 at the Bishop Angie Smith Chapel on the campus of Oklahoma City University and is located on the north side of NW 23rd St, between Penn and Blackwelder.
Before Mike’s symptoms became severe, he made the decision that he wanted his brain donated, so that it could be used for Lewy Body Dementia research. If anyone wishes to donate to this organization, or to the Oklahoma City Philharmonic in Mike’s memory, here are links for that purpose:
University of Miami Brain Endowment Bank
Nate and Susan Webb says
We are Holding you in our prayers and wishing your family peace at this time . ❤️
Matthew Driskill says
I will always remember Mr. Reaves from my time as a mediocre violin player at Taft Middle School. He was a great teacher and I fondly recall seeing him in the pit and talking to him at the Lyric Theatre in later years. He instilled in me a love for music of all kinds, not just classical, and for that I will always be grateful. As I said before, I think the Great Spirit above needed a new First Chair/Concertmaster to help the Angels sing a little more in tune. He was taken too soon. I’m reminded of 2nd Timothy: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” This world is a poorer place without him in it. Godspeed.
Ruth Donahue says
I didn’t know that Mike donated his brain for research – he just keeps on giving! Cathy, your tribute is beautiful. You captured your life together and you two really DID have something special. Much love to all of you.
Joyce Wilkerson Silvernail says
I have known Mike since 1st Grade at Hawthorne Elementary School and continued our friendship through High School. One of the nicest people I have ever known. He will truly be missed by all of us. We were blessed by his friendship.
Janice Lancaster Jamess, class of '64 says
I’m so sorry to hear this news about Mike. My own son-in-law died from Lewy Body dementia last August. My sympathies go out to his family.
Ron Perkins says
Mike and I have been friends since the 9th grade at Classen High School. In all my years knowing him I never seen him get mad or say anything bad about anybody, a trait that I wish I could have had. After we graduated from high school we went in different directions but later renewed our friendship and we would see each other many times a month. Mike and Cathy would pick us up and take us with them to many concerts through the years which gave me more applications of his talents. I told him that I was very proud of him and proud to be his friend. I will miss him and hope to see him again.
Janet Chambers (Classen Highschool '65) says
I knew Mike from way back when he dated my friend, Lana Brown (now Schenk) , in high school. He was always a gentleman and a truly ‘nice guy.’ Since I occasionally visit OKC, Mike set aside some tickets for me and family a few times for the Symphony. I’ll never forget how wonderful those events were and I will never forget him. I was totally shocked that he had suffered for a few years prior to his death. He will be missed by many and I’m glad he had a happy and successful family.
John-Paul Christopher Jackson says
Sending my enduring love 💗 for my dear best friend from long ago c. 1964! You and your wonderful family remain in my mind and life.
Donna Lady says
I did not know Mike, but due know Jean. May God grant peace to those grieving and the joy in knowing we’ll see him in heaven.
Mark A. Ison says
Mike was one of a kind! I did not know him very well. He provided the music for our 50th class reunion which was wonderful.
Shari Moore says
We met Mike when Zack and Alex were elementary school friends. Our paths crossed many times while the boys were in school together. Mike always had a quick smile and a kind word. Wish we had kept in touch through the years. As was said by many, many people, he was just a great guy. Sending love to the family.
Linda Roedl says
Dear Cathy and family, I was so very sorry to hear of Mike’s passing. Thanks to Joe and Ava Young for re-introducing me to Mike after a OK Phil concert a few years back, on one of my trips from Toronto to visit my parents in OK. And it was a pleasure to re-connect with him at that time, and to meet you. I remember Mike also as being a very talented young violinist at Classen, and it was wonderful to see him again and to hear of his success as a musician, and with music as a business. I’m certain he will be very missed by his family and by all who knew him. Sincerely, Linda
Jay Reaves says
Sorry I never met him he sounds like a wonderful person prayers for your family. My grandfather was his uncle Ray Elmo the brothers had interesting names.
Lorna Larson says
Just now heard of Mike’s [passing! You have my deepest sympathy’ I always considered Mike to be a special friend of mine—- & a fine violinist.
What a dreadful illness to have had. Cathy, I’m.so glad you found each other, & that you obviously had many wonderful years together..
René Knetsch says
I just now came across the news of Mike’s passing. I was the Principal 2nd Violinist of the (then) Oklahoma Symphony from 1980 until I moved away in 1986, so I had the privilege to play with Mike for several years. I was saddened to read of his passing, but my memories of him, especially his sense of humor, are great. My condolences to Cathy and all of the family.