Scuba Oceanlife 03

Michael J. Shines

November 16, 1952 ~ November 14, 2023 (age 70) 70 Years Old


Obit Shines v.11/29 JL
Mike Shines was born on November 16, 1952 in Boise and died two days shy of his 71st birthday. A lifelong Idahoan, he grew up as one of the few African Americans in Boise, raised in the River Street district of Boise. He was blessed to have two wonderful parents, Joe and Burnell Shines, who were pillars of their tight-knit community. They mentored many young people by inviting them into their home, often feeding them, being the volunteer barber, and generally just being good neighbors who looked out for everyone in the community. Their work ethic was legendary, as was their kindness and ability to connect with people from all walks of life. As they say, the apple did not fall far from the tree with Mike.
Mike was born two years before Brown vs Board of Education, and three years before Little Rock Schools were desegregated, with the National Guard having to be called in to prevent violence. Boise schools were open to all and between the wisdom provided by his parents, neighbors, and the schools, Mike grew to be one of the wisest people most of us will ever meet. It would be twelve years before civil rights legislation was passed. These were turbulent times during which significant positive change happened. A young Mike Shines experienced all of this from Boise, Idaho. And, while he faced challenges and prejudice, he always was proud and grateful to grow up in Boise. Lessons learned as a youngster allowed him to become a master at finding common ground in difficult situations and, more importantly, enabled him to be a force for good throughout his life. He advocated for fairness and justice, exemplified by his ability to bring people together; his skill with individuals and groups was an inspiration to all who knew him. Throughout his life, Mike lived in harmony with his values. He valued every person and stood up for those who were most vulnerable. Anyone who came to Mike for any reason knew he cared. He was a safe space for all.
Mike went to work at the Boise YMCA in the early 1970’s. During his twenties and early thirties, while at the Y, he transformed himself from a slender youngster to a national caliber powerlifter with multiple state championships and records. He also transformed weight training from spaces that mostly catered to young males hanging out in dark and dingy gyms to an activity open to and accepted by men and women of all ages. Etiquette and culture mattered in the weight room. Mike was the first in Idaho to actively transform weight training into a valued activity for women, seniors and people of all body types and unique goals. The YMCA weight room was spotless. People felt welcomed and encouraged regardless of whether they fit the old stereotype of what it meant to be a “weight lifter.” Mike ensured that people lifted with proper technique and injuries were almost nonexistent among those who he coached. Not only did more people begin to visit the Y’s weight room, they grew into a community of men and women who found joy in strength and the camaraderie that Mike created. Mike was a pioneer in weight resistance and strength training, publishing books and instruction manuals while coaching thousands of people to better health. He was a beloved role model to all who were blessed to work with him. In the days since his passing we have heard from dozens of people who benefitted from time with Mike. All have expressed profound gratitude for Mike’s influence, reflecting how much they grew in physical strength, confidence, resilience and overall well-being. They came to Mike seeking help for one specific reason and got that and so much more.
Mike’s next big chapter was at The College of Idaho, when Athletic Director Marty Holly hired him as the Aquatic Director and Strength Coach. It was at the C of I where he worked the longest, until his passing on November 14.
Mike managed all aspects of the Aquatic Center, from pool chemistry and maintenance, teaching swim classes, scheduling programs in the center and special events. He was instrumental in creating the first fitness center on campus, with the help of the Jeker Foundation and Gym Outfitters, with which he had built long-term relationships. He did strength and conditioning for numerous athletic teams, and worked almost daily with injured athletes to rehab them until they could return to competition. They knew they were coming to Mike to regain strength and fitness and he always delivered. What they did not expect was that they gained a mentor for life as Mike coached them through what is always a very difficult time in an athlete’s career. He helped them regain confidence, created positive mental energy, and established a support system that allowed each athlete to return to their sport better and stronger than pre-injury.
He also worked with non-athletes, staff, faculty, and community members. With students, he went above and beyond to work around their schedules and could be seen working with them anywhere from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. To say Mike was revered and beloved at The College of Idaho is a huge understatement. No one will truly know how many lives Mike profoundly or subtly influenced, because he went about his work and life so quietly. Whatever he did was guided by the simple principle that it was the right thing to do. We continue to hear stories that no one knew about, with some saying Mike literally saved their lives. Over almost thirty years, he wore more hats at The College of Idaho than anyone, always volunteering his time and energy in areas far outside his normal duties. It didn’t matter what the job was -- Mike did it right and his work ethic was unmatched. Throughout, and perhaps more critically, in every interaction he found a way to build meaningful, lasting relationships. He listened with interest, his calm demeanor put people at ease, and his quiet humor was unmatched. He was nonjudgmental, which created relationships where people felt comfortable sharing and seeking his advice. Mike was a natural mentor who constantly worked with students as part of his routine. During COVID, the College turned to Mike to be an official “Life Coach” for 25% of his time. He served all students, but he was especially helpful to the College’s international students who were thousands of miles from home and were not able to return often to visit their families. Over many years, countless students have said Mike was a father figure to them, especially during the difficult days when new to campus. He also was able to connect with all students of color, because they knew he had similar life experiences. This allowed Mike to provide consistently wise counsel as he helped them chart a path forward during difficult times.
Mike could be seen at The College of Idaho many weekends and evenings as he hosted things like lifeguard training, club and high school swim meets, scuba classes, Special Olympics, Swim Clinics and other programs which brought in revenue for The College of Idaho. This was in addition to his regular job. Oh, and that Life Coaching that was 25% of his time was supposed to be in exchange for giving up some of his duties in the Aquatic Center. He never gave up those duties. The only thing he was not good at was delegating. He assisted on so many extra projects, from landscaping to supervising student workers to refurbishing Aquatic Center equipment.
Mike was a champion for racial justice, domestic abuse prevention, human rights and he consistently stood up for the dignity of all people. He was a published author and an accomplished photographer. He donated all profits from his series of “I’ll Never Tell” books to domestic abuse prevention causes and organizations. He was a renaissance man with talents and interests ranging from horse training to landscaping, to sprinkler repair, construction, photography, all things pools, and so much more.
Mike is survived by his amazing life partner, Donna, who met Mike 45 years ago when they both worked at the Boise Y and were beloved by all who knew them; his son Tyant Hamilton and grandkids Halle, Chloe and Isaac, and his brother Joe Shines, Jr.
A Celebration of Life will be held at the JAAC on the campus of The College of Idaho on Saturday, March 9, 2024 at 1:00 p.m. In lieu of flowers the family asks that contributions be made to the Mike Shines Endowment at The College of Idaho.


You can still show your support by planting a memorial tree in the memory of Michael J. Shines

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