The community awoke Friday to news of the passing of teacher and coach Mike Price.
Price, 51, was physical education teacher at and coached middle school track, middle school wrestling and high school football. He passed away in his sleep, according to friends.
Price leaves behind his wife, Merry, and children Renee, Matt and Amanda.
He is remembered in the community as a great coach, excellent educator and proud father.
Heritage Elementary School principal Les Sharon was deeply saddened by the news.
“The only words I can find right now are simply to say that everyone at Heritage loved Mike. The kids loved him, the parents loved him, the staff loved him,” Sharon said. “His gym or his office is where I went when the day wasn't going well and I needed a guaranteed boost in outlook. His office was always crowded with staff who were there for the same purpose. His loss is nothing short of devastating.”
During their last discussion, Price was “ecstatic” because he and fellow physical education teacher Grant Fanning had raised $11,000 for the American Heart Association.
“Mike was one of the finest human beings I have ever met,” Sharon said.
Saline Athletic Director Rob White said Price touched many lives in the community.
“Mike was entrenched, not just in athletics, but the entire community. As a physical education teacher, he taught most of the students in the district. He was a driver’s ed instructor. A lot of people learned how to drive a car from Mike. He coached so many kids. He touched so many lives,” White said.
What White remembers most is the way Price talked about his children.
“He was just so proud of them. When his daughter (Amanda) was selected as captain of the basketball team by her peers, he was ecstatic,” White said. “He always had a story about one of his kids at the tip of his tongue. There are a lot of ups and downs in athletics. But he was always so supportive.
Cindy Barnett coached middle school track and field with him for seven years. She said Price was a great father, and that the kids he coached benefitted from that his big heart.
“He was the kind of coach you want your child to learn from. He was such a big guy and imposing figure who commanded the attention of the middle school kids. But he was a big teddy bear,” Barnett said. “He loved the kids and wanted to see them improve and succeed. He was a great influence on all the people he touched. He’ll be missed.”
Superintendent Scot Graden worked with Price as a coach and teacher for 14 years.
“He truly loved to connect with kids and had a unique skill of letting the students know that he cared about them,” Graden said. Quoting a letter I received about Mike from a parent, ‘Coach Price has always been a positive influence on my son’s life both on and off the field.’ Our condolences go out to his family.”
Heritage Elementary School sent a voicemail to parents with news of Price’s death and asked them to sit down with children tonight and deliver the news.
“We know that parents are the best people to support the students when they here about Mr. Price,” Sharon said. “We also sent tips on how to help students through a loss like this and let them know that the counseling staff will be on hand next week to help students who need it.”
Price was hired in August of 1997. He was a graduate of Monroe High School. He went on to play football at Eastern Michigan University, where he earned a bacherlor’s degree. He earned a master’s degree from Marygrove College.
He enjoyed coaching, hunting, fishing and being outdoors.