July 24, 2016

Mostly clear

Former Grizzly Mike Kallai Jr. touched many, leaves legacy

WADSWORTH —For the second time in less than 2½ months, heartache has hit the Kallai family.

Mike Kallai Jr., whose father died of a massive heart attack on June 30, died Sun­day while stationed at Kadena Air Force Base in Okinawa, Japan.

Military officials reported Kallai was found unconscious in his off-base home. He was rushed to Camp Lester Naval Hos­pital for treatment and pronounced dead around 9 a.m.

The cause of death has not been deter­mined.

There will be a private showing for Kallai on Wednesday with the funeral set for Thursday.

“It’s tragic,” said Chris Kallai, who is Mike’s uncle. “It’s hard to take.

“You remember things about him and talk about it. I’m walking around like a zom­bie. “Every day I’ve been in school, I get a sympathy card. Right now, it’s hard for us.”

Kallai is survived by his wife, Meredith; mother, Jennifer; and grandmother, Ruth Kallai; two younger brothers, Joe and Zak; a younger sister, Vanessa Williams and five uncles and four aunts.

Sunday would have marked his one-year wedding anniversary.

An accomplished wrestler at Wadsworth, the 1994 graduate finished third in state his senior year and then went on to become a national qualifier for the Air Force Acad­emy.

Kallai stayed in the Air Force and was assigned to the 909th Air Refueling Squadron at Kadena. Kallai was a KC-135 Stratotanker and was set to be reassigned to a base in South Carolina next month.

“We are all saddened by Mike’s death,” said Brig. Gen. Ken Wilsbach, 18th wing commander in a prepared statement. “It’s always tragic to lose a member of Team Kadena. Our hearts and prayers go out to his family.”

Kallai was the person everyone turned to when his father passed away. He served as the spokesman for the family during the difficult time and helped his mother, sister and brothers through the tough times.

“He stepped up as the next one in charge,” said Chris Kallai. “He was definitely a man, a family person.

“He was regimented. He was organized. If you went out to see him, he wanted to make sure you had a good time. He wanted to make sure everything was taken care of.”

His ability to command of any situation didn’t end with his family.

Grizzlies wrestling coach John Gramuglia remembers the first time Kallai roamed the halls of Wadsworth like it was yesterday.

“He was a natural leader,” Gramuglia said. “He was always the model of respect. You knew he would be a military-type per­son.

“He was always a take-charge kid. People wanted him to be the leader. He had that natural charisma. They wanted to follow him.”

His leadership abilities could be seen in every aspect of his life.

“The words he spoke at his father’s funeral really meant a lot,” Gramuglia said. “Be strong, be confident and be thankful. It’s unfathomable to think they died so close apart. Both will be celebrated together.

“We’re still in shock. He’s left a legacy. Being the first in his family (to go to Wadsworth), he set the tone for everyone else. He set the bar high. It’s a bar that’s still there.”

Contact Brad Bournival at sports@medina-gazette.com.