Remembering Mike: Great tunes for an even greater cause

I have reached an age where I read more news on social media about cancer impacting those around me than about the exploits of their children. That’s how it is when you’re gaining on age 59. Two years ago this week, we lost my aunt Nancy Kate to cancer. A friend just the other day lost her mother after a struggle with this disease. And one of my former bosses — the guy who hired me to work at the Times-News the first time in 1984, was diagnosed in December of 2017. Today Times-News Editor Emeritus Don Bolden has had a series of downs and ups while and after undergoing chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Tough but such easily imaginable situations none of us wishes to endure. I wish it were not so.

Yes, cancer touches us all at one time or another. Growing up we see older family members waste away at an alarming rate. As we evolve into careers and workplaces it touches us there, too. A Times-News colleague when I worked there from 2007 to 2016 lost his spouse to lung cancer. She had never smoked. The new retired Times-News newsroom administrator and columnist (and longtime friend) Frances Woody lost her loving husband Tom to cancer of the esophagus. And in 2012 our fellow newsroom friend Mike Wilder succumbed to cancer after it had spread over much of his body. That occurred in the spring of 2013 and impacted our newsroom in profound ways. It remains a strong memory.

Mike covered education when I returned to the Times-News in 2007. I had lived for 15 years on the North Carolina coast while working for the Jacksonville Daily News. I met Mike for the first time during my interview with then-publisher Steve Buckley. Mike was soft-spoken that day, taking care not to cross the presumed new boss too quickly. I found out soon after my arrival how much of a physical, emotional and social presence he consumed not only in the newsroom, but the entire building. Everybody knew Mike. Everybody had a story about some terribly quirky or weird thing Mike said or did. He had a singular mischievous sense of humor and loved to instigate trouble. In some ways he was like a cartoon character come to life. He was an excellent writer and a skilled reporter, widely known to be fair and accurate.

Imagine that.

Mike was taken on April 4, 2013 only weeks after he was first diagnosed. He was 45 years old.

Every year since Mike’s death the Times-News has produced a fund-raiser in his memory for cancer patients through the Alamance Regional Medical Center Charitable Foundation. Proceeds go to the foundation’s C.R. Byrd and Patricia Bynum funds, money that goes to help local cancer patients pay their living expenses. The concerts have proven to be very successful, raising more than $24,000 in total.

On Wednesday (June 27) the Times-News marketing director Michele Terry, the unparalled organizer of every concert to date, sent an email letting me know that the date for this year’s event is Thursday, Aug. 16 at the Williams High School Auditorium. The show starts at 7 p.m. Tickets are on sale now.  The newspaper is co-sponsoring the show with Wade’s Jewelers.

Wilder concert

And I expect it to be a hot ticket after an unexpected down year in 2017 in terms of audience size and revenue. October just isn’t the best month to add yet another thing to attend. There are far too many fall events competing for every scrap of time people have.

So this return to an August date bodes well. The featured entertainment will also be different. The band is Jukebox Saturday Night, a music review of the great big bands of the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s. Previous big band concerts sponsored by the Times-News have been audience pleasers drawing large crowds to the cavernous auditorium at Williams.

This is how the band describes itself:

Jukebox Saturday Night celebrates America’s Swing Era during the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s and captures the exciting sounds that will keep you moving in your seats, tapping your toes and clapping your hands.  The performance includes the greatest hits as recorded by Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Duke Ellington, Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman, Count Basie and more!  Vocal selections will include songs made famous by Frank Sinatra, Doris Day and Rosemary Clooney, and other vocal idols.

Sounds like a winner that will draw a busload or two of fans from Twin Lakes or the Village at Brookwood as well as folks from all over the region. I hope so. It’s a great cause and a good show.

Tickets are $20 in advance, $18 for groups of 10 or more and $25 at the door. Folks can buy tickets by visiting the Times-News, 707 S. Main St., Burlington, by calling 336-505-3071 or by going online to

Even though I no longer work for the newspaper, I strongly support the fund-raiser, not only because it’s in Mike’s memory but because of my aunt Nancy Kate or Don or any of the millions of people victimized by cancer.

I know all of you are impacted, too.





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