In Memory

Michael Apichella

Tributes to award-winning writer and broadcaster Michael Apichella who was a 'true storyteller and lived with gusto'

 By Paul Derrick - 
 Published: 07:00, 28 October 2019

Tributes have been paid to award-winning writer, broadcaster and Bury Free Press columnist Michael Apichella, whose ‘curiosity took him from the coal mountains of Pennsylvania to adventures around the world’.

Dr Apichella, 65, died on Wednesday, October 16, 2019 at St Nicholas Hospice Care after he was diagnosed with lung cancer – a subject he discussed in his final column published in last week’s Bury Free Press.

His family said: “He was a one-off. He lived with gusto, was devoted to his family, a deeply loyal friend to many and his faith in Christ guided his life. “He was a true storyteller and had an amazing way with words. He overflowed with stories – everything was a potential article. “He genuinely cared about people. His curiosity took him from the coal mines of Pennsylvania to adventures around the world.”

Born and brought up in Pennsylvania in the US, he was a professor of English with the University of Maryland’s European division.

Dr Apichella moved to Bury St Edmunds in 1997 to be close to RAF Lakenheath and Mildenhall for his work teaching with US military personnel and adopted the town as a ‘home away from home’.

In 2010, he was awarded the Stanley J. Drazek Teaching Excellence Award and retired from university teaching in 2014 to concentrate on painting and writing. Up until his death, he wrote weekly articles for newspapers and magazines, he completed four novels – currently unpublished – and his novel The Chronicles of Johnny Pilgrim was serialised in the Bury Free Press. Between 1986 and 1995, he was the religious programmes organiser at BBC Radio Oxford.

His family added: “He loved to share meals and stories at the dinner table. “He was an enthusiastic cook and generous host. His home was a place of welcome, an intentional philosophy of authentic hospitality he practised since his time living at the L’Abri community in Switzerland in the 1970s.”

Dr Apichella was married to the ‘love of his life’ Judi and they had five children.

His funeral was at St Peter’s Church, in Cockfield, on November 8, 2019 at noon. Donations can be made to the Michael Apichella Funeral Fund

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11/11/19 05:15 AM #1    

John Nolan

Mike was one of the few truly good people I have known. A true Christian, generous in spirit. He could always lift those around him. He was great family man, with Judith, their five children and his mother in law around him, he  was always a gracious host and welcoming to all. I have several times walked around Bury with him and been amazed at  the number of friends he had around town it seemed like he knew everybody, and stopped to talk to them all.  Mike was a good friend, as well as an accomplished writer and painter, I am not sure when he joined UMUC Europe, but  he never lost the feel of his down to earth western Pennsylvannia working class, Italian immigrant roots. He was American in the best sense of the term, and was a great ambassador in his home town of Bury St Edmunds.   Mike moved to Bury in 1997 and worked Lakenheath and Mildenhall as a regular from then until 2014. As Faculty coordinator, I visted his classes several times jsut because they were so darn good, a joy to watch him working with studetns. He reluctantly, took the buy out. in 2014   At that time,  he was reamrkably gracious, though he wanted to continue teaching very badly, indeed  cried when he told the regional director  that he was taking the buyout.  Even with this, he lifted all our spirits when he a arrived at a gahering of despondent faculty a little little, he lifted the whole room with a few jokes, his smile and his always positive attitude.  I have been firuante to keep in touch and spend tiem with him in Bury several times since then, and he seeemd to be once again blossoming in his retirement before this sudden and terrible shock,  He shall be sorely missed.

11/12/19 07:57 AM #2    

Forrest Studebaker

A lovely memorial to a unique and distinguished colleague John.  Bury is also a rare place; I first visited it in 1963.  Understandable that Michael would have found it so compatible, East Anglia being not unlike Western Pa. in certain cultural aspects.   Thanks for sharing your very personal memories.

11/12/19 12:42 PM #3    

Stephanie Bechtel (Gooding)

I worked along side Mike for many years on Lakenheath and Mildenhall bases. Two of my children took classes from him. I spent time with him in Bury and with his encouragement started to teach with ERAU after he decided Embry Riddle and he were not compatible. I was able to visit him in hospice two days before he died. He gave me a giant bear hug and held my hand while commenting that he knew his time was short and to not worry about having to say I was  hoping and praying for his recovery. He told stories and was so positive about life, even as he was facing iminent death.

I attended his funeral last Friday. It was all Mike- from the chocolates we were all given at the door, to his son-in-law's beautiful rendition of Dylan's It's All Over Now, Baby Blue. Mike chose every aspect of the service. His children and several close friends all spoke about him in moving eulogies,  some, especially his son Michael Jr.s, laced with Mike' kind of humor. One former speech student of Mike's, who is now a street minister, was told by Mike that his eulogy was limited to 3-4 minutes! Once a teacher, always a teacher!

One theme running through the service was Mike's strong belief in God and his sure knowledge that in death he was in the loving arms of his Creator. Part of his legacy was the many people attending his service who shared his beliefs, several of whom were brought to those beliefs through their friendship with Mike. The service ended with a video Mike made before he died, the last part of it Mike telling a fairly long and corny joke. His coffin was bourne to a lovely part of the churchyard, to a corner canopied by still-leafy trees. Everyone was invited to put some lavender, his favorite scent, on his lowered casket, the last loving gesture his family and friends could do to honor him.

He was a fine man and lives on in all who remember him and were touched by him.


11/12/19 12:58 PM #4    

Sharon Skibinski (Kissick)

Not many things upset me...or shock me...or sadden me, but learning of "Mr. Apichella's" (now Dr.) death hit home for me...he was a truly inspirational teacher, mentor, and friend.  His voice and smile lit up a room and as a teacher, he always pushed, pushed, pushed us to do better and be better.  The oyster was there and may still be there to grab, if I want it... He promised an A or a letter grade push to students who got published during his class and nothing inspired me more! He was among the best of Christians and the most faithful and loving father and husband.  I was always amazed of his energy being a father of 5, a husband, a teacher, preacher, broadcaster, and friend to many.  Mr. Apichella (Dr.), not a day goes by where I don't thank you and think of the blessing you were and will continue to be, in sprit.  Peace to the Apichellas during this time... Sharon Kissick

01/22/20 05:21 PM #5    

Benjamin Terry Williams

Hi All,

I did not know Michael, but I was impressed by his gusto as characterized in this obituary. Good for him in humanizing this existence through words and deeds. May he rest in peace, and may we learn from his life well ived...

Benjamin Terry Williams

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