Trade Show TalesBlog

Farewell to Our Dear Friend Mike

April 25th, 2016 36 COMMENTS

Mike and Janet Swartout

Dear Classic Family,

Saturday was a tremendously sad day in our internal and external family. Sadly we lost our beloved Design Director Mike Swartout this weekend.

As many of you know, Mike has been battling cancer now for years, a very aggressive form of prostate cancer. And “battling” does not really seem to capture all that Mike has been doing for five plus years to be honest. He fought it. And fought it hard.

Sadly, Mike succumb this weekend while surrounded by his family. As sad as we are, there is a sense of peace surrounding this news. Peace that comes from knowing his pain is gone at long last.

But it does not take away the feeling of loss. And the tremendous sadness we all feel on behalf of his beautiful family — Janet, his wife, along with Rachel and Morgan his kids.

mikeMike came to Classic some 16 years ago this past March. I will never forget when we hired him. I and others in the company were very excited to add his talent to what we were doing. And from the time we hired Mike, he drove us into so many positive directions design-wise as a company. Admittedly… sometimes in uncomfortable directions. 🙂

But rather than talk about his work contributions that were beyond measure, Mike was also a great friend and brother to many of us. Myself included.

When you strive to create a team, what you really want is a family at work. And Mike was a part of that evolution at Classic. He lived and breathed Classic:  Classic Products, Classic Design, and more importantly the Classic Family.

He invested time, energy, and emotion into his co-workers as if they were his own family. And ultimately we all become his family. In and out of the office. For better and for worse as they say.

classic-exhibits_september_17His battle with cancer, which he referred to as the EEE (Evil Effing Empire), was beyond admirable. It was a battle he knew would not have a positive outcome for HIM, but instead of dwelling on the negative, he focused on creating positive outcomes for others. Mike willingly participated in several experimental studies. One of those was Provenge. Mike’s willingness to be a “Guinea Pig” meant that an immunotherapy treatment became available to others. All tangible stamps he was able to leave behind very proudly.

Personally, I loved Mike. He was my friend and a great one at that. Great friends are those who support you in everything — and call you out on everything And Mike was that for me and for many others in his personal and work life. He was never one to pull any punches. Instead he would tell you how it is. “Put on your big boy or big girl pants” he would say at times. And other times he would just listen and advise compassionately.

20151023_151647Over the past six months in particular, I have come to eagerly await our visits, back and forth emails, text messages, and conversations. They were rich! Rich in life lessons, rich in substance, and often sprinkled with some great humor. Usually poking fun at each other as “broken men blessed with outstanding wives and families” that both of us were sure we did not quite deserve.

I am going to miss that the most. Growing together as men, husbands, and parents. I am going to miss my friend.

Mike had so many close friends in this business. And he was impacted by you all.

Please do keep Mike’s wife Janet, daughter Rachel, and son Morgan in your thoughts and prayers as they traverse this time of loss.

Mike’s Family is going to be holding private services later in the year at their family cabin in lieu of a funeral.

Bless you Mike. You will be missed here on earth. I look forward to our next visit.

RSMGC Donation Fund

Many have asked how they can help. Janet, Mike’s wife, has requested that donations be make to the Randy Smith Memorial Fund. Several years ago, the Randy assisted the Swartout’s with medical expenses at a time when it was most needed. Please click this link — — and select the Mike Swartout RSMGC Donation Fund. Thanks.



36 Responses to “Farewell to Our Dear Friend Mike”

  1. So sad to hear. Deepest sympathy for Classic and Mike’s Family.

  2. This was a good man – I miss him already.
    God Speed Mike

  3. Stacy Parizek says:

    I am sorry to hear or Mike’s passing! What a beautiful message about your friendship. In life you do not get very many close friends… it sounds like God blessed you with an amazing friendship that you will cherish for years to come. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends.

  4. So sorry to hear this. I didn’t know Mike well, but as a distributor I always liked the professionalism that he brought to project. My sincere condolences to all.

  5. Such a lovely write-up, Kevin.

    From all of us at Southern Exhibits, Inc. to Mike’s entire family system, we wish you peace to bring comfort, courage to face the days ahead and loving memories to forever hold in your hearts.

  6. Larry Crumlish says:

    I did not know Mike, but appreciate Kevin sharing the sad passing. Certainly he will be missed by his friends and family.
    I too had prostate cancer but was fortunate to be having routine checkups that cought the EEE early enough to be addressed successfuly. Mine was aggressive, but by having the prostate removed with robotic surgery, i was fortunate to avoid the nasty spread to other parts of my body.
    I thank god every day for my fortune, and will include Mike and his family in my prayers and thoughts.

    PAY ATTENTION MEN… get that yearly check up….it just might save your life….for you and especially for your family and friends.

  7. Rey Fernandez says:

    My condolences go out the family. God Speed Mike

  8. My thoughts and prayers are with all of you right now. Mike was such a warm and caring individual. Thankful for no more suffering.

  9. Lara Davie says:

    This was so lovely Kevin, He will be missed. I absolutely adored him and am so sadden by his passing, but at the same time I am happy he is at peace and not suffering anymore. Prayers and love to his family.

  10. I am so sorry for your loss. I did not know Mike personally, but he sounds like an amazing man. You will all be in our thoughts and prayers.

  11. Carol Larimore says:

    A touching note Kevin. My sympathies for the loss within the Classic family. I loved Mike –as a gifted designer when we were both just starting out,then the very dear friend he became. He was incredibly brave in the face of the terrible trial he endured. He was kind. He was inspirational. He was humble. He was caring. He was rare in his ability to bare his soul in an effort to help himself better understand the path he was on and also to help others understand it. I like to think that now, like the spiritual “Crow” totem he embraced, he is flying free of pain and suffering.

  12. Lori Hanken says:

    Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone who considered Mike part of their family. He was a part of our work family and we worked with him for many years. Even when he wasn’t feeling well he served with such grace and kindness. He was always pleasant never complained and was always willing to go the extra mile for Classic distributors.

    What a great man that will be truly missed. Thank you for the wonderful words you shared Kevin.

  13. Rebecca Meister says:

    Thank you, Kevin for wonderful write up about Mike. He was a funny and such a talented guy and I am so happy to have known him. My heartfelt condolences go out to the Classic family, Mike’s family and all the people he has touched along the way. A beautiful soul just traveling through.

  14. Kevin,
    Thank you for sharing a beautiful tribute to a beautiful and talented man. We at Trade Show Solutions Center send our warmest wishes for comfort to Mike’s Family and the Classic Family. Please let us know if we can make a donation to a cause near and dear to his heart in his memory.

  15. Krista Kaegbein says:

    Saddened by the news, but I know he will not be forgotten. I will miss our email interactions, as he was never short of witty banter. My condolences to Mike’s family and friends, both personally and professionally.

  16. Valerie Durham says:

    I have so many wonderful memories of Mike that I will forever cherish. Mike and I would e-mail late into the night as we’d work on designs that would challenge production. So many e-mails just to check on each other and I never missed a chance to tell my friend how much I loved him.

  17. Rachel Swartout says:

    Kevin, I wish that I was as eloquent as Dad was with the written word. Alas, that is not something that he passed along to me. The only words that come to mind today are thank you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. I appreciate your words more than you will ever know.

  18. We are thinking and praying for Mike’s family and the entire Classic team today. We are so sorry for your loss. Sending lots of love your way.

  19. Jacob Norris says:

    I heard a quote this weekend that said “The purpose of death is the release of love”. In these times that is what all who were close to Mike surely are experiencing. My thoughts are with you.

  20. Kristen Umbras says:

    Kevin, such a wonderful tribute to Mike. He was one in a million! My condolences, thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends.

  21. Jim Santoro says:

    Kevin, your words were so touching. I’m sorry for Mike’s loss to his family and the Classic family.
    All of us at SL Exhibits wish you all peace and comfort.

  22. Kevin, what a lovely tribute to your colleague and friend. My thoughts and prayers to Mike’s family…including those at Classic. Mike seems to have left an indelible mark on the lives of so many, a testament to how much he was admired and loved.

  23. Bridget Mathes says:

    My thoughts and prayers to Mike’s family, extended family and friends.

  24. Kevin, Thanks for sharing.
    My thought s and prayers to Mike’s family and to the Classic family for your loss.

  25. Mike was such a wonderful man, he will be missed. Accept our condolences. Prayers go out to his family and the entire staff at Classic Exhibits

  26. greg garret says:

    …class and grit, a beautiful person he was. I told someone the other day that mike was probably one of the nicest and “real” people I had ever met.

    we’ve all lost someone extremely…special. thx mike.

  27. Wonderful tribute. There truly is no time like the present to appreciates what you have and who you hold dear! Sounds like Mike knew how to do that and may have shown others the value in doing it as well.

  28. Kimmo Hiukka says:

    Beautiful write-up.
    My thought’s and prayers to Mike’s family and to the whole Classic team for your loss.
    From a fellow exhibit designer, Kimmo Hiukka

  29. Alethea Lattig says:

    Mike was an amazing designer to work with as well as a kind and witty person. I really enjoyed talking to him on the phone, hanging out at Exhibitor or just trading funny emails. Sincerest condolences to his family at home and his family at Classic, he will be missed.

  30. Pierre Poilane says:

    Condolences to the Classic family.

  31. Candance Johnson says:

    What a lovely tribute to Mike. Sounds like he’ll be missed by many. I do not know Mike, but I do know cancer. Kevin, I appreciate that you wrote about his battle and his willingness to be a guinea-pig to help others. That says so much for him as a person, that even when he was weak he wanted to help others. So many people are strong, yet don’t have time in the day to help others. He sounds like a blessing as a friend and employee and husband. Prayers for his family and your team that your memories out weigh the sadness. Wishing all of you peace… Candance

  32. Pamela Whitten says:

    It is sad news to hear of Mike passing. His spirit and strength was one to inspire. I alway think of Mike, Jim, Huzier and Kevin as the old bones of Classic. If you needed something, one of these greats would be there in support. Whether work related or a needed push in spirit. Mike passing is a great loss to everyone who knew him. I will miss you Mike! My thoughts and prayers go out his family and friends. May God bless you all with strength as you remember him.

  33. Mel White says:

    At Janet Swartout’s request, donations can be made to the Randy Smith Memorial Fund at See the Mike Swartout RSMGC Donation Fund.

  34. Loosing a member of your work team to cancer is a tough pill to swallow.
    His passion for his work, and his respect for the team supporting him will live on.

  35. Aaron Zirndorf says:

    A beautiful tribute to Mike, Kevin. I’ve known Mike for easily 15 years and admire his enthusiasm and creativity as well as willingness to work with us his clients. He was a groundbreaking designer in in-line hybrid exhibits. He set the bar very high which many have copied but the few have equaled. And above all he was just a great guy to know. I was not close to him but truly respected him as a human being as well as a great designer. Please except my condolences. I’m sure he will leave a lasting legacy at Classic.

  36. Lynn Reves says:

    Such a wonderful tribute, Kevin! My heart goes out to both the Swartout and Classic family. I will keep you all in my thoughts & prayers during this sad, difficult time. May the great memories keep your hearts warm until you meet again.

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