Mike Farley didn’t complain on the way to the emergency room the morning of March 19. He joked.
And he called his younger brother, Phil, waking him.
“He had this really great sense of humor, dark humor. He was always quick with a pun. Some were terrible; some were great,” Phil Farley said. “When I talked to him for the last time, he said, ‘Well, it looks like you’re gonna have to clean up after me.’”
“I wish I would have replied quick enough to say, ‘Oh, does that mean I get your liquor cabinet?’” Phil Farley added.
Swedish Medical Center admitted Farley that day with a fever and a persistent cough. His wife of 59 years, Nancy, said he panicked. Not because of the illness but because he hadn’t finished the book he had been reading.
“He had me bring him several books so he would not be without a book in his hand,” Nancy Farley said.
On Monday, March 23, Mike Farley died, one of Colorado’s 51 reported deaths from COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus. He was 87.
Farley’s family rallied. Their close bond kept them strong through his illness and it keeps them strong in his absence. But they mourn for their lost brother, husband and father while urging others in Colorado and across the country to take the virus seriously.
Even at a recent, virtual wake for Farley, the jokes continued.
“The best line was from my cousin who said, ‘I think this is the first wake I’ve been to where you don’t have to have your pants on,’” said Mike Farley’s daughter, Maggie Farley.
But for all the laughter, his work was serious business. He spent decades as an estate attorney in Denver and as an advocate for racial equality, his family said. He was also a strong proponent of providing housing for low-income families, serving as a founding board member for the Archdiocesan Housing Committee.
He was a principled man, even in the face of adversity. Maggie Farley, who lives in Maryland with her husband and children, said some opposed her father’s campaign for affordable housing so strongly that they threatened his life. But still he carried on because it was the right thing to do.
“He was an Irishman first of all. That means he had a stubborn streak. And he told jokes but they were mostly bad jokes,” Nancy Farley said.
Mike Farley was also a lifelong Democrat, a voracious reader and a family man with a love of life, she added.
“He loved to travel and wanted to see the world,” Nancy Farley said. “He was very outgoing, social … and he just liked to be in conversation with people.”
He didn’t hold a grudge.
Phil Farley recalled the time he borrowed his older brother’s 1955 black Ford and returned it with a damaged transmission.
“It had overdrive, which allows it to coast really easily and you don’t have any of that engine compression slowing you down. You could go as fast as you want,” Phil Farley said. “He didn’t loan me his car again, but he certainly forgave me.”
The family shares fond memories of Farley, laughing often and uplifting one another. Quarantines among different family members aren’t enough to keep them from chatting with one another online.
While communicating with her hospitalized father was difficult, if not impossible, Maggie Farley said one nurse took it upon herself to connect the family as Mike Farley’s time drew near.
“She called us all with her own phone and she let us listen to the last rites and we all got to say our goodbyes,” Maggie Farley said. “That was amazing. We’re just so grateful to her.”
It’s vital that Americans take the coronavirus threat seriously and work to cut its transmission however they can, Nancy Farley said.
“It’s important for us, no matter what our political views are, to rise above all that divide and realize that we’re all so vulnerable,” she said.
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