Michael Godfrey was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1941. He was a breach delivery and the umbilical cord was wrapped around his body, crushing his ribs and knees. When he still couldn’t turn over at 3 months, a doctor diagnosed him with cerebral palsy. At 4 years of age his pediatrician suggested sending him to special hospital 200 miles away. His parents reluctantly agreed because they knew it would help him, but they could only visit on the weekend. He was very lonely and cried every night. During the 9 months he was there, he was taught how to crawl, eat, sit up and how to pull himself up using the couch to hold on to.
Eventually his parents were given a choice to put him in braces or a wheelchair and they chose the braces. But they also had to put him in a corset with steel rods to straighten out his back which was very uncomfortable. He was taught how to stand with his braces.
At 7 years of age he attended a special public school for handicapped kids where he was given physical therapy and speech training 3 times a week. He was also taught how to roll when falling to protect himself from injury. When he saw his baby brother learning to walk, he was determined to do it, too. At around 9 years of age he gave up the braces and could walk on his own.
He went to a high school that had a trial program with only a few handicapped kids. One day the fire alarm went off at the school. The elevator automatically shut down and although he could walk, Mike couldn’t walk down two flights of stairs. Six guys from the football team brought a stretcher to carry him, but they couldn’t keep it level and he kept sliding off onto the ground. All of them kept breaking into laughter while trying to get him down the stairs.
Mike’s teen years were the toughest. As his handicap was only physical, he had normal hormones just like all the other teenage boys. When he graduated from high school, he received a standing ovation when he walked across the stage to get his diploma! After high school the State of Michigan bought Mike a loom to weave rugs to sell at the state store which he did for 3 years but he was bored to death!
When he was 21 years old, he joined a handicapped basketball team and traveled to other local cities. His team lost every game because they stunk, according to Mike. At a basketball tournament in 1970 he met his wife to be, Jean Blyth, who was a post-polio victim confined to a wheelchair. They were together for the next 36 years. In 1996 Jean and Mike moved to Champagne Village. Sadly, Jean died of a heart attack in 2006.
Jean’s son, Sandy Blyth has been living with Mike since Jean’s passing. Sandy works as a sound engineer at musical events. Mike also had two caregivers, Jimena and Maria who came to his house twice every day to prepare meals and see to his needs but he was very independent. He loved to talk to his fellow Champagne Village Residents and he loved to watch the guys play pool every afternoon, he attended Game Night and loved to play Spades. Though his heart belonged to the Detroit Lions, Tigers and the Spartans of Michigan State, he also rooted for the Charges and the Padres. He loved 50’s rock and roll, loved to dance from his scooter and had no trouble finding women to dance with him at the parties. He was very smart and very funny. He will be sorely missed by his family and many friends.
He is survived by one brother, Steve Godfrey, his step-son, Alexander (Sandy) Blyth and step-daughter Karla Koykka-Walker (Blyth).
*Excerpts taken courtesy of an Article in the October 2018 issue of the Champagne Village newsletter.
United Cerebral Palsy - Michigan