Mike Matanich
1927 - 2021

June 29, 1927 ˜ December 22, 2021

Mike Matanich’s full life of love and service was peacefully realized on Dec. 22, 2021, in the presence of family. Mike was born June 29, 1927, in Roslyn, WA, to Croatian immigrants Mike and Johana Matanich. He sadly lost his father in 1943 to a coal mining accident. His mother remained in Roslyn until her passing in 1984. Mike recalled fond memories of growing up in a loving family, and living in a close-knit community, with the Cascade Mountains as their extended backyard.
Mike served in the U.S. Army during the closing period of WWII. He also served at various times in the 1940s and 1950s with the U.S. Forest Service, spending many weeks alone atop fire lookouts throughout the Cascades. On a GI Bill, Mike attended Everett Junior College and Central Washington University (CWU) where he earned a bachelor’s degree.
Mike began his 43 year teaching career in Roslyn. Other than six years at Wilbur Junior High in Palo Alto, CA, he spent the rest of his teaching career in Vancouver, WA. Mike taught science at Shumway Junior High, Jason Lee Junior High, and Fort Vancouver High School where he retired in 1996. “Mr. Matanich” was a highly respected and admired teacher in the Vancouver School District for decades. Mr. Matanich’s passion for science was credited by some students as the inspiration for their science-related careers. In addition to science, Mike was able to use his Croatian and Russian language skills to teach ESL.
Mike always had a heightened interest and love for all things “Native Washington.” He knew where to find wild mushrooms and huckleberries. He knew the names of all the native plants, trees, and wild flowers. On weekends, Mike could be found on a local river fishing for steelhead or tending to his rose garden. A lifelong bird watcher well into his 90s, Mike kept bird sighting logs for his near daily trips to Lower River Road and the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge.
Mike had a passion for sports as well, having played basketball and baseball for Roslyn teams. He was an accomplished pole vaulter at Everett Junior College. In later years, Mike enjoyed bowling and golf. A devoted Seattle Mariners fan, Mike never missed a game, and dreaded the off season until spring training.
Mike was a loving and supportive father, who readily shared his enthusiasm for the outdoors and sports with his children. Above all, Mike was devoted to his wife Millie. Mike met Millie (Ackerlund), a Cle Elum native, while attending CWU. They were married in 1958 and were true partners in love and life. That love will always be a treasured gift to their family.
Mike is survived by his five daughters. Michelle (Lawrence) Rispoli, Carla (William) Brown, Denise (Roy) De Los Santos, Jennifer Matanich, and Johanna (James) Riemenschneider; and his two grandchildren, Lindsay and Jared Brown. His beloved wife Millie preceded him in death in 2014; as did his siblings, Frank Kauzlarich, Mildred Kovacevich, and Katie Dawell.
A memorial for Mike is not currently scheduled. Family and friends will be notified at a later date. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Friends of the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge or to the Roslyn-Ronald Cle Elum Heritage Club. Mike’s family would love to hear from those who knew him, to share a memory or a message, on Legacy.com.
Published by The Columbian on Jan. 9, 2022.
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2 Entries
My prayers are with your family.
Lucia Olson Raynor
January 12, 2022
We lived across the street from Mike and Millie for 32 years. Each of their 4 older daughters babysat our son, Drew, over the years. Mike was a great guy and shared his science expertise with our son and with Cynthia. He helped develop mine and Cynthia's interest in birds, and our backyard bird feeders and houses are testaments to his influence. We had so many wonderful conversations over the years about various things. Both of us were avid Mariner baseball fans, so were disappointed just about every year. And I'll never forget him showing up at our door one evening to tell us about the movie, "October Sky", which was the story of Homer Hickham, the NASA engineer from West Virginia (my home state), who trained the first Japanese astronauts and wrote the book, "Rocket Boys"? We watched and enjoyed the movie. Rest in peace, Mike. Our hearts and prayers go out to all of your girls.
Gary and Cynthia Lambert
January 9, 2022
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