Glenn’s legacy to all of us is the example of achievement under duress; of hope where hopelessness might seem the answer; of life lived to the fullest under the constant shadow of death. Glenn was dealt a lousy hand physically – but spiritually he carried a full deck.
But that ship is simply a physical manifestation of a spirit called “Christ-like” by one officiating minister, Father Fasano. Father Fasano displayed a photo of Catholic Saint Padre Pio, who bore the Stigmata of Christ’s wounds for many years, in detailing his own recently developed relationship with Glenn.
Ship of Dreams
By ANGELLE BARBAZON
The Warren Sentinel
Used with Permission
FRONT ROYAL, Oct. 24 — Brilliant. Happy. Amazing. Positive. – Friends and family seem to have an endless supply of words to describe 18-year-old Glenn Mikulak, a 2010 Warren County High School graduate who died Oct. 19 of respiratory failure associated with Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
About 250 people attended a memorial service Sunday to pay tribute to the teen known for his big personality and love of all things having to do with design. On display at Maddox Funeral Home was Glenn’s pride and joy – an 8-foot-long model cruise ship that he built with an estimated 10,000 K’Nex pieces.
Glenn’s fascination with ships blossomed in early 2000 when the Make-A-Wish Foundation sponsored a trip to the Bahamas and Cozumel, Mexico, where he enjoyed swimming with dolphins. Roughly six years later, he began designing a model ship that took him six weeks to complete. Years later, he modified and updated the model.
Glenn ended up going on three cruises during his lifetime, and his final model was a combination of the three ships he traveled on. “Each time he would go on a cruise, he would get another idea, and then he would change something about it,” Glenn’s mother Glenda Mikulak said.
Glenn’s final cruise in May was particularly special because he not only met the ship’s captain and toured the boat’s bridge but was also introduced to Oasis of the Seas‘ chief architects.
“Glenn is now sailing with the stars in heaven,” his mother said.
Glenn began experiencing heart complications related to his muscle-wasting disorder when he turned 18 and had to spend time at Children’s Hospital. “The doctors took us in the back room to talk about what we wanted to do and how we wanted to proceed with Glenn’s life, and [his father Robert Mikulak] said, ‘Do everything you can,'” Glenda said.
Doctors installed a pacemaker and defibrillator and put Glenn on high-powered heart medications. “As we were leaving the hospital, his doctor said with a big smile, ‘It looks like you guys get some more time together,'” Glenda said. “And that’s how we’ve lived the past 10 months, as if it was all extra time.”
St. Padre Pio became an important figure in Glenn’s life when he worried about his health, Glenda said. “He became part of our daily prayers,” she said. “Pray, hope and don’t worry.”
Glenn passed away on his mother’s birthday, which Glenda said was a “great gift” from him to have made it that far.
Music played a special role at Glenn’s memorial service with friends performing America’s “A Horse with No Name,” which Glenda called the family song. “Glenn’s gentle, compassionate spirit lives in everybody’s memory and hearts, and we’re hoping that when people hear that song, it will remind them of Glenn’s contributions to life,” she said.
The service ended with a procession to the gazebo on Main Street where five of Glenn’s close friends – known as his “crew” – carried his model cruise ship.
Glenda said his sister, Robin Mikulak, plans to take the ship on a tour of Warren County Middle School and talk to students about the boat. Knowing of Glenn’s passion for architecture and design, middle school principal Alan Fox had taken him on a tour of the newly renovated building on Luray Avenue, which Glenda said Glenn was highly impressed by.
Glenda thanked teachers and other members of the education community for having a positive impact on Glenn’s life.
“They have been a huge support,” she said. “They made it all happen for Glenn. They made sure there were no barriers at any of the schools.”
The Mikulak family started the Linda F. Hogoboom Memorial Scholarship this year in honor of Glenn’s grandmother. The scholarship benefits students who support peers with disabilities. Glenn’s name will be added to the scholarship. “The scholarship is really about trying to change a culture,” said Michael Hirsch, Warren County Public Schools director of special services. “The scholarship promotes acceptance, diversity and children with and without disabilities working together.”
Hirsch has known the Mikulaks for about 11 years. “I think we can learn a lot from all students, and we can definitely learn a lot from Glenn and his positive attitude toward life,” he said.
The Mikulak family asked that all memorial donations be made in Glenn’s name to the building of Free Wheeling Way and Blue Ridge Hospice. Free Wheeling Way is a universally accessible playground that would provide a fun place for children with and without disabilities at Fantasyland Playground. “We spent a lot of time at Fantasyland when he was younger and still could walk, but when he got in his wheelchair, it was harder for him to go there,Ó Glenda said. “It was hard for him to watch the children and not be a part of it.”
Family friend Robin Stanley began raising money for the playground about 10 years ago in honor of her son, Curtis, who had cerebral palsy and died in 2002. “First of all, Glenn was extremely brilliant,” Stanley said. “Glenn was one of the smartest kids I’ve ever come across. He was a very kind, loving child. Our kids grew up together, and I’ve had the pleasure of Glenn spending the night over at our house, and he was just a joy to talk to and a very compassionate person.”
The family further extends their thanks to the many healers that have worked with Glenn over the years. “They really made a difference in his life,” Glenda said.