The Babcock family is sad to share that we have lost one of the great folk heroes of the midwest, Mike
Babcock. Michael passed away July 29th, 2020 from complications associated with Parkinson’s and
Multiple System Atrophy. He was 75. The son of Bruce and Mary Virginia (Neeson) Babcock, Mike was
born in Bloomington, IL, on Dec. 10, 1944. He grew up in Ottawa, IL, and he graduated from Ottawa
High School in 1963. He was inducted into Ottawa High School’s Hall of Fame in 2014 for his athletic and
academic accomplishments, a fact that he enjoyed reminding his family of regularly.
After a summer job of detasseling corn, he decided he didn’t like the physical commitment and
resolved “I need a thinking man’s job”. He received his Bachelor’s degree from Drake University in 1967
and went on to serve in the United States Army from 1969 to 1971. After the Army, the University of
Illinois was his destination for earning his Ph.D. in Economics in 1972. In the fall of the same year, he
landed on the faculty of Kansas State University, starting his soon to be legendary wardrobe of purple-
themed outfits. 1972 turned out to be quite the momentous year for Mike, because it was also the year
he met the love of his life, Virginia, on a blind date. They married on August 4, 1973, the same day as
Virginia’s birthday because that would be an efficient choice for him to remember fewer important
Mike’s fiercely competitive nature made him a prolific researcher in his 47 years with the Economics
Department, publishing over 90 articles in professional journals. Among other Major Awards, he
received The Distinguished Transportation Researcher Award from the Transportation Research Forum
in May of 2019. However, his children, John and Karen, believe his greatest accomplishment was being
their dad. He retired from KSU in May of 2019.
He loved sports and gave his whole heart and allegiance to his Kansas State Wildcats, Kansas City
Chiefs, and Kansas City Royals and coached the Manhattan Optimists Club’s Cookie League Baseball
team from 1974 to 1993. His family is certain he inadvertently taught children sitting near Section 3,
row 16, seats 3 & 4 at Snyder Family Stadium their first curse words. Recently he changed his party
affiliation to Democrat so he wouldn’t die a Republican while Trump was in office. Mike worked
tirelessly and bought his shoes at Wal-Mart to make sure that his family would be able to live
comfortably. He loved taking his family on vacations, dragging them to every National Park west of the
Mississippi and parts of Canada. He would be sure to get a scenic vista shot with John or Karen standing
on the edge of a road pullout and get the shadow of his thumb in the picture. Every. Time. Rarely
would he get to the punchline of his favorite jokes because he would laugh hysterically, unable to get
the words out to finish. After his Parkinson’s diagnosis, Mike was firmly committed to not dying until
the Chiefs won a Super Bowl. So, you can understand his family’s trepidation when they actually won
this year. For his final research project, Mike’s brain will be donated to the Brain Support Network for
the Mayo Clinic to further research on Parkinson’s, Lewy Body Dementia, and Multiple System Atrophy.
Mike is preceded in death by his parents and younger brother, Ray.
He will be forever remembered by his wife, Virginia, his son, John (Linda), his daughter Karen,
grandchildren, Jason, Marcie(Trevor), and Eric, his sisters Judy(Roger)Damyen and Donna(Greg)Tuftie,
and many nieces, nephews and cousins.
Mike loved his family deeply and will always be remembered by his family and friends “as the man in
Due to the COVID 19 pandemic, no public service will be held. A private burial will be at the family
cemetery in southeast Kansas. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations in his memory to the
Economics Department at Kansas State University, The Parkinson’s Foundation at Meadowlark Hills, or
the Good Shepherd Hospice House in Manhattan in care of the Yorgensen-Meloan-Londeen Funeral
Home 1616 Poyntz Avenue, Manhattan, Kansas.