The unveiling of Mike Kanealy’s bas relief on the Soumas Court Wall of Witnesses was postponed Friday due to the illness of the artist commissioned for the work, but the ceremonial gathering honoring the longtime Perry booster and popular barkeeper went on as planned and drew a crowd of about 75 to the Towncraft Gallery in downtown Perry.
It is nearly four years since Kanealy’s death, and local memories are still vivid of the well loved local figure who single-handedly saved Perry’s Fourth of July celebrations from falling silent. The audience shared many stories of their friend.
Mike’s wife, Janet, still chokes up when she talks about her husband. She started her speech at Friday’s gathering, but it was finished by her daughter-in-law, Koleen Kanealy, wife of Mike and Janet’s eldest son, Ramon Kanealy.
“We dearly miss Michael,” Koleen Kanealy said. “He was the light in everybody’s eye, and I think all of you could say, ‘He never knew a stranger.’ He knew everybody. He knew them by name. He knew them when they walked in the door. You always felt welcome, and I think that’s what made him so special.”
Ramon and Kevin Kanealy, sons of Mike and Janet, each spoke briefly about their father. They were followed by numerous anecdotes from the audience, some from close friends or cohorts like Bill Bullock and Mike Kelley and others from younger contemporaries like Bruce Klein and John Palmer. Many people nursed frosted mugs on Michael’s bar over the years.
Though prevented by illness from finishing the bas relief in time for Friday’s event, figural sculptor Rick Stewart attended the Perry gathering, showing the completed frame and discussing the process of creating the portrait in stone. Stewart’s working model bears a strong resemblance, but the clearest picture of Mike Kanealy was drawn in the many memories shared by his family, friends and well wishers gathered together in his honor.