Rob Oxford: Laurie - Made of Light and Love

Monday, May 7, 2018

Laurie and Rob (left) with Randy and Tim Bachman of Bachman Turner Overdrive
and Tom Johnston of The Doobie Brothers

Made of Light and Love
By Rob Oxford

Have you ever met someone so incredibly full of positivity that it actually irritates you? Someone so full of love that just being around them makes YOU uncomfortable? For reasons which at the time I was ill-prepared to understand, Laurie Michaels was that person. Laurie Michaels IS that person.

I know, why would someone have a problem with "positivity" and "love"? I'm still working on the answer to that question.

I met Laurie when I took my first morning show job in Denver. We worked for the same company, but at different stations. I would sometimes rely on her for rides to and from work which she was always willing to provide. What made it even more interesting was that her husband Joey produced the morning show that was in fact my direct competition. Eventually Joey and I would work together for a short time before I was unceremoniously booted out of town.

Rob, Laurie and Brad Cash of KISM in Bellingham

Fast forward 10 years to Bellingham, WA. The radio show I was hosting was in desperate need of a female co-host and after several potential candidates had fizzled out, I contacted Laurie to see if she was interested in auditioning. The connection was instant and the situation was ideal. Laurie and Joey had been looking to relocate back to the Pacific Northwest where she had lived and worked previously and where they still had family. What made it even more perfect was that Joey was able to hire on at the same company.

To try to describe Laurie in mere words is an impossibility. Bubbly, funny, clever, smart, beautiful, witty, affectionate, caring, honest, loving ... those all fit, but fail miserably in describing her adequately. Laurie is, in using words with which she often described others, an "Earth Angel". One of her favorite sayings, which from time to time I find myself using on air in her honor is "Open up, dive in and be free".

Laurie is illuminating!

10 years ago Laurie and Joey were preparing to welcome their second child. After experiencing several episodes of Diplopia or Double Vision, it was suggested that Laurie undergo an MRI. It was during that examination that a brain aneurysm was discovered. The decision was then made to induce labor and have Laurie give birth to her daughter prematurely.

The hope was that with the pregnancy out of the way, doctors could concentrate on addressing the aneurysm, therefore minimizing the possibility of causing harm to mother or baby. I'm not privy to all of the details involved in trying to save Laurie's life while at the same time bringing into the world her beautiful daughter Ella, but I do know that she has now endured years of tremendous pain and discomfort. Through of all of this, Laurie continues to maintain an incredibly positive outlook on life.

Rob, with Laurie in the hospital
The first time I went to visit Laurie in the hospital I was nervous, apprehensive, even afraid. All for selfish reasons, I should add, and for which I was ashamed.

I wasn't sure what to expect. Would she want to see me? Would we be able to communicate? Would my presence open old wounds? Would I be able to keep it together? I wasn't thinking of what she had been going through at all.

I could only think of our last day together on air and how difficult I had made our working relationship. By that time I had as they say, "checked out". By no fault of her own, Laurie had landed in a situation involving a disgruntled radio station employee who had far too many issues of his own with which he needed to deal.

Regardless, upon my stepping into the room, the smile that overcame Laurie's face was one I had missed for a very long time. I was overjoyed at her reaction. I proceeded to set up my "Boom Box" and together we listened to an air check of one of our shows. We laughed ... and I was so glad I had come to visit.

At the mere mention of Laurie's name, fans and friends alike begin singing her praises loudly. There is, as I have said, no one quite like her. They talk about her sense of humor, her "laugh" (which is unmistakable and often accompanied by a "snort"), her kindness, and most of all her love of life. It is a common theme.

Many surgeries and struggles since, Laurie now resides in a residential home where she needs care 24 hours a day. Much of that care is provided by Hannah Olsen Ellis who not only happens to be Laurie's Caregiver, but has been a close family friend for many years. In addition to assisting Laurie, Hannah has also graciously accepted the responsibility of providing much of the guidance and support so desperately needed by a 10 year old girl whose own Mother is doing all she can to simply stay alive and whose Father must continue to work in order to take care of the finances needed to provide for his family.

During my last visit Laurie said that she "didn't know why she was still here, but that there had to be a reason?" With tears welling up in my eyes I said the first thing that came to my mind; "You're still here becasue your family needs you. You're still here to inspire people like me to live better lives and to appreciate all that we have been given."

I am certain I will never again meet someone like Laurie Michaels Teehan Johansen, but it is my sincerest wish that someday, if you're lucky ... you will.

I would like to thank Laurie, Joey, son Tommy and daughter Ella for allowing me to share their story with you and humbly ask that if able, a charitable gift or donation can be made to UW Medicine / Harborview Medical Center in her honor at this link.


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