Mammoth Loses Mike Grossblatt

By: 
Wendilyn Grasseschi
Times Reporter

Mammoth lost yet another of its best and brightest during the past few weeks when longtime local and former Assistant Town Manager Michael Grossblatt died March 16 after a fight with glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer.

Grossblatt was an integral part of Mammoth’s shift from a newly incorporated town to a mature community, helping to guide the town through some of its biggest challenges as an assistant town manager, a financial analyst, a personnel director and risk manager, and much more. Through the boom of the early 2000s and the bust that followed, Grossblatt was a steadying hand at the top levels of the Town government during a time of immense tumult and staff turnover at the Town. He retired in 2012 as the Recession, and an expensive lawsuit, took a cumulative toll on Mammoth.

Grossblatt was a husband to his beloved wife, Jane, a dedicated father to his cherished son, Joe, a Mammoth High School student, and the best friend of his beloved black lab, Ritter.

He was also a fulltime ski instructor and he worked with the Long Valley Fire Department as their Business Manager.

He was the main driver behind the Town’s Office of Emergency Services suite in the Minaret Mall, a room set up and equipped for disasters or emergencies; he was the guiding force behind the Town’s now-famous Cleanup Day; he was the one who made sure the big recycling bins on the side of Vons got into place, just to name a few contributions.

He was also known for his intense love and passion for the people, communities and the environment of Mammoth and the Eastern Sierra and he was loved for his willingness to speak out and take a stand on issues he believed in.

“Mike was extremely passionate and always willing to go the extra mile, whatever it took,” said his friend and former co-worker Noreen Wilbur. “He would do whatever it was he could to help people and he would accept and excel at whatever job he was asked to do. He was an advocate for so many people around him. He really cared deeply about people and he would right for what he thought was right, no matter what. It will be a terrible loss.”

“Mike was my next door neighbor, and a lot of how I know him is through that,” said Mono County Supervisor Fred Stump. “He worked for the Town and I’d look out in the morning and he’d leave for work early in the morning and not return until well after what most people call quitting time. During major events, storms, he’d just stay in town, take his sleeping bag and just not come home. That’s the kind of person he was.”

It was impossible to stay upset with him even when you disagreed with him, said another friend and former co-worker, Anita Hatter, who worked as a town clerk during much of Grossblatt’s tenure.

“He had a lot of intensity, he really cared about things and it could create conflict, but no one could stay mad at him,” she said with a laugh. “It was always clear with Mike that it wasn’t personal, but it was because he cared so much. And we shared a great love of Bruce Springsteen.”

Grossblatt was also an avid outdoorsman; a passionate and gifted skier, a hiker, a lover of the magic of topo maps and all things Sierra backcountry.

“I worked with Mike for years at the office but we became good friends outside of the office, hiking and skiing,” said Jeff Mitchell, a former engineer with the Town of Mammoth. “He was a people person; he looked after people. I remember the first time I saw him ski and I just thought to myself, that guy knows how to ski. He knew what he was doing. Or, we’d hike up to Valentine Lake with that black lab of his, a puppy at the time, doing 25 miles to our ten. And he was really sports-minded; he loved to go to Reno and place bets on football and sports. We’d do our annual trip to Reno to do that. Or, I’d rib him about going to UCLA and tell him, “Yeah, you went to USC and he’d take offense ‘cause they were great rivals.”

Dr. Richard Shedd, a Mammoth ER surgeon, is another of Grossblatt’s friends and admirers. His son, Austin, and Grossblatt’s son, Joe, grew up together in the Eastern Sierra backcountry. On one trip, things went terribly wrong and Austin got separated from the group. A massive search and rescue effort was launched, one that Grossblatt was part of. Eventually, several days later, Austin was found alive and unharmed.

It was a father’s worst nightmare, made bearable only because of the presence of a good and true friend.

“Mike, Joe, Austin and I grew close doing quite a few backpack trips together,” Shedd said. “Nights spent in the tent have that quality that lend a truth about conversations. (The) top of the list is the trip we lost my son, Austin. Mike spent the night keeping watch for the next 30 hours through a rain storm at 10,000 feet. This will always be the moment that Mike comes home to me, each time I look at Austin.

“But it is the laughter and endless ribbing that the boys Mike and I gave each other over which institution was greater, USC or UCLA , over campfires every night that brings a smile to my face. God Bless, Mike.”

Mike Grossblatt met his wife Jane in San Diego and they have been married 25 years. They moved to the Eastern Sierra in 1999, both taking a pay hit to live their dream of living in the mountains they loved.

Jane said she has lost her best friend.

“He didn’t hide his emotions, sometimes to a fault,” she said. “He’d get too wrapped up in things and sometimes I would say to him, “You have to play the game,’ not let it bother you so much. But he was so compassionate, he’d worry about everyone. And he put his heart and soul into everything he did. His passions were backpacking and skiing but he loved to be outdoors anywhere. He loved gardening. He was an avid reader of financial market publications; personal finance and stock market investing. He loved his six-year-old black lab, Ritter. Mike’s family, and Joe and I are so proud of who Mike was and we miss him so much.”

Mike Grossblatt was born on December 12, 1961 to Morris and Gloria Grossblatt of Tarzana, California. He grew up in Tarzana in the Los Angeles area. He Is survived by his mother Gloria, and in only nine months prior, lost his father Morris, also to cancer. He has three sisters, Julie Etherington, Lynn Burr, and Bonnie Grossblatt Todd.
He graduated from UCLA in 1984 with a Bachelor of Art in Economics. He went on to earn his Master's in Business Administration from San Diego State University in 1986. He worked as a Senior Financial Analyst for Sempra Energy/San Diego Gas & Electric for 10 years prior to moving to Mammoth Lakes in 1999 as an Management Analyst for the Town of Mammoth Lakes, where he eventually became the Assistant to the Town Manager, the Personnel Director and Risk Manager. He also worked for the Long Valley Fire Department as their Business Manager from November 2011 - March 2017.

In lieu of flowers, Jane suggested donations can be made to:

• UCLA Brain Cancer Research Fund, c/o UCLA Neuro-Oncology Program, 710 Westwood Plaza,, RNRC Suite #1230, Los Angeles, CA 90095. Contributions by check to the UCLA Brain Cancer Research Fund should be made payable to: The UCLA Foundation Brain Cancer Research Fund. In the memo line of the check, please include In Memory of Michael Grossblatt. The donation should be mailed to the address above, or to a secure link at https://giving.ucla.edu/braincancerresearch.

• There is also a GoFundMe page set up for Joe, who will be graduating high school in June and attending college in the fall at https://www.gofundme.com/college-fund-in-honor-of-mike

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