Clovis is an exceptional community, praised for its family-friendly environment, its school district and the small town charm that still exists despite its immense growth in the last few decades. It’s the citizens of Clovis, however, that have made the Clovis way of life what it is today.
On July 11, Clovis lost one of its greatest citizens, the hardworking and civic-minded Mike Vuicich—the recipient of this year’s Clovis Hall of Fame Founder’s Award.
Vuicich embodied the spirit of Clovis. Born in 1929, Vuicich and his brother Nick Jr., were raised on “the ranch” at Shaw and Armstrong and attended Clovis schools—Jefferson Elementary and Clovis High School. Mike loved playing sports and was a proud recipient of the “Sassano Blanket” award for baseball in 1947.
Growing up on the ranch instilled a hardworking mentality in Mike early on and while still in high school, he began bringing his farm equipment from home to help build the track that would later be known as Kastner Field on the Clark Intermediate School campus. This was just the first of many times Mike would loan his time and equipment to a community project.
“He would bring the tractor from home over and surface the track,” Mike’s son, David Vuicich said. “That evolved over the years. Rex Phebus ran the memorial district by there for all those years and the pipe yard where dad worked was catty-corner to that. Rex one was of his top three friends and if something needed to get done in Clovis, people went to Rex or my dad or a couple other people to make something happen. These were the movers and shakers who could get things done.”
Mike’s wife Lois Vuicich added: “Mike felt that if there was a will, there was a way, when it came to helping somebody else in the community.”
After graduating from Clovis High, Mike went to Menlo College where he played football and baseball and even competed in the Junior Rose Bowl in Pasadena. He later attended Fresno State.
He was also proud to serve in the Army’s 1st Calvary, Infantry in Korea for about three years. Because of his typing skills, he stayed behind during a mission that killed the majority of the comrades in his division.
“The story we always heard was his platoon was getting ready to be shipped out and someone asked ‘who here knows how to type?’ and my dad could so they kept him there to do payroll and everyone else left and was killed,” David said.
“We’re glad he had some skills because that kept him alive,” added Valerie Vuicich, Mike’s daughter.
After returning home, Mike met Lois, who still recalls the first time she saw him.
“My friends lived behind the Vuicich house and Mike was building a boat so we went around the corner to see this boat he was building and that’s how we met,” Lois said. “He was always very patient with me. He was not one to fight and we didn’t argue too much because he let things go… He was always there when you needed him, very dependable and very loving.”
Lois and Mike were married for 59 years. Together they had four children: Valerie Vuicich, Joanne Bell, Mary Ann Vuicich and David Vuicich. They also have four grandsons, Kyle and Zachary Bell (Joanne and husband Rick Bell’s sons) and Michael and Alec Vuicich (David and wife Stacey Kollmansberger’s sons).
Mike’s children describe their father as a hardworking man who put in long hours at the business he owned with his brother, the Clovis Concrete Pipe Company [which was right next to Clark Intermediate, behind the current Shell station at Clovis Avenue and 5th Street]. David remembers many times he would go to work with his dad on a Saturday or Sunday morning.
“He worked a lot of weekends being self-employed,” David said. “The crews would only work Monday through Friday but there were lose ends he would take care of on the weekend and he’d drag me to the shop or Valley Welding, one of the shops downtown, and I remember being too little to go in because if you were too young they wouldn’t let you in an industrial area like that.”
Although Mike spent many hours away from home, his children remember the times he was there fondly. Valerie said her dad wasn’t the disciplinary or unemotional type and he made sure the time he spent with his kids was quality.
“For someone who could be as quiet as he was, he was very affectionate with all of us,” Valerie said. “Up until the end, if you were walking along he would hold your hand, kiss you hello and kiss you goodbye. He wasn’t that stereotype of the unemotional father.”
“He always had a smile and a warmth about him,” David added.
As a family, Lois and her children remember taking trips together. Many times, they would all just pack up the car and go up to Shaver or Huntington or one of the other lakes in the area or head to Morro Bay, as Mike loved boating and water skiing. He was an adventurer, Lois said.
“We went on a lot of vacations,” Lois said. “We used to go to Morro Bay every summer with another family and we’d have a big complex with our two little trailers and the kids would fish.”
A hardworking family man, Mike still found time to participate in many community activities.
David remembers his dad serving first as a charter member of the Clovis Boys League Booster Club. Even after David no longer played, Mike continued to sponsor the Clovis Pipe team for years.
Mike also belonged to the Clovis Lions Club for over 30 years and did everything from cooking to digging holes for deep-pit barbecue dinners held by local charities.
More recently, he served on the Bicentennial Celebration Committee and was an active member of the St. Peter’s Men’s Club and Clovis American Legion Post 147 until his passing. He was also involved with the Rodeo Association for most of his adult life and a director for 28 years. He was Grand Marshal in 2001 and again in the group of surviving Grand Marshals for the 100-year celebration. He was given a PRCA gold badge for long term past directors.
Mike was also involved with the school district. While serving as vice president of the Clovis High School Booster’s Club, he was recruited to run for the school board. He served two terms on the board and was proud to hand each of his children their high school diplomas. The District presented him with the honorary degree of Doctorate of Community Service in 1983.
“It wasn’t like he ran for school board with the intention of running for mayor later or anything like that. It was more, this is something you do when you’re a part of the community, you take your turn serving in these roles,” Valerie said. “The end of his term coincided with David graduating high school so it was like, OK, my kids aren’t in the district anymore so I’m going to turn it over to someone who does have kids in the district so there is more connection. Most of his community involvement were things he wouldn’t consider extraordinary, just things he felt you do when you’re part of Clovis.”
His involvement in the community made him recognizable and according to his children, Mike would always see someone he knew everywhere they went.
“He might not be able to tell you their name until the next day when it finally came to him, but he could tell you where the person lived and who lived in their house before they lived in it and where they worked—he knew everything, just not their name,” Valerie said.
Forgetful with names, David said his dad would call everyone “ace.” However, among a deck of Clovis founders, Mike was truly one of the community’s aces.
After so many years of service in the community, Mike was humbled to receive the 2015 Founder’s Award at this year’s Clovis Hall of Fame Awards Gala on June 20.
“We were all very excited that he received the Hall of Fame award,” Valerie said. “When he first found out he said ‘are you sure it was me?’ He was proud that he got it but he was the type of guy who it would never occur to. He would never think, well gosh how come this person, this person and this person got it but I never did. That was not the way he thought. I think other people were excited for him and it just kind of tickled him that other people were more excited about him getting it then he was.”
A humble community servant, beloved husband and father, Mike Vuicich will be forever missed and remembered as a Clovis founder and legend.