Culliton, Michael A., age 60, of Minneapolis, MN, died at home, May 6, 2019.
Known for his infectious laugh, generous spirit, keen intellect, marvelous sense of humor, and for being so present to others, Michael’s oncologist once observed that Michael had an “inner light that the rest of us moths are drawn to.” It was true. He had a gift for making people feel special, and it was genuine.
Eldest of six children, Michael was first in his family to attend college. With degrees in special education and English from Montana State University, Billings, he taught high school in Havre, MT, before relocating to Minneapolis in the fall of 1988. Three weeks after moving, a mutual friend introduced him to the person who would become his best friend and faithful companion of 30 years, Bruce Johansen, to whom Michael could not have been a more loving and supportive partner. Following stints at Dayton’s department store and as director of activities at Yorkshire Manor, Michael demonstrated his commitment to social justice as St. Stephen Catholic Community’s coordinator of justice education and action. While living in Takoma Park, MD, he was education program coordinator at NETWORK: Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, and later served as director of the Center for Healthcare Reform, St. Joseph Health. For a time he was a program manager for University of St. Thomas’s Executive MBA Program in Minneapolis, one of several jobs he loved. Always interested in religion and spirituality, Michael modeled a fundamental principle of Ethical Culture, “eliciting the best in others, and thereby in ourselves,” and was among the most active members of the Washington Ethical Society. With his interest in Buddhism, he often attended Tara Brach’s insight meditation sessions in Bethesda, Maryland, and occasionally practiced mindfulness mediation at Common Ground Meditation Center in Minneapolis. Certified as a dialogue education teacher by Global Learning Partners, Michael became a GLP associate in 1997, and was especially passionate about the learner-centered work he did as a GLP partner and core consultant from 2012 to 2019. His colleagues described him as a seasoned teacher, thoughtful consultant, wise mentor, and lifelong learner. He was also a valued member of the Lift Garage board. Outside of work, Michael enjoyed reading, film, cooking, hosting dinners for family and friends, decorating the house for holidays, visits to Montana, time at Madeline Island and the beach at San Clemente, long days at the Minnesota State Fair (multiple times each year!), and daily routines and leisurely weekends with Bruce and their cats. Diagnosed with cancer in Sept. 2015, Michael was grateful for the compassionate care he received from Dr. Stuart Bloom and his team at Minnesota Oncology. He kept a gratitude journal for years, up until the time he entered in-home hospice, the final two months of his life. Even as he wasted away physically, and the cancer and drugs took their toll on his mind, Michael continued finding joy in simple things, and expressed gratitude to his hospice team and others who cared for him. Bruce served as his primary caregiver, with support from good friends, especially Eileen Shore.
With many of those he was closest to present, Michael received a natural burial at Prairie Oaks Memorial Eco Gardens in Inver Grove Heights, MN, and gravesite service officiated by Marilaurice Hemlock and Anne Archbold of Final Blessings. In addition to his partner, Bruce Johansen (Minneapolis), Michael is survived by his loving family: mother, Barbara Culliton (Great Falls, MT); five siblings, Les, Broomfield, CO; Steve (Connie), Belgrade, MT; Colleen (Dan Barnhart), Doug (Lori Wills); Connie Jo (Scott) Lomas, all of Great Falls, MT; plus many nieces and nephews, aunts and uncles, cousins, cherished friends, and a godson, Luke Marita-Davis. He was preceded in death by his father, John Culliton. A service celebrating Michael’s life will be held, 11:00 a.m., Aug. 3, 2019, with visitation one hour prior, at Macalester College’s Weyerhaeuser Memorial Chapel, St. Paul, MN. Rev. Rod Richards, of Unitarian Universalists San Luis Obispo, will officiate. A light lunch and opportunity for more story-sharing will follow, 12:30 pm, in the Atrium of the Ruth Stricker Dayton Campus Center, adjacent to the Chapel. Donations may be made to one of the causes Michael most cared about: Fair Fight Action, American Refugee Committee, All My Relations Gallery, or The Lift Garage.