Services Sunday at Dove Pointe for Mike Pretl

The last post on Mike Pretl’s Facebook page was on Dec. 21, complimenting an Alliance For Justice article.

“Good analysis of a serious confirmation issue looming in early 2019,” he commented.

Four days later, on Christmas Day, Pretl, a lawyer known for his generosity in helping others, died of a heart attack, shocking a community that came to deeply appreciate him during his 15 years as a Lower Shore resident.

A Celebration of Life service will be on Sunday at 2 p.m. at Dove Pointe.

“My strong, brilliant, sometimes exhausting, but always amazing, father passed away on Christmas after a massive heart attack a couple of days earlier,” his daughter, Julia S. Pretl posted on Dec. 27, with a photo of a younger Pretl, in sunglasses and a blue button-down shirt, holding his little girl and talking to her about the treasure in her hands, possibly an acorn.

“He walked into the hospital on his own two feet which, if you knew my dad, will not come as a surprise … I keep saying that I could live ten lifetimes and never come close to accomplishing what he did in one, and that will be his legacy.

“He lived to help others … to me, though, he was just my dad. Tall in stature as well as personality, it was always a comfort when I was small that he was so easy to find in a crowd. As a father to only girls, he never made us feel like he would have been happier with boys.

“In actuality, I think the opposite was true.

“He loved his girls and was equally good for a lively debate or a hug with those long arms and always a shoulder squeeze from the big, bony hands that he and I share,” she wrote.

About 150 people responded, calling the elder Pretl “wonderful,” “helpful and supportive” “an incredible role model.”

Salisbury Mayor Jake Day remembered Pretl as a friend.

“(He was) a mentor on all matters environmental and an incomparably generous man.”

“He and his wife Michele have been model community-minded citizens for as long as they have been here, and I am certain that she is missing her partner, and our community will miss him tremendously, as well,” Day said.

Mike Dunn, CEO of the Greater Salisbury Committee, characterized Pretl as man who “stood out, literally and figuratively.”

“When you were in conversation with Mike, you needed to bring all of your brain with you. Because his brain was that sharp. He was an unabashedly passionate old school liberal. A rare thing in today’s world.

“He was taller than most, smarter than most, with a voice that was unforgettable,” Dunn said.

Don Rush, news director of Public Radio Delmarva on the Salisbury University campus, was surprised by Pretl’s sudden death, especially since he saw him at a Christmas party about a week before he died.

“He looked fine. He was his usual bouncy self,” said Rush, who explained Pretl was a pundit on the Democrat side for the political edition of the program Delmarva Today.

“He was well informed and articulate. He gave it as good as he got it, but it was always very civil and very upbeat, even when people disagreed. I think Mike enjoyed the sparring.

“He was always very generous. He always helped if I called him about anything. He was someone the community is going to miss,” Rush said.

Rush credited Pretl for being a strong supporter of public radio and speaking in support of saving WSCL and WSDL during meetings about funding.

“Mike Pretl was the consummate Democrat in Wicomico County,” said Gains Hawkins, Democratic Club President. “He served in leadership roles as President of the Wicomico Democratic Club and the club’s board of directors.

“He never stopped working for the Democratic Party and Democratic candidates, Hawkins said. “Strategizing and writing position papers were his strengths, but he was always there for the mundane grassroots activities of organizing rallies and putting up signs.”

Hawkins added: “Mike was not a “yellow dog Democrat.” When he believed the better candidate was an independent or affiliated with another party that’s where his support went. For Mike, good government was the real goal.”

“You were a very good human. You will be hugely missed. You’ve left huge footprints. We pray they will be filled. May your rest be peaceful and your memory always be a blessing,” a friend, Dana Petersen Moore, penned on Pretl’s Facebook page.

“Mike Pretl was as close to an angel as I will ever know,” Susan Dobbs O’Brien wrote.

“More than 14 years ago, someone recommended I call him to get his help in starting a nonprofit, Maryland Families for Stem Cell Research. Without asking for one dime, he helped me file the papers to create a nonprofit organization and then helped me figure out how to create a board and start fundraising,” she wrote.

A graduate of St. Charles Seminary in Catonsville, Catholic University and Georgetown Law School, where he earned his juris doctor degree, Pretl was a partner at Smith, Somerville and Case law firm for many years before starting his own firm to fight for women rendered infertile by the Dalkon Shield intrauterine device.

He became general counsel to the American Urological Association, where he remained 17 years, according to his obituary.

During his years of practicing law, he was active in the community. His involvements included serving as president of the Northeast Community Organization and Baltimore Neighborhoods, Inc.

He was a longtime board member of the Community Law Center and was proud to be a member of Marylanders Against Handgun Abuse.

After coming to the Shore, he helped local groups achieve nonprofit status and received nonprofit designations for more than 100 organizations.

“Mike was a tireless reader and read widely in history and politics. Although he was politically a progressive, he admired William F., Buckley and the National Review,” his obituary states.

Contributions in his name can be sent to the Nanticoke Watershed Alliance, Inc. or Wicomico Environmental Trust. He donated his body to research.

He is survived by his wife, four daughters, six grandchildren, two brothers and a sister.

“He was a hero to many, including me,” another daughter, Kathy Pretl, said about him.

“And I loved him very much.”

 

Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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