Michael Lee Vinkavich, LCDR US Navy (Ret.)
May 17, 1959 – March 27, 2018
Navy LCDR (ret.) Michael Lee Vinkavich of Papillion passed away at home on Tuesday evening, March 27th, after a courageous, 7-year battle with ALS. “Vink” was a loving son, brother, husband, father, grandfather, uncle, and friend to all.
Born on May 17, 1959, in Waukegan, Ill., he was the son of Marilyn and Reynold Raus. At a young age, Mike and his family moved to Woodbine, IA. He worked on the family farm and graduated from high school in 1977.
He enlisted in the Navy and attended boot camp at Great Lakes, Ill. He then studied at Nuclear Propulsion School in Orlando, FL, and Idaho Falls, ID.
Upon graduation from NPS, he served aboard the USS Long Beach. After an honorable discharge, he attended Wayne State College, where he played defensive end for the Wildcats. After his sophomore year, he was awarded an NROTC scholarship and transferred to UNL, where he graduated in 1988 with a math degree.
Mike commissioned as a Surface Warfare Officer and served at San Diego and Long Beach, CA; Norfolk, VA.; and Newport, RI. As a Department Head, he served as Combat Systems Officer aboard the USS David R. Ray in Everett, WA, and the USS Lake Erie in Pearl Harbor, HI.
He proudly served his country during the Persian Gulf War.
Vink was a talented athlete, chosen to play on competitive rugby teams throughout his Naval career. He was named to the All Navy team and traveled the world. As a player, referee and coach, rugby was essential to his life for more than 30 years.
Mike retired from the Navy in 2003, after serving for 22 years, and worked as a Senior Warfare Analyst for Northrop Grumman Corp. He was named Senior Naval Science Instructor at Papillion-La Vista in 2004, growing the fledgling unit over the next 11 years.
Mike touched the lives of many NJROTC cadets, who enjoyed razzing him for his quick wit, dry sense of humor and sarcasm – which often lightened the mood during many long hours of drill practice or community service projects. He retired in 2015 as his health declined.
Vink’s knowledge of military history and current events became evident during his retirement, as his family suggested he apply for “Jeopardy!” He maintained a happy-go-lucky outlook on life, despite his ALS.
“Commander” was loyal to his friends and made everyone feel valued. He was a good listener and generous with his time. He was known for dropping everything to lend a helping hand.
Vink will be remembered for his undying devotion to the Huskers, Packers, Cubs and KU hoops. He and Laure enjoyed cheering together for their alma mater – GBR!
Mike is survived by his wife, Laure Drummy; sons, Alex (Jessica) Vinkavich and Ben Vinkavich; daughters, Caitlin Drummy (fiancé, Nathan Feldmann) and Emily Drummy; granddaughter, Alexis Vinkavich; sister, Linda Simpson; brother, LaRoy Vinkavich; mother-in-law, Ann Perlinger; sisters-in-law, Mickie (Dennis) Campbell, Jerri (Loren) Koenig, and Ellen (Dan) Dosen; brother-in-law, Mark Perlinger; aunts, nieces, nephews, cousins, students, friends and his beloved rescue dog, Charlie. He was preceded in death by his parents.
Special thanks to our devoted neighbors, George and Peg Lippert, and to Jenny and Jeff Nichols, who organized the “Mike’s Mates” support group. The family is grateful to all who supported us during Mike’s illness.
VISITATION: Tuesday, April 3rd, from 1pm to 8pm at the West Center Chapel, with family receiving friends from 4pm to 7pm, and a Celebration of Life at 7pm. FUNERAL MASS: Wednesday, April 4th at 10:30am at St. Columbkille Catholic Church, 200 E. Sixth St., Papillion, with military honors. A luncheon will follow in the church social hall. Memorials are suggested to the ALS Association, Mid-America Chapter, 900 S. 74th Plaza, Suite 106, Omaha, NE 65721; or to Papillion-La Vista Community Schools NJROTC.
As Mike wished, he will be buried at sea.