Charles Michael Austin, known as Mike to all, died Monday, June 15 at his home in Katy, a few weeks short of his allotted threescore and ten. He was a 5th-generation Texan, born Aug. 20, 1950, in Orange to Charles and Margaret Austin, his father a direct descendant of Stephen F. Austin’s cousin, Norman Austin.
The Austins moved to Seadrift in 1959 and that little fishing village and San Antonio Bay became the land of Mike’s heart, the place he always wanted to come back to. He graduated from Calhoun High School in 1968 and then did the knock-around jobs that presented. His favorite was running a crew boat around the bay under the tutelage of an old sailor called Captain Boots. In his early twenties, Mike made a grand tour of the country working with his brother-in-law, Ron “Bubba” Taylor. They worked on a crew pulling down copper wire from telephone poles in Texas, Louisiana, and up the Illinois Central railroad line to Chicago. He accumulated an amazing collection of glass insulators, a barrel full, and some interesting scars falling off poles. In 1971 he moved to Austin, a golden place and moment to be young. Mike worked lights for blues shows at Antone’s and got to talk to some of the great bluesmen of the time. His love for live music presentations continued to the end. Economic exigency led to a move to Houston, but the Austin years lived always in his mind. A course in electronics was a pathway into the career he followed later when he worked as an electrical designer and modeler on engineering plans for chemical and industrial plant construction. He began with a drafting board and ended up using sophisticated design programs on computers.
With the years, he traveled, enjoying Broadway shows and scuba diving trips in the Gulf and to Cozumel. He also loved winter sports, particularly enjoying a bit of time spent working in Colorado when he lived in the mountains. Mike was always game for a trip – Puerto Rico, Alaska, Ruidoso in the winter, the Pacific Northwest – he wanted to experience it. Mike loved baseball, and the Astros, and coached for both of his boys’ teams as they grew up. Mike’s two sons were the light of his life and he was so proud of them.
In 2013 he married Adrienne Vavra on the bayfront in Seadrift. They kept up the adventurous life. Their last trip was to Las Vegas with a side trip to look at Hoover Dam for the engineering interest and Joshua Tree National Park for the natural beauty. Even bound to a wheelchair, Mike sucked life in by huge gulps and looked out with childlike glee at the possibilities before him, engaging with anyone who got close and seemed interesting. His cumulative bad health finally wore him down, but Mike could always find more joy in a moment than most could extract in a week. He was a storyteller, a funny, very bright guy with a kind heart and boundless curiosity who stayed engaged with life to the end. He is irreplaceable in our lives and will live forever in our hearts. We’ll not see another even close to his like again.
He was preceded in death by son, Jacob Austin.
Mike leaves his two sons, Stephen Austin, 24, and Zachary Austin, 22 of Katy; widow, Adrienne Vavra; younger siblings, Susan Taylor (Ron), of Seadrift, David Austin (Kathy), of Port Lavaca, and Bob Austin (Leslie), of Victoria; and a large extended family of nieces, nephews, and cousins.