I’m sad to report that the man known around Haverhill as “Crazy Mike” has died. He was found in some bushes along the Main Street side of Pentucket Bank’s Merrimack Street branch Monday morning.
Police aren’t confirming his identity pending an investigation, but yesterday I touched base with his brother, who confirmed it was him.
I connected with his brother on Facebook a couple years ago, after I wrote some posts criticizing some fellow Haverhill residents for making fun of a mentally ill man. People called him Crazy Mike because as he wandered the streets, he was given to outbursts. But few truly understood or knew him beyond that. Some jerks created a Facebook page dedicated to making fun of the man, whose real name was Michael Nicoloro.
Fortunately, it was taken down after a wave of complaints.
There’s been a lot of debate and speculation regarding Mike’s mental state and how he got that way. Some say it was from his experiences while serving in Vietnam. Others claimed that he’s not a veteran and that he simply chose to live the way he did.
His relatives have confirmed that he was in Vietnam and that he came back with the scars of war. I’m more inclined to believe his relatives than some of the jerks who have written me to dispute the history.
Mike was mentally ill. Regardless of how he got that way, it was sad to see people make fun of him.
In fairness, I think the jerks were a minority. I’ve gotten an avalanche of comments from readers since I started writing about him, and the vast majority of them defended Mike. This one is a good example:
RIP Michael… Thank you for your military service to our country. It’s a shame you were so misunderstood. It’s a shame so many ignorant people know nothing of mental illness. Walk a mile in his shoes folks. Yes he frightened some people but he could not help himself. He was ill. I hope none of you who judge him so harshly ever have to know the confusion, fear & scorn he must have felt all these years. He joined the military a handsome intelligent sane young man & returned a different man. Mental illness is thought to be a biochemical imbalance that causes structural & electrical changes in the brain. Extreme stress can trigger it or contribute to its severity. Why is it so hard for people to empathize?
In announcing Mike’s death, his brother posted a photo on Facebook that should put questions about the man’s military service to rest. It shows a young, strong man in uniform with a look of determination.
I think it’s the best way to remember him.