The JCRC family lost a dear friend and colleague this week. Our longtime Chief Operating Officer, Mike Selsman, passed away last weekend surrounded by his family.
Mike would want you to know that for the past six years he lived and struggled with breast cancer, the disease that finally took him from this world. He was first diagnosed at Stage IV, a consequence of the lack of education for men who are at risk, and the lack of early testing that might have given him a different prognosis. He talked openly about his cancer and seized every opportunity to spread the word about male breast cancer; embracing the notion that through his experience he might make a difference in the lives of others. In 2012 he was proud to stand at Governor Patrick’s side when, thanks to his advocacy, Massachusetts named the 3rd week of October “Male Breast Cancer Awareness Week.”
The passion that Mike brought to his advocacy is one that he brought to all aspects of his life. This week, as we shared memories around the office, what came up over and over was how fully he embraced life, the profound empathy he felt for those who needed an ally, and the absolute joy that he took in his family.
He loved so many things deeply and he loved to share them with those around him; whether it was the very loud and hard-edged music he blasted in his office, or the peculiar food passions that he tried so hard to get us to join him in. He was a champion for others who needed one, whether it be an underdog sports team, a rescue dog or a young staff member in need of a mentor…it didn’t really matter, if the world wasn’t on your side, you could count on him to be there.
Mike believed in JCRC’s work, engaging as Jews beyond the Jewish community; and he practiced it. He served as a tutor for the past six years through our Greater Boston Jewish Coalition for Literacy. Even when his treatments impacted his energy, he wouldn’t let his reading buddies at the Condon Elementary School down.
This year, he was matched by the site-captain with a boy who, it was felt, would benefit from a “cool male figure” and the two reveled in their shared passion for hockey. He cared about advocacy, and in addition to his efforts connected to his cancer, you could always count on him to show up for a rally or hearing at the State House on our agenda.
But more than anything, Mike loved his family – his wife Kara and his two boys, Jacob and Adam. Nothing fired him up more than talking about those boys and everyone who worked with him became familiar with the joys of their life journeys. We’d hear about track meets, driving lessons, school projects – Mike treasured every moment with them. I will always have fond memories of our regular check-in on the last day that he was able to come into the office, when with only the slightest of prompting he spoke at length about Adam’s graduate school plans and Jacob’s college search. It was a treasure to experience the sheer joy on his face knowing that they had bright futures ahead and that he had done all he could for them in the time he had; Mike was deeply proud of having done so.
Mike’s memory is for a blessing and we hope that his family will find some comfort in the legacy he leaves with all who knew him, and especially with those two boys.
As mentioned, Mike hoped that by sharing his experience he could help save others. His family invites you to help continue that work for him. Please join me in making a donation to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, P.O. Box 849168, Boston, MA 02284 or online at www.dana-farber.org/gift. Please specify that the donation is for Mike Selsman. Any donations in his name will go directly to support Male Breast Cancer research and patient care.
Thank you and Shabbat Shalom,