Mike's Journey

Mike's Journey
Retirement Living

Meet Mike Stanko, a vibrant retirement living resident from SwanCare Australind Rise.

16th January 2024

"When it’s time to work, you work. When it’s time to play, you play. When it’s time to pray, you pray.” 

These are the words of Mike Stanko, one of our SwanCare Australind Rise residents. It certainly encapsulates Mike - he lives life to the fullest and refuses to let a single day slip by without appreciating every moment. 

Growing Up During WW2 

Mike, 88, is originally from Detroit in the USA. He was the youngest of seven children, all of whom grew up during the war. 

“Life will never be the same as it was back then,” said Mike, “everyone had to pull their belts in. My parents were strict, you ate everything on your plate because the war was on.” 

Mike attended a Catholic school but admits he wasn’t very fond of it. 

“School and I did not get on!” said Mike, “But that’s okay, not everyone has to have a college education – Richard Branson and Mark Zuckerberg were high school dropouts and they did alright!” 

It certainly didn’t stop Mike, going on to have a very successful career in sales and marketing. 

Early Experiences 

“I had a few jobs early on, shining shoes in a barber’s shop and working at a greengrocer. The greengrocer gave me all the leftover food they couldn’t sell, which was good, because food was at a premium due to the war. I also worked as a travel agent, then ended up in sales and marketing.” 

Mike joined the military, a workforce his whole family had once been a part of and served during the Korean war. 

“I was training in the first armoured division in Fort Hood Texas, which is a huge military base. Everyone was getting ready for the war to continue, but it came to a screeching halt.” 

It was then that Mike felt the need for a new challenge. That challenge was moving to Australia, where he has now lived for 50 years. 

“My folks didn’t understand me - why I chose to move here,” Mike explains, “I just picked a country and never looked back.” 

Mike & Denise 

He met his wife, Denise, on a ferry boat in Sydney. They fell in love and married 47 years ago, “Denise is my rock, we’ll be together all the way.” 

Travel is a mutual passion for the pair, leading them to profound experiences around the globe. 

“For 30 years, we just kept travelling. We would work somewhere for a bit, save all our money, then quit our jobs and travel. From Africa to England, and all of Europe.” 

“We went to Morocco a few years ago, it’s a beautiful country. We rode a camel, sleeping overnight in tents - it was good fun. Another exciting trip was our journey Coast to Coast, a rugged path put together by Aflred Wainwright. It took us across England, starting at St. Bees and walking for 20 days to end at Robin Hood’s Bay.” 

With a lifetime of travel, his bucket list is very short, leaving just the Middle East, India and South America as the only places he has not yet visited! 

The American Dream 

After Mike and Denise got married, they lived in a little town in Colorado called Evergreen, where they were surrounded by mountains and thoroughly enjoyed skiing. 

“It’s a good day out. It’s peaceful, but hard work - your legs tell you that. The scenery is beautiful, but if you don’t concentrate coming down, you’ll fall over from looking at it!” Mike laughed. 

While living in the States, they had a few famous neighbours, including Farrah Fawcett and Willy Nelson, who Mike calls “a great guy.” 

“Willy lived a pretty fast life back then as you can imagine. You’d often see him having a drink at the Little Bear Saloon, and he would always help in the community. We didn’t know him personally, but we would take a cake up to his gatehouse where there would be a gate keeper. He would also take albums to Willy and bring them back autographed, which we gave away as Christmas presents!” 

SwanCare Living 

Mike retired permanently when he was in his late 50s and now lives happily with Denise at SwanCare Australind Rise. 

“We’ve been here 2 years now. It’s lovely community living, everyone looks after everybody. We have fun and enjoy ourselves, but no one is living in each other's pockets.” 

After our chat with Mike, it’s clear his vibrant energy and positive mentality are qualities everyone could adopt. 

“I'm a pretty average guy. I enjoy life, I give it hell all day long and do as much as I can every day! Just keep cruising. Appreciate life, and don’t take it for granted.” 

Thank you for sharing your story with us, Mike. You are a valued member our SwanCare community. 


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