Lt. Col. Paul Mikeal, the son of an Air Force veteran who followed his father’s footsteps into the military, was remembered as a devoted family man and aviator.
The Mooresville man, a native of Clinton, Tenn., was one of four guardsmen killed Sunday when their Charlotte-based C-130 crashed while fighting a wildfire in South Dakota.
“He was dedicated to the military,” said Mikeal’s mother-in-law, Gracie Partridge. She was staying with her daughter, Marlo Mikeal, a real estate agent in Mooresville. Paul Mikeal also leaves behind two children – a daughter, 15, and a son, 12.
Mikeal, 42, a career pilot, joined the Air Force as a commissioned officer in 1991 after graduating from UNC Charlotte. He served overseas numerous times, including in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mikeal was one of the C-130’s two pilots, with Maj. Joe McCormick.
“His life was mainly his family,” Partridge told the Observer. She said he loved going to Lake Norman with family, boating, and fishing. An annual trip to Myrtle Beach was a family tradition. He also enjoyed kayaking across Lake Norman with his son, an activity they did together on Friday before he left to fight the fires.
Partridge said Mikeal met his wife at UNC Charlotte, where both were students preparing to enter the military. She entered the Air Force a year after he did. The couple was preparing to celebrate their 20th anniversary and Mikeal’s 43rd birthday next week.
“He was devoted all the way around, to his wife, children and the military,” said Partridge.
Mikeal’s childhood friend, Kelly Williams, of Alcoa, Tenn., said Mikeal “died doing what he loved to do – he was flying and serving his country.”