Celebrating the life of Mike Vargo
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Mike Vargo, 73, of Harrisburg, IL passed away peacefully in his sleep on Sunday night, July 9, 2023 at his residence.
Mike was born on May 8th, 1950 in Harrisburg, IL to Bob Vargo and Doris (Mullinix) Vargo. On September 25th, 1971 Mike married Robbie (Simpson) Vargo, and they were happily married for 51 years. Mike and Robbie were inseparable and their love for each other was unmistakable.
Mike graduated from Harrisburg High School with the class of 1968. He then received three degrees: an associate’s degree from Southeastern Illinois College in 1970, a bachelor's degree from McKendree College in 1972, and a master’s degree from Eastern Illinois University in 1997.
Mike’s career was in teaching, first at Ridgway Junior High in 1972 where he would teach Physical Education and Language Arts. He would also coach baseball and basketball, most notably as a scout and member of the coaching staff for the Ridgway Eagles basketball team that won the 1973 Illinois Class A State Championship. Mike taught at Ridgway until 1990 when the school was consolidated into Gallatin County Unit #7 in Junction. He worked there as a teacher, athletic director, and eventually as the principal of the high school, a position he held until his retirement in 2005. Mike’s years of teaching and coaching were some of the best years of his life, and Mike’s positive influence and care for his students was beyond evident. He truly loved the students he taught and the athletes he coached.
Mike grew up attending McKinley Avenue Baptist Church where he accepted Christ in his younger years, and in the past twelve years he attended First United Methodist Church. He loved his church family, and he had a strong faith in the Lord and would read scriptures often. He always had trust in the Lord to guide himself and his family throughout his path in life.
Mike was a well-renowned athlete, first developing a love for baseball with his father Bob Vargo and friends in the Khoury League. He had a storied career at Harrisburg High School, where he was remembered as one of the most talented pitchers in school history. He also played basketball in high school and was able to continue his basketball career at Southeastern Illinois College, where his excellence in play was rewarded with an induction into the Southeastern Illinois College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2005. His most successful athletic achievements took place at McKendree College, where Mike earned letters in both basketball and baseball. It was in basketball that Mike shined brightest: In just two years at McKendree, Mike was a two-time NAIA All-American and would be the school’s all-time scoring leader for over two decades. He was a member of the 1000 Point Club and he broke the record for most points scored in a single season with 703 points (including a 40 point game, before the three-point line.) After graduation, Mike continued to stay active through many activities in his personal time, such as running and cycling. Despite all his athletic achievements, those that knew Mike knew him as an incredibly humble person who never bragged. Mike spoke highly of his teammates and coaches, and had said that he wouldn’t have been able to have the career that he did without them and the support of his friends and family.
Outside of sports, Mike had many dear hobbies in his life. Mike was an avid reader and writer, always reading before bed and gifting books to others. Mike loved watching films, especially comedies, and could describe scenes and quotes as if the films themselves were playing in his head. Mike also loved being outdoors, often taking care of his lawn or even on the water bass and fly-fishing. But Mike’s greatest love in his free time was music. Like his mother Doris and brother Mark, Mike loved to play music. He especially loved the blues, and he could play a harmonica with the best of them. He was proud to play harmonica and bass guitar for the Better Days band and genuinely loved playing with other local musicians, with Mike often sitting in for many live performances with friends. For many years, he could be found in his music room in the basement of his home in Harrisburg playing harmonica or picking the guitar. He loved to bring others here, often jamming with his close musician friends and even bringing close family members here to share his love of music. So many that are close to him can say that he inspired their love for music, and many cannot hear a harmonica without thinking of Mike Vargo.
Mike’s real mark on the world was through his personality. Not only was he kind and exceedingly humble, he was genuinely one of the funniest people one could know. Mike had such a sense for humor and making others laugh, always saying the right joke at the right time. He loved pranks and getting those around him to laugh and find joy in life, and it was through his humor that his care for others was so clearly expressed. Mike never joked for attention, he genuinely loved to see those around him smile and laugh. He was a superb storyteller and could entertain friends and family for hours. He was a fantastic listener, always excited to hear others share their lives with him. Standing at 6’6”, just about everyone looked up to Mike. He was someone that was bigger than life and a true role model to his sons and so many others that looked up to him. He was a hero to his family and was their rock in life, and to his sons he was their best friend. He loved his granddaughter Addie and the moments he shared with her. He was so proud of her and was thankful for the wisdom and demeanor he imparted to her. He will be dearly missed by all of those that knew him. Despite his passing, he lives on through the influence he had on his family, closest friends, students, neighbors, and anyone who had the pleasure of knowing him no matter how long. Although he was taken too soon, all are blessed for the time they shared with him and all look forward to seeing him again someday.
Mike is survived by his loving wife and closest friend, Robbie; sons Eric Vargo of Henderson, KY, and Adam Vargo of Harrisburg; granddaughter Addison Mae Vargo of Harrisburg; brother Marc Vargo and partner Michael Walker of Hammond, LA; cousins David and Janet Smith, Tim and Kate Smith, Gloria Willoughby, and Leslie Mullinix and their families; mother-in-law Opal Simpson; brothers and sisters-in-law Kim Henshaw, Gary and Val Simpson, Jeff Simpson, Gary and Debbie Stevens, and Greg and Patti Simpson; nieces and nephews Chris Hyers, Garrick Simpson, Rachel Pauls, Ryan Gullett, Allie Stevens, Preston Simpson, Nathan Simpson, Landon Simpson, and their respective families. Lastly, he leaves behind his beloved and constant Maltese companions Maisie and Lola and grand-Maltese Katie.
Mike was preceded in death by his parents, Bob and Doris Vargo; maternal grandparents, Leslie and Pearl Mullinix; paternal grandparents, Paul and Eva Vargo; aunt Judy Smith; uncle Jack Mullinix; father-in-law Bob Simpson; brother-in-law J.B. Henshaw; nephew Blake Stevens; and niece Natalie Simpson.
Services will be held at the First United Methodist Church in Harrisburg, IL on Saturday, July 15 2023. Visitation will be from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and funeral services will be at 1 p.m. with Rev. Lynette Barnett officiating. As per Mike’s wishes, he will be cremated and there will be a private burial at a later date. Memorial contributions may be made to St. Francis CARE No Kill Shelter in Murphysboro, IL and First United Methodist Church, envelopes will be available at the church.
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West Poplar St.
Harrisburg, IL 62946
West Poplar St.
Harrisburg, IL 62946