Michael Ambrose

Today is another Sunday without a new Lum and Abner comic strip in our July and August biweekly publishing schedule. Look for a new Lum and Abner next Sunday.

Friends, on Wednesday, July 20, 2022, we lost Michael Ambrose, who passed away after a two-year battle with cancer. Mike and his wife Hendle have supported the Lum and Abner comic strip project since the beginning, and for several years they’ve provided character voices for our audio productions. I wish to share some fond memories of Mike as well as some photos with captions.

Mike’s wife, Hendle Rumbaut, told us, “Mike and I met in 1982, when we both worked at Austin Public Library’s downtown location, and we enjoyed 40 years together. He was a voracious reader. He had read all the books by Michael McGarrity and had hoped to live long enough to read the upcoming one. Mike loved his friends and family, which included his furry companion, Buddy. He was calm, kind, uncomplaining, and never raised his voice. Everyone loved and respected him. Heaven is now richer but we are the poorer.”

Should anyone wish to make a memorial donation to honor Mike, Hendle suggests Gideons International, which provides Bibles worldwide. I will repeat the link after the photos.

My wife Laura and I continue praying for Hendle and all the family as well as Mike’s many friends.

Much can be written about Mike’s life, but I’ll keep this tribute focused mostly on Mike’s comics involvement and my personal experiences to illustrate my appreciation for him. Speaking of comics, Mike’s brother Bill shared some fond memories, telling us of how he and Mike created their own comic books while growing up. Bill spent “endless afternoons sitting at a card table at our house in Hondo, New Mexico with Mike, snacking on saltine crackers and water while watching him making the drawings. I helped with the lettering, that was the sum of my meager contribution!” Their efforts yielded homemade books titled Nuclear Man, Koro Zeko, Captain Zon, Outer Space Stories, WWIII, and The Mysterians.

Bill informed us that Mike was “Editor and Publisher of Argonaut Magazine (formerly Macabre) (Argo Press, 1972 to 2022), and Charlton Spotlight,” and he “wrote several short stories for Macabre and Argonaut under the pseudonyms Edward Amber* and Duncan Moss; also provided artwork for a number of featured items in these magazines. Argonaut was published as 20 issues and featured short stories, poems, and critical reviews of science fiction and fantasy. Argonaut was praised for its consistently high level of production quality and variety of imaginative and innovative prose and poetry.”

*ABNER: HUH?
LUM: Did he say “Eddards Abner” up yonder?

Hendle explains, “Mike was Senior Editor of the State Bar’s publications department, Texas Bar Books. He supervised other editors and worked full time 27 years, until the end of June.”

As for your Lum and Abner cartoonist, my friendship with Mike began in 2006. Nicola “Nick” Cuti, award-winning author, editor, comics writer/artist, and filmmaker, informed me of the magazine Charlton Spotlight, and mentioned its editor, his friend Mike Ambrose. Since befriending Charlton’s editor and Popeye cartoonist George Wildman in 1971, I was very interested in learning more about that quirky company which produced such a variety of comics for so many decades. Mike and I hit it off in a flurry of e-mails (and there’s a reason we loved putting a hyphen in “e-mails” which I’ll explain in the photos) and I loved his Charlton magazine.

I contributed a few items to Charlton Spotlight and in 2009 I interviewed Popeye cartoonists George Wildman and Hy Eisman at the Popeye Picnic in Chester, Illinois during the Popeye Fan Club’s gathering. This became the basis of an article in Charlton Spotlight issue 7. Mike commissioned me to paint a portrait of George for the cover. This became my first freelance art job after I left the teaching/broadcasting profession in 2010. Additionally I interviewed Nick Cuti in 2012 for another issue of Spoltight and provided coloring for comic book stories illustrated by Tom Sutton, Nick Cuti, John Rose, and Joe Staton. Mike and I co-edited the book Tom Sutton’s Creepy Things for Yoe Books/IDW which was published in 2015.

Mike Ambrose made it possible for me to achieve goals I’d held for decades by offering me these jobs in comics work. Thanks to Mike, I was finally able to collaborate with my mentor and friend George Wildman by providing scripts, hand lettering, coloring, and inking. Few people get to work with a hero, but Mike made this a reality, and I am deeply thankful.

In 2013, my wife Laura and I met Mike and Hendle in person for the first time in Salado, Texas for a meal at the historic Stagecoach Inn, and from there we drove to our hotel in Belton where the ladies chatted while Mike and I had a preproduction meeting concerning the Sutton book.

For the past several years, Hendle and Mike have generously provided vocal talent to contribute to our audio productions of the Lum and Abner comic strip. Hendle has portrayed Evalena Schulz, Sister Simpson, Flossie Flamingo, Gussie Gray, and others, while Mike has played Uncle Henry Lunsford, Mose Moots, Luke Spears, Lawyer Philbert P. Grunge, and additional characters.

Mike was asked to edit a book for TwoMorrows Publishing and asked me to work with him on it. Sadly, he decided he couldn’t handle it. Thankfully, Jon Cooke took the project over. Later this year, Charlton Companion will be released with Mike’s name in the credits. Read about the book here.

In every dealing I’ve had with Mike Ambrose, he was polite, professional, and fun.

There was only one area of disagreement between Mike and me. He did not believe in the power of prayer. Being a Christian, I offered to discuss my faith in Jesus Christ with him, but Mike, ever polite, quietly declined. That is, until 2022.

When Mike informed me by text that his doctor had predicted he had a short time to live, he stated, “But don’t worry about me. I’ve had a good life, a good marriage and family, made some good friends like you who are like family to me, accomplished a few good things. I’ve reached out to Jesus for help in meeting the end. But more importantly for help for Hendle.” As the days passed, Mike spoke more and more of his newfound faith and his continued talks with Jesus. This was answered prayer for Hendle and Mike’s family.

We were in church (First United Methodist Church of Carthage, Texas) Sunday, July 17 when Pastor Kevin Otto included Mike in his pastoral prayer. I was able to record the prayer from my cell phone (the service is streamed and archived on Facebook) and sent it to Mike and Hendle shortly after we arrived home. I received this final message from Mike: “Thank you and your pastor and prayers and please tell them we return those prayers. Please tell them that I accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior.”

All I can say after that is AMEN!

Donnie Pitchford
Carthage, Texas
July 31, 2022

Bill Ambrose (left) and brother Mike in England, 1959.
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Hendle and Mike, 1980s.
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The smiles tell the story!
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Charles, Mike and Hendle’s grandson, “drives” Mikes pickup (2004)!
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Mike met with Nicola “Nick” Cuti in Florida in 2010 and 2013.
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Mike and I always put a hyphen in “e-mail” as a tribute to Nick Cuti and Joe Staton’s comic book character E-Man. “E-MAIL” was the title of the letter column in the Charlton E-Man comic book in the 1970s!
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Mike’s photo of Hendle in Salado, Texas, November 2013, when Laura and I met them for a meal. No, we didn’t drink at the saloon!
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The rest of the Salado and Belton photos were taken by Hendle. Here, Mike chats with Laura and me as we wait on our lunch.
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Mike and I clown for Hendle’s camera. Laura pretended she didn’t know us.
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Mike and I study pages of original art in a preproduction meeting for the book Tom Sutton’s Creepy Things at a Belton, Texas hotel.
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Mike shows Hendle the original art from a Popeye Sunday newspaper strip by
Hy Eisman. Hendle told me a few days ago, “Mike and Popeye have something in common. Both were ‘strong to the finish.'”

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Have Donnie’s art, will travel!
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This is the wacky video we produced to promote our book Tom Sutton’s Creepy Things in 2015. Nick Cuti and George Wildman discuss Sutton!
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The over-the-top video for Charlton Spotlight #9. You’ll see contributors George Wildman, Nick Cuti, and John Rose.
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Mike and Hendle enjoy a meal. Thanks to Hendle Rumbaut for these photos.
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Mike and Buddy at home in Austin.
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Mike’s family, 2022: Jimmie Willingham (son-in-law), Bill Ambrose (brother), Sasha Willingham (stepdaughter), Mike Ambrose, Hendle Rumbaut (wife), Ruth Ambrose Wood (mother), Becky Ambrose (sister), and Anthony Gonzales (nephew).
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Mike’s stepdaughter Sasha Willingham and her husband Jimmie Willingham.
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Jimmie, Mike, Charles, and Sasha during Mike’s recent hospital stay.
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Hendle with grandson Charles.
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Mike with grandson Charles.
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As a memorial to Mike Ambrose, Hendle asks that you consider donating to the Gideons International. Please click the banner above.

Published by lumandabner

Lum and Abner cartoonist

4 thoughts on “Michael Ambrose

  1. I met Mike through purchasing copies of Charlton Spotlight and although my dealings with him were only through e-mail and letters, I found him a thoughtful and kind man. So sorry to hear of his passing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Gary! Wow! Have you and I discussed this before? For anyone reading who doesn’t know. Gary used to draw “The Golden Era” in “The Jot Em Down Journal” published by the National Cartoonists Society! Thank you for commenting, Gary!

      Like

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