Michael Leo Kern was born September 2, 1921, in Ste. Genevieve, Missouri to Francis and Anna Margaret Kern. Sonny, as he was called by his family, was their 1st born. 9 years later his mother passed away, leaving 4 small children. His father remarried and the family grew by 4 more girls, taking the count to 8 siblings.
Mike grew up on a Dairy farm a few miles out of town. Along with his Dad, he would milk the cows in the early dawn hours. When the milking was done, he then delivered it all on his way to school. Sonny spent long days in the corn fields, from planting to harvest time, behind mules and horses. In 1939 he graduated from Ste Genevieve High School and joined the Army on October 26, 1939.
While serving in the Army during WWII, Mike was stationed up and down the west coast. While in Portland, he met a beautiful young lady, June Dunn, from North East Montana working in the ship yards. They quickly fell in love and were married July 9, 1943.
In 1944, Mike’s unit, the 96th Infantry Division was ordered to the Pacific theater but Mike was given orders to remain in the US as a troop instructor. He wanted to stay with the men he had trained with so he refused the order, was demoted in rank and sent off to war. In fierce fighting the 96th defeated the enemy on the island of Leyte in the Philippines and then on Okinawa. As a result of his actions, Mike received a number of awards and commendations including two individual Bronze Stars, Combat Infantryman Badge, Philippine Liberation Ribbon with two Bronze Stars, and Kyukyus Campaign Ribbon.
While Mike was overseas, June moved back to her parents’ farm near Whitetail, Mt and gave birth to their first child, Mike Jr. After the war, Mike and June lived in Scobey where their second child, Nancy, was born. Mike dug basements by hand under existing homes, worked on the dray line and was a school janitor. In 1950, they moved to Frazer where the family lived as dormitory parents and school bus driver. They enjoyed lifelong friendships with the students they were “parents” to and mentors. Years later, stories of those times would be shared sitting in Mike’s furniture store when the former students, now much older adults, would come by.
In 1952, they moved to ND. Mike worked in the oil field now called the Bakken, helped build Garrison Dam and later cored for uranium in Wyoming. In1954, they moved to Wolf Point, arriving with 35 cents in their pocket. Mike worked in the service department for the Buick dealership and later the GM dealership.
When Mike, Jr. was 13 and Nancy 11, Mike and June got a big surprise! They were expecting, and Patti joined the family.
Mike became a letter carrier with the Post Office in 1961, a job he loved for the next 21 years, retiring on September 18, 1981. He was quite honored to deliver more than one letter from the President of the United States to one of his patrons on his route. His mail route brought him by his own house, so Mike was always able to eat lunch at home with his wife June and take a 10-15 minute nap on the floor before continuing on with his route.
Mike was a founding member of the Wolf Point Federal Credit Union and served on their Board of Directors for many years. He always had a positive can-do attitude and served the community of Wolf Point well, being involved in many community events, usually behind the scenes, never in the lime light. Mike loved to do surprises for his family and others, preferring to go without any recognition.
Mike started Kern Furniture in Wolf Point in 1963, first selling used merchandise and furniture he bought at auctions, then he taught himself to reupholster some pieces before selling them. He took on upholstering jobs and was very proud of the horse drawn sleigh he was commissioned to redo. Mike covered many truck seats for area truckers. During this time he also self-taught himself to be an auctioneer and started a weekly consignment auction sale. His auctioneering time was short lived but he was able to do the “auction yodel” way into his 90’s…
Eventually his used furniture store revolved into only New Furniture and went from being open from 3pm to 6pm Monday-Saturday to more regular business hours. One of his greatest joys was when he bought a semi and furniture van. He could now drive directly to the furniture factories to purchase his store inventory. He later opened a second furniture store in Glasgow. When he closed the Glasgow store, daughter Nancy bought the building.
Mike started the Free Trader shopper paper, adding press man to the long list of acquired talents. About a year later, he sold the paper to daughter Patti. The paper is in its 28th year of publication.
Mike acquired several rental houses in Wolf Point, making lifelong friends with many of his renters who were long term. He was always designing, building and tinkering on something. Mike built 3 homes, an all-wood camper trailer that resembled a shoe box with the top-half being raised by a pulley system, a motor home from the chassis up and a custom diamond plated sleeper behind the cab of a semi-truck he hauled furniture in.
Christmas was a special time for Mike to make little ones smile. For years he dressed as Santa Claus, had June drive him around town so he could deliver sacks of candy, nuts and fruit to different families. Many of those families never knew who their “Mystery” Santa was until they were adults as June parked down the street in the pickup and Mike would run and hop in the back and tell her to GO! When the grandchildren came along, he was able to play Santa for them.
Mike and June enjoyed 25 + years of retirement traveling in a motor home or 5th wheel trailer in all but 2 or 3 states, most of the Canadian provinces and Mexico. They took their motor home on a train trip through Mexico, seeing Mexico’s Grand Canyon and visiting many villages. They drove to Alaska twice, spending most of one summer there. Most of the time, they traveled solo but on occasion they would travel with friends or relatives. Mike often volunteered to do construction and maintenance work on churches along the way.
June passed away in July of 2014, right after they celebrated their 71st wedding anniversary. Mike went home to be with the Lord Wednesday, October 21, 2015. He leaves behind his son Mike Jr. and wife Grace of Michigan, daughter Patti and husband Duane Parcel of Wolf Point and son-in-law Don Turner, Glasgow. His daughter Nancy preceded him in death in 2013. Mike had 8 grandchildren: Ginger, Michael III, Kim, Kevin, Kari, Kris, Josh and Matthew and 13 great-grandchildren.