Local Obituaries

July 16, 2014

Obituary: Michael Edward Staley, 59, was state disaster preparation expert

Mr. Staley, who died July 1, led efforts to organize and prepare local volunteers to respond to emergencies. He was a volunteer firefighter and served as treasurer of the Florin Japanese American Citizens League.

Michael Edward Staley, a state emergency management official who led efforts to organize and prepare local volunteers to respond to disasters, died July 1 of cancer, his wife said. He was 59.

Visiting foreign lands in the Navy and living in multicultural California inspired Mr. Staley to reach out and help form connections among people. He retired in May as an administrator at CaliforniaVolunteers, a state office that manages programs and initiatives to increase the ranks of community volunteers.

For the last seven years, he worked with local agencies to develop programs for managing people who spontaneously turn out to help others during emergencies. He spearheaded creation of the California Disaster Corps, a cadre of about 1,000 trained and credentialed volunteers who support local fire, law enforcement and other public safety agencies in disasters.

Genial and engaging, he connected easily with people at community presentations about volunteer programs and preparing for disasters. He previously spent 12 years as an expert on hazard mitigation for the state Office of Emergency Services.

“Mike was a wonderful storyteller,” said Sharron Leaon of CaliforniaVolunteers. “He could take dry planning stuff and talk about lessons learned from disasters in a way that really conveyed what we were doing in terms of training and working with volunteers. He was the guy you really wanted to get up to the podium.”

A Midwestern native, Mr. Staley opened himself to diverse people as a community volunteer and family man. He joined the Florin Japanese American Citizens League, served as treasurer and traveled with local Japanese Americans on annual pilgrimages to World War II internment camps. He was a volunteer firefighter for the former Florin Fire District and a lay reader at St. Anselm of Canterbury Anglican Church in Elk Grove.

With his wife, Debby, he adopted and raised a son and daughter born in South Korea and belonged to Friends of Korea, a group dedicated to keeping Korean heritage alive. Besides coaching their soccer, baseball and softball teams, he supported his young children’s participation in Korean dancing and drumming classes.

He traveled with his wife and children to meet their former foster families in South Korea. In addition to birthdays, the Staleys celebrated their son’s and daughter’s “plane” days – commemorating when they arrived in the United States.

“He was very interested in different cultures,” said his wife, who is Chinese American. “I speak some Cantonese, but my Spanish is better because I grew up with kids who spoke Spanish. ... At Thanksgiving and Christmas, we’d have the traditional turkey, but we’d also have sushi, enchiladas and food from lots of other different cultures.”

Born May 5, 1955, in Greenfield, Ind., Mr. Staley grew up in Canoga Park near Los Angeles. He sailed aboard ships in the South China Sea in the Navy from 1974 to 1976 and earned an economics degree from UC Davis in 1980. He worked in the private sector before joining the state OES.

In addition to his wife of 29 years, he is survived by a son, Ben; a daughter, Kimmee; a brother, John; and a sister, Maggie Kelleher.

A celebration of life is set for 10 a.m. Saturday at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, 8701 Elk Grove-Florin Road, in Elk Grove. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to St. Anselm of Canterbury Anglican Church, http://stanselmanglican.org, or any charity.

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