Even after Mike Shaw retired from teaching and his former students entered middle age, they continued to call him Mr. Shaw, just as they did at Jordan High School. With that same warmth and respect, citizens of Jordan reflected this week on his time as mayor — and his family and friends talked about the man who they said had a knack for making them feel valued and understood.
“To know my dad was to love him,” his son, Patrick Shaw, said. “He talked to everyone like they were the most important person.”
Shaw, Jordan’s mayor since 2012 and a longtime City Council member before that, died Jan. 16 after battling cancer. He was 72.
He lived many lives before settling in Jordan. He was a jack-of-all-trades who worked as a chef, a tax-return preparer and a real estate agent.
That winding path began on his family dairy farm in Henning, Minn., where he was the second of seven children and helped his parents out on the farm. After attending a one-room country school through the sixth grade, Shaw graduated from Henning High School, then Bemidji State University with a teaching degree. To pay for school, Shaw got a job as a chef at the Ranch House Supper Club in Fergus Falls. That’s where he met his wife, Lori, through her sister, who worked at the restaurant.
The pair married in 1966, and they raised their two children, Patrick and Wendy, in Jordan.
Shaw began teaching business classes at Jordan High School, including business law and accounting. Shaw taught for 35 years and also coached wrestling, track and baseball. Patrick Shaw said his dad acted as a father figure for students at the school.
During the summer, Shaw would head to the cabin he built on East Battle Lake with his family. As a teacher, his children had their dad to themselves in the summer.
“What I loved about my dad was he was always his authentic self,” his daughter, Wendy Wolf, said. “People always say your actions speak louder than words, but he embodied that.”
After Shaw retired from teaching at Jordan in 2000, he became an adjunct professor at Minnesota State University, Mankato, where he supervised student teachers for about eight years.
Shaw stepped onto the City Council in 1972. He spent 25 years with the council in two separate tenures. Four of the council members had Shaw as a teacher at Jordan High School.
His election as mayor followed a tumultuous time in Jordan, marked by infighting among the city’s leaders.
“He ran because he wanted the city to grow and move in the right direction,” his son said.
City Administrator Tom Nikunen said, “He really showed a lot of leadership at a time when we had real political strife in Jordan.”
In his off time, Shaw helped people file their income taxes. He also helped friends sell their houses.
“He came and checked our property out when we thought of putting it up for sale,” said Dianne Jabs. “It’s hard to think that he is gone.”
As a member of the Concertina Club, Shaw would volunteer to play his concertina at senior citizen homes and group homes.
“He was always willing to help and do something make your life easier,” Wolf said.
In addition to his wife and two children, Shaw is survived by seven grandchildren, six siblings and his mother, Alvina “Tootsie” Shaw. A funeral service will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at Hope Lutheran Church in Jordan.