Sperry & McHoul Funeral Home Obituaries

Michael M. Hench, 84, on February 29, 2024

Michael Meacham Hench set off on his final adventure on February 29, 2024 following an incredibly rich and varied life that created much love and enjoyment for those around him.

Michael was born in Chicago, Illinois on May 14, 1939 to John David Hench and Barbara “Bobbie” Miller. At the time, Johnny and Bobbie were radio actors so it’s little surprise that throughout his life Michael was fond of breaking into song - including in his final days singing lyrics from the rock opera Tommy.

Johnny was a pilot and moved the family from Hillsdale, Illinois to Camden, South Carolina where he was hired to train Royal Air Force pilots. It was in South Carolina that Mike’s brother, Christopher Bull Hench, was born.

World War II was a huge, formative event in the boys’ lives.

Johnny enlisted in the Marine Corps and flew a Corsair in the Pacific theater where he was shot down March 12, 1944 near Rabaul airfield in New Guinea. Bobbie was left to raise Mike and Chris on her own. Michael didn’t make it easy. As a teenager, he bounced from high school to high school until at 17, he persuaded his mother to let him leave their home in western Massachusetts to enlist in the Air Force. Having had polio when he was 9, Mike had to talk his way past the physical and was continually making excuses for his subpar marching and saluting. His service as an air traffic controller took him from Valdosta, Georgia to Libya and throughout Europe. While in North Africa, Michael speared a world-record stingray.

Following his honorable discharge in 1961, he enrolled in the University of Massachusetts - Amherst, majoring in English Literature. Eight years later, the troublemaker who didn’t graduate from high school earned his Ph.D.

During this period he also met Norma Fairbanks. The two married and had two sons: David and Kevin. Michael landed a job as a professor at the College of the Virgin Islands and the family moved to St. Thomas.

Michael enjoyed skin diving and spearfishing in the Caribbean, sometimes bringing home snapper, grouper or Spanish mackerel for dinner. He also speared a North American record Ocean Triggerfish.

After several years, Michael left CVI and trained to be an Emergency Medical Technician, helping stabilize patients as the ambulance transported them to the hospital. On more than one occasion, Michael was credited with saving someone’s life. 

After Michael and Norma divorced, he left the islands in 1977, eventually settling in Boston where he would study acupuncture. He practiced in Brookline and in Lebanon, New Hampshire before embarking on the adventure that would change his world. In 1984, Michael traveled to China to teach at Guangzhou Institute of Foreign Languages. There he met and fell in love with Li Jin, a professor of German. They married and moved to the U.S.

Michael was extremely supportive of Jin’s pursuit of further education, in Vermont, in Pennsylvania and finally at Harvard University, where she received her Ph.D.

Along the way, they were blessed with a son, Kylee.

Mike returned to teaching, working as adjunct faculty for several colleges including Curry College, Bunker Hill Community College and Salem State University. In addition to writing classes, he taught courses on film and on comedy. Throughout his teaching career, his lecturing style was jazz-like improvisation rather than scripted presentation, something his students often found refreshing and entertaining. 

Growing up with no father to emulate, Mike evolved into his own idea of what a father should be. Much to the delight of his three sons, that father was playful and a gamer. Whether orchestrating a Dungeons and Dragons campaign or dueling in Magic the Gathering or playing a game of tennis, Mike liked the fun parts of life. He enjoyed poker and computer games, made close friends with his Bridge group and relished the many championship seasons of the Patriots and Red Sox. He enjoyed Jeopardy, Blue Bloods and probably most of all, Band of Brothers, which he watched so many times he lost track. He knew the history and had war-gamed every major battle of World War II. He loved listening to Pink Floyd.

He asked that his remains be cremated and scattered at sea so he could in this way be reunited with his father.

Michael was predeceased by his parents, his brother Chris and Chris’s wife and Mike’s dear friend Eunice, as well as by his mother-in-law and good friend Roma Lu. He is survived by a loving family: his devoted wife Jin, his sons David, Kevin and Kylee, their spouses and his grandchildren Natalie, Jessica, Evan; Sophie, Gigi, Jo-Jo and Noah, his niece and nephews and their children.

A celebration of his life will be held at the Sperry & McHoul Funeral Home, 15 Grove Street, North Attleboro at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, March 16, 2024. Relatives and friends are most kindly invited to attend.

The family wishes to thank all the wonderful caring staff at Sturdy Memorial Hospital and at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Donations in lieu of flowers may be made to Wounded Warrior Project.