I grew up in a Chabad House. Chabad of Tidewater in Norfolk, VA to be precise. Throughout the years, hundreds upon hundreds of different people have whirled through the revolving door we call home. Some we remember quite well. For others, it may take a moment. But only a few are etched in our everlasting memories.
Michael Allen Noeth was born to a Jewish mother and Roman Catholic father. As irony would have it, years later, his mother turned Roman Catholic and his father an observant Jew. As a gifted artist and true patriot, Michael joined the US Navy as an illustrator and painter.
Michael’s father requested that he visit Chabad wherever his military duties lead him. In 1997, it was Naval Station Norfolk in Norfolk, VA. Michael was added to the Rolodex of characters that strolled through our Chabad House doors.
Instantly, he became a fan favorite.
Michael was as kind as they get, and – some would say – as interesting as they get! Michael was a Navy man, there’s no mistake about that – he was very proud of who he was. He always tried to rival Tzivos Hashem – the Army of Hashem – with the Navy of Hashem!
We were privileged to share many firsts with Michael. It’s hard to forget the faces he made when he unknowingly gulped down a tablespoon of pure horseradish – as if it were sugar – for Marror at the Passover Seder. Michael learned to chant Kiddush with us. I can still hear him yell “Attention Gentlemen” just before the blessing of Hagofen over the wine.
Michael quickly became a part of our family.
Once, Michael attended a family Simcha, my brother’s Bar Mitzvah, decorated from head-to-toe in his Dress Whites – gloves, hat and all. Nearly every Friday afternoon Michael taxied over to our home for Shabbat, with his Stetson perfectly situated upon his head. (He even composed a song: “The Rabbi Wore a Stetson on the Chabad Ranch.”)
The conversation with him was always innocent, interesting and heartfelt. He yearned to know more about his faith. As youngsters, we tried our best. We loved Michael dearly. He related to us. He showed us a good time.
After each deployment and trip abroad, Michael always routed his way back to our home. Seeing him never got old. In fact, we eagerly awaited his next arrival. In the year 2000, after a lengthy mission abroad, Michael was officially re-stationed. This time, he was assigned to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations in the Nation’s capital.
Oh, Washington, DC wasn’t too far. We would see Michael again.
But we didn’t.
You see, Michael’s new post was in the western wing of the Pentagon and on the morning of September 11, 2001, he was proudly positioned there. I like to assume he had his paintbrush wedged between his fingers doing what he loved most.
He was gone. Senseless hate and cowardly acts had taken my friend away from me. My family had lost an honorary member. We cried. We wept. We mourned.
It’s 12 years later and still, I tear up when I think of Michael Allen Noeth.
A gifted artist. A one-of-a-kind. A Proud Jew, enlisted in the Navy of Hashem.
DM2 Michael Allen – Michoel Aron – Noeth, USN.
Truly etched in my everlasting memory.