Michael Rokoff, a pen-and-ink artist who brought smiles to faces of millions by designing greeting cards for Hallmark and American Greeting Cards, passed away in his Star Valley home June 4.
"Mike's death was a tragedy and a huge loss for our community," said family friend and fellow artist Linda Nannizzi.
When Mike and his wife, Donna, made their home in the Rim Country 11 years ago, he took the freedom to create art outside the restraints of the work he had done professionally for decades.
The art he created was minimal -- a few lines and a few words, often puns -- and represented his quirky interpretation of the world.
"Sunday afternoon at the Whacks Museum," is Mike's cartoon of little men on pedestals, whacking themselves on the head as museum patrons walk by.
With his merry smile, soft-spoken voice and "If not now, when?" attitude, Mike made friends easily.
Donna, who married Mike on Dec. 20, 1975, couldn't help falling in love with him, almost as soon as they met. She never fell out of love.
They bounced creative ideas off one another in their home studios as they worked for different art divisions at Hallmark.
They raised a family.
Pursue what you love as a career, Mike told the children. Do not let what excites you be just a weekend hobby.
The couple met in New Mexico when Donna was teaching a class for the National Endowment of the Arts.
Her daughter had some serious health problems and Donna told her boss she needed a "responsible" guest artist to teach her class, in case she had to go to the hospital.
"Mike pulled up in this old green car, equipped to teach the kids how to make a book," she said.
The two became fast friends, as they talked over lunch the next four days.
Mike returned to Ohio and they corresponded by mail over the summer.
"I saved all of his letters and he saved all of mine," Donna said. "They'd make a good book."
That fall, she flew to Cleveland to see him again.
Throughout 31 years of marriage, "We enjoyed everything we did together," she said.
The couple was active in the Payson Art League and avid supporters of the Payson Humane Society and Paws in the Park.
"Mike had an offbeat sense of humor and a different way of looking at things," said Barbara Brenke, president of the Payson Humane Society. "The Humane Society appreciates all he has done."
The society's logo, a cat and dog in a house, was designed by Mike.
The Rokoffs were instrumental in planning and raising funds for the off-leash dog park.
"He developed the logo and drawing on the back of our T-shirt and he was president for two terms," said current Paws president Bill Witte. "Mike was one of the good guys."
He also designed the logo for Star Valley's letterhead.
A celebration of Mike Rokoff's life, at which people who knew him may share their stories, will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. today at the Payson Off-leash Dog Park.
"He would want people to celebrate his life with as many laughs as possible," Donna said.