Mike Ainsworth was a perpetually good-natured man with a long stride who would always make time to say “Hello” to me whenever our paths crossed. He was the kind of guy who was comfortable in his own skin; he smiled easily and always wanted to know how the people around him were doing, how life was going. He was a caring Dad, and when he spoke of his children, he glowed with quiet pride. He was chronically generous, frequently in a way that left him short on cash. He was was a man who’s daily actions reminded me that, sometimes, the people around us really aren’t too good to be true.
B.B. St. Roman of New Orleans’ Homeless Assistance Collaborative (based out of the NOPD 8th District Station) first met Mike Ainsworth and his brother, Bill, in 2009, when they were assisting one of her neighbors with his home renovation project.
B.B. remembers that Mike joined COPS 8 (Citizens’ Organization for Police Support), an organization over which B.B. currently presides, because he specifically wanted to help our city’s police force. On a visit to the NOPD 8th District Station, B.B. said that Mike “saw how terrible the walls were, started patching, got supplies donated, and he and Bill ended up renovating and repainting the whole interior of the station,” working for about three months’ time. Speaking with a tone of admiration, B.B. noted that “Mike took the lead on the ideas of what to do, choosing colors for the different details and features, adding lots of beautiful touches. It was his decision to paint the counter tops navy and add the gold trim. At first Mike and Bill wanted to do it all for free, but we insisted on paying them.”
B.B.’s stories of Mike’s hard work and his unwavering generosity are plentiful. “There were two generators just sitting out in the Station’s yard, in boxes, for about three years’ time. Mike looked at them one day and took it upon himself to organize getting them hooked up. He got the electrical work donated and arranged for the gas line hook-up. When the plumbing went out, he took care of it. The flooring on part of the second floor was rotten and he worked to repair that, too. He got cabinets from Home Depot and installed them.”
Mike also made improvements at the horse barns for the NOPD’s Mounted Unit. “If we were decorating the Station, he would come help, especially when we needed someone to climb up the tall ladder. He made a cabinet himself, to fit a particular space, for magazines at the station. When he saw that the remnants of the NOPD Homeless Assistance van’s wheelchair lift were still on the van, he made the arrangements to have them finally removed. He would call every few weeks and ask, ‘I’ve got a couple of hours — is there anything I can do at the Station?’ He’d say, ‘Miss B.B., Whatcha need?’ He’d find it and get it donated.
“He just kept seeing things that needed to be done, noticing things, pitching in, and helping. It was just amazing. He was always volunteering, always willing to help, always thinking of improvements… He’d wanted to put a star and crescent in the tile at the entrance to the Station. The tile needed to be replaced anyway, and he thought that adding these things would make it more interesting.” Mike also helped officers with repair work on their homes; he would accept money for the supplies, but refused to accept payment himself.
“The last project he happened to do was just a week or so ago. The light in the lamp post on the side of the Station was out, and the streetlight nearby happened to be out, too. When we took the Christmas lights down, it was really dark at the side entrance to the Station. He and his brother came over and discovered that the glass at the top of the lantern was broken and that rain was leaking in. It wouldn’t have made sense to just replace the bulb because it would short out whenever it rained again. They went and got the right kind of glass, had it cut to fit, and then replaced the bulb. As his last repair job at the station, Mike left a shining light.”
“If he had a little extra money at Christmas time, he’d get $5 bills and hand them out to needy people on the street. I’d tell him, ‘Maybe you should save this to take care of your own needs,’ and he’d say, ‘No, it’ll come back to me.’ For him, everything was in service to others, all the time. He considered it to be doing God’s work, doing what’s right.”
B.B. believes that Mike died while doing the right thing. “To me, he died in the line of duty — not as a police officer, but as a good Samaritan and a good citizen.”
Mike’s desire and enthusiasm for helping others was simply the core of his day-to-day life, every day. He didn’t have a life insurance policy, so now it’s our turn to give it back to him by helping his family. Memorial arrangements are in progress and his family has requested donations to help celebrate his life and commitment to our community. However, after the service, I ask that people consider that the needs of his family will continue. His sons are both good students who need our caring at this time — therapeutic support has been recommended and the family will benefit from any assistance that we can provide as they learn how to live with Mike’s absence. Please open your hearts and contribute what you can to help — it matters.
At the request of Mike’s family, B.B. St. Roman was honored to be asked to administer the Harry Michael Ainsworth Benefit Account. Donations can now be accepted at any Whitney Bank branch location and may also be mailed to Whitney Bank – Algiers Branch, 501 Verret St., New Orleans, LA 70114.
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1/28/12 Update: The memorial service for Mike Ainsworth will be on Friday, February 3rd, at St. Louis Cathedral, with visitation from 9:00 to 11:00 AM and the service at 11:00 AM. Following the service, there will be a reception at the NOPD 8th District Station, 334 Royal Street.