OB Rag Writer Mike Williams Passes

by on February 1, 2022 · 4 comments

in Ocean Beach

Mike Williams at the OB Rag house on Long Branch, circa 2009. Photo by Patty Jones

Over this past weekend, Mike Williams, a good friend and occasional writer and photographer for the OB Rag, passed away. He had just begun treatment for lung cancer.

Mike is survived by his spouse, Michele Engleman, his daughter Jessica from a prior marriage, Michele’s daughter Emily, and Mike’s brother Jim – all of whom were with him until the end on Sunday, Jan. 30. And by many friends.

Mike – who recently authored posts for the Rag under his legal name, John M. Williams, on street vendors and the OB Rassle House – had penned several for the original OB Rag newspaper back in the 1970s. He was part of the sociopolitical, counter-cultural network of activists and friends in Ocean Beach during the Seventies.

Born March 4, 1947, in Burbank, California, Mike was mostly raised by his mother. He told me much later that he was very “naive” back in the mid-Sixties when he joined the US Army and was shipped off to Vietnam. Fortunately, he survived his stint in the war but returned home much disgruntled. He had figured out that the army “didn’t care for me,” and disillusioned him.

In fact, when President Nixon invaded Cambodia in late April 1970, thousands of college students demonstrated and rebelled and when National Guard troops shot and killed four students at Kent State University in Ohio on May 4, 1970, Mike was incensed. He told me what happened:

Back then, he was a student at Los Angeles Valley Junior College in Van Nuys, when he learned about the fatal shootings. He joined a chaotic scene on the Quad, as he said, “crammed elbow to elbow with students milling, talking, swearing, crying, and shouting righteous outrage; anguish, anger, disbelief and despair contorted the faces of those around me.”

On seeing the flag still waving at the top of the flagpole, Williams thought, “No!” He found a janitor and asked him to lower the flag. He said he wanted to, but could not; it would mean his job, and he replied the same when Williams suggested he simply unlock it so Williams could lower it.  He recalled, “I turned to those nearest me and told them I wanted to lower the flag but needed some cash for a hacksaw blade and a new lock. I instantly had it and walked off campus and across a quiet street to a hardware store and made the purchases.”

Once back at the flagpole, Williams immediately set to work. “It took only a few moments to cut the lock, bring down the flag, and lock it up again. I neither heard or saw anything, but when I turned away from the pole the crowd was focused on me, and a photographer was taking my picture. I gave him the finger and walked away.” The entire incident took about 20 minutes, Williams remembered.

Mike ended up linking up with some anti-war students and made his way to San Diego and Ocean Beach in the early, mid-seventies. For a good part of his life’s work, Mike became a printer and worked for Modern Printing near MCRD for decades. He later became an ESL teacher and actually did a turn teaching in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. While there in 2010-12, he wrote an irregular column for the online OB Rag, “Riyadh Calling.”

He returned home in west Clairemont with Michele and began teaching again. Recently, he had retired.

This doesn’t do Mike justice but it’s what I have at this sad moment. RIP Mike.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Sal February 1, 2022 at 11:03 am

Sorry for your loss Frank.


Patty Jones February 1, 2022 at 12:06 pm

The next poker game will be in his memory. He was the only person I ever met who could win at poker while not actually playing.

He will be missed.


sealintheselkirks February 1, 2022 at 2:13 pm

Just a question this notice made me think of.

Frank, are there any younger generation people ‘apprenticed?’ (20s-50s) who have the historical knowledge, backgrounds of activism, mental drive, ornery-cussedness(!), and backbone to question ‘accepted official versions’ given out by their betters, and all the rest of the strengths/interests/ability that the different staff & contributors bring to the RAG? Who will be able to take over when our generation is gone? Just a thought…

If I’m still around (an old surfer dude), I would hate to see this excellent community resource disappear. There is only one exit door we all have ahead of us and passing on the community activism and ethics shown in the RAG to the younger folk is something that should be preserved. It would be a loss, too.

Right now, smile that he left good thoughts behind and is now catching up with a whole bunch of people he hasn’t talked to in decades… Wakes should be in celebration.



Stu February 8, 2022 at 8:20 am

Mike will be missed Always found him to be and interesting guy and a good friend. We had many sailing trips together and heard many stories RIP Mike
We miss you


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