Hundreds of people today marked the death of a man known for juggling on the streets of Wellington.
Mourners from all walks of life — bus drivers, police, social workers, government officials, gang members — and the mayor — flocked to the funeral home in Newtown.
Michael Indeed is one of five people known to have died in the Loafers Lodge fire. This is the first public funeral of a fire victim.
Affectionately known as Mike the Juggler, Warlich was well known for tossing tennis balls on the streets of the capital for three decades.
Now the same balls adorn the top of his casket.
A man who hung out with Warlich in Cuba and Manners Street in the 1980s took the podium to pay tribute.
“It’s a song we did called ‘Walking the Dog,'” he told the audience before breaking into a croon, “I asked my mother for 50 cents.”
About 300 people watched the funeral service online and about 120 attended in person.
Margaret Warlich, one of Mike’s four siblings, said Mike, 67, started juggling as a child using oranges and lemons from the kitchen.
She said her brother was a caring person who would have grieved for the other victims of the fire if he had survived.
“Our hearts go out to all the victims of the fire … condolences to their friends and family,” she said.
“Michael was a cool dude and a sweet man who had morals and a lot of love to share through juggling and chatter.”
Others spoke of their concern when the juggler was hospitalized after a brutal attack at Loafers Lodge last year. Paul worked as a litter collector on Lambton Quay and saw Warlich every day.
“Every morning at seven o’clock, Mike would come there and always smile,” he said.
“This is Mikey. When you were beaten, it really hurt that someone did that to you. It affected me a lot because you were missed on the streets, I never saw you, and then when you came back, it was good.”
Those who survived the fire told of blocked exits and constant fire alarms going off.
Richard London was a 17-year-old student when he met Warlich and learned to juggle from him. Now, more than 30 years later, the building inspector said he would do everything he could to make homes safer in memory of the juggler.
“I want you to know that there are people who care. Those people in the government, maybe the people you don’t see, I’m one of those people. I knew Mike and I want to make sure we have a better place for New Zealand and for us and our whānau,” he said.
“We’re going to be thinking about it, and it’s going to be at the forefront of my mind when I start discussing with those other officials about what we should do about it, how we can make the buildings safer.
“To your family, I promise you that.”
A 48-year-old man was charged with two counts of arson following the fire. Police say up to 10 people are missing.
Source link – https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/490740/mourners-farewell-loafers-lodge-fire-victim-mike-the-juggler-wahrlich