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Obituary for Michael Lee Sheffels

Michael Lee Sheffels, 54, of Maple Grove, MN, passed away peacefully at home surrounded by family and friends on Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017. He was a 20 month survivor of stage 4 pancreatic cancer. He was born in Great Falls, MT to Karen Stevens Whisenhunt and Jim Sheffels on October 17, 1963. He grew up helping with the family wheat farm and was always curious about science and how things worked. He was a 1982 graduate of Charles M. Russell High School in Great Falls. He attended Stanford University, where he met and fell in love with his future wife, Ann Boss Sheffels, in 1984. He graduated with a degree in Electrical Engineering in 1986. He moved to Minneapolis upon graduation to start a career with Honeywell as a systems engineer and to be with Ann while she was attending medical school. They were married on Nov. 5, 1988. He worked at Honeywell for 31 years, where he was involved in developing avionics products. In 1996, he shared a patent on the design of a fault tolerant navigation system for commercial aircraft. Mike was gifted with the skill and persistence to figure out most any technological challenge, although it might have involved a few curse words and trips to the hardware store. He loved to come up with new and better ways of doing things.

Mike and Ann raised three wonderful children. Like their father, they are all pursuing science and technology careers in college and graduate school. Mike was a devoted father and very proud of his children. He was actively involved in their lives at home and at school, encouraging their many science projects, helping them build a desktop computer, and giving them a full set of tools and the knowledge to use them as they went off to college. He was a parent mentor for their high school robotics team for over 10 years, continuing his role even after his children graduated, until this October, when he no longer had the strength to go. He was passionate about teaching kids how to engineer solutions to problems and use materials effectively. He taught them to think creatively to come up with solutions when glitches arose. He inspired many students to develop their own curiosity about how things work, motivating them to pursue careers in engineering. He was a generous and kind person, always willing to help anyone with a project. When he went biking, he always carried his bike tools with him and stopped for anyone who needed help along the trail. Mike also had a great sense of humor and a mischievous, silly streak, with a smile that often made one wonder what he was up to now. He loved tinkering with and driving his father-in-law’s 1948 MG roadster. He was the primary cook in the house and his love of cooking inspired many great gatherings with family and friends. He was an avid biker and outdoorsman and excelled at skiing, dancing, playing pool, and competitive target shooting.

Mike is survived by his wife Ann, his three children, Erin, Sara, and Christopher; mother Karen Whisenhunt, father Jim Sheffels, and brother Steve Sheffels (Michele), all of Great Falls, MT; sister Pam Bedynek (Kevin) of Renton, WA; brother David Whisenhunt (Allison) of Warrenton, OR; nieces Nicole, Hayley, and Alona, and nephews Taylor, Nathan, Cody, and Jonathan, along with extended family and friends.

Mike fought hard after his diagnosis and stayed strong for as long as he could, which gave us precious time with family and friends to make many special memories. He will be greatly missed. We want to thank North Hospice for their wonderful care in the last weeks of Mike’s life.

Donations in Mike’s honor can be made to FIRST Robotics ( or the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (

A Celebration of Michael's life will be held at Mississippi Gardens (9500 W. River Rd., Mpls.) on Saturday, December 30th from 11-2 PM with a Time for Remarks and Remembrance at 12 Noon.
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