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Local News

An Extraordinary Life: Joliet man embraced recovery and the community

Joliet man embraced his recovery and the community

JOLIET – Michael, why didn’t you ask for 30 years?

That’s what Iris Pinnick of Joliet asked her husband Michael Pinnick, who was 52 when he died July 4.

Michael likened his story to one of Hezekiah in the Bible. Hezekiah was dying when he prayed to God to spare his life, and God granted him 15 more years.

It happened that way with Michael, too, said Iris and his friend, Latonya Housley of Joliet.

Michael was facing a 15-year sentence for drug-related activity. Michael had battled a drug addiction for most of his life. He had been to jail 48 times and prison seven times, he said.

On that occasion in 2000, Michael knelt in his jail cell and begged God to help him. Latonya said Michael was out of options, that he had violated every available program. But Michael’s public defender, Latonya said, had a new program.

The judge, Latonya said, reluctantly agreed to let Michael try it. This time, Michael successfully completed it, she said, and he didn’t look back. Michael died 15 years, one month and 20 days later, Latonya added, from complications of lung cancer and lymphoma.

“He took those 15 years, and he turned his life around,” Latonya said.

Michael did more than beat his addiction. With Iris’ help, Michael founded the Done with Drugs Foundation. He self-published a book about his life, “Out of the Darkness and into the Light,” and used its proceeds to fund foundation activities.

Latonya was one of the foundation volunteers. Michael nicknamed her “his right hand.” Ermia Pinnick of Joliet, Michael’s mother, was pleased at this change.

“It made me so proud of him,” Ermia said.

The foundation’s first activity was in 2008 – a Christmas party for disadvantaged kids. Funded by donations to include food, gifts, prizes and live entertainment, this party became an annual tradition on the third Sunday of December and attracted several hundred children each time, Iris said.

“As a kid growing up, Michael’s mother couldn’t always afford to give him the things he wanted, but he always said she did the best she could. This was his way of giving back,” Iris said. “He wanted every kid – regardless of race – to have something special they could hold onto.”

Gradually, Michael added a Back to School Fair in the third week of August and bought two houses for recovering addicts. The second house, Iris said, was purchased June 15, 2014. Michael was diagnosed with cancer July 2, 2014, but he kept going with his foundation and its activities.

In June 2015, after the cancer had spread to his brain, bones and liver, Michael participated in the American Cancer society’s Relay for Life in Joliet with his own team – “Never Say Never.”

“Michael loved everybody,” Iris said. “He didn’t care if you were a stranger on the street.”

He had a saying, “I want to be the man God wants me to be,” so he helped everyone, Iris said. Michael could leave the house with $30 and return half an hour later broke and with a story on who needed the money, she added.

During those times Michael needed an ambulance, he even tried tipping the driver, she added. Iris hopes to continue and expand Michael’s legacy. Michael was Iris’ hero, she said.

“He taught my humility, patience and to be more compassionate to people,” Iris said. “To see all that my husband went through, who he was, what he became and who he is today, makes him my hero.”

• To feature someone in “An Extraordinary Life,” contact Denise M. Baran-Unland at 815-280-4122 or

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