On February 10, 2023, Michael Harzendorf passed away in Überlingen on Lake Constance. He was 80 years old. Michael was more than just the name giver of the foundation, he was the reason that the foundation exists at all. His father Fritz Harzendorf and epileptologist Dieter Janz came together more than 60 years ago and recognized the need to build an organization to improve the treatment and quality of life of people with epilepsy.
Michael could not live an independent life. We can only guess whether he knew what significance the foundation had attained over the decades of its existence. Michael was always present for us, who lead the fortunes of the foundation, and always will be. His destiny is our constant mission and motivation. The MICHAEL FOUNDATION was deliberately not named after its founding fathers. As a person and name, Michael is an example of everyone to whom the foundation feels committed: people with epilepsy.
In deep mourning
Board of Trustees and Chair of the Michael Foundation
In October 2022, the name giver of the MICHAEL FOUNDATION celebrated his 80th birthday. On this occasion his sister, Dr. Agathe Bühler, then these touching lines:
Michael, who gave his name to the foundation, turned eighty in October. He celebrated his birthday at the Vianney Hospital in Überlingen, where he has lived since 1963 – for almost sixty years.
Michael was born in Constance and we lived in Überlingen in a tiny two-room apartment under the roof. There he fell off the scales as a baby; but whether this is the cause of his epilepsy has never been established. In the small town of Überlingen, there were hardly any doctors during the war and nobody really knew what it was about - at the beginning there was also talk of glottal spasms. I remember seizures that never lasted long and absences; but to me he was just a brother, albeit a slow one.
In 1946 we moved to Göppingen, where my father – who had fought against Hitler until 1933 (as a journalist and newspaper editor) – was allowed to publish the Neue Württembergische Zeitung (with a license from the American military administration). I remember weekend walks to Rechberghausen, 6 km away, where our grandmother lived, and Michael walked along wonderfully. Two years later, however, it was clear that he could not go to school normally. Michael spent some time in Bethel and a longer time in an anthroposophical institution, where he probably also had schooling. I remember that we used to visit him regularly on the weekends.
In 1952 we moved to the newly built newspaper building in Göppingen, and from then on Michael had daily lessons with a private tutor. Michael had a fantastic memory and his long term memory is still amazing today; however, his short-term memory – as I found on my last visit to Überlingen – is declining.
He also had religious instruction; one can still ask him about all the saints and is amazed at how much he still knows about them.
1957 was the crucial year when my father met Prof. Dieter Janz, who treated Michael and managed to make Michael seizure-free. But it had long since become clear that he would never be able to lead an independent life because of his seizures and absences.
Today Michael is in a wheelchair and only moves with great difficulty. He recognizes us all and has the great quality of being happy when you visit, but also happy when you leave. His concentration is slipping; he can't spend much more time with music or television. But his love of reading is unchanged, and as soon as you say goodbye, he turns back to his books.
Michael knows nothing about the foundation that bears his name and was founded on his behalf; just as little does he know about his own medical history. But it would certainly make him very happy if, as a healthy person, he knew that his illness was the cause of a foundation that has helped many people and that continues to help every day.