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Michael Flowers lived with ‘a heart of gold and a giving soul’

Mother and high school coach remember FPU student, athlete

  • Michael Flowers as a boy. Courtesy photo

  • Michael Flowers, a first-year Franklin Pierce University who passed away unexpectedly on Nov. 7, with his mother Jennifer Furbish. Courtesy photo

  • Michael Flowers as a boy. Courtesy photo

  • Jennifer Furbish and her son Michael Flowers as a boy. Courtesy photo

  • Michael Flowers, a 20-year-old Franklin Pierce University student who died unexpectedly earlier this month, with his grandmother. Courtesy photo



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Monday, November 19, 2018 12:31AM

Michael Flowers lived his life with a heart of gold and a giving soul.

It was at an early age that the 20-year-old former Franklin Pierce University student began to display his caring demeanor and willingness to help those in need, according to his mother Jennifer Furbish.

Furbish recalls a time when she and Flowers were cleaning his room when he was 8 or 9. Flowers looked up at his mother and requested they donate his toys to children who didn’t have any.

“He would help anyone in need – it didn’t matter if he knew you or not,” Furbish said. “If he had something and you needed it, he’d give it to you.”

The times that Flowers gave all he could to those in need were numerous, his mother said. One day, a high school-aged Flowers came home from his job at a local grocery store in his hometown of Albany, New York, excited that he was able to give money to a homeless man so he could eat.

“He always tried to find the good in everyone,” Furbish said. “It’s just who he was.”

Furbish has long known that her son had a special quality not possessed by many in this day and age, but it was at his wake earlier this week that she was reassured by those who knew Flowers best.

“It was overwhelming how many people spoke about him,” Furbish said. “It showed me how much he really impacted people.”

Flowers passed away unexpectedly in his Franklin Pierce University dorm room on Nov. 7.

While the N.H. Medical Examiner’s Office has yet to issue a cause of death publicly – a Rindge Police Department press release issued Tuesday said the office is awaiting toxicology results – Furbish said she was told her son died of pneumonia.

Furbish was also told by the medical examiner’s office that her son didn’t have adrenal glands – glands above the kidney that produce hormones that regulate the body’s blood pressure, immune system, and other essential functions. 

Not having the glands put Flowers at risk for premature death.

“We’re not sure if he wasn’t born with them or if he got sick sometime and they were just destroyed,” Furbish said.

Flowers was never sick much growing up, Furbish said. Colds were routinely nothing more than the sniffles and the flu never stuck around for more than 24 hours.

But something about this bout of illness was different.

Flowers began getting sick sometime in October, Furbish said, though it never seemed to be more than a cold.

He appeared to be getting better at one point, but Flowers’ illness ramped up again in the week before his passing.

After not hearing from her son for almost a week – Furbish said she would talk with her son two to three times a week – she decided to call the school.

“I don’t think he knew how sick he was. If he did, I think he would’ve found help,” Furbish said. “This was probably the sickest he ever has been.”

Flowers spent much of his life wanting to join the military or become a police officer, Furbish said, though in the months leading up to his passing he told his mother his desire to become a news anchor.

“It kind of came out of left field,” Furbish said, of the career change. “I could see him doing it though. He loved talking with people. He would’ve been great at it.”

Flowers changed his major to communications when he came to Franklin Pierce University this year.

He had spent his first year of college at Mount Ida College and transferred to FPU after the school closed down.

“When he toured the college, he mentioned multiple times that he wanted to climb [Mount Monadnock,]” Furbish said. “He loved to be outside. He was never the type of kid that had to be kicked out of the house.”

Flowers was also a runner, spending time on the cross-country, indoor and outdoor track teams when he went to Christian Brothers Academy, a private, an all boys Catholic military school.

“In the six years I knew him, I never saw him raise his voice, yell, or get mad at anyone,” said Tom O’Malley, Flowers’ coach during his tenure at Christian Brothers Academy. “He was one of our strongest – not just as a runner, but as a person.”

O’Malley – who coached Flowers in cross country and indoor and outdoor track from eighth grade to senior year – said he will always remember Flowers because of his “infectious smile” and his “beautiful form” as a runner. 

“He ran smooth and quiet,” O’Malley said. “He never looked tired, which was devastating to some of the people he ran against.”

O’Malley said Flowers also had an incredible ability to fall asleep almost anywhere during meet days – typically an all-day affair. 

“We would get on a bus and five minutes later he’d be sleeping,” O’Malley said. “He had a way being calm and resting, and then going out and performing.”

In addition to his leadership and ability to work with those around him, Flowers also had an innate ability to dig deep when he needed to most. 

In a very competitive division in New York, O’Malley said Flowers was able to qualify for the state meet twice – once as a junior and once as a senior. O’Malley said only four of his athletes over the past 20 years have made it to the state meet. 

“He willed himself as a junior, it was amazing to see,” O’Malley said. “It was pure determination. He was always able to dig down when he needed to.”

O’Malley said this year’s cross country team memorialized Flowers in a video wrapping up their 2018 season.

“Everyone liked him; he affected a lot of people,” O’Malley said, who added that a number of athletes – both from Christian Brothers Academy and from competing teams – attended his funeral.

“I saw him almost every day for 11 months of the year [when he was on my team,]” O’Malley said. “My wife and I sent him Halloween candy when he was in college. He would come over on breaks and hang out… it’s been really difficult.”

While he had not been at Franklin Pierce long, Flowers made enough of an impact that two people – one being his former roommate Charles Kirby – made a GoFundMe account to raise money for his family.

“He was just a nice genuine person, someone who never made fun of anyone to make himself feel better,” Kirby said, on the page. “He was just an all around good kid and was kind to everyone he came across and met.”

Furbish, who connected with Kirby for the first time a few days ago via text, said the gesture warmed her heart.

“It doesn’t surprise me that he made friends that quickly,” Furbish said. “It didn’t matter who you were or what lifestyle you came from. He tried to embrace everyone.”


Michael Flowers as a boy. Courtesy photo Michael Flowers as a boy. - Courtesy photo
Jennifer Furbish and her son Michael Flowers as a boy. Courtesy photo Jennifer Furbish and her son Michael Flowers as a boy. - Courtesy photo
Michael Flowers, a 20-year-old Franklin Pierce University student who died unexpectedly earlier this month, with his grandmother. Courtesy photo Michael Flowers, a 20-year-old Franklin Pierce University student who died unexpectedly earlier this month, with his grandmother. - Courtesy photo