PHOENIX – Michael John Valder passed away unexpectedly on August 12, 2021 from complications following recent heart surgery.
Mike was born in Mitchell, SD on August 31, 1940 and grew up on family farms in Minnesota and Iowa. He graduated from Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa in 1962, where he was a student leader and also served as the National President of the National Federation of Catholic College Students. At NFCCS, Mike worked to organize support on catholic campuses for the southern student movement and civil rights activists. Loras was where Mike developed his lifelong dedication to leading and working to promote social justice causes and awareness, and he would later serve for many years on Loras’ Board of Regents. Mike received his law degree from Georgetown University in 1966, served as a law clerk to US District Judge John J. Sirica, worked as an associate at a law firm for several years, and then joined the founding faculty at the Antioch School of Law in Washington, D.C.
In 1973, Mike and his family moved to Phoenix where he established his expertise in plaintiffs’ medical malpractice and personal injury law. He was one of the first Arizona lawyers certified as a specialist in personal injury and wrongful death litigation and was very active in various professional, political and social justice-oriented activities and organizations. He served for a decade on the Board of Directors of the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest where he was also the board president for two years. Mike also served for several years as a member of the Board of Directors of the Greater Phoenix Youth at Risk Foundation, and before that he served for ten years on the Board of Directors at CODAMA (Community Organization for Drug Abuse, Mental Health and Alcoholism Services, Inc.) where he was President of the Board and was twice presented with CODAMA’s most prestigious community service award.
In 1998, Mike became a leader in the campaign finance reform movement in Arizona, was instrumental in the creation of the Citizens’ Clean Elections Act, and was one of the founders and the first President of the Clean Elections Institute, a non-profit organization created to implement the Clean Elections Act. Mike was also a principal organizer and was the President emeritus of the Arizona Advocacy Network, a broad-based coalition working to coordinate advocacy efforts in all domains of democracy and social justice within the state of Arizona. Together with his wife Janet, they founded the Arizona Social Change
Fund to support non-profit organizations focused on generating systemic change. For 13 years, fundraising gatherings were held at their home on Fifth Sundays, the last Sunday of those months of the year with five Sundays, to educate the community about a selected organization and generate funding to support their work.
Mike enjoyed travelling with Janet, but more than any travel destination, Mike loved spending time at Possibility, the home and desert garden he and Janet developed and tended over three decades, which served as a perfect setting for political fundraisers, religious retreats, and family celebrations.
Progressive and compassionate, Mike will be dearly missed by his many friends and family. Mike is survived by Janet, his wife of 58 years, sons Matthew (Annette), Jeffrey (Denise), daughter Alice Valder Curran (Charles Curran), and brother Joseph Valder. Additional survivors include his grandchildren Melissa Valder-Fernandez (Pablo), Johann Valder, Helen West (Taylor), Katherine Valder, Lauren Valder, Desmond Curran, Hugh Curran, and Cecilia Curran. He is preceded in death by his parents, Bernard and Alice Valder, and siblings William, Joyce, and Robert Valder.
There will be two services for Mike, with one at each of the churches he attended. On Friday, August 20, 2021, at 5:00 PM, there will be a service at Faith Lutheran Church, 801 E. Camelback Road in Phoenix. On Saturday, August 21, 2021, at 10:00 AM, there will be a funeral Mass at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church, 4715 N. Central Avenue in Phoenix. His ashes will be interred at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation in Mike’s honor to either Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest or Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest. Condolences may be expressed at www.whitneymurphyfuneralhome.com
Dear Janet and family! It is with a heavy heart that we extend our deepest sympathy to you and your family, Mike was a distinguished member of the Loras Board and his efforts to support Hispanic student life at our college has created and everlasting foundation that will be a true legacy to your family, He will be missed but never forgotten! Janet, you, Mike and your family’ are in our thoughts and prayers prayers!
Mary Lynn Neuhaus
Our sympathy on the loss of Mike to Janet and the Valder family, especially my former Loras Mocker and student Katherine. How fortunate you all were to have Mike for so long, and how blessed Loras College has been by his loyalty and leadership. He truly was a servant leader. Thank you for sharing him with so many.
Janet – I just learned of Mike’s passing, like so many others, my heart is breaking. Mike was always thinking of others and challenging us all to use the gifts we were blessed with. I am a better person having met you both and will forever be influenced by his grace, gratitude and love for life. Sending you our prayers; may you feel the love Mike so selflessly shared with us all. Peace and prayers, Bobbi
Dearest Janet, I am so sad to hear about Mike’s death. My heart is with you and your family.
What a beautiful obituary for a beautiful soul.
Mike and Janet were, are and always will be inspirations for the hundreds upon hundreds of us who had our lives touched by their grace and generosity. Mike will be deeply missed by so many.
Matt, condolences to you and your family in this time of grief. What a legacy you participate in! Many blessings and comfort to you.
Betsy (Bates) Stevens
Janet and Valder Family,
My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family during this time. I enjoyed getting to know you through my work with the Aguila program when I worked at Loras from 2013-2015. Mike was a passionate, thoughtful and caring man. He changed the lives of many students I worked with and helped them achieve something (a college education) they once thought was impossible.
Betty M. O'Melia
Janet and family,
My prayers, thoughts and love are with you as you begin your grief for your dear Mike. You, Mike and your family have always been an inspiration for me. I loved working with Mike and calling both of you friends. Those days were very good days for all of us. Love to you,
Dear Janet and dear ones,
I send prayers to comfort in your deepest sorrow. You and Mike are people of profound love, compassion and joy. The light of Christ is with you as is the most tender of care as you grieve.
Mike once offered me the most beatific smile and ministry as he shared with me his awakening to super abundance of the grace of God. His transformation led to my transformation. I feel his being with Christ and his love you and all of us.
May you know the peace of Christ,
Jaimie Leopold (now Jaimie Mudd)
Rosemary & Robert Ybarra-Hernandez
Precious Janet and Familia:
I struggle with words to convey to you how the news of Mike’s passing has affected us everyday since we learned what happened. Our prayers are with you Janet, the love of his life – he glowed every time he would tell the story of how he met you to our AGUILA students. He beamed with such pride to have such a beautiful partner in his life. We are sure we speak for so many in thanking you and your family for allowing us to share his life and his gift of compassion for humanity. We grieve with you his passing here on earth and know that his spirit has been lifted to the heavens where his infectious smile is met by those who preceded him. His life and legacy were born out of the love and faith you both shared and modeled for us all – we are forever grateful and will continue to keep the “Possibility” Legacy alive for so many more children to come. May God Bless you and your family, holding you in the palm of his hands, providing you peace and comfort.
Still following VIP from Ca, I received news about Mike. Together you and Mike taught us so much about building power, engaging with people of diverse views, showing resolve. I cherish the time spent with you and the opportunity to participate in special gatherings at your home.
Terri and Tom Wubben
A wonderful man who will be missed by so many, Tom and I among them. We will savor wonderful memories of family time spent with you and Janet especially.
Joanie (Misrack) Ciardelli
Dear Janet and family,
I am so very sorry to hear about Mike’s passing. He was such a bright light in our community! I have fond memories of being at your home with my husband Jack so many years ago; you were the most gracious host and hostess. My prayers are with you for healing and holding sweet memories to keep you going strongly.
Much love and peace to you all.
My condolences, Janet and family. Surely, the most difficult thing we live through is the loss of our soulmate. Your commitment and love for one another inspired everyone who knew you. Mike lives on in our hearts through his never-ending attention to justice for the most vulnerable in our society. His quest for peace and social justice has left an indelible mark that will benefit and reap rewards for generations to come. In this chaotic time, I think we can all say with confidence, “Mike Valder made a difference.”
I wish you peace.
Anne and Christopher Ellinger (Anne Slepian and Christopher Mogil, from Donuts)
Sending you love, Janet. Christopher and I have many fond memories of you and Mike, as well as huge admiration. I trust you have lots of loving support.
Janet and family–holding you all in the light. Mike through his power of optimism (possibility) and vision has helped plant and nourish many seeds of social change that continue (myself included). The community building of Fifth Sundays and the passion and vision to bring a cross section of progressive groups together in the Arizona Advocacy Network were a starting point and developmental point for so many of us. I wish I’d seen you more during COVID, but alas the last time was a fundraiser for the Grand Canyon Institute. Many fond memories–and we should all be proud of how many lives Mike touched. He truly made a difference and the fruits of his labor will continue in the years ahead.
Tom Schlueter Ellen Neuhaus
Dearest Aunt Janet,
Hugs from the Schlueter nieces and nephews . We all sought out Uncle Mike at family get togethers for his warmth, sense of humor, wisdom, and the sincere interest he took in our lives. His compassion for those less fortunate and appreciation for the struggles of others, otherwise overlooked in society, is inspiring. The world is a better place for his and your efforts. Hopefully we can also give back as he has.
Love to the Valder’s!
Tom and Ellen
Nancy (Loucks) Kenny
Dear Janet and all of the Valder and Valder Currans,
Please know that we are thinking of all of you at this difficult time. I hope you have found time to celebrate his amazing life as well as to mourn. His life touched so many others, and we are grateful to have known him. Love to you and all the family –
Nancy, Niall, Freya, and Savanna Kenny
Dear Janet and your family,
I am so sorry to hear of Mike’s death. I loved working with him and you on committees. I loved our conversations. i loved his deep down, abiding warmth even as there might be disagreements about issues/decisions or actions. He had such a good sense of humor, was curious and welcoming to all kinds of people. When I think of him and of you Janet I get such a glow in my heart. I also now feel sorrow – but, I know he led a very full, vibrant and generous life. Blessings to you and to your family.
With much affection, Jenny Ladd
Janet and family,
My deepest condolences during this difficult time. Mike was a good man. He cared about others. He was a talented lawyer and he devoted countless hours to the improvement of the legal profession. I was a beneficiary of some of that time. Mike and I worked a number of legal cases together – roughly 40 years ago. He was a great mentor and I am grateful for the time we spent together and the advice and training he provided. May he rest In peace with you knowing that he was a remarkable man who lived a truly meaningful life.
Thanks for sharing Mike with all of us. He inspired me. He’ll be missed!!!!
Janet and family: I met Mike when he came to Loras. Where I was a classmate of brother Bob. What a family,to produce two such wonderful men! I would then see Mike at LorasAlumni weekends through the years and learn something of his many accomplishments and activities. I know of no other Duhawk who did as much as Mike for social justice. His passing is a great loss to all of us, and as someone who lost a spouse himself a few years ago I know how painful this time must be for you. You have my deepest sympathy and prayers.
Janet so sorry to hear of Mike’s passing. You are in my prayers and thanks for all you do for VIP.
Walter and Joan Koppenbrink
Dear Janet and Family,
We were saddened to learn of Mike’s passing and extend our condolences to all of you. We met Mike through Phoenix Youth at Risk and marveled at his compassion, intellect and dedication to serving the youth in our community. As we continued to know both of you through the years, we continued to be inspired by your commitment to social justice and fairness for those who have been disadvantaged. When Mike came into the office for medical reasons, he always had a smile and lit up our day. The world has lost a valuable member, but his legacy and memory will live on in all the good he has accomplished.
Walt and Joan Koppenbrink
Dear Janet and Family,
I just today read in the AzAN newsletter that Mike passed away and I was very shocked and saddened. He was so dedicated to ‘just causes’ and you and he worked as a wonderful team to try to achieve greater justice for all. I’m sure this must be a very very very difficult time for you, after your 58 years of joint living and serving. Please take care of yourself, reach out for help to both your family (of course), friends and even acquaintances like me.
Again, I’m very sorry to hear about Mike’s death and am so glad that our paths crossed at least in some ways, at some times as it was an honor to know him.
Suzanne, Nicole & Samantha Heileman
Dear Jeff, Denise, Helen, Katherine, Lauren & entire Valder family.
Our Sincere Condolences on this great loss.
I remember your parents at your wedding. What a joyous time.
May God and His Angels keep you all in His loving care, as you move forward.
You will all be in our Hearts and Prayers.
Connie Martin White
Dear Valder Family,
We are so sorry to hear about Mr. Valder. He was an amazing man and we were blessed to have known him all these years. What an incredible role model to have in your lives. We are sending love and prayers to everyone.
All our love,
Connie, Denise & Becky Martin
Dear Janet and Family:
You and Mike hosted a lovely dinner for my Mother, June Fretz and I, after the end of our 7 week Jury trial. Thank you for being such a gracious giver to the community.
My Mother and I really “loved” Mike. He fervently represented me at trial and did a great job. It was a great success and I am very grateful to him and to have a chance to know him.
You were always with him during his trials. He spoke about you so lovingly.