MIKE DUNN, devoted family man, talented undersea photographer and popular presence at the Olde Beaufort Farmers’ Market, died on March 10, 2023, at UNC Hospital in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
The cause was complications from staphylococcus bacteria. He was 61.
Mike packed a lot of good times and adventure into six decades. After he retired from a successful career in the technology industry at age 51, Mike embraced life at the coast where he could work on his favorite hobbies: Scuba diving, photography, conservation, yoga, gardening, history and cooking. He stayed in shape at his local CrossFit gym, Irontide, and enjoyed meeting friends for craft beers at his favorite Fishtowne Brew House.
Along with his wife Nikki, Mike traveled as far away as Indonesia to get the perfect underwater photos. He logged thousands of dives in more than 33 years, and spread his passion for the ocean by teaching others. Mike worked as a Dive Master on the island of Curacao and spent time in Sint Eustatius studying underwater archeology.
Mike volunteered as a local docent, giving historical tours for the Beaufort Historical Association while dressed in colonial attire, and as a diver inside the U-352 tank exhibit at the Pine Knoll Shores Aquarium. From April to November, you could see Mike on Saturdays at the Olde Beaufort Farmers’ Market, where he and Nikki sold his artwork from their NC Coastal Life booth. Mike also served as treasurer on the OBFM Board, and they were lucky to have such an intelligent and honest man overseeing the nonprofit's finances.
Handsome, erudite and introspective, Mike always maintained that his greatest achievement was his long, happy marriage.
Michael David Dunn was born on July 28, 1961, at the military hospital in New York to Major David Joseph Dunn and Mildred Jane (Vice) Dunn, a registered nurse. His father was a career military officer who served in Vietnam. As a family they moved often and young Mike attended 11 different schools in 13 years. Despite a peripatetic childhood, Mike excelled at academics and music, playing French horn and serving as Drum Major in his high school marching band.
When Mike's father returned from Vietnam, he gave Mike the bracelet of a naval pilot who was Missing in Action. The name on the bracelet was LCMDR Michael Dunn, and Mike wore it for years. After the pilot's remains were found in Vietnam, Mike paid his respects at the pilot's grave at Arlington National Cemetery and traveled to Vietnam to visit the crash site.
Mike graduated from Colorado State University, with a BSME degree in Mechanical & Nuclear Energy in 1983 and worked as a Nuclear Shift Test Engineer at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard in Vallejo, California.
He met the love of his life, Nicolette, on Independence Day in San Diego and they married one year later. Nikki likes to say they still had fireworks throughout their marriage. The couple moved to San Francisco where Mike attended business school at the University of California, Berkeley. They gave birth to a son, Ryan Michael Dunn, in 1991.
Throughout their marriage, Mike & Nikki continued growing and learning. They became Scuba instructors, yoga teachers and Master Gardeners together. Although they shared much in common, they also had independent hobbies and friends. Nikki often said how proud she was to be Mike's wife.
Mike worked at Hewlett Packard for a decade, including three exciting years in Tokyo. It was there that he learned Japanese, taught himself to cook and perfected his version of tempura, a family favorite. It was always a pleasure to be invited to eat at the Dunn house. They never ran out of rice.
Mike was headhunted by Cree Inc., now known as Wolfspeed, where he worked for 16 years in Durham, North Carolina. The family based itself in Cary, and they became involved parents at their son's schools, Green Hope Elementary and Cary Academy.
After almost 30 years of corporate life, the couple retired in Beaufort, North Carolina. There, they built a robust social life and set up their own dive and yoga business: NC Coastal Life. They taught yoga at the beach and organized group dive trips around the world, inspiring others to find adventures in their lives.
It was in Miami last month while preparing for a weeklong dive trip to Belize, that a blister on Mike's heel became infected and his well-lived life began a spiral to an abrupt and tragic end.
In addition to his loving wife of 35 years, Nicolette (Van Natta) Dunn, his son Ryan, and his father Dave, Mike is survived by his sister, Sharon Stott; brothers-in-law Conan Stott, Dr. James F. Van Natta and Fred Sottile; sisters-in-law Vivian Van Natta, Virginia Van Natta and Eleanor Van Natta, and many adored nieces and nephews. Mike was predeceased by his mother, Millie.
Donations can be made to the Mike Dunn Memorial Scholarship fund.
Mike Dunn Memorial Scholarship Fund
The family will hold a Celebration of Mike's Life on April 28, 2023. The location will be announced at a later date.
Condolences and life tributes may be sent to the family at www.noefs.org
Arrangements by Noe Funeral Service, Inc. of Beaufort, NC.
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