Katharine Michelle Haag was born in Athens, GA on August 22, 1974. Adorable and funny, she delighted family and friends. At age 9, Michelle was diagnosed with type I diabetes, commencing a lifetime of intense health problems. She spent far too much of her childhood in hospitals and ambulances. Yet she shared her goofy playfulness and wide smile with the many who loved her.
As a teenager, Michelle convinced her parents to allow her a pet snake. In the weeks and months she was sick in bed, Naomi became her constant companion. Her bond with her burmese python kicked off a lifelong love of reptiles and exotic animals.
Michelle’s fierce determination and intellect enabled her to surpass expectations. Her frequent school absences led some to doubt she would graduate, yet she not only completed high school, she earned her B.S. with Phi Beta Kappa honors and went on to become a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine in 2004.
Approaching life as an adventure, Michelle embraced new experiences. Whether it be skydiving, an impromptu midnight drive to New Orleans, or a scientific expedition to Mauritius, Michelle constantly explored her curiosity of the world. Her homes were filled with all manner of snakes, lizards, and turtles, and upon marrying another reptile enthusiast they created a hybrid of house and zoo.
Michelle’s capacity to love was colossal. Her thoughtfulness and compassion were boundless, and she rained her love and empathy on her friends, family, vet clinic clients, and the many animals she comforted and healed.
As the years wore on, Michelle’s health continued to deteriorate. She developed rheumatoid arthritis, and this coupled with diabetic complications kept her in a world of pain. Working as much as she was able, most free time was spent in bed or fighting with the insurance company to cover the medications her doctors wanted for her. She voiced her ire at politicians who put the interest of corporations above her quality of life. It took months for some medications to be approved, and meanwhile her suffering was all-encompassing. On November 8 Michelle chose a respite from her misery and ended her life.
Michelle is survived by parents John and Karin Haag, husband Andy Howington, sisters Krysia and Tamara, niece Lydia, nephew Ezra, and a multitude of relatives, clients, and friends who were lucky to encounter her loving presence. In lieu of flowers, please donate to aarda.org or conservation.org. A memorial service will be held at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Athens on Friday, November 22 at 3:00pm.
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