Michael Clarke Rubel

16 April, 1940 - 15 October, 2007

followed by his beloved wife Kaia Maris Rubel
13 August, 1942 - 22 June, 2009


Michael Clarke Rubel (or Mykee) at the Rubel Castle

Service was held at 1000 hours, 27 October, 2007
Grace Episcopal Church, 555 East Mountain View Avenue, Glendora, California

See a photo gallery from the memorial service.

Officiating: The Rev. Clarke K. Oler and The Rev. Dr. Christopher S. Rubel

Special Fundraising Effort for the headstone.


Sweet Darkness

When your eyes are tired
the world is tired also.

When your vision has gone
no part of the world can find you.

Time to go into the dark
where the night has eyes
to recognize its own.

There you can be sure
you are not beyond love.

The dark will be your womb

The night will give you a horizon
further than you can see.

You must learn one thing,
The world was made to be free in.

Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong.

Sometimes it takes darkness and
the sweet confinement of your
aloneness to learn

anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive

is too small for you.

–David Whyte
From The House of Belonging


Instead of flowers, donations to The Citrus Valley Hospice, 820 N. Phillips Street, West Covina, California 91722 in Memorial for Michael Clarke Rubel.

Michael C. Rubel was born at Covina Inter-Community Hospital on 16 April, 1940 and died with family surrounding him in Glendora at 0245 hours, 15 October, 2007. His parents were The Rev. Henry Scott Rubel and Dorothy Deuel Rubel.

His wife, Kaia and her daughter’s family, Susan, Darren, and Christopher Armstrong; Dorchen Forman Van Dyke, his sister; Christopher Rubel, brother; C.W. Scott Rubel, Clarke L. Rubel, James Forman, Peter Forman, George Henry Forman, nephews; and Jennifer Mawhorter, neice.

The Pharm Troll


Star News Article on the passing of Michael C. RubelOn Friday, Oct. 19, stories of Michael hit the newspapers and in the San Gabriel Valley topped the news of Joey Bishop's passing. The Star News Article is no longer avilable online, but click here for the Examiner pdf.

Cherished, personal stories of Michael are coming in from all over. For your shared reminiscences, here are some.
This may be a growing page as I have time.
If you wish to add your story or letter here, please e-mail Scott Rubel.
Skip to: Michael Keith, Bill Wilmer, Peter Forman, Criswell Guldberg, Chris Ruff, Dave Car (Rubeling), Dale Fulton, Warren Asa

Homily by Rev. Clarke K. Oler

Obituary for the October 26, 2007 Newspapers —Christopher Rubel

A Tribute to the Life of Michael Clarke Rubel, 16 April, 1940 to 15 October, 2007
Published in the Glendora Community News November 7, 2007

Kaia Rubel, Michael’s wife, asked me to write an obituary for the newspaper. But, writing an obituary would mean Michael is gone. That can’t be, not in Glendora! Glendora can’t be without Michael, or, at least Glendora won’t be the same. No. I won’t write an obituary. Then, as Karen Babineau suggested, how about writing a brother’s tribute?

We hear nowdays about “footprints.” This and that leave footprints. What kind of footprint are you and I leaving? Well, Michael leaves a big footprint—Michael Big Foot. I’ve taken pictures of it from the air. The Glendoran Magazine developed issues around it. Huell Howser recently put it on YouTube. It will remain, tended to by The Glendora Historical Society: the Rubel Castle or The Pharm (an overwhelming project), nearly have an acre of weird, wonderful conglomerate memorabilia, citrus industry remnants, junk and treasures, concrete, steel, and rocks, just below our San Gabriel foothills.

Michael’s footprint is also an invisible one. He leaves memories and myriad stories behind, not only with the Romeos, a group of close friends, but with one person after another whom he touched. Frequently someone walks up to me and talks about mixing cement, carrying rock, being part of a gang of timber bearers, cleaning up after an amazing party, or just having sat on the veranda with Mike sharing a glass of something and swapping stories.
There’s so much more to Michael Rubel than his Castle footprint. Kaia and I talked on Monday, following his early-morning death. We reminisced about who this man was. Their marriage in Denmark in 1996 was a major turning point for Mike, the bachelor. Kaia’s eleven years of marriage with Michael kept him loved and loving, alive, and continued to nourish him in the midst of a community he cherished—Glendora, his home place on this planet he found to be abundantly rewarding. Kaia and I agreed on several aspects to Michael’s character. I came away thinking of him as a secular Benedictine. Michael was constantly positive, always grateful, always aware of the wonderment of people, all people, and he (with Kaia) lived a style of genuine hospitality. Michael wasn’t just hospitable, inviting people into his space. Michael invited people into himself, his life and times. If one wanted to work and move some sacks of cement, that was fine. But, if one just wanted to visit or take a nap in the caboose, that was fine too.

Criswell Guldberg, a life-long friend, wrote an especially clear summary: “When Michael left the planet, the world lost one of it’s most unique people. He was the unwilling recipient of the charismatic gene that attracted many people. Those of us fortunate enough to have crossed paths with him were the chosen ones. We got lucky. What we built was not a place: a bottle house, a box factory, a tin palace, a tree house, a bird bath, a Castle. We got to build our lives. We got to create ourselves and create a spot for ourselves in the Universe. We don’t hold you responsible, Michael. We just thank you!”
This beautiful statement was included in Scott Rubel's eulogy, delivered in the church.

A hunk of mythic life has left us. Michael will live on for many of us for the rest of our lives—the man and legend. He would caution me not to bother with the truth, because it is too unbelievable and bores people. But, I’m his old(er) brother and I’ve got the last word for the moment. Michael as my younger brother was one of the greatest gifts I could have had in life. Our father died when he was five and I was thirteen. So, for a time, I was a father surogate. But soon he gathered lots of fathers. Eventually, he gathered lots of children, most of whom are now grown and better off for having known him.

Michael died a peaceful death, the kind of death most of us want. He died with Kaia, Susan and Darren Armstrong (Kaia’s daughter and son-in-law), and Kaia’s grandson, Christopher, with him through the last hard days. He was cared for by Dr. Steve Roberts, once a Castle resident, the only physician Mike trusted. Dr. Roberts got him to take medications no one else could, making his last two years and ten months bearable. Dr. Roberts called in the Citrus Valley Hospice Thursday night, the 11th of October, and they cared for him at the last. We’re so grateful for their help! (In fact, instead of flowers, donations can go to The Citrus Valley Hospice, 820 Phillips Street, West Covina.)

The funeral service was held on Saturday morning, 27th of October, at Grace Episcopal Church, Glendora, with a social gathering following.

Michael Clarke Rubel, son of The Rev. Henry Scott Rubel and Dorothy Deuel Rubel, was born at Covina Inter-Community Hospital, on the 16th of April, 1940. He died at home at 0245 hours, the 15th of October, 2007— sixty-seven well-lived years. Left behind are his wife, Kaia; Susan, Darren, and Christopher Armstrong, Kaia’s daughter’s family; Dorchen Forman Van Dyke, sister; Scott and Clarke Rubel, James, George, and Peter Forman, nephews; and Jennifer Forman Mawhorter, niece; Chris Rubel, brother; and countless others who think of him as part of their lives.

Rest in peace, Michael. You’ve lived a life unimaginable to most of us, living fully every bit of it, a life of industry, creativity, generosity, hospitality, always with humor, and a strange kind of loveable authenticity. We love you, Michael and we know you know that to be true.
Reflections by Chris Rubel 17 October, 2007

From Criswell Guldberg

When Michael left the Planet, the world lost one of it's most unique people. He was the unwilling recepient of the charismatic gene that attracted many people. Those of us fortunate enough to have crossed paths with him were the chosen ones. We got lucky. What we built was not a place: a bottle house, a box factory, a tin palace, a tree house, a bird bath, a Castle. We got to build our lives. We got to create ourselves and create a spot for ourselves in the Universe. We don't hold you responsible, Michael. We just thank you.

Rebelling With Love Is Rubeling --From Dave Carr

Great sadness arrived today with the news about Michael's death. I didn't know Michael as long as most of you I guess. But in the few years I was lucky enough to have known Michael my life was changed. Like an electron passing by a very strong positively charged field my course was forever altered. I now live in the pacific north west hoping/dreaming of make my own little castle in the woods. I've known Michael long enough to know that a Castle is not built only of rock or wood or bed springs its something much much more. Things like love, kindness and giving come to mind, but theres something more; something that I hope to learn in my own lifetime; something that I think Michael has known for a long long time. I call this new direction in my life Rubeling. It's similar to rebelling but with more love.

You Rubel with the world instead of rebelling against it.

Work hard, have fun and Safety 3rd.
Love and Peace to all. —Dave Carr

From Peter Forman: Nephew

Dear Family & Friends,

We are very sad that Michael Rubel died this past week, but very happy to remember what a great person he was. Uncle Michael built a castle in the unlikely practical-age of the twentieth century. In doing so, he built untold friendships. For all my relatives, my sister Jennifer, and brothers James and George, having an abnormal uncle was not easy to explain to others...so usually nothing was said. However, having an eccentric uncle was a whole lot of fun! Uncle Michael was such an optimist and his enthusiasm inspired everyone. He also had unswerving confidence in the people around him and trusted us to do anything. Even a couple scrawny kids could put up a door, or accomplish some intricate plumbing. Mostly he trusted us to haul rock and pour cement, but his confidence did rub off. This intangible feeling of confidence that anything was possible led me to try the impossible in my own career with the United State Air Force It was improbable to form a successful clarinet quartet with an active touring schedule and I was told it was impossible for the American Clarinet Quartet to be invited to perform at Chicago's Midwest Orchestra and Bandleaders Conference which we did the next year. In each of my jobs I found myself driven to build a mini empire. Every few years I would show the video interviews of Michael Rubel to a new crop of airmen with the intended message that we could accomplish anything that we could dream. Although I personally think this worked, the video also probably confirmed that I had something wrong with me through association.

I don't want to focus on what I accomplished, but I do need to credit Michael Rubel for his influence on a huge number of people. He embodied the phrase "work hard, play hard"...although he thought everything was play. He worked harder than anyone else on any given day, and looked like he was having great fun. In the evenings we would share humorous and amazing stories...and we would always hear a new adventure of his that we had never heard before. He would be the first to wake up in the morning, and he would magically have a big breakfast all ready for us. We finally figured out that the bigger the meal, the longer and harder we were expected to work that day. As a side note, we learned to finish our oatmeal, lest he would fry this up for lunch! You have to be both frugal and inventive to build a castle.

Being obsessed to build a castle, driving old farm vehicles, sporting mismatched second hand clothes, and favoring the smell of diesel and creosote should have doomed Uncle Michael to never marry. As unlikely as it seems, however there was a perfect match with Kaia. I need to thank Kaia for being so wonderfully kind to everyone. More should be said, but I'm cutting my prose short. A simple Google Internet Search of "Rubel" & "Castle" produces pages of links which may be viewed.

Michael KeithFrom Michael Keith

Dear Michael,

It was so good to see you last month. It must have stimulated my brain with melancholy cause I haven’t been able to stop (not that I wanted to) the many snapshots of my life in Glendora, all with the backdrop of Leadora and Palm Drive.

I think back to the first time I met you. I lived, as you know, on Oakwood. This was in hearing distance of the strange music coming from a little white, brick structure. It drew me to investigate. I didn’t want to go alone, so I tried talking my best friend at the time, Bill Shramm, into going with me. He chickened out when he heard the music. Bill said he thought a troll lived there.

Several days later, Bach wafting in the wind, I gathered up my courage and snuck along the Dalton Wash until I was adjacent to the music. As I was attempting to look through the pine trees that lined the property, I was stopped short. Not 20 feet away I heard a man talking to his wife in German. I knew then I was on to something. The cold war was heating up, I had been learning about the evils of communism, the horror of Nazi Germany, the Atomic bomb, and worst of all, spies!

I knew this was not the time to go messing around, and gingerly left, leaping over the boulders in the wash, ducking under the Leadora Bridge, and climbing up to my back yard to a safe and familiar place. I felt I had escaped but didn’t know from what.

The music kept playing day after day. My mind continued to go into imagination overload. My curiosity eventually must have overcome my fear. With an escape route carefully planned out, I once again snuck to the spot where I had heard the German. Just as I arrived, the German and his wife were leaving in an old car. I waited several minutes to be sure they weren’t just tricking me into thinking they had gone. I carefully made my way to a window and peeked inside. There were hats everywhere. I knew then that these people were definitely spies and this was the room they used to make their disguises. The white, brick building was probably filled with radio equipment to communicate with the Mother Land.

Then it happened. I thought my life was over. The car, or some car, was coming up the long curvy driveway. I dashed into a small bamboo forest that was on the north side of the white brick building. I sat quietly. I heard a door squeak open. The music began to play. It was loud. Loud enough to cover up any screaming I might do during my kidnapping.

Time seemed to stand still. I think I sat for a long time. I figured if I ran it would be obvious to anyone who saw me that I was trespassing. Instead, with every ounce of courage I could muster up, I simply walked out of the bamboo, taking on a kind of lost, innocent look.

That’s when I met you. You were changing the oil filter in an old black car. The same kind of car that Al Capone drove. You said hello. Then with not so much as a blink of an eye, you asked me to get a half used roll of toilet paper that was lying on the ground. I complied, I think you put in as your oil filter, and a friendship that would last a lifetime had begun.

I remember the many days and nights where we popped popcorn on your kerosene heater. With a healthy dose of butter and garlic salt, it was just short of gourmet I remember the honor of being invited to stay as you and Stanley visited in the observatory. I eventually, officially met Odo and Marie and loved to listen to his stories of filming and flying the planes of World War I. I remember being a bit disappointed that these foreigners were not German spies but took solace in the fact that they were a sweet couple with amazing stories.

I remember the first time I saw the inside of the main house. I thought it was a mansion. Your mother had invited me for dinner one night and we sat around this very large table and laughed about everything. I didn’t know people could have so much fun. At dinner to your mother’s horror, you did the “milk thing”. I couldn’t fathom how you could drink an entire quart bottle of milk without swallowing. I got in a lot of trouble at home and wasted a lot of milk trying to mimic you. That same night I learned about Herman. I know he was watching.

One day, when your sister and her family were visiting, I found myself out on the grassy knoll. I had instructions to, “Run and don’t look back”. I glanced over my shoulder and saw you leveling a BB gun at my head. I ran faster, but not faster than a BB. It smacked me in the back of the head like a hornet sting. I knew then you were crazy. But I liked crazy. That same day you were giving your nephews airplane rides. Grasping one hand and one foot and spinning in a circle. They were laughing and having a good time eventually coming to a soft controlled landing. I wanted a turn. You grabbed my left foot at the ankle, my left hand at the wrist and began to spin in a large circle. The faster the spin, the higher I went. Then, without warning, I was launched! Time stood still for a short moment, it was like living in a Peter Pan fantasy….until I met the grass in a very personal way. Why did you do that? It knocked the wind out of me, but I liked crazy.

A few days later I attempted to pay you back with a surprise water balloon attack. As I was quietly climbing the stairs on the west side of the observatory, arms full of water balloons, out you came with your tear gas pistol. It was all over. I dropped the balloons, stumbled off the stairs and profusely dripped tears for the next hour or so. But I liked crazy.

Little did I know I was being groomed with dozens of twisted litmus tests to determine if I was made of the stuff that would eventually earn me the title of “Lord High Chancellor” Thank you Mrs. Freezner, at least you saw the amazing fortitude, commitment, stupidity and recklessness that made me fit into crazy.

It was a secret. No one was supposed to know. But I knew. The Albourne Rancho was going to be your new home. We drove up in the 32 Ford. Parked on Palm Drive. We entered through a screen door and directly into an office-like kitchen. I think we had tea. You used an old silver teapot that poured so slow you said grandma lived inside. I also learned one of life’s lessons; you always had lemon with your tea. You said, “You must look at the lemon straight on as you squeeze it. Take your eye off for one second and it’ll get ya!”

Down through the kitchen and into the packing house was the mother of all rooms. Dusty, dirty, musty, hot, spiders everywhere. It was perfect. I was quickly assigned the task of climbing up into the rafters and carefully tossing down about two million wooden fruit boxes. There were an equal number of Black Widows. I was not concerned because you told me they wouldn’t hurt me. Damn! I can’t believe that I fell for that, but in the end, several days later, I survived.

That was the beginning. I would go down dark, dank air duct tunnels. I would climb 80 foot palm trees and trim palm fronds. I would be your servant as your Marine Corps buddies scratched their heads. I even answered a preset telephone call explaining your Rolls would not be ready until the following evening. That was a great hoax!!!

I would dig holes that I couldn’t get out of for the car lift. I remember when we were loading it up at the 76 station across from Ferris’, it began to slip off the truck. I grabbed and held. You said I acted quickly and saved the day. I felt so proud.

There are a million memories and a million lessons that became the building blocks of my character. I know we’ve talked before about what that meant to me, but I’ll say it again, you provided a place and a friendship that literally saved my life. I learned respect and responsibility. I learned to sing off key and laugh a lot. I learned about hard work and finishing what you start. I learned the value and rarity of unconditional friendship. Probably most important, I learned to like myself.

I’ll be coming down again next summer. You will be on the list of those I will see. Until then, I’ll try to Email. More stories to come….

Lord High Chancellor,

(Better known as “Kiddo”)


Bill Wilmer: Midland School Class of 1958

I am very sad to hear of Mike Rubel's passing, but I am very pleased that Midland has passed on the information to all of us who knew him.

As I recall my first year at Midland, I was a 10th grader living in the Middle School in a cabin that was free-standing near an oak across from the row of cabins that covered the famous tunnel network. I recall being invited below ground by Mike for an appreciation look around and soon saw that grape juice was being fermented and enjoyed in that subterranean environment. Later that year, those tunnels were part of the fortification that protected the above-ground inhabitants while they released a series of b-b-gun shots at my roommate and me outside our cabin as we dashed to get into our room and safely behind protective walls.

I recall that during the following year Harvey Duryee and Mike roomed together just behind the tunnels, a room that I recall being elevated a bit on the side of the hill on which Vic Bryant lived. What I recall first about Mike that year was that he frequently played a version of Gaîté Parisienne on his record player, and the music permeated the entire area and added a welcome color to the rustic magic of the redwood cabins, dirt grounds, and friendly oaks.

At some point during the end of that year, Mike and I formed a partnership to process an old white oak deadfall that was on the Chamberlain Ranch property adjacent to the school. Either Ben Rich or Barry Schuyler got approval from Mr. Chamberlain for Mike and me to saw and cut the tree into firewood for the school. Mike was a heck of a hand with an ax and a two-man saw just as I was. We walked out into the field carrying the long saw, one or two small Swedish saws, and a couple of two-bitted axes. The sledges and wedges were to be hauled out at a later point in the process. We looked over the site during that initial day of work and clearly saw the age and mass of what had once been a majestic tree. It lay spread out over a significant area and still looked formidable and challenging. Mike and I were soon to find that perception to be very accurate as the tree tested our physical strength and individual and collective motivation. I have recalled vividly many times that one of those moments occurred when we had cut many rounds and were ready to start the splitting. The wood was very dry but still steel tough. We put one of the rounds on end and with our newly sharpened axes drove down into the grain as hard as we could, and on none of several strikes did the blade ever bite and stay embedded. In each case the ax bounced straight back up into the air leaving not even a significant scar on the end of the log. It was then we moved to wedges and sledges, and working as a team we beat the logs apart, one by one, over a period of a couple of months.

Mike and I started the project with the two-man saw, which provided us plenty of opportunity to talk as we often sat on the ground across from each other pulling and pushing in sync and resting the same way. I recall we chatted often but I cannot say about what. I just recall it was a pleasant time for each of us. At some point we started using the axes to make cuts and that went on for some time. Then one day, Mike swung his ax and it glanced off the log or branch and cut him nastily on the ankle. Fortunately we were able to make a temporary repair and walk him back to the school where he was treated and recovered over some rather short period of time. Soon we were out there again cutting, sawing, and splitting.

We started stacking our wood into the perfect cords required by the Midland tradition, education, and wood brokers. Rather rapidly the first cord started to take form. The second cord took shape and then the third cord was formed. I recall that we started a fourth cord with small cuts, and then we were left with only the large rounds of the main trunk that we could not cut or move. It was then that Barry Schuyler taught us a lesson in economics by making himself available to us for hire at $3.50 an hour including his gas powered chain saw and the use of the school's truck, Big Ben, to haul the bonanza back to the school grounds. To his credit he was as good or better a worker than Mike or I, and he soon had the large pieces cut into manageable sizes. These we added to the beginning of the fourth cord and were credited with having cut four cords. Barry arranged to be paid by debiting Mike's and my total earnings.

In those days, Midland paid $15.00 per cord, cut and stacked. In addition, and this may be the source of our initial motivation, Midland also gave one T-bone steak for each cord delivered. Well, Mike and I each received our money and two T-bones apiece! I still recall cooking and eating mine. I hope Mike enjoyed his as much as I did.

I wish I could remember when and how Mike and I came to develop our partnership. It was a good one, maybe the best business partnership I have ever had to be truthful. I never enjoyed my work so much as when I was sitting with Mike on the ground in the middle of that ranch field pulling and pushing to the rhythm of our Midland friendship. I have thought of Mike many, many times in that setting. I will continue my thoughts of Mike even more vividly now.

To Michael:

Raise a glass,
A shrimp cocktail glass
All in, all done
A bit of the sun
winks out...

He told us he had this stuff
Like, all this stuff
Oh, he was right
I mean he was so right!
Sally, John, Glenn
Dwayne, all these legends!
And a pond full of tar.

His life in a walk-in...
Heck, most store food in there.
And nuts on the roof. Bang!
Creosote in my mental nose with
Elevators to somewhere.
And the mythical Aermotor...

So raise a glass,
A shrimp cocktail glass
All in, all done
We'll never begin
To fill in these words.

I never saw in that tunnel
I never walked in his shoes
And who could?
I won't drive the school kids
I don't knock the pipe
And I miss the one who did.

I 'spose this could go on all day
I guess there's more to say
It's all in here-
And it walks around with me.
I'll bet it dings, whistles,
Clanks, and creaks in your mind like mine.

So raise a glass,
A shrimp cocktail glass
All in, all done
A bit of the sun
Will shine on...inside.

Chris Ruff, Chapel Hill, 2007

If you wish to add your story or letter here, please e-mail Scott Rubel.

See Huell Howser's 1990 Videolog interview of Michael Rubel.

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