ROCHELLE — Mike Hahn and his daughter, Ashley, would always call each other after a workout.
“He called once and said he was in San Francisco swimming to and from Alcatraz,” Ashley said. “I was like, ‘What?’”
Mike participated in swimming since high school and had “tons” of medals from many competitive races. But his medal from Alcatraz in 2017 was his “crown jewel,” his fiance, Leslie Ciaccio said.
Hahn, 51, passed away June 5 while participating in a swim race at Lake Monona in Madison. Ciaccio said Hahn suffered a cardiac event during his first 15-20 minutes of swimming and was removed from the water after another swimmer found him unconscious. Ciaccio was also at the event swimming in a shorter race.
“Before we got into the water he said he’d finish in under an hour,” Ciaccio said. “I did 37 minutes. I was waiting for him. Once an hour passed, I started to wonder where he was. I didn’t want to panic. I went to the official table and they said he was taken away.”
Ciaccio will remember her fiancé for his constant positivity. Any time someone asked how he was doing, Mike would always say, “Awesome.”
Ciaccio said he always cared for others and helped anyone who asked. Mike was strong. He worked out a lot. He had a good work ethic. He went early to work and stayed late.
“He was the kindest and healthiest person I knew,” Ciaccio said.
Hahn and Ciaccio became friends after meeting at the pool at the YMCA in Rockford. After a while, Mike asked her out.
“Later on, he asked me to marry him,” Ciaccio said. “When he proposed, he gave me a wooden box he made that said ‘Will you swim with me for the rest of my life?’”
Mike worked at Cain Millwork where he embraced his ability to design and craft projects of all types as senior production engineer. While away from work, he developed woodworking projects on his own. He made things for family and friends.
“He always told us if we wanted something to draw it up and he’d make it for us,” Ciaccio said. “He built me things for the yard.”
Mike’s son, Cody, along with Ashley were also the recipient of a lot of his projects. The family walked through Ashley’s house last week and marveled at everything that came from Mike.
Hahn wouldn’t give up on a project until it was done and perfect. Every Christmas Eve he could be found in his workshop finishing gifts for people. He helped Ashley and Cody with their 4-H projects in school.
“He wouldn’t let us go to bed until everything was done,” Ashley said. “They’re such ordinary things he made me. But he put so much craftsmanship and love into it. Now, my brother has a workshop just like my dad. Today, he made a planter basket display. Not only do we have the things he made us, but my brother is carrying it on.”
Ashley recalls Mike “booking it” to get to every one of her and Cody’s athletic events on time.
“He loved swimming so much,” Ashley said. “He forced my brother and I to join the Rochelle swim team, and we were by far the worst on the team (laughs). He’d swim every morning. When he got older it was still no shock that he’d be doing a race.
“I think to put it best, he was a man that gave.”