Edmond "Mickey" Hirsch, 61, cancer patient who built his own coffin

Posted: November 22, 2013

SOME OF Mickey Hirsch's family and friends were appalled when he began preparing for his own death, even building his coffin.

Mickey was a cancer patient who went from being a husky 220-pounder to a frail 150 pounds in the past year and a half. Tortured by chemotherapy, his once powerful energy drained away.

"I do want to live," he told the Daily News' Barbara Laker, who wrote about him in October. "But I'm making the most of my death. I'm putting some meaning into it. I share these experiences so people are not scared to die."

Edmond "Mickey" Hirsch died Tuesday at age 61. He had lived most of his life in Northeast Philadelphia but recently lived in Forked River, N.J.

Mickey, who worked in construction most of his life and was until recently doing remodeling jobs with his son, Matt, 26, posted photos of his casket-making on Facebook. Not everyone was pleased. Viewers accused him of being morbid.

So, he asked for cards, placed them on the casket, and said he would call it a "hope chest." That went over better, and he got more than 900 cards.

"In a way, it's heroic," longtime friend Penny Slakoff said in October. "In ways, it's kind of gross, but I give him a lot of credit."

After his death, Slakoff said she was "happy that his suffering was over."

Slakoff had to undergo foot surgery, and Mickey promised he would live long enough to comfort her. He did.

She noted that Monday was the fourth anniversary of the death of his son, Kevin, who was 26 when he died of swine flu.

Mickey grew up in the Bell's Corner section of the Northeast, and graduated from Northeast High School in 1969. He became a carpenter and worked in construction and home remodeling. He was separated from his wife, who died on Christmas Day 2008, at age 44.

After his diagnosis, he told his daughter, Erin, that they would make the most of the time he had left. When he lost his hair to chemotherapy, she gave him a close-cropped haircut.

"She's a thousand times stronger that me," he told Barbara Laker.

Mickey even wrote what he wanted on his tombstone: "Edmond 'Mickey' Hirsch, Devoted Dad, Craftsman And Friend to All, Feb. 6, 1952, Father of Kevin, Matthew and Erin."

Services: Graveside service 1:30 p.m. tomorrow at Montefiore Cemetery, 600 Church Road, Jenkintown.

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