Michael John Manatt was the oldest of 7 children of Clair and Ruth Manatt. He was born in Flower Bluff, Texas while his father served in the U.S. Navy. The family moved back to Clair’s hometown of Brooklyn following his discharge, where Clair joined his brother Junie (G.J.) Manatt in a trucking company, the beginning of what would become Manatt’s, Inc. Merlin, Junie and Clair’s brother, joined the business shortly thereafter. Mike lost his father on Oct. 31, 1962. He was just 9 years old.
From that time on Mike was dedicated to becoming part of his father’s business. He received his Civil Engineering degree from Iowa State University in 1975. Michael and JoAnn Howell were married in August, following his graduation. Mike worked for a consulting engineering company in Chicago for two years, prior to being offered a position in the concrete paving division at Manatt’s, Inc. in Brooklyn.
Mike grew the concrete paving division of Manatt’s to one of the largest and most award winning in the state. However Mike will be most remembered for the personal impact he made with all of his fellow employees—truly an extended family—at Manatt’s, and with his colleagues in Iowa and across the nation. Always willing to listen, Mike was a friend and confidant to all those who sought his help or advice.
Mike also grew his family in Brooklyn. Together with JoAnn he raised four sons, Adam, Brain, Gregory, and Erik whom he affectionately referred to numerically as his number One, Two, Three and Four Son respectively. His example instilled in his sons a sense of pride in Brooklyn, and the values of listening and respecting everyone, regardless of differences of background or opinion.
Mike was well known for his dedication to his family, friends, and the community of Brooklyn. Both individually, and as a part of Manatt’s, Mike strove to make Brooklyn a better place to live and work. Mike was an active part of his community serving on many boards and councils, including those of the local bank and utility. He always had an open door and an open mind. His untimely death on July 1, 2005, at the age of 52 was a shock to everyone who knew him.
Talk of a community center for Brooklyn had circulated for several years. By the early 2000s, it was beginning to gain momentum. Mike was a major proponent of the project, and strove to have the center built in downtown Brooklyn to help bring the community together and revitalize the downtown area. Mike spoke with passion about the community center, often proclaiming the need not just for a building, but a community center with “PIZZAZ!” Mike foresaw not a utilitarian structure, but a gathering place the community could be proud of and use as a showcase to visitors and future residents.
Mike’s family, many friends and colleagues quickly came to the conclusion that the best way to remember Mike and all his contributions would be to make the community center a reality. When community leaders approached the Manatt family about dedication the Brooklyn community center in Mike’s honor, a decision was made to initiate a funding campaign, led by a pledge from Manatt’s, Inc. and the Manatt families of $750,000 toward the capital needed to construct a new multi-purpose facility to serve the entire community.
The support of the community for the project has been overwhelming. People have pledged of their time, talent, and pocketbooks—giving a total of $430,000. These generous community donations, along with the $270,000 given by Manatt’s Inc. employees and vendors, enabled the Brooklyn Community Foundation to apply for and receive a Vision Iowa CAT Grant for $350,000. With the $1,800,000 needed for the project, construction began in May of 2007 and the first event was held in April of 2008.
Mike would never have asked that his name be put on a building, and would have been flattered, and embarrassed, by all the attention this project has raised, but most of all he would have been proud of the way the community came together to support what is truly a community center with PIZZAZ.