Gresham High graduate Michael Muange died from an undiagnosed heart condition

by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Michael Muange in front of the Memorial Coliseum for his graduation from Gresham High School in 2011.About 400 people gathered in the Gresham High School grandstands at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 2, to remember Michael Muange, the 20-year-old graduate who played football games on that same field just a few years before.

Family, friends and students from all over Gresham and Portland paid their respects, lit candles, listened to Michael’s favorite songs and shared memories during the vigil.

“People were still in disbelief,” said Todd Nagel, head football coach at Gresham High School. “He was super fun to be around and just an engaging kid.”

On Tuesday, July 30, Michael died suddenly from an undiagnosed heart condition called ventricular tachycardia. The Warner Pacific College incoming sophomore was sitting down to eat at a restaurant, when he collapsed. Friends began performing CPR until paramedics arrived and rushed Muange to Adventist Medical Center, where he later died.

Michael’s friends, family members and coaches described him as a happy, strong and lovable person, whose passion for sports and family was notable. Michael was involved with football, basketball and loved outdoor activities like paintball.

Michael’s older brother Simon, 22, said the two were inseparable throughout childhood and into their adult lives and would spend hours talking and joking around.

“Michael always had plans for something, ideas, things to do, what he wanted in life,” Simon said.

He worked tirelessly on and off the field, painting houses during the summer and completing schoolwork during the academic year. At Warner Pacific, Michael was studying biology but planned on switching to business.

“He was not a high-profile superstar. He was more low-key, soft spoken and respectful,” said Scott Lipner, counselor at Gresham High School. “But those who knew him are going to be affected. He’s one of those people who had a twinkle in his eye, and you liked him and wanted to hug him.”

Michael’s presence extended beyond Gresham to southeast Portland, where dozens of students and teachers grew to care for him during his freshman year at Central Catholic High School.

“In my experience with Michael, he was an outstanding young man and always had a smile on his face,” said Steve Pyne, head football coach at Central Catholic. “He was a hard-working kid and close to a lot of our guys.”

One of those guys was Tye Collier. The two boys met shortly after Michael moved to Portland from Central Africa when he was 10 years old and quickly became best friends.

“Michael and I were like brothers,” said Collier. “The one person I could always count on. I can’t trust someone like I could trust him.”

When Central Catholic and Gresham faced off for Friday night football games during high school, they always ended on a positive note — regardless of the score.

Coaches and friends remember Michael spending time with his old Central Catholic friends, shaking hands and catching up before heading home. The grandstands last Friday were filled with many of those same people, who returned to say their goodbyes.

“My family and I are so thankful for what they’ve done and for showing up,” Simon said. “It was touching to see so many people there.”

Michael is survived by his parents, Pastor Simon Muange and Lucy Muange; his sisters and brothers, Rebecca Muange Lomboto, Grace Muange Kambumba, Simon Muange, Dorcas Muange, Divine Muange, Andrew Muange and Emmanuel Muange.

Friends have established a “Michael Muange Memorial Fund” at Wells Fargo Bank to cover funeral expenses.

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