For Mike Ley, it was just another walk on the beach on January 16, 2015, when one of the many bottles littering the sand caught his eye. This one was sealed and had a rolled piece of paper inside. Ley immediately knew he had found another Message in a Bottle (MIB) but he did not realize his life and a young lady’s life would become linked through technology for a never-ending story.
Ley and his wife Sandy have spent many days walking on the Gulf beaches since retirement. His passion became searching for sea beans; collecting and identifying them while teaching others about his new love. Sea beans are most often found in the wrack line of debris left on the beach after high tide.
“I’ve walked every inch of Mustang Island, South Padre Island, North Padre Island and the first half of St. Joes (San Jose); every inch of it, many times.” ~ Mike Ley
Sea beans are rather small and easily covered by the debris so Ley is very attentive as he walks along. He picks up anything of interest, large or small, and researches each one for its story. Since beginning his beach combing adventure, Ley and his wife have found eight MIBs. True to his inquisitive nature, Ley opened each bottle to read the message which has always included contact information. Of course, he contacted each person and can tell where each bottle was launched and how long it was carried by the currents.
This green bottle held a message written in red ink on December 29, 2013 from Mali Jereczek, a high school junior from Green Bay, Wisconsin. Mali’s message included “Go Packers!”, shared her future college plans and her hope that the reader’s “life is full of love, family, friends and happiness!”. Mali included her email and street address as well as how to find her on social media.
Even though Ley is a Colorado summer resident and a Winter Texan, he is a Wisconsin native who also backs the Green Bay Packers so he and the teenage girl shared something in common. Ley made contact and found out Mali had written her message while visiting in Puerto Rico. While there, she toured SSV CORWITH CRAMER at dock in the port. This is a tall ship which is a sailing school and research vessel. http://www.sea.edu/ships_crew/cramer
Mali said that Captain Sean Bercaw helped them seal their bottles and he took the bottles with him on his next voyage and “sent them off”. Ley then contacted Captain Bercaw who supplied the details of the bottle launch. Mali’s bottle was placed in the Caribbean Sea to the east of Puerto Rico in January 2014.
That same month, Mali boarded a plane to begin her college education at the University of New Hampshire and to become a part of the UNH Mustang Volleyball team. Through social media and as friends with Mali and her mother Julie Lattimer, Ley followed her as she pursued her dreams both on the volleyball court and in the classroom. The UNH Wildcats’ success were always posted and in May, Mali was named to the Spring 2017 academic UNH Dean’s List.
Ley returned to his Colorado home the spring of 2017 and began making plans for a trip to Wisconsin to support family during a health concern. He also reached out to Mali and her mother and after three years a face to face meeting happened. Ley, his wife Sandy, Mali and her mother Julie Lattimer met for lunch to enjoy visiting in person.
Walking along a deserted beach and picking up objects discarded by the waves would seem to lead to a solitary life. But, for Ley, it has been the opposite.
“Finding this MIB definitely added a little happiness and a couple of very good friends to my life!” ~ Mike Ley
Julie Lattimer commented, “When you sit down and think about all the stars being lined up just right to make this story happen, it truly is amazing. Life is like that, one little wind change or shift in decision making and the story becomes a whole new story. Thanks Mike Ley and Sandy for making this happen and being beautiful characters in this story!”