A Lasting Impression
By Heather Maxwell Executive Director Anthem Area Chamber of Commerce
Area veterans from all branches gathered alongside law enforcement, first responders, family and friends for the military ball at the Anthem Golf and Country Club on November 9.
As is often the case for events like this, Mike Spinelli and his wife Ro arrived early to set up lighting for the red-carpet photos.
An internationally known photographer, Mike is known vest among local business leaders for his warm smile and catchy tagline reminder to update their headshots: “You only get one chance to make a first impression.”
As the cocktail hour ended and everyone made their way to their seats, Mike was unaware of the honor awaiting him. The dinner ceremony opened with the national anthem played by the U.S. Coast Guard band, the invocation and POW/MIA recognition, before U.S. Rep. Debbie Lesko delivered a poignant keynote speech. She recounted her father’s military service, her humble beginnings and the simple acts of local community service serve as building blocks along her path to the U.S. House of Representatives. As she wrapped up her comments, she turned her attention to the certificate folder in her hand.
“I have the privilege tonight to recognize one of your local community servants,” she said. “And I don’t think he’s expecting it. And this person is none other than tonight’s photographer, Staff Sgt. Mike Spinelli, who served in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War, from 1968 to 1972.”
As applause broke across the crowd and Mike made his way to the podium, the congresswoman continued.
“Mike was nominated for a Congressional Recognition for his lifetime of dedicated service to our country, his community, and our veterans,” Lesko said.
“He is the son of a World War II veteran, who received the Purple Heart and a Bronze Star. Mike served our country honorably during the Vietnam War; has led a life of public service; and has received countless awards and recognitions for his photography.
One of his best-known images in Arizona the Anthem Veterans Memorial. The image shows the sunlight illuminating a mosaic of the great seal of the United States as its rays shine through the openings in five staggered pillars representing every branch of the military.
Mike lives in Anthem with his wife, Ro Logrippo.”
Spinelli’s response was what one would expect from this humble servant, “I am totally blown away by all of this. I love being a part of this community where so many give so much of their time, energy and talent.”
More about Spinelli
Before moving to Anthem, Mike served as councilman, vice mayor and mayor of Burlingame, California (a suburb of San Francisco). Mike currently serves on the Anthem Community Council Community Planning & Development Committee. He previously served on the Anthem Community Council Economic Development Committee as well as the Anthem Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. In 2014, Mike was named Anthem Area Chamber of Commerce Business Person of the Year.
During his active duty service, Mike trained the photographer who later went on to work for NASA processing film from the Apollo 11 moon landing. Mike won best in show and first place at the Biennial Inter-Service Worldwide Photographic Competition and was featured in Air Force Times and had his work displayed at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. (Now in archives). Mike received Associated Press honors for outstanding news photography and earlier this year two of Mike’s favorite sports photos—one of Tom Watson and one of Payne Stewart—were chosen for “locker” displays at the World Golf Hall of Fame and Museum in St. Augustine, Florida. His work has also been featured in Newsweek, Sports Illustrated, GQ and Vogue, and several books.
Mike served on the original planning team for the Anthem Veterans Memorial, which has since received the following awards and recognition: Arizona Historic Landmark Designation 2012 – Arizona Historical Society; Arizona Public Works Project of the Year Award 2012 – Arizona Chapter of the American Public Works Association (APWA); and ACEC 2012 Grand Award – Best Engineering and Environmental Consulting Project – American Consulting Engineers Companies.
Mike captured and donated the initial promotional photos of the Anthem Veterans Memorial; donated countless hours of his time and talent to capture hundreds of photos of local veterans featured on the Anthem Community Council website and during the Veterans Day ceremonies; and he continues to donate his time and talents for red carpet event photography at the Military Ball and the annual Anthem Area Chamber of Commerce Winter Gala.