Restaurateur, former city council candidate Crafaik dies

Michael Crafaik stands outside Michael's Bistro this past summer.
FILE PHOTO BY MARISSA D'ORAZIO

Longtime Michael's Bistro owner and former politician J. Michael Crafaik III, 37, died Saturday, December 13 at UVA hospital, according to an obituary in today's Daily Progress.

His tragic death of a self-inflicted wound followed a long struggle with bipolar disorder, according to his step-mother Kay Neeley, who told the Hook on Friday that there was "no chance of his recovery."

A 1993 UVA grad, Crafaik made a name for himself not long after graduating by running for city council candidate in his mid-20s in 1996, and again in 1998. But he is perhaps best known for Michael's Bistro, the eponymous restaurant on the Corner that he started before getting into politics–- and which was among the first restaurants to offer fine dining and microbrews in that part of town.

In 2000, Crafaik successfully gained the chair of the city’s Republican Party, but on the night he won that post, he was involved in a dust-up at Mono Loco restaurant. He filed a criminal assault charge against the Republican leader he ousted.

Pundits couldn't help but notice that Crafaik achieved his greatest political success in the same year that George W. Bush won the presidency with a national Republican Party very different from Crafaik's vision.

While Bush was directing spending to religious organizations and fighting such potentially life-saving technologies stem-cell research and–- some might argue– also leading it into the politcal doldrums now affecting it, Crafaik was pressed for a new kind of Republicanism, one founded on freedom. Crafaik was part of a philosphical movement that considered the best government to be the one that gets out of the way

In 2005, Crafaik himself became the target of charges after an altercation with an employer. He was eventually acquitted, and spent some time in a mental health facility in Williamsburg.

In July of this past summer, Michael’s Bistro shut down briefly after Crafaik and his partner, Chuck Adcock, had a falling out. After a large-scale staff walkout, the restaurant reopened in August.

Friends say Crafaik's troubles were dwarfed by his personal qualities which include intelligence, creativity, and kindness.

"He was charming, funny, and I liked working for him," says former Michael's Bistro employee Haley Kreutzer, echoing a sentiment voiced by many. "I still can't believe he's gone."

–originally published at 3:23pm Friday, December 12, under the headline: "Restaurateur, former candidate Crafaik mortally wounded."

–last updated 2:20pm, Sunday, December 14

52 comments

This is disgusting that you would post this. This is not a story, it is a personal tragedy. My heart goes out to Michael and his family.

@ disgusted ... i have to disagree with you. yes, it's a tragedy, but it is also newsworthy. michael craifak is a prominent member of the charlottesville community and has been a newsmaking figure (for better and for worse) over the years. i think the hook's (and other's) reporting on this is certainly founded. while i didn't know him personally, i new of him and send my deepest sympathies to his family and friends.

It's a sad event, but Crafaik is a public figure not only in the business community, but in politics as well. If you're going to aspire to elected office, the public has a well-founded interest, and you're fair game for the media. I agree with Blanco Nino - we can all send our sympathies to his friends and family, but let's not pretend that this is not news.

Definitely news and definitely unfortunate but not surprising unfortunately.

Prayers for Michael's soul and to his loved ones.

The Hook has a long history of publishing nauseating hit pieces on Michael. Whether it was printing an irresponsibly huge mugshot of him after he was arrested which (but later aquitted), or asking for comment from his political enemies in the article, the Hook has never given him a fair shake. The same was true when Hawes Spencer(then at Cville) wrote an extremely nasty article when Michael ran for city council called Crafaik the Younger. Michael hasn't been a public figure for years. This is a disgusting smear on a man that can't defend himself. I hope the publisher of the Hook makes enough money from his rag to buy back his soul.
Michael was kind, generous, loyal, and a far better human than the media vultures that couldn't wait to sink their talons into this fresh misery.

The only thing newsworthy about this story is that his death should be mourned and his family could have done more knowing his condition. His friends all know what issues he faced internally. The ones who have selfless compassion will remember his positive attributes and not the bad ones the media focused on. Those who choose to fall prey to the negative images spewed by the media of this sad ending of torment deserve a fate worse than suffocation by the stench of their own putrid soul.

I agree on the newsworthiness of the story, but strongly disagree on the recap of negativity in his life. A simple post on his condition would have been sufficient to allow friends to be come aware of the situation. Michael was one of the smartest people I have ever met, and he never once ceased to inquire about my life with compassion as he did with so many others. He was long tormented with demons far stronger than most can even begin to understand. It is my hope that with this tragedy, more people will reach out to those close to them in need.

My prayers are with his family, but mostly for Michael himself.

I agree. Completely inapropriate tone. A little respect is not much to ask from a newspaper.

Michael was awesome, kind, interesting, smart, nice, a master at frisbee golf, generous, fun, loved, loyal, at times a card-shark, a great athelete, compassionate, could jump higher than anyone you know, respected, an intellectual, an nature & animal lover, a excellent cook, giving, engaging, brave, respected and a friend to many, many people. I am grateful and lucky to have had Michael as a friend. He will be deeply and forever missed by many, many people. Thanks, for being my friend Mikey.

To all:

I am working on a longer piece about Michael to run this week. I didn't know Michael well personally, but understand from those who did-- expressed so well in some of the posts above-- that he was extremely bright, talented, articulate, and kind even as he struggled with his demons. I would very much like to hear from friends and those who knew him professionally who'd be willing to share their memories of Michael and help show the positive effect he had on the community. This is a tragedy, and I am sorry for the loss so many of you have suffered.

I can be reached at stuart@readthehook.com

Courteney Stuart

I can understand why Michael's death is newsworthy, but as others have said above, there was much, much more to him than the public struggles he had experienced in the past few years. Michael was a great friend to my husband and me, and he was a big-hearted, caring person. I hate to think how much he must have been suffering to be unable to live with his problems anymore. We love you and miss you, Michael.

I think if Michael hadn't run for office twice some people here might have a better point. He had a public life both good and bad. It would have been odd if his tragic shooting had not been covered. I thought of him a sweet guy with his own demons who tried to make Charlottesville a better place. My prayers are with his family and loved ones.

quote: "It would have been odd if his tragic shooting had not been covered."

County Guy, who said it involved a firearm? why did this even need to be disclosed?

I'm going to have to agree with Rambo on this one. Revealing information like that, even if it is true, was not necessary based on the tone of your comment and completely contradicts your condolences.

Hook,
the final sentences in this article left a bad taste in my mouth. Not because of what was said about the victim Mr. Crafaik but because this is grim news that ended with a bad reflection on this man's life. I've never heard of this gentleman before this article and for me to have read about his tragedy AND his publicized low points in life all at once?! I need scope

It is sad to hear about Michael's demise. He was a childhood friend who I grew up with. I liked him and so did many other of those who knew him. He was always kind and honest to me. A successful young business man and someone who cared about his community. I had respect for him, and later in life we became closer friends. I always enjoyed running into each other. He would talk about his big ideas and things he wanted to see happen. Michael was witty and charming, smart and very driven. It is very sad to hear about his loss. I wish he had been happier, but I hope he is happier where ever he is now. It sucks when we lose good people or those who we care about. He will be missed. As someone who grew up here, he will be missed.

This is news, its just really tragic and sad. What is so uncool Courtney and HOOK, is that your article makes him look like an low life asshole! I'm sure his family can't wait to read this shit. Just think when you die, how do want things to be written about you? Really? Get a soul.

Wow. Instead of an apology from the reporter, we get a request for more information about Michael to help her write another piece about him. Unbelievable.

Why are people so reluctant to apologize these days? Is it really that hard?

I looked up Micheal's name after seeing his obit in the paper. What a sad story..and my prayers are with his family. Bipolar disease is a very difficult disease to deal with and is not only hard on the person but can also be a battle for the person's family and friends.

This would have been a great opportunity to bring to light the struggles people have with mental illness. It's not just the down and out one sees on the street who struggle with the the demons associated with disorders such as Micheal's bipolar diagnosis. People with mental illness are loved, loving, articulate, bright, intelligent, accomplished, successful and capable members of a community.

Shame on you Courteney for not seeing the wonderful opportunity to highlight the highs of this man's life...all while confronting his disease. How unfortunate that you were unable to see past the mud in your eye from all the mud slinging to write a beautiful piece...instead choosing to be write a callous, heartless and ignorant piece of trash.

Shame on the Hook for thinking it worthy of print.

Get a grip people. Newspapers write obits of public figures and include the good and the bad. Unfortunately, the Hook is quick to smear, we've seen it many times.

If you are going to critique the Hook obit, realize that much at least, that obits will be written.

One tactic the Hook takes is to ask for interviews and then smear whomever does not talk.

Zack, I'm sorry your friend died and it is tragic but knowing the newspaper is this really out of bounds with other papers? Will you take the C-ville to task if they do the same?

SOLR- Sorry it bothered you to mention how, I was told that by one of his friends and did not think about that when I wrote it. I'm apologize to anyone who was offend

This isn't an obit; the Hook is treating it like breaking news right now. Whether that's right or wrong is debatable, but technically this is not an obit. No one would object to an obit; what some people are objecting to is covering this as news.

My heart goes out to Crafaik's family -- such sadness at this time of year.

County Guy, it didn't bother me. I get suicide and crash pictures from cops all over the nation. I just don't think it needed to be mentioned. Even The Hook had not mentioned it.

Have I missed something? The article above seems fairly even handed and a reflection of the person. You cannot go into politics and the world of F & B and also expect everything in your life to be out of bounds to the world.

"County Guy, who said it involved a firearm? why did this even need to be disclosed?"

Cause of death is always a matter of public record, especially when the death is not from natural causes.

danpri-

The article has been edited quite a bit, especially how it ended.

The article has since been updated to include a somewhat more 'balanced' view of Michael, adding positive details to a sparse account of his time in Charlottesville. I think what bothered me, and some others, was that at the original time of publishing, details were not known (or at least reported) of Michael's condition. It was not then an obituary, as Cecil aptly noted. Given the immensity of such a tragedy to Michael's family and friends, and the community at large, the original piece might have shown a bit of restraint in dredging up old troubles, and could have simply reported with a bit more sensitivity. Our community is small enough that journalistic integrity can be maintained along with compassion towards community members, family, and friends who mourn Michael's passing. There is a time and place for everything.

My deepest condolences to Michael's family and loved ones.

Danpri, you did miss something, if you read it late in the afternoon (you posted your comment at 4:25 pm). An earlier version struck many readers as heavy on the negative/controversial, particularly given the fact that the man was near death.

Obits are of two types: news, written by staff; and paid, written by family or funeral home.

You better believe she edited that vile spew. After receiving as much negative feedback about her vicious dredging of the worst bits of Michael's 37 years on planet earth, she doesn't apologize, she just attempts to placate with some positive spin.
She should apologize for the unnecessary cruelty of her article. People are grieving and don't need salt poured into their wounds so that the Hook can recycle old trash. She has offered no explanation about the need to include those incidents in the previous post. Show some decency, admit you were grossly insensitive and classless.
She knew she screwed up, Michael deserved better than previous post, which is why she edited it. A feeble attempt cover her waste, much like a cat in a litterbox. Hawes should also apologize and explain why such garbage needed to be in that post.

Michael was an amazing person and I feel that this article shows him in such a negative light. He was my cousin and is so special to me and my family, as well as his community. An Edit to the article is not what was needed, but the truth about some of the good he brought to this world and the impact he had on people. and the fact that this was handled the way it was before he had passed is appalling. What if someone did that to one of your family members?

Glad not to be a public person in Charlottesville, sheesh this is appalling so called journalism. The Hook should apologize to his family and friends in print.

a public apology is the least that's appropriate, a printed apology would do somewhat better, but then again, it's not like anyone is truly surprised with 'the hook's' antics, are they?

The Hook is a news source that from what I've witnessed does a better job than any other local news outlet in reporting true stories. I know people in Pa. who read it, and I'm sure it reaches people in many places other than this town.

Lots of high-minded outrage flying around this thread.

The simple question to be asked: did the original news article contain factual information?

If the answer is yes, then there is no issue at all. If the answer is no, then the Hook should make a correction.

But if the information was correct as presented, then the people complaining here are carping about a preference -- i.e., to present different information.

The challenge in reporting -- and that's all this is, a report -- is to present fair and accurate information.

Problem is, people aren't interested in fair treatment. They want favorable treatment.

It doesn't take a Mensa membership to read between the lines of this story and draw some meaningful conclusions about the individual being reported upon. Tragic or otherwise, the reporting merely conveys information. If it's factual, then the Hook has done its job. The observation that friends of the decedent may not like it is just irrelevant.

An individual with known mental health issues who runs for public office is a newsmaker and worthy of coverage, pure and simple. Indeed, such a situation demands coverage.

Anyone who calls for an apology from the Hook for presenting factual information -- if it is indeed factual -- is acting ludicrous.

the apology would be simply for reporting his death prior his actual death, which many on here agree is in bad taste.

I have known Michele. He was so caring and loving valuable precious human who gave so very much.
He suffered so deeply from his illness. He wanted to live
up to the expectaions pressed on him but when you are mentally
ill there is a halt to normal function. It is not a choice. When I lost Michele I be came mentally ill with his loss and my grief. Just what can one do to protect a person they love when there is no legal way to protect them by putting them in care for total phyical work up and keep them there until they are capable of their resposibilties?
Michael cared so much. We who knew him will miss his hugs and thoughtfulness and generousity.
Show me your glass windows.

people

This web-site is a wonderful service for the community, giving everyone an opportunity to express themselves. Hurray for freedom of the press!

Let us all remember in these tough times to support the free dissemination of news for our community.

I have known Michele. He was so caring and loving valuable precious human who gave so very much.
He suffered so deeply from his illness. He wanted to live
up to the expectaions pressed on him but when you are mentally
ill there is a halt to normal function. It is not a choice. When I lost Michele I be came mentally ill with his loss and my grief. Just what can one do to protect a person they love when there is no legal way to protect them by putting them in care for total phyical work up and keep them there until they are capable of their resposibilties?
Michael cared so much. We who knew him will miss his hugs and thoughtfulness and generousity.
Show me your glass windows.

It seems pretty clear to me that the level of outrage is more a reflection of the grief being experienced by Mr. Craifak's friends and family than of any mud being "spewed" by the Hook or it's reporter. I've read both the original and the redacted version of this article. I do not believe the original was really negative at all - it mentioned a number of the issues which had befallen a public figure, but not in a slanderous or taunting way, and it also mentioned the relevant and related fact that he'd struggled with mental illness. I felt the article presented Mr. Craifak sympathetically, and made clear the connection between his struggles and his condition. We need more of that in our society. Rather than being outraged by Ms. Stuart's request for information, friends and family should use this opportunity to share the wonderful ways in which he touched their lives. The only real alternative appears to be saying nothing at all, and it seems like the guy deserves better than to simply disappear.

Courteney, I think that you have your work cut out for you on this one. Concerning the article, its facts, and the reporting; as a news article is does tell a limited, brief history to go along with the statements about Michael's passing.

But, as was evidenced by the fact that the most of the family wasn't prepared to talk with you about this event, it would have shown some class, and served your publication well to have waited a week or maybe just have said that Michael was a great and valued presence in our community who was no longer with us.

The pain is still so vivid and shocking... The Hook's follow-up needs to be a introspective article that truly attempts to explore the pain that he did, and others with his condition, suffer. It will be a better testament to the kind of person Michael was, and will always be in the minds of the people who knew and loved him.

The ultimate barometer and impact that comes from this or any future article is, and will be felt by the reaction of advertisers, readers, and the people who associate themselves with this publication. I'm not here to cast dispersions on anyone who writes or comments. They earn their respect or derision on their own with how they tackle this sad and poignant moment in our communities history.

So Courteney, since you inquired, HERE is the feedback that you asked for... The gauntlet is set. The Hook needs to start showing some class in its reporting. Do an article like the one I have described above. Don't align yourself and the HOOK with the salacious SPRINGER NATION. If you can't understand this, then there are other publications which can and will be supported.

One positive thing we could all do as a community in memory of this young man is to advocate for better services for the mentally ill. Making sure that mental illness receives the same coverage as physical illness in our health care system.

I knew Mike at UVA and the years after. I'm heartbroken and shocked at this news. My condolences to his family.

There is no such sadness than loosing a son and such a devoted
one I am so sorry for Michael's family and loved ones.

SMALL-MINDED SNIPING AT FAIR REPORTING

Mike's death is very sad to all of us. He was a complex person and very special in many ways - and a complete ass in others. Like many of us - probably all of us.

Those of you who get in a snarling rage about the so-called negativity and smear jobs ought to try writing a sensitive obituary on deadline sometime.
You would fail miserably. Unlike Ms. Stuart, who seemed to be trying to include a fair range of the different aspects of Mike's life.

Just because we love and miss someone does not mean we whitewash their memory. Many of you chose to do that when Haines Fullerton died. Very similar situation. Brilliant, charismatic, and a very complex human being with many sides.

Charlottesville is a unique small town with many outsized, fascinating personalities.

Covering this town, particularly when one of our friends is in trouble or passes away is NOT an easy thing.

So how about a couple of you try walking in the reporter's shoes for a day before you fire your nasty notes.

Just trying to keep the conversation lively.

Nick

No reporting by this "fringe" publication will ever erase the great memories that countless numbers of people have of an amazing, compassionate young man who by all accounts was rich in his relationships with his family and friends. Despite his struggle with a devestating mental illness which eventually took over his life, he will always be remembered for his passion and energy to fight for what he believed in and that his legacy that will endure forever. From all of us who knew him well, we bid you farewell my dear friend, you are at peace now and we all look forward to seeing you on the other side.....

Nick,
Ms. Stewart told me and others that she was not responsible for the negative comments at the end the first article. She said it was added at the insistance of her editor Hawes Spencer.
Hawes Spencer was responsible for this insensitive slime which is based on an old and stupid vendetta that one can read about in an article from his old paper Cville. It was titled Crafaik the Younger and is dripping with malice. The difficulty of being a reporter in Charlottesville couldn't be less relevant to those of us suffering unimaginable pain.

Let's see if the Hook makes things right with the article coming out in print. My friends and I will be looking to see how many times we are misquoted.

I doubt you actually knew Michael, your faux sadness and nasty comment about him reveals you to be both a coward and a liar.
This is not a conversation that needs to be kept lively.
Save your pathetic invocation of another victim to justify your ridiculous comments.

Let us grieve in peace. Leave our friend alone. Let us now focus on defeating this heartbreaking disease that destroys so many lives. Doing that is the best way to honor the memory of my beloved friend.

I have to agree with the last post. Everyone who knew Michael knew that the "soul" of Michael was so compassionate and loving. He was extremely sensative mixed with enormous intelligence. With those qualities, one must know that he suffered greatly from Bi-polar disease. With someone of his tempermant, it must have been unbearable to suffer the consequences of his actions taken in his disease that were so contrary to who he was. Those of us who had the priviledge to know Michael know that he suffered greatly. The person that he is was overriden by the person that was manifested by the disease. Unfortunately, due to his chemical imbalance, he was not able to always express the wonderful soul that he was. I am sure this tortured Michael. Michael was to intelligent and sensitive to continue living this way. His intention was to love and this was not being expressed by his body and mind. Michael made a brave to decision to stop hurting himself and those he loved. His real spirit, which is love and compassion and brightness and hope, will always be around. Take a minute to feel it. He's still there. Just without the baggage of mental illness. It's a better place for such a wonderful soul to be.

Eric

Hard to tell which is stronger, your self-righteousness or your ignorance.

I knew Mike and I know people in town like you. He was quite a wonderful person in many ways.

You, clearly, are not.

Perhaps you could direct your bitterness in a more constructive way in the future.

Eric

in fact, as I re-read your "vile spew" you ought to be careful that you don't manage to libel a reporter
not easy to do in any court of law
but you are pushing it

so perhaps you could get a clue?

This was a tragedy in many ways. A wonderful man chose to take his own life, thus leaving a wake of unanswered questions to haunt many of us. Pain and anger seems to have taken front stage with the majority of "posts" to the Hook and its reporters.

Directing anger at an inanimate object and the people behind it will not bring Michael back.

It is shameful to see just how low some of these comments have gone.
Shameful........

Yeah, I doubt Nick actually knew Michael....."Mike" indeed!

Great article Courteney, but not enough info. Thank you County Guy for helping to shed a little light.