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Late Northeast president's memoir details life in World War II Crete

Late Northeast president's memoir details life in World War II Crete

ABERDEEN, SD - The family of the late Dr. Michael Paradise, who served as president of a predecessor institution to Northeast Community College, has published a first-person account of his harrowing experiences on the Greek island of Crete during World War II.

When War Came to Paradise was released in late 2017 by Prairiesummer Books.

Paradise served as president of Northeast Nebraska College (NNC) in Norfolk from 1968-72. NNC merged with Northeast Nebraska Technical College (NNTC) in 1973 to form Northeast Technical Community College (NTCC) which is now known as Northeast Community College.

Paradise passed away in October of 2016.

While in his teens, Paradise became an active observer of the events of World War II. He joined a covert British intelligence group who had secretly slipped onto the island by submarine to spy on and organize resistance to the German Nazi forces. When he was fifteen years old, he was apprehended by the Gestapo and evaded execution by escaping. Following the liberation of Crete, Paradise received two citations from the British government for his assistance to Allied Forces. He came to the United States in 1951.

Ann Paradise, Michael’s wife, said When War Came to Paradise has its origins in a series of letters her husband began writing to his children in 1986, when they were seven, six and three years old. The memoir evolved from there, encompassing his life in Crete before, during and after World War II and the German occupation as well as mythology, family life and hardships they encountered.

“He was determined to leave (his children) some knowledge of their lineage and also what he endured to accomplish his ambition to move to the United States and become educated and successful,” Ann said. “I do not believe at the time that Michael ever conceived how far he would go, as the events that took over his life occurred like stepping stones. One accomplishment led to another.”

In addition to his tenure at Northeastern Nebraska College, Paradise served as president of the former Central Technical Community College in Hastings. He held other positions at the University of Alaska- Juneau, the University of Minnesota, Chadron State College and Northern State University in Aberdeen, SD. 

Ann said Michael ceased writing the letters to his children in 1997 and began incorporating them into a memoir. Upon advice he received at the University of Iowa’s Summer Writer’s Workshop, which he attended for three summers, Paradise began to condense the over 760 pages of his life into a work that focused on his years in Crete during World War II.

In October of 2015, at the age of 88, Paradise was diagnosed with stage-four cancer. When War Came to Paradise was completed just before his death on October 28, 2016, and he was providing input on the manuscript up to two weeks before he passed.

 “From the summer of 2006 until his passing, he wrote every day, for hours,” Ann said. “He continued to write through changes in computer programs, and also when advised to change the entire manuscript from past tense to present tense to make it more meaningful to readers.”

“I thought he was driven before, but his determination to complete this manuscript before his death was probably what kept him alive as long as it did.”

Ann said Paradise had also made plans for a second book, detailing his life after he arrived in the United States in 1951.

In 2013, Northeast named a new covered courtyard on the Norfolk campus after Paradise. “Paradise Courtyard” is located between the College Welcome Center and the Library.

When War Came to Paradise is available through major online retailers, or by contacting Ann Paradise at (605) 225-7480.


PHOTO ID: Michael Paradise, shortly after World War II. (Courtesy Ann Paradise)