Michael J. Flis (1959-2018)

Michael Flis
Michael Flis

Michael J. Flis, a bank senior vice president able to convey the attributes of complex retirement plans to clients, who also was a volunteer leader for the American Cancer Society, died Friday in his Sylvania Township home. He was 58.

He learned May 7 that the kidney cancer he dealt with since 2003 had returned, aggressively, in his liver, his son Andrew Flis said. He’d been at Captiva Island, Fla., a favorite family vacation spot, but flew home early because he wasn’t feeling well.

“Once he found the news out, it was tough for our family,” his son said. “But he was always such a strong man, and he understood what was happening and was at peace with it.”

Before the vacation, Mr. Flis was at work in downtown Toledo as a senior vice president of Huntington National Bank’s retirement plan services in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan. He oversaw sales, but as a certified pension consultant and a qualified pension administrator, he also worked with sponsors of retirement plans — whether a small or medium-sized business, the fire and police pension, or the retirement board of a Detroit suburb.

“He was very genuine with people and loved being able to work with people,” his son said. “It’s very technical in nature, and he was able to take the technical piece out and make it what’s best for this company.” 

He was a 1982 graduate of the University of Toledo, from which he received a bachelor of business administration degree. Afterward, he worked for the Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co.

In 1989, Mr. Flis and his wife, Robbin, a certified public accountant, started Northwest Ohio Pension & Retirement Services Inc.

“She understood the very behind-the-scenes. He could be the face and sell plans,” son Andrew said. “They had tremendous respect for each other was what it came down to. They had specific qualities they knew they were good at and complemented each other well.”

Their firm was acquired about a decade later by Celaris Group, which in turn was acquired by Sky Bank of Bowling Green — which Huntington absorbed. Mr. and Mrs. Flis remained through the changes.

“His devotion to Robbin was so apparent,” said Tom Rotte, chairman of the American Cancer Society’s Volunteer Leadership Council for northwest Ohio, a post Mr. Flis formerly held. Mr. Rotte and his wife, Kathy, became friends with Mr. and Mrs. Flis when their children were in school and played sports together.

“They were best friends. They worked together for 30 years, and they were a real team and real partners,” Mr. Rotte said. “His marriage was so rock solid.”

Mrs. Rotte added: “He took those boys to manhood and modeled so beautifully for them, in his personal life and professional life and his health crisis.”

In addition to his work with the cancer society, Mr. Flis took part in — and raised money for — Pelotonia, the annual bicycling event to benefit cancer research through Ohio State University.

“He knew how hard it was for him, although on the outside he didn’t show it,” his son said. “He wanted to do what he could make it easier for others,” his son said.

He was born Dec. 16, 1959, to Jane and Philip Flis and grew up in West Toledo. He was a 1977 graduate of St. Francis de Sales High School.

Surviving are his wife, the former Robbin Duval, whom he married Nov. 22, 1986; sons Michael, Jr., Andrew, and Mark Flis; sister, Nancy Flis, and brothers Dan, Dave, and Matt Flis.

Funeral services will be at 10 a.m. Wednesday at St. Joseph Church, Sylvania, where he was a member. Arrangements are by the Walker Funeral Home.

The family suggests tributes to the American Cancer Society or St. Francis de Sales High School. 

Contact Mark Zaborney at mzaborney@theblade.com or 419-724-6182.