Michael Benjamin Kendis, known affectionately to his closest family, friends and classmates as Misha, was a gentle, poetic soul who saw the world as a canvas of colors. He had a sharp, clear intuitive sense of whim, relishing the comical absurdities of quotidian life. A consummate appreciator of kind people, primordial innocence, unusual objects, uplifting music, visual arts, moving images, Japanese anime and good jokes, he was grounded in reality and daydreams. His mind--fragile, ever sensitive, purposeful and idle--overflowed with a strong sense of finding the hushed beauty in ideas, desires and pursuits.
Born on May 3, 1998, into a family from Kiev, Ukraine, he spent his first year of life in Brooklyn, New York, before his parents and sister relocated to East Brunswick, New Jersey. They were later joined by his maternal grandmother, Stephanie Filatova, in the early 2000s to enjoy the peaceful, friendly surroundings of suburban New Jersey where his talents and creative prowess were nourished.
Many things came naturally to Misha--whether playing piano, winning swim competitions, stealing the show in musical theater performances or leaping to great heights as a ballet dancer. He performed as Mendel in "Fiddler on the Roof" and Peter Quince in Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" at East Brunswick High School as well as the Sr. Pirelli in the musical thriller "Sweeney Todd" at French Woods Performing Arts Camp.
He was a member of Regional Chorus, went on to be the second highest ranking baritone in NJ All-State Chorus and then was invited to Eastern Chorus, performing at many national venues east of the Mississippi River--including at Carnegie Hall in New York--often singing Russian romance songs. He also took part in a North Jersey Russian language theater troupe and most recently was a studio assistant at the Hot Wood Arts Center in Red Hook, Brooklyn.
Misha dreamed of becoming a denizen of New York City and got his chance as a student of the School of Art at Cooper Union in Manhattan, where he spent his last days. He admired the literary and artistic traditions of his Russian-American heritage, placing an importance on speaking the Russian language and staying connected with his family. He frequented galleries to see the works of his avant-garde, abstract expressionist, minimalist and futurist artistic heroes such as Joan Mitchell and Wassily Kandinsky and could be found around Astor Place with a Virginia Wolf, Boris Pasternak, Nikolai Gogol or Susan Sontag book by his side. He joins the universe of Gertrude Stein's roses and Anna Akhmatova's historical prose (among his favorite poets) in leaving family and friends with a lifetime of precious memories. This would make him happy.
He is survived by his parents, Alex Kendis and Marina Filatova-Kendis, of East Brunswick, NJ; his sister, Nikola Paula Kendis, of Berkeley, CA; his aunt, Elina Kendis, of Brooklyn, NY, and his first cousin, Maxim Mikaloff, his material grandmother Stephanie Filatova, his paternal grandmother Yana Lisitsa and many more cousins, aunts, uncles and friends who were touched by his presence. Rarely has a tender being sparkled so bright with such a quiet confidence of infinite expression. He will be missed and always remembered.
Funeral services will be held on Thursday, April 13th, at 11:45 AM, at MOUNT SINAI MEMORIAL CHAPELS, 454 Cranbury Road at Evergreen Boulevard, East Brunswick. Interment will follow in Frost Woods Memorial Park, 336 New Brunswick Avenue, East Brunswick. Following interment, please join us at Mimino Restaurant, 415 State Route 18, East Brunswick, NJ 08816.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made in Misha's memory to The Cooper Union. Please indicate that the gift is "In memory of Misha Kendis, School of Art" here: http://www.cooper.edu/give
Donations can also be made to support cutting-edge science breakthroughs in Misha's honor at the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation: www.bbrfoundation.org/michaelkendis
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