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
Misha had such a warm and gentle personality. His love for those around him shone bright, and he saw beauty in even the little things in life. It was with such great sadness that we learned of his loss.
I recall him as a young boy, when you'd bring him into work with you. He was quiet and very polite, but when he'd smile it was so genuine and endearing.
Even young, his artistic talent was evident, as he shared whatever he'd drawn while visiting, or offer one of his creations as a present to one of us...
Between his visits, it seemed like the years flew by because he was suddenly a tall, striking, young man and his talents had multiplied: his drawing, writing, singing, dancing and his acting all contributed to the very richly woven 'quilt' of his life, that so many people were grateful to be able to appreciate and admire.
Misha was also always considerate and gentle with others; when you all visited us at the lake house, and when you joined us at the beach, he took the time to talk and play with Juliana and make her feel special. I was very grateful to him for that...
Misha also had a wonderfully silly side. The way he danced with abandon with you at our Red & White Party, and especially the way he put his heart and soul into helping to make your and Alex's Anniversary Celebration so special and memorable! His and Nikola's song rang out with love for you and Alex, and their joy at doing that for you was contagious, as we all cheered and laughed along with them! His happiness was written all over his face when dancing with you...
There is a void in this world without him, and he will always be missed... but the wonderful memories he left us will forever burn brightly in our hearts!
There are not enough words to say how sorry I am for the loss of Misha. His passing has affected my soul so deeply. My thoughts and prayers are with your family.
So sorry for your loss. Learning of Michael's passing through my daughter who was in the same high school class, deeply saddened me as I remember so vividly watching him shine from the audience through out the years in the high school choir concerts and the EBHS drama productions. Such a wonderfully talented young man who will forever be in our memory. - Kimberly Conetta
We just leaned of Michael's passing today! Words cannot express the sorrow and sadness! He was an amazingly talented young man and a kind soul. He will be missed. We have known Michael for nine years and will miss him walking by, saying Hi and chatting! Our love and prayers are with you all at this difficult time. May he rest in peace! Anthony, Cindy & Gabriella Sorice
I knew him as Michael, a neighbor that I've watched grow into an amazing, sweet young man! When I heard him sing in the choir I was stunned that this booming, beautiful voice was coming from him. I am so sorry for your loss! My thoughts are with you all at this difficult time! Mary S.
there are no words to say to the parents who lose their children, that seem enough to express the sadness we all are feeling. Along with my deepest condolences, please know that Misha will never be forgotten, and his legacy will live on forever in the Cooper Union and with his graduating class. When we move on from here, we will take him with us, and he'll forever flourish in our hearts and minds.
Мой любимый "рыжик", ты навсегда останешься в сердца?... той части семьи, которая осталась у тебя в Киеве. Сердце разрывается на части от того, что невозможно сказать тебе "Прощай и прости", обнять Марину, Алекса, Нику и бабушек. Скорбим...
I knew Misha from his many, many hours in the library at Cooper Union, where I work as a circulation assistant. He was always interested in books and learning. Such a wonderful, intelligent and outgoing person. we had a great friendship blooming in the short time that I knew him. I will miss him always.
Dear Alex and Marina, there is nothing anyone can say or do to ease the pain of your terrible loss. So, I just wanted to express my profound sadness and sympathy for you. Although the depth of your tragedy is hard to imagine, perhaps, it can bring you at least a grain of consolation to know that Misha was appreciated and loved by many. We met him when he joined our son Eli in the concerts they've organized/performed at the Sunrise Assisted Living community; our kids were still HS sophomores. Misha's singing amazed and touched us to the core. We simply could not believe what we were hearing: such power, such maturity, such purity in his voice! And at such a young age! My heart goes out to you. May you find some solace, some peace of mind... somehow. Svetlana Bogomolny
Our daughter Maya cherished being with Michael for so many years in chorus together. I enjoyed watching their friendship over the years and listening to his beautiful, soulful voice in their concerts. He was so very special. Our family extends our condolences, our prayers for your dear Michael. He was truly a blessing to our Maya and our family for knowing him. We will always hold those memories and remember and honor Michael in our home as a family forever.
---The Kessler Family
As someone who was able to perform with him and spend my best years with him at French Woods, I was deeply saddened to hear of his passing, but am so blessed and thankful that I knew him. He was a lovely, fun-spirited, talented person, and I will miss him. His is a voice I will never forget. My heart is with his family.
I firstly met Misha during orientation week at Cooper, and really enjoyed talking to him. I will surely miss seeing him around the campus and talking to each other. My condolences, please stay strong. - Irisa, arch'
I met Michael at the Juniper Institute for Young Writers. We only got to spend a week together but he was kind, talented, and had the most amazing sense of humor. I'm so grateful to have found a friend in him and I'm so grateful to have spent that time with him, he will be missed. My deepest condolences to his family and friends.
I have heard of this tragic loss and it has touched me deeply. I attended many Chorus concerts through the years and have loved his wonderful voice! He has left his mark on East Brunswick and will be greatly missed! My deepest condolences to his family and many friends. I will keep your family in my prayers and hope that the many prayers will help lift some of the sorrow you are feeling. I hope his soul has found peace.
The Toich family
To Michael's Loved Ones......I am so deeply sorry for the loss of your beautiful son. I haven't seen Michael in years but he has left an impression on my heart and I will always love him. Memories of him of coming to our house, going to Grounds for Sculpture for the day, going with Leah to see Lady Gaga....every this was so fun with Michael around. He was also brilliant....He had so many gifts and talents. I am so grateful for having known him. He has touched so many lives. He and his family will remain in my prayers.....Laurie Pannullo
I personally did not know Misha, but he was a classmate of my daughter Alaina. She is deeply saddened as he was an inspiration to her. I remember his beautiful singing voice at the many EBHS concerts and how his fellow classmates admired him so. Our family is deeply saddened by your loss, but take comforted in knowing that he was a loving caring person who touched so many. Amy and Peter Kroeckel
Alex and Marina - We are so very sorry and our hearts truly hurt for you and your family. I only wish we could take away some of that pain you are going through. Our thoughts and love are with both of you and your family. All of our love - Jan and Nick DeMartini
Please accept our deepest condolences. We are truly sorry for your loss. Michael will be missed and he will never be forgotten, may his soul rest in peace.
Dear Alex and Marina,
Manuela and I vividly remember Michael from your wedding anniversary. I remember him singing and dancing to a song he helped compose to showcase your marriage and show love for his mom and dad. Mostly, what we remember from that night was how loving Michael was to the two of you, how close he was to his family and the wonderful way he chose to show it. We are honored to have such beautiful memories of Michael. They will stay with us forever.
Radu and Manuela Marinescu