Tributes have been paid to Tayside mountain rescue stalwart Mike Assenti.
The father-of-two, who served Police Scotland and mountain rescue teams in Tayside for 30 years, has died aged 60, but friends and colleagues say his legacy will remain.
A love of the outdoors
Born in Blairgowrie on November 29, 1960, Mike Assenti was a man of the hills and wild places all of his life.
From early summers spent of berry picking with his family, then playing in the fields and working in Strathmore during the tattie holidays, a love of the great outdoors drove him forward.
Joining the army cadets while he was still at Blairgowrie High School exposed him to water sports and endurance activities but it wasn’t until he watched his leaders in action during his Duke of Edinburgh days that he could envisage a similar future for himself.
In a recorded interview where Mike reflects on his life he said: “I remember watching the guys with the young people and thinking ‘that’s a pretty good job.’ So in 1979 I studied youth and community education at Dundee College.”
Shortly after, in 1983, he would begin his career in Bedford, England.
And while it was there he first enjoyed kayaking and windsurfing he began to long for Scotland and the hills.
The call of home
A decision was made to join the police back home, although in his own words, his first attempt wasn’t entirely successful.
“I had originally applied for Grampian police. I turned up sporting a beard and by the looks on their faces I think they thought I was some bearded left wing liberal trying to infiltrate the police.
“When I eventually had an interview with Tayside Police I turned up cleanshaven and I got in.”
Without realising it, Mike had joined a force with its own mountain rescue division. As soon as he could he took part in training sessions and once his probationary period was over he was invited to join the team.
Alan Pettigrew, former leader of Police Scotland (Tayside) Mountain Rescue Team, said: “Mike was my section leader for a while and we became friends. Well, everybody became friendly with Mike.
“He was a real mentor to me. He entered mountain rescue because he cared about the outdoors and he cared about outdoors people.
“He was a definite leader – and he never needed to announce that. He just was.”
Line of duty
Carrying out his regular police role as well as volunteering within mountain rescue over his 30-year career, Mike would be faced with numerous high-stress situations as part of his duties.
Alan added: “It may seem glamorous but mountain rescue, especially with the police, also involves horrific situations. It was how Mike handled these that really impacted me.
“He never sought the limelight. He was always calm. And he always cared as much about the team he would send out onto the wilds of the Scottish mountains, as he did about those we would be trying to rescue.”
Mike would eventually retire from Tayside Police and its mountain rescue team in 2015 – but on the very same day he signed up for the civilian team.
Paul Morgan, Team Leader of Police Scotland Mountain Rescue Team (Tayside) said:
“Mike has left behind a remarkable legacy based upon friendship, dedication to his duty and the care of others.
“We have learned a lot from him and will continue to use that learning for new generations of Mountain Rescue Teams.
“It is impossible to put into words everything that Mike taught me, but taking over the Deputy Leader role in our Police Mountain Rescue Team upon his retirement was one of the proudest moments of my life.”
Chief Inspector Graham Binnie, Area Commander for Perth and Kinross, said: “Mike served for 30 years, latterly as a police sergeant with Tayside Police and for a short time prior to his retirement with Police Scotland.
“His career was predominantly within Perth and Kinross, both within community policing and within our custody team.
“He will be fondly remembered for the massive contribution he made to the mountain rescue team for many years.
“He became the deputy team leader for the team in 2008 until his retirement and his role as a problem solver, mentor and guiding light to those less experienced undoubtedly helped to save the lives of many over the years.”
During his time serving as a police office Mike received the Chief Constable Certificate of Merit, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal and was awarded the Police Long Service/Good Conduct Medal in June 2008.
“He was professional, compassionate and committed in his approach to policing and hugely respected and liked by all those whose path he crossed,” said Chief Inspector Binnie.
“On behalf of all his former colleagues I can say he was a pleasure to work with, consistently displayed integrity in all his actions and was a valued member of the police family.
“His family should be proud of the contribution he made to public service.”
And indeed they are.
Mike leaves behind his two sons Craig and Gavin, who inherited their father’s love of the hills, and their mum Charmaine.
He is also survived by his sisters Val and Lorna, and his partner Nancy.
Craig and Gavin said: “He was a brave man and an inspiration to the very end. He leaves a hole in our lives which we will fill with fantastic memories and adventures.
“He instilled in us a love for the outdoors which we will carry for a lifetime, and although he was taken from us far too soon, we are comforted by knowing he lived a full life and achieved an amazing amount.
“He leaves a great legacy in us both and will be in our hearts forever.”
The civilian mountain rescue team of which Mike was a key part, paid tribute to their friend and colleague.
Noting that he was the driving force behind the funding and sourcing of their Incident Command Vehicle, as well as helping organise the Glen Clova Duathlon, they said of their friend: “Mike carried on being involved in all aspects of the team, despite his illness.
“He was the most decent and honest guy you could ever meet, as well as a dedicated member of the mountain rescue family. His passing will leave a huge hole in all our hearts.”
Their tribute ended with the words: “I will go up to the highest mountain tops, I’ll see the sun rise once again, and gaze upon the promised land. Rest in Peace, Mike Assenti.”
Friends and colleagues lined the streets of Perth on Friday, to pay their final respects to Mike ahead of his funeral.