Antonucci! I took your mom fishing! Here. Her picture is on my website.” And sure enough, there’s my 70-plus-year-old mother proudly holding a 12" German brown trout. And the girl holding the phone: Jen Mihal, all Texas twang, sun-kissed blond hair, sparkling blue eyes, and a proud smile.
Mihal owns Park City on the Fly, along with her husband, Ken, but also works as a server at Butcher’s Chop House and Bar, where I have worked as a host during the winter high season since 2013. A night shortly after Mihal showed me my mom’s mug on her company website, I see a party of 27 on the books. Mihal appears out of nowhere at the host station and says directly in my ear: “That 27 is mine. I took them fishing today.”
Her blond ponytail makes an upside-down windshield-wiper motion as she walks away toward the dining room.
Who is this woman?
“It’s ‘never quit’ with her,” says Ken. “She had four wrist surgeries on her casting hand before her brain tumor. It’s been a crazy five years.”
Mihal provides the details: “I shattered my right wrist when I fell on the stairs while serving [on Main Street]. I have two plates and 14 pins and still deal with nerve damage. I like to think of it as a friendly reminder I’m still alive.”
And then on August 17, 2011, she found out what a meningioma is. Though nonmalignant, Mihal’s brain tumor was encasing one of her optic nerves, a factor her doctors didn’t figure out for eight months. During that time, Mihal had two spinal taps and five MRIs. Surgeons were able to remove most of the tumor, but to this day, she still suffers from chronic migraines and double vision.
But watching her take care of that bachelor party of 27—laughing it up while making sure every glass stays full and every plate is delivered hot—you’d never know it.
When asked about the philosophy behind both her company and life in general, Mihal says, “It’s really about making memories. I spent the first year learning how to fish completely tangled up and never caught a fish,” she admits. “We’re all human; no one’s perfect. Patience is really important. We may be out here to learn, but at the same time, you can’t take it too seriously. It isn’t brain surgery.”