Many fans recognize Michael Mantenuto from his role in Disney’s Miracle, but those who knew him best will remember him more for his work offscreen as a father, soldier, hockey star and community activists.
“He was so much more than just a Miracle actor,” Teena Lepene, a friend of the actor, tells PEOPLE. After a short career in show business, Mantenuto joined the Army. He was a Special Forces sergeant stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington at the time of his death. He was 35.
The actor was found on Monday afternoon after sustaining a self-inflicted gunshot wound, the King County medical examiner’s office in Seattle, Washington, tells PEOPLE. His death has officially been ruled a suicide. He’s survived by his wife, Kati, and two children: daughter Ava and son Leo.
Lepene, who knew Mantenuto from his special forces training at Fort Bragg, says, “ was awesome and charismatic, people were naturally drawn to him.” While going through a rigorous special forces qualification course, Lepene says Mantenuto found time to start a youth hockey program on post with MWR (Morale, Welfare and Recreation), a network of support and leisure services for soldiers and their families.
“This course is intense and incredibly time consuming, …read more