Deep thinker, creative, caring, sensitive, intelligent
Mark was inquisitive. He enjoyed immersing himself in the study of the natural world, learning about creatures at the beach, acorns on the sidewalk, and insects in the yard. He was the kid on the baseball team, more enamored with the dandelions in the outfield than the game. Mark liked to draw, play with Legos, and give gifts to his family.
Mark learned to play piano, trumpet, and guitar. He also taught himself mandolin and accordion and was occasionally heard singing along. He was skilled in drawing and had a good eye for capturing nature images in photos. In more recent years, Mark was passionate about urban planning, history, philosophy, maps, nature, music, and Star Trek. He could talk at length and in great depth about these topics with family and friends. Mark had a BA in history and political science and a master’s degree in urban planning. He looked forward to helping others make their communities better places to live.
Mark had a twin brother, David, and though they were different in some ways, they were best friends. Their mother said, “David was Samwise to Mark’s Frodo, there to carry Mark when he needed help.” This reference to Lord of the Rings was included in a toast that Mark made as the best man in David’s wedding. Mark enjoyed travel with David and his wife, Whitney and visiting them in Las Vegas. He and his older brother, Kevin, were Lego buddies as children and later built computers together. Mark adored Kevin and sister-in-law, Laura’s two children. His younger sister, Kathleen, discussed life with Mark in a way his brothers couldn’t. She and her husband, Andrew, looked forward to having Mark visit them in Chicago.
Mark’s biggest supporter outside of the family was his girlfriend, Priscilla. They planned to marry, travel to Europe, and have a family once he was out of active addiction. His most significant accomplishment was never giving up when his disease knocked him down and Priscilla was there to encourage his recovery and did not enable him.
During active addiction, Mark’s anxiety and depression increased. Involvement with the court made matters worse. He couldn’t drive and was frustrated and ashamed of his situation. On the 4th of July weekend, 2021, the family attended a large group event on Amelia Island. One activity was a murder mystery where actors play the main characters, and attendees were chosen for smaller parts. Mark played a private detective and got into character like he was born to it. His mom said, “That night he felt good about himself, and we could see a glimpse of the old Mark.”
Worrying was the worst part of Mark’s addiction. “There were years of doctor appointments, court dates, treatments, probation, and trying to fix something that I couldn’t fix,” his mom said. She now realizes that addiction controls the actions of those with substance use disorder and has changed her views on the political and social issues related to drugs and mental health. She misses the close friendship she developed with Mark as they navigated his disease together. “I miss the deep conversations about all kinds of topics,” Linda said. ‘I wish none of this had happened, but his death is almost a relief because he is no longer in pain.’
Mark’s mother, Linda O’Leary, provided the information for this narrative.
December 11, 1991-August 6, 2021