STRINGER, Marko

551

Dear friends in Tobermory, 

As so many of now know, my dear brother, Mark (Marko), passed away unexpectedly March 26th in Orangeville while visiting with Dad. As of yesterday, the cause was determined. Mark suffered a significant heart attack in his sleep. We – Mark’s father, Fred (86), brother Andrew (52), brother Kiernan (50), and sister Pamela (47) – were completely caught off guard by his sudden departure. As I write this, nothing in my heart accepts his passing. Mark was dearly loved by us… and by you special folk in Tobermory. Thank you for all the condolences you’ve emailed our family. Greatly appreciated, and so very comforting to us. I know Mark touched many of your lives. Thank you for touching his, and thank you for reaching out to us in our time of loss. It means a lot to us, more than words can express.

Yes… Mark…There are interesting and unique people (all of us, I suppose), and then there are INTERESTING and UNIQUE people. For me, Mark belonged to that later group. In fact, he didn’t to take a number and wait in line. He was at the head of the queue! To know Mark was to be invited into a generous heart that hosted more than its fair share of pain and loss. And yet he gave. He helped. He laughed. He inquired about peoples’ well-being. He reached out… over and over… with barber scissors, wrenches, battery boosters, snow shovels, even pestle and mortar. I don’t know how many times he tooled up and cycled off to help someone in need. He loved people of all ages, from the young to the elderly. Somehow, he managed to have a soft spot in his heart for so many different kinds of people. Probably because he found people interesting and unique.

To know Mark was to be invited into a cloud of inexhaustible ideas. He thought at the macro and micro levels constantly, originally, and, at times, feverishly (perhaps I should coin a new word – the “Marko level”). He was always observing, processing, recording, collating, sketching, designing, inventing. There was a genius to Mark that I’ve seen in few other people. Yes, I’m biased, of course, being his brother. But I think there are more than a few of you who are nodding their heads in agreement. Mark always had a small note pad in his back pocket – his ‘ideas’ book, his ‘I need to write that crazy thought down’ book, his ‘I need to research that further’ book. He was always sketching and scratching out thoughts – from the brilliantly embryonic to the push-the-envelope-are-you-kidding-me!?! To know Mark was to be invited into an animated story of high-scale adventure or brainless stupidity.

Yes, Mark was a captivating story-teller who entertained people with mundane-morphing-far-flung stories that would inevitably end with his saying to all listening, “Seriously, are you kidding me!?! Yes, Mark was an amazing story teller. Somehow he managed to take little observed happenings and spin them into stories of epic proportion.  To know Mark was to be invited down a trail into nature’s play-land of rushing waters and whispering pines.

If he had a bomb-making chemistry set at 12, he also had a small library of Audubon books – bookends for the various birds and animals he taxidermied on his bedroom desk. Really? – who’s an taxidermist and ornithologist at twelve years of age? Who amasses a vocabulary of latin words for flora and fauna? At seventeen, he paddled the Nahani River in the Yukon. By nineteen, he was studying polar bears at Churchhill. By his early twenties, he was bugging out of Peterborough with a B.Sc in Environmental Studies under his belt. Yes, nature-love and wander-lust took root in Mark early for some reason. As a result, he introduced me to fishing, rock-climbing, splunking, canoeing, orienteering, winter camping, and mad-ass trekking. All the while whistling some Bruce Cockburn tune. And dreaming about a world where we all have smaller ‘footprints.’

To know Mark was to be invited into a ‘classroom.’ He was a natural and engaging teacher. Always had some detail about something to pass on. Just the other week (literally, and I find this so hard to believe), we were hiking around Tiny Marsh (near Elmvale where I reside) and he stopped along the trail and said, “Look at this, Andy (pointing at a cluster of blazing red dogwood). Do you know what’s so amazing about dogwood? It’s branches are supple in sub-zero temperatures! Look at this (he proceeded to show me how flexible the branches were). Do you know why that is, Andy (rhetorical question – “no”)? It’s because it contains _____ (some chemical element I couldn’t remember seconds after he mentioned it). Do you know what my next project is going to be, Andy (rhetorical question – “no, because your list extends to the moon and beyond!”)? I’m going to weave a basket out of dogwood.” My response: “Of course you are!”

Well, so much more could be said about Mark – his adventures as a researcher, guide, forester, carpenter, boat-builder, cook, teacher, manager. But my heart is breaking and I need to back away from the keyboard.

On behalf of our family, thank you all so very much for accepting and loving Marco as a member of your community. He so appreciated his friends in Tobermory (who to us seem to live at the end of the world!). Now Mark has entered another realm of light… and joy… and peace… and mind-stimulating, soul-energizing adventure with his Lord and Saviour.

On Mark’s behalf, let me encourage you to enjoy a Tobermory craft beer and listen to Bruce Cockburn’s song, “Lord of the Starfields.” It captures his heart, spirituality, and the next never-ending chapter of his life.

All our love, Andy (on behalf of the family)

PS. Sorry I didn’t have the energy to edit my letter. Off the cuff and out the door, as Mark would say.