Mark was born in Wiesbaden, Germany, where his father was stationed with the Air Force. He always referred to himself as an “Air Force brat.” He grew up in Temple Hills, Maryland, and the Washington D.C. area, where he developed his musical talent. His mother was a concert pianist and music teacher, and Mark inherited her ability. He taught himself to play guitar at the age of nine and became an accomplished clarinet player. He attended Gonzaga College High School in Washington D.C., where he was an active participant in their music program, even playing Tiger in a production of West Side Story. He went on to be a session player for a while, coming into the studio to play guitar for other musicians and bands. His playing can still be heard especially in Christian music of the 80s and early 90s, although he is uncredited.
He could play almost anything, including piano and drums, but, as he always said, his voice was the guitar. In addition to being a highly accomplished guitarist, Mark was a composer. He heard music in his head, he said and wrote some beautiful pieces for both guitar and piano, several of which he recorded himself in his home studio. He loved sharing his knowledge of music, discussing music theory, and sharing with friends new music he'd written or discovered.
After getting a degree in computer science, Mark moved to Florida in the late 80s and worked for Harris Semiconductor for several years. He left Harris to become one of the first employees of Witt Biomedical, a small company that built cardiac cath lab monitoring equipment and software. While there, Mark single-handedly developed the company's first imaging product. He traveled to almost every state in the U.S., training hospital staff and physicians on the use of the software and hardware. Mark was always in high demand by Witt's customers, who frequently requested him for follow-up training. His outgoing personality and eagerness to help made him popular with everyone who met him.
Following a back injury in 2000, Mark retired from Witt and eventually accepted a position at Kennedy Space Center, working in Safety Administration, specifically SA-E. During his time there, he developed a massive tracking spreadsheet to follow all OSHA reportable incidents and eventually worked on developing and refining the browser-based reporting system that is still used today. He was also KSC's resident “slip/trip/fall” expert, and helped develop a program to raise situational awareness and promote balance training, in order to reduce the number of injuries from slips, trips, and falls. He co-authored a White Paper on the subject that has been used as a source of information by international researchers.
Mark was employed at KSC while the shuttle program was active, and several times got to visit the VAB, and even sit in the pilot's seat of Atlantis. He loved that he worked for such an important and innovative agency, and was proud to serve his country in that capacity. He used to joke that “taxpayers are getting their money's worth from me.”
Mark got several awards during his time at KSC, including several Gold Dollar awards, but the award he was most proud of was his NASA Silver Achievement Medal, awarded him in 2017. The medal is awarded to any government or non-government individuals or teams "for a stellar achievement that supports one or more of NASA's Core Values when it is deemed to be extraordinarily important and appropriate to recognize such achievement in a timely and personalized manner." Mark certainly embodied many of those core values and was proud to do so.
Mark loved cars, and restored a beloved 1969 Camaro SS, doing much of the work himself. He could always be counted on for mechanical advice, or to help turn a wrench. He loved all kinds of cars, but especially the big muscle cars from his younger days, and the German sports models from the land where he was born. He was also a motorcycle enthusiast, owning several Harley-Davidsons over the years. He always said that he could ride his bike and let the world fall away for a while.
Growing up, his family spent summers at Nag's Head in North Carolina. He loved the beach and the ocean. He learned to scuba dive and made several trips to the Florida Keys. Mark said of diving that, “when you're diving, that's all you can do. You can't worry about work or anything. You are totally in the moment.” He was always happiest and most relaxed while in the Keys, out on the reef.
Over the last few years, Mark's health began to fail. He developed several debilitating and extremely painful conditions, and in addition, suffered for many years from anxiety and insomnia. The combination of severe chronic pain and crippling anxiety became too much for him.
Mark is a Christian. He struggled at times with his Faith at times, but always had a strong belief in and close relationship with God. He's now at rest in the Lord, free at last from anxiety and pain, and able to sleep in peace.
In lieu of flowers, please send a donation in Mark's honor to: