Mark Edward Smith
Our beloved friend passed at home in Sumas, Washington. He lived nearly 55 full years. He had been fighting a drawn-out battle with lymphatic cancer, enduring a stem cell transplant in early 2010, and had several other health complications including HIV.
He was born in Portland OR; attended Concordia Lutheran and Jefferson High Schools, managing to graduate from both. He attended Lane Community College, the University of Oregon, and much later graduated from Northwest Indian College in Washington State.
He was a true original: a creative, clear thinker, a vocal social critic, an accomplished community activist-- and always a champion of the less fortunate. Sympathetic, inquisitive, skeptical, a lightning fast wit, and always a willing ear. As a rule, life for Mark was about quality over quantity.
Mark was a powerhouse of directed energy throughout his entire life. He began rocking boats before he was out of high school. He won Jefferson High School student government election (1975), by pasting small yellow stickies with only his last name all over the school. Around that time he once went missing overnight while winter camping with the boy scouts on Mt. Hood. Mark just wanted to camp alone, not aware that a search party was formed to go looking for him. He loved the outdoors and had numerous stories about encounters with bears and other wildlife at his vacation cabin in the Simon Fraser Valley, British Columbia, Canada.
He wrote plays (one which was produced at U of O) and always enjoyed well written stories; books, movies, graphic novels, etc-- so long as there were interesting characters and compelling plots dealing with what mattered most to him-- the ethos and constructs of societal morals, ethics, and values. If the story also involved Sci-Fi or time travel then that was all the better.
His activism in the 1980's included occupying San Francisco city hall, at the height of societal nonchalance and willful ignorance of the ongoing AIDS epidemic; the protest including his photo was featured in an article in National Geographic magazine (June 1986).
In the late 1980's through 1994 while living in Vancouver B.C. he was the lover of James Hall whom he nursed throughout his battle with AIDS, and was thereafter an "adopted" son of the Hall family. After James' death, Mark maintained ties with the Hall's and subsequently handled all arrangements at the end of both of James' parents' (Gene Hall and John Hall) lives.
He created noteworthy artwork that was displayed at a Vancouver gallery (consisting of a red 10 foot pole, signifying how, at one time, people might have preferred to treat people with AIDS).
He created a non-profit "501(c)3" to support people with HIV in Whatcom County, which he called Positive Frontiers. He was instrumental in setting up another 501(c)3 in Whatcom County called Ti-Chee; working to fight the spread of HIV in the Native American community. For that last ten years, he was active in the Mennonite community's Lighthouse program across the border in Abbottsford, BC (serving as board chairman). He met, inspired, and loved both people with and without AIDS across the US, Canada, and the island of Cuba. He also loved poker, Alaska deep sea fishing, camping, and home canning.
He met his partner Dennis while living in Seattle in 1996 and they later made their way to Sumas in 2000. Together they rebuilt a cabin in the wilds of Boston Bar aka Hell's Gate, in the Fraser Canyon of BC, and as always Mark reached out to, charmed, and helped out the locals whenever he went.
Mark is proceeded in death by his mother Trudy Smith, father Russell J. Smith, and step sister Marcia Reed. He is survived by his brothers David, James, and Stephen; his step mother Leona Smith, step sisters Debbra Smith, LaNita Stephens, Angie Smith, Joy Wallace; step brother Wendell Wallace Jr; and a great many loving nephews, nieces, cousins, friends, and his partner Dennis Brandt. Donations in lieu of flowers please to the Whatcom County Hospice Foundation. Mark, We will carry you in our hearts always.