(OCTOBER 5, 1959 – OCTOBER 15, 2019)
It seems telling that in Mark’s last article that he’d written about one of my favorite plants, the Brunfelsia grandiflora, more commonly known as Yesterday-Today and Tomorrow. You see, Mark’s todays and tomorrows are gone, and all we are left with are his yesterdays. He passed away on October 15, 2019, and with a heavy heart, all I can do is reminisce about the yesterdays we shared.
It was 42 years ago that we’d met in a neighborhood park in Michigan. We’d become high school sweethearts. We got married several years of yesterday’s later, spent the next 37 years of yesterdays together, starting our business ABC Pest Control and having five children together. Those were Mark’s greatest accomplishments—his family and his businesses. He excelled at both, but during those yesterdays he accomplished so much more.
Early in our lifetime together, stretched thin in the pockets, we traveled throughout Florida and visited most every botanical garden and small exotic plant nursery. We collected seeds, seedlings and cuttings, and grew them into trees, bushes and vines. What began as a hobby, a few plants, and a desire to share his passion for horticulture turned into ABC Tropical Plant Nursery. Later on this additional business grew to focus on Mark’s specialty: Plumerias, otherwise known as the “Hawaiian lei flower”.
Mark adored his prized Plumerias. He nurtured and propagated his own cultivars, naming the earliest new varieties in his likeness Mark #1, Mark #2, Mark #3. He went on naming his creations in that manner, ending at twenty-something before he got creative and inspired names like Cinnamark, Tri-Mark, and Mark’s Pink. He might have run out of ideas for names he could tack his own onto, or perhaps he wanted to share his legacy with those he loved most because cultivars began popping up sporting names of those dearest to him. Now we have “Mark Jr” (our son), “Cassie Jean” (our eldest daughter), “Megan’s Pink” (our second daughter), “Willmatt” (a combination of our youngest son’s names), “Aurora” (his sister), “Betty Rose” (his aunt), and “Kathy G” (that’s me!), and so many more. His nursery has over fifty unique cultivars of Plumerias whose flowers vary in size, color, scent, and structure. From a curiosity for plants, to a successful greenhouse and nursery, prompted Mark to create www.BuyPlumerias.com, yet another business grown from the heart of Mark’s passions, but it doesn’t end here.
For over two decades, Mark co-hosted or hosted the radio show, Florida Gardening, on Newsradio 970 WFLA AM. He enjoyed the challenge of live call-in talk radio. Mark was a Certified Pest Control Operator in General Household Pest Control, Lawn and Ornamental Pest Control and Termite Control. He was also an Associated Certified Entomologist through the Entomological Society of America. Over the years, his knowledge of insects and pest control grew to encompass plants, gardening and arboriculture. He was a Certified Arborist with the International Society of Arboriculture and a Florida Certified Horticulture/Nursery Professional. Mark befriended and knew all the experts in the field. Mark dedicated so much of his life to the industry, he knew everyone.
Mark always emphasized the need for professional affiliation and to that end, ABC Pest Control has been a long-time member of the International Society of Arboriculture, the Florida Certified Nurserymen and Growers Association, the Florida Pest Management Association and the National Pest Management Association. His associations didn’t stop there though. He voluntarily served on the Pinellas County Commercial Horticultural Extension Board, the Pinellas County Overall Extension Advisory Committee and he served on the Curriculum Development Board for the Pinellas Technical Education Center. With all this going on, you may be wondering, “When did he find the time to relax?”
For Mark, gardening was how he relaxed. Even on vacations, we would explore gardens and plantations often pointing out different pests, plants, or plant diseases to our children. His dedication to the plant and pest industry instilled a thirst for it in our children. When our kids were young, they would point out the window while riding in the backseat of the car and ask Mark the name of every bush, vine, or tree we passed. Anything plant or pest related, Mark knew the answer to, and the kids challenged his expansive knowledge, always wondering if they’d discover something that might stump him! You might say “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” about our kids who have independently chosen to enroll in various higher education horticulture, environmental sciences, and pest related courses or have discovered their own personal niches that span from the art of bonsai and collection of succulents to raising monarch butterflies or experimenting with grafting techniques. Mark treasured sharing his knowledge with our family and encouraged everyone to learn the trade. Through this sharing, he educated and encouraged employees, friends, listeners and readers to learn about plants and pests and to really revel in the beauty and wonder that is nature. Without a doubt, Mark succeeded in his endeavors and inspired so many.
I believe I was wrong in saying Mark is now only in our yesterdays. Mark is with us today and tomorrow, for he lives on in every new bloom we see, each whisper the wind makes as it stirs the canopies of the trees, and of course, within our hearts and our memories. I miss him so much, and I know everyone who knew Mark misses him as well. He is everywhere in nature, adding to the goodness and marvel of it all. So, as we carry on his legacy, we continue to garden and recall as Mark would always say, “remember, without plants, we wouldn’t be here.”