We lost my good friend Mark last week. He once said “I’m an iceberg, I show 20%, and leave the rest below the waterline”. Though we connected almost daily, my understanding may have been inchoate. I don’t know what I passed over, below my reach.
But here’s what I do know.
He was a Perfectionist in an Imperfect World
There were hundreds of pictures exchanged in the last few days, and very few of them lacked his megawatt smile. He and his orthodontist collaborated on a fantastic pair of pearly whites, and Mark was a fantastic spokesmodel, because he was always smiling.
And that smile was set off by a fastidious attention to pressed shirts, school ties, smart blazers and tons of hair, albeit receding. He measured his alcohol, his carbs, his weight and anything else he felt necessary to keep a sharp appearance. His boat was immaculate, as was his tacklebox. He measured his time, never one to linger beyond the golden moment at coffee, dinner, or cocktails.
But the world was imperfect these last six months, and his perfectionist standards were often vexed by things that none of us control; the social limitations of Covid, the silly actions of politicians in NYC, and the inability of professional athletes to act like anything but childish idiots. He used laughter as his weapon to get through.
He was hilarious to the point of tears
He was a hilarious raconteur and commentator on what we called the “Race to the Bottom”, or mankind’s propensity to take comedic pratfalls. His Memes and stories were legendary and his GIF’s and Page Six fake headlines called out Putin, Queen Elizabeth, DeBlasio, Spitzer, Trump, Clinton, Kanye and anyone else worthy of a poke.
Once the laughing started, he often doubled down, giving man-on-the-street commentary on nameless (and some well known) pedestrians in New York City, writing (or reading) incongruous haiku about the dating scene, or benignly calling out any of our classmates and team mates for their latest questionable decisions. I must have been near the top of that list, but I never felt an ounce of malice. And he only dealt blows to those that could handle it. He bonded with my father Art with that trait.
When the laughing became out of control, he would try to stave off the tears with a thumb in one tear duct and a forefinger against the other, before hitting one of several favorite punchlines… Milene … Get Two…I’m CC or ….Oh that’s just f*cking nutz. And we would double over again. His laughter showed his happiness, but it didn’t end there.
He was genuinely happy for others good fortune
Mark was quick with a high five and a beaming grin for a long putt, a monster bluefish, or a second date. He watched and congratulated his friends and siblings as they got married, had kids, raised families, fell apart, and in many cases tried again. He cherished the children of these unions, adopting some as a mentor and others as simply “Uncle Baby Huey”.
Mark criss-crossed the world to celebrate his friends; a wedding in Rome, a U-2 concert in Dublin, a visit to an ailing nephew in Singapore, a ski trip to France, or a romantic escape to Kenya all seemed doable for Mark. But what made those things amazing is they were all done with and for his friends. He loved being there for people. He was in my first wedding, and my next, and was insistent that if I ever did it again he should be promoted to best man, finally.
He was an early supporter of a crazy adventure called Kayak for a Cause, where he helped shepherd kayaks over 14 miles of open waters across LI Sound with his Whaler. His efforts were well rewarded as the kayak fleet grew to hundreds and the afterparty grew to thousands. No one was more proud than Mark as the funds raised for charity climbed into the hundreds of thousands. He was in wonder of how a crazy stunt would turn into a yearly tradition and his grin at the KFAC party on the last Saturday of every July each year was bigger than the Summer sunshine itself.
His Sense of Wonder never Waned
Part of the joy of Mark was his boyhood ability to marvel and wonder. He was convinced that Shazam was proof we had achieved a Jetsonian future. He used it everywhere, and was an avid discoverer of new and different groups. The Killers were one such group, and as Shazam gave him the lyrics, he became fascinated with the line “are you Human or are you Dancer”. How could someone not write “dancers” or “a dancer” there, he’d ask. He uses Dancer here as if it were a species. And maybe it is! Holy Crap this Brandon Flowers must be Nutz!
He believed Fairfield County had more golf courses per capita than any other place… based on no research whatsoever. He was amazed that he had been born into this fortuitous collection of links, and he would play any nearby course with the slightest hint of an invite. His golf game, and the partners he played with would become a core part of his last days, and he enjoyed them immensely. We are doing research to back up his claims of per capita courses in the county.
He loved to watch silly people doing idiotic things, and then send along the video or Page Six headline with the subject; “Play stupid games, Get stupid prizes”. Classmates, teammates, former teachers and coaches were a source of great amusement when exposed to his wit. But so were celebs, athletes, politicians, and entertainers whose follies seemed as amazing as they were stupid.
These follies were made all the more incredulous- and funny- when juxtaposed with the values passed on from his father and family, his coaches at Choate and Princeton, and his friends and teammates at each.
He Guarded an old School Sense of Duty and Honor
This Old School sense of duty ran deep in Mark. Besides the neckties from Princeton, scarfs from Choate, and Darien Blue Wave memorabilia, his loyalty to those circles was unmatched. He would make it to Yale Princeton football one week, and Choate Deerfield the next. He was at teammate’s weddings, classmate’s reunions, and friends late parties downtown, all while tending to his beloved family- brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews all.
His Coach at Darien played football (at Princeton) with the Coach at Choate. Mark played on successive champions teams in successive Senior years due in no small part to the relationship between coaches Davison and James. Years later, he was on the cover of the Princeton Tigers program next to his bookend good buddy and CoCaptain, Mark Berggren. He couldn’t have been more proud. His coaches and teammates would say the same.
But Mark spent many more years off the field than on, and in those years he tirelessly huddled with his closest mates in all manner of gatherings; weddings, parties, coffee on Wednesdays and BBQ on weekend’s. His dedication to his family, and honor to his father’s final wishes brought him to Darien for good, forsaking his adult playground of The City for the simple and soulful dedication of caring for his mother these last six months.
No single act could more aptly describe Mark von Kreuter.
At some point, we will plan a Covid-compliant memorial service for Mark, perhaps setting up one outdoor beachside pavilion in his neighborhood on Pear Tree Point. If Mark knew this, he would certainly yell “GET TWO”!!!
If you have remembrances of Mark to share, no matter how small or grand, on one of the topics above or any other, please email.