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Heroes, Kindness

April Fool’s Day, redesigned: Our annual tribute to the memory of Mark D. Roach

"Uncle Mark" Roach - b. November 1969, d. March 2009

"Uncle Mark" Roach - b. November 1969, d. March 2009

Three years ago, we lost our best friend. Mark was one of those fun, funny guys you wish you were friends with. He had an infectious laugh, and he could always find something funny in even the most mundane of circumstances.

Mark and my husband met when Mark was a first grader in a wheelchair, and my husband was an older and wiser fourth grader. Some kids were picking on Mark on the playground, and my husband, along with another friend, Marc McGowan, raced over to his defense.

Thus began a friendship that spanned over three decades. Almost more brothers than friends, Mark and my husband actually even started to sound alike, and told “the same stupid jokes” (according to Mark’s sisters). Mark was one of those guys who would drop everything to help you if he could; he was thoughtful, humble, and gentle. He was great with kids, since he was just a big kid himself, and he happily sang silly songs, played, and kidded around with them.

He was the best friend and greatest Uncle anyone could ever hope for.

We were beyond devastated to learn of his untimely and tragic death at age 39. We found out the day before April Fool’s Day, and we struggled with the news all night. We couldn’t believe he was gone. We also worried about how we would be able to break it to our kids, who totally adored their Uncle Mark.

Uncle Mark and our oldest daughter in San Francisco, CA - Christmas 2003

Uncle Mark and our oldest daughter in San Francisco, CA - Christmas 2003

We decided, that first April Fool’s Day without Mark, that we were going to change the way we looked at the day. Normally April Fool’s Day is chock full of tricks and nasty surprises. For example, I remember the day my brother Alan put Vaseline on the toilet seat in my parents’ bathroom.

Needless to say, Alan never did THAT again.

That first day without Mark in the world, we decided that our April Fool’s Day would still be a day of surprises; we would just make them nice ones. That morning, after a sleepless night, my husband called out from work on bereavement and we took the kids on a surprise trip to San Francisco, the city where Mark had lived. We took the girls for donuts for breakfast, pulled our oldest out of school, and enjoyed a morning at that famous San Francisco hands-on science museum, the Exploratorium. Later, we went over to Ghirardelli Square for chocolate. While the girls hunted for sea glass at Aquatic Park, my husband was on the phone again with Mark’s sisters and friends, making arrangements and figuring out what needed to be done.

We didn’t end up telling the girls until some days later; that day was all about surprises and fun. And it made the day easier to bear, at least a little.

A visit from the ice cream guy

A visit from the ice cream guy

Today we were debating what to do to surprise the kids. We had already decided to go out to dinner at Texas Roadhouse in Scarborough, which was a big deal because we rarely go out for dinner. We also gave our oldest time off of her clarinet practice, which had her squealing in delight (because she was able to go play video games downstairs instead).

While we were still debating, my mom-in-law came down and said, “Do you hear that music? It sounds like an ice cream truck.”

Now if you are at all familiar with rural Maine, you will understand what it means when I say we live on a private road. In Maine, private roads = dirt roads. Only our actual driveway is paved.

Also, we are far enough off the beaten path that even the service guys get lost, GPS or not.

Despite that, my mom-in-law was right; an ice cream truck was indeed coming down our road! My oldest and I ran to the door and waved, and he turned right down our driveway!

How’s that for a surprise? Our own special delivery from the ice cream man, who had to come a quarter mile off the main road to find us.

April Fool's Day ice creams!

April Fool's Day ice creams!

The kids happily got an ice cream, and even my mom-in-law got one, too. And when everyone was settled in at the dining table with their treat, my husband and I looked at each other and said, “Okay…that was weird.” We both looked heavenward, and said, “Thanks, Mark.”

Only Uncle Mark could have pulled that one off: getting a random ice cream truck, on a cold day in early spring in Maine, to come that far down a random dirt road, just to deliver some ice cream to the girls.

Thanks, Mark, for the April Fool’s Day surprise. We miss you!




One of my favorite pictures of Mark. This one was taken by another friend while he was on vacation.

One of my favorite pictures of Mark. This one was taken by another friend while he was on vacation.

About AlohaKarina

AlohaKarina (aka Karina Chapman) is a Writer, Photographer, and Educator who teaches middle school Science and Social Studies in Southern Maine. A cohort of the Maine Governor's Academy for Science and Mathematics Education Leadership, and a National Endowment of the Humanities Scholar (Abolitionism studies), she is credentialed to teach K-8 (all subjects) in both Maine and California. Karina has worked as a photographer, weekly columnist, and reporter for the Eureka Times-Standard daily newspaper in Northern California. She has also written for both and (as K.M. Chapman). Karina's superpower is speed-pouring killer margaritas. If she had to choose where to live for the rest of her life, she would choose Kennebunkport, Hawaii Kai, and San Francisco.


16 thoughts on “April Fool’s Day, redesigned: Our annual tribute to the memory of Mark D. Roach

  1. I’m so sorry you lost your friend. And he was so young too! So terribly sad, but I’m glad you’ve made the date special. The part about the ice cream truck was priceless :) I’m sure it was his doing ..

    Posted by reb | April 1, 2012, 10:16 pm
  2. Bittersweet…but it does sound like something pre-planned. Sorry for Mark’s loss.

    Posted by Kim Townsend | April 2, 2012, 12:27 am
  3. What a very touching story. Everyone should have a “Mark” in their lives.

    Posted by Jeff Sinon | April 2, 2012, 6:00 am

    Posted by Bobby Roach | April 8, 2012, 8:56 pm
    • God bless you, Dad Roach, for all you and Joan have done for Mark as he explored this world in a marvelous way. I don’t know if you knew this, but April 1st was the birthday of another man who Mark had learned of when he visited Oregon to find more of his answers to some of his questions. That is when he learned about bi-polar and his unusual blood type from the one who had the same blood type and same condition as himself. His name was Walt and had his own clinic in Salem to help Mark when he was here, but Mark left before we could seek the help he needed and now our hearts break, also. Your son, Mark, left his mark on all our hearts and we will miss his smile. It could light up a room and you couldn’t hold back a smile, too. I had once walked this same walk with Walt when he seemed to slip through my fingers as did Mark to you as he got older. We seeked help at OHSU for Walt and the story goes from there. Mark was truly blessed to be able to call you Mom and Dad. He blessed so many people in those 39 years, and I thank you both for all the love you gave him. Thank you for letting me share this to you both.

      Posted by Jeanette | August 28, 2012, 4:22 am
  5. Wow. This has really touched me today.
    I miss uncle mark so much it’s so hard to think
    That he’s not here any more….
    That doesnt mean he’s not in all of our hearts
    We all love you uncle mark!!! God bless

    Posted by Jessica walker | April 9, 2012, 1:40 pm
  6. Thanks for this touching blog about my Uncle Mark. I have so many memories as a child playing with him. I wish that my girls were able to see the Mark I grew up with. Bailee my oldest was able to meet him, but my youngest will only know him through me(which she will). I miss him beyond words can describe. Once again thank you. It put a smile on my face today.
    Amber (Roach) Bolton.

    Posted by Amber Bolton | April 9, 2012, 1:44 pm
    • Thank you for the nice comment. We are thankful every day that our youngest still remembers him…she still talks about Uncle Mark and remembers so many little things about him. We miss him every day.

      Posted by AlohaKarina | April 9, 2012, 2:44 pm
  7. You hit “like” on my blog and I was led this this loving tribute. I think your creative ideas on how to remember him are touching. Sorry you lost such a dear friend.

    Posted by rutheh | April 29, 2012, 11:10 pm
  8. I miss him terribly. Mark will always be my first real “true love”. I wept the whole time I read this. Can ‘t believe it took me this long to find it.

    Posted by Steve Mounce | June 28, 2013, 5:28 pm

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