Photo courtesy of Adrien Jenot from Imaginative Group.
Sit down my friends, grab a Cup of Joe as I share some musings on the untimely death of my friend, Mark Boscariol…
I feel this evening as if I’ve been to my dentist earlier in the day, and now eight to 10 hours later, the Novocaine has worn off and thus begins the post treatment dull pain of a new filling which will in time dissipate and transition into the process of normalization within my mouth.
That’s how I feel tonight, the day that I received the news of Mark Boscariol’s death.
Mark has been my friend since the turn of the century. Saying it this way seems to make it much longer than the 18 years we have been friends. And Mark was the type of guy once you got to meet and know, that you wished you could have hung out with for so many years before.
It was through our mutual volunteer work on the Richard Pollock federal campaign in 2002 that I first met Mark. What first struck me about Mark was his energy level that seemed limitless, as well as how many friends he had and how everyone loved him. I soon came to realize he loved to engage in debate and was a worthy opponent to take on. In addition, his ability to come up with innovative ideas and schemes was second to none. You never knew what new idea or concept Mark was about to spring on you. If you look up ‘cutting edge’ in the dictionary, you’ll find Mark’s picture.
Shortly after the 2002 federal political campaign, I was nominated to run in a civic by-election in Ward Two Windsor to replace Windsor City Councillor, Brian Masse, who was off to Ottawa to replace the Rt. Hon. Herb Gray. Mark stepped up and offered whatever support he could to assist me in my political endeavor. He knocked on doors with me, made generous financial contributions, strategized with me, and offered up some of his restaurant staff to assist me in my campaign. Mark had some bright yellow t-shirts made up for all of us to wear campaigning. On the front it read “Joe McParland Ward 2”. But the wording on the back – which was uniquely Mark’s wording – “The guy The Jones’ Have To Keep Up With”. This was Mark’s play on words reference to then candidate, Ron Jones, who was my strongest opponent. I still have that shirt and consider it one of my life’s most prized possessions. It is vintage Mark!
Although I was unsuccessful in my first-ever political race, I learned so much, especially from Mark. I asked Mark why he never chose to run for political office in light of his natural political sense and instinct. He laughingly replied to me, “too many bodies buried in my past. I’m content to help be the King Maker, not the King.”
In 2002 I turned 50 years old and had a surprise birthday gathering of family and friends at one of Mark’s many venues, Room with A Cue, on Ouellette Avenue. One of Mark’s favourite past times was to play with words, especially in the naming of his businesses. The Flying Monkey, SnackBar-B-Q, Walkermole etc. Whenever he came up with a new name or concept, Mark was like a little kid barely able to contain his excitement about sharing his creation with you. I’ve always seen Mark as an exuberant young kid trapped inside a grown man’s body.
When he first opened the Flying Monkey Cafe and Juice Bar, I was working with the federal government in the downtown area. My first venture into the café for coffee was not a good experience. The alleged coffee tasted like mud and was horrible. I sensed that my server knew that I was not happy with the coffee when I asked him to have Mark give me a call when he got in.
Later that afternoon I received a call from Mark and I said to him, “Mark, you don’t drink coffee do you?” He replied that he didn’t and asked me how I knew. I told him there was no way he would be serving what he purported to be coffee if he himself had tasted it first. It was horrible.
From that day on Mark found a new supplier for his coffee and served an excellent brew. Mark often said to me that one of the reasons he could be honest and open with me in our frequent conversations was because of how honest and open I was with him about that coffee that day. He soon came to discover that others also found the coffee deplorable, but were afraid to tell Mark. That was one of the hallmarks of our friendship – whether we agreed or disagreed, ours was a friendship in which we could be honest with each other.
One night around 8:30 PM while I was still working in the downtown area, I had to respond to the Paul Martin Building because of an after-hours security alarm. Rushing from my house from a deep sleep on the couch, I quickly grabbed my keys and threw on my shoes and drove downtown. As I exited my car on Chatham Street I realized that in my half-asleep stupor I had put on two different shoes. I looked around me and it appeared safe for me to make a break from my car to the front door of the building without being seen. Wrong. From around the corner approached Mark, who seemed ever present everywhere downtown, especially with his phone to his ear. He spotted me and quickly came over and engaged me in conversation. I was trying desperately to get away from him in case he would notice my two different shoes. But Mark was not one to be shy when it came to conversations. Finally I told him I had to leave because of an emergency in the building, and as I walked away, he yelled back at me, by the way, I bet you have another pair of shoes like those at home.“ I’d been busted. Very few things escaped Mark’s attention.
I remember attending Mark’s wedding to Daena in June 2004. It was on a hot and humid summer day at St. Joseph’s Church in River Canard. I can recall so much the happiness, joy and love in Mark that day as he married his soulmate. Daena in the ensuing years became a bit of a stabilizing force for Mark. Those who know Mark, know of his intense love for Daena and for his son, Andreas – the light of his life!
Sometime around 2007 or 2008 Mark was making one of his many appearances as a delegation before Windsor City Council. At the time, I was covering Council meetings for TV COGECO and sat at the media desk adjacent to where the delegations would sit. Mark was always passionate and well researched in his presentations before Council. Sometimes Mark would not know when to stop when he already had his issue won. I would be sitting to his left and gently kicking his leg and writing him little notes telling him to stop (not in exactly those words…). But, as with most things that Mark engaged in, he was like the Energizer bunny rabbit and just keep going and going and going…
When I retired from the federal government in on January 25, 2015 I chose his recently opened SnackBar-B-Q for my choice of gathering for a retirement party. Both Mark and his partner, Jim Renaud, could not have been more generous and cordial in assisting in the event. That was Mark. The man had a heart of gold.
My friend Brenda Brunelle just reminded me today that in Feb 2016 while planning a farewell party at the Caboto Club for Dennis Solet – a much beloved educator and longtime cancer survivor who was in his final stages with cancer – I had recommended that she contacted Mark about the possible donation of food for the event. I forgot at the time that Mark was in Europe when Brenda reached out to him. From Europe, Mark listened to Brenda and arranged to have an amazing assortment of food from The Willistead and SnackBar-B-Q donated and delivered to the party. That’s just the kind of guy Mark was!
Few people in the City of Windsor had more passion for their community than Mark. And Mark didn’t just talk the talk, he walked the walk and was willing to take chances and invest his money for the benefit of all of us. Mark was generous to a fault. That was just his nature. With that irrepressible smile of his and a body that seemed to quake with excitement when he had a new idea to share, he became a legendary fixture in our downtown. Part of his DNA was to share his successes with others. There are a number of people in our culinary establishments that owe Mark a debt of gratitude for his assistance and belief in them.
My final thought I’ll share with you about Mark that makes me laugh every time I think of it, was the time I was chatting him up in front of his businesses on Ouellette when in the middle of our conversation he dashed away toward a parking meter that was flashing expired and put in a dollar’s worth of quarters for more time. His car? Hell no, and possibly not even a patron of his restaurants. But Mark was so convinced of the need to make it easier for people to do business downtown. Mark waged his own personal war against the parking gestapo with an ever present pocket full of quarters. Oftentimes it was a race between him and a parking cop to see who got to the car first. Mark usually won – with a big grin on his face.
These reflections tonight have helped me dull the pain of Marks passing – along with my Manhattan (with cherries Mark scored for me from SnackBar-B-Q). It seems surreal that I will no longer be bumping into my friend, Mark, downtown with that phone glued to his ear. But I will continue to look for him and see him in all that he has left us in the city. If only he didn’t have those ‘buried bodies’ from the past. He would’ve made one of the most remarkable mayors the city has ever seen.
Rest in peace my friend, but I doubt that will happen because you don’t know how to rest. Somehow, I feel that Mark, the Energizer Bunny, is already coming up with new ideas and concepts in his new place of repose.
I love you Mark; your family and legion of friends love you Mark; this City of Windsor loves you, Mark …